Are you going?
Was a loaded question.
She didn’t want to. Everyone else was going.
She didn’t have anything to wear. She had that new dress from Nordstrom Rack. Didn’t Nordstrom Rack close? Maybe it wasn’t so new anymore. New to her. Certainly new to everyone there.
She hadn’t spoken to any of them in years. Well, obviously. But a lot of them probably kept in touch. A lot of them probably never even left.
Are you going?
Yeah. She had to.
This was the trouble with leaving and making a respectable living, but by no means a remarkable one. Jenny Che made a remarkable living. Who would have thought that there’d still be travel agencies in 2020?
She called her brother. He was going.
He said he couldn’t wait to see her and to wear her hair the way it was at the wedding and then he apologized for bringing up the wedding but, you know, it was so long ago now that it shouldn’t even really be off limits anymore, and not to book a hotel room because he had a pullout couch.
She hung up and, after a moment of hesitation, decided her mom could handