The Call

Melinda dropped her armload of groceries onto the counter with a thud. She had brought them all inside in one trip, because who makes more than one trip when you can just overload your body completely and carry every all at the same time?

But also because she hoped that Izak would see her struggling and come to her aid. But also because she hoped that, by dropping them so heavily, he would hear and come into the kitchen to assist her. He did not.

She slung her bag off of her shoulder and hung it on the coat rack. She covered it with her jacket. For a brief moment, she allowed herself to lean up against the hallway wall. Her eyes closed. Her body threatened her, promising to give out if she gave it even another moment of respite. She had to keep pushing forward.

Today had been a long, rough day at the bank, but she couldn’t think about that now. She couldn’t talk about it, either, because Izak wouldn’t care. He would seem to listen, sometimes, but she could never really be sure. Most of the time he didn’t even try to pretend he was listening. He just kept playing his game or scrolling through something meaningless on his phone.

The sink was full of dirty dishes. They had overflowed onto the counter nearby. Melinda had asked Izak to take care of them while she was at work, since he had the day off today. He hadn’t done it. She hadn’t expected that he would.

She wondered if he even knew she was home. She didn’t bother announcing herself. He would be upstairs, at his computer, playing a game. She knew it. It’s probably where he had been all day. He wouldn’t have even showered. She knew without looking that the laundry she had asked him to fold would still be sitting down by the dryer.

Melinda put the groceries away. She stored their reusable bags in the closet. She wanted to go sit in the chair for a while — she wished that, if she did that, Izak would make dinner and clean up the dishes. She knew he wouldn’t, though. It was only a wish.

Melinda found a clean pot and filled it with water. She turned on the burner beneath it. While it began to heat, she emptied the clean dishwasher, then reloaded it with dirty dishes. It took her less time than it took the water to boil, and yet Izak hadn’t made any progress on it in the entire ten hours she had been away.

Melinda began heating up a pan as she cut up some vegetables. She oiled the pan, then put the vegetables in the pan to cook. If Izak were making the meal, he would have foregone the vegetables. He probably wouldn’t even bother making pasta. He would just grab some hot dogs out of the fridge and heat them up, and call that dinner. If he was eating alone, he might just eat the hot dogs cold. He had done it before.

Frustration rose up inside Melinda. She forced it down. It didn’t do her any good to get mad at him. That would just make it so that she couldn’t do the things she needed to do, because he hadn’t done them. She opened a package of ground beef and tossed it into the pan with the vegetables, then covered it.

By now, the water had begun to boil. She threw some noodles in, then went downstairs to grab the laundry. She brought it up to the living room to fold after dinner.

Only when dinner was done and served on its plates did she go upstairs to find Izak. For once, she was incorrect. He was not at his computer, though he had left it on. After checking to make sure he hadn’t left any programs open with unsaved work (or play), Melinda shut it down. She had to constantly ask him to turn things off to save energy and money.

“Dinner is ready,” she called from the office, wondering where he might be. Well, not wondering much. There were only so many possibilities. The bathroom door was closed. She knocked. No answer. That left the bedroom.

She found him there, face-down on his pillow, mouth open, in the pose he reserved solely for naps. She sat down next to him. She stroked his hair, her fingers drifting through its soft curls. “Izak. Wake up, please. It’s time for dinner.”

His eyes fluttered open. A jolt spiked through his body. He blinked several times. “Hi. Hi, how was your day at work?” he said, forcing an energy into his voice as he did when attempting to pretend he hadn’t been sleeping. He pulled his legs beneath him and sat up in the bed.

“Long,” she said. “And frustrating. We had a customer claiming we’d lost money from one of her accounts. Among other things. She yelled a lot.”

“That sucks,” he said. He scratched at his beard. He looked down at the bed, away from her eyes. “I didn’t get much done today…”

“I see that,” she said. She stood up. She intentionally made it unclear as to whether she was frustrated with him or not. “Let’s go eat before the food gets cold.”

“Alright,” he said. He followed her downstairs. He stumbled on the way out of the bedroom, brushing against the wall. He had obviously been sleeping hard.

Melinda was already seated, with spaghetti on her fork, by the time Izak joined her at the table. “Did you have a good day?” she asked.

“No,” he answered. “Not really.” He bean to eat, though she knew he knew she expected more than that, given his answer.

Melinda clenched her teeth. “Can I ask why?”

Izak shrugged. “I just couldn’t really get up the energy to do much.”

“But you had all day,” Melinda said. “You slept in. You took a nap.”

“Yeah, because I was tired,” Izak said. “I got on my computer and stared at my games for a while, but none of them seemed interesting. Then I looked at my pile of unread books, but for some reason it just intimidated me. I didn’t feel like starting anything new. I didn’t feel like doing anything, really, even though I was bored.”

“If you’re bored, you can only blame yourself,” Melinda said. “You have plenty to do around here. The dishes, for example.”

“I just felt so tired,” Izak said. “There was a bunch of stuff I wanted to do, the dishes and the laundry included, but I just didn’t feel like I had the energy. I just kept doing other things instead. Like scrolling through social media or checking the same few websites over and over, reading posts people made about the video games I sort of wanted to play and just never did.”

Melinda shook her head. “If you wanted to play them, why didn’t you just do it?”

Izak put his fork down. “It’s not always that simple.”

“Yes it is.” Melinda put her fork down as well, so that she could gesture with both hands. “You want to do something. You have the means to do it. There’s nobody stopping you. Therefore, you just do it, Izak.”

“I mean, when you say it like that…”

“There’s no other way to say it,” Melinda said. She felt her future self regretting this conversation already, but her present self was far too caught up in the moment to stop now. “It really is that simple. If you want to do things, just do them. Stop doing all the things you complain about yourself doing.”

“I just…” Izak looked away, out the window into the yard. The angle hid his eyes from her, but she thought he looked like he might cry. “I don’t know why it happens, Melinda, but sometimes I just can’t get myself to do things. Even when I want to do them. Even when nothing’s stopping me from doing them.”

“You need to think about talking to someone about this, Izak,” Melinda said. Again.

“That’s one of the things!” Izak said. “That’s one of the things I think about doing, one of the things I want to do but which some part of my brain keeps stopping. I don’t know what the holdup is. I don’t have a stigma about other people getting counseling. I guess I don’t want to do it for myself, but on top of that I just… My whole life I’ve been bad at calling the doctor.”

“I know,” Melinda said. “Me too.”

“But not like me,” Izak continued. “If you need to call the doctor for a checkup, or the dentist or the optometrist or whoever, you just do it. But I don’t. I just hope the problem goes away on its own, or I let the problem get so bad that I absolutely have to deal with it. I say, ‘I’ll just do it tomorrow,’ or whatever, but we both know that I won’t. It’s the same with the dishes, and even with my video games, and with my drawing.”

“What do you want me to do, Izak?” Melinda asked. “I can’t keep working ten hour days and then coming home to you, sleeping, while I have to then do the dishes and cook dinner on top of everything else. It’s not fair.”

“It’s not fair that your brain works right!” Izak said. Yes, he was crying now. She knew because he had turned back to look at her. “It’s not fair that you can just say, ‘I want to do this thing,’ and then you go ahead and do it, and your body and your brain agree. Even when you’re tired! You just do it, because you want to. You don’t get distracted and read through an entire webcomic in one sitting, because you got distracted for a millisecond and your brain latched onto something else even though it really wasn’t what you wanted to be doing.”

Melinda looked down at her meal, barely eaten. She hadn’t had time to eat at work today, either, but now she had no appetite. “I don’t know what you want from me, Izak. I can’t change your brain.”

“I know,” he said. “Neither can I.”

“I also can’t keep living like this,” she said, quietly, almost soft enough to be a whisper.

“What?”

“I can’t keep doing this, Izak,” Melinda repeated. “I’m killing myself trying to work and do everything around the house without your helpWe. It’s hurting both of us. It’s aging me and it’s enabling you.”

“Enabling?” Izak said. “You’re going to throw a buzzword around like that?”

“It’s not just a buzzword if it’s accurate,” Melinda said. “I’m not doing anything to help you by doing all of the things I asked you to do while I was gone. I’m not helping either of us, or our relationship.”

“You’re keeping me alive,” Izak said.

“Now you’re being dramatic.”

“No, really,” Izak said. “Do you think I could function on my own? Think about what the house would look like if you weren’t there to pick up after me. Think about what my diet would be like.”

Melinda shook her head. “You need help, Izak. I guess I am helping you, but not in the right way. Not in the way you need. We need to get you to see a therapist or something. To get your brain sorted out.”

“Will that even help, though?” Isak said. “What if I’m just broken, and I’m meant to be this way? If you can’t fix me how can some random stranger?”

“I’m not trained to fixed you,” Melinda said. “I’m not meant to fix people. I didn’t get into this relationship to fix you, Izak. I’m with you because I love you. But Izak.” Melinda paused. She started to reach out, to take his hand, but she held back. She placed her hand, palm flat, on the table. “Izak, if things go on like this, I’m going to have to leave.”

“What? No,” Izak said. “That’s not fair. You can’t just…”

“I can’t just continue like this,” she finished. “Izak, listen. If you don’t seek some kind of treatment, I’m done. I can’t help you unless you try to do something to help yourself.”

“But I’m fine, though,” Izak said. “It’s not like I’m crazy, like I’m hearing voices or something. It’s not like I’m suicidal.”

Melinda closed her eyes. “Izak, I will sit with you when you make the call, but you have to make it. You’re not happy. You’re not living the life you want to live. We have to take some kind of step to help get you there.”

Izak quieted. He pushed his spaghetti around on his plate. “Fine. Let’s make the call.”

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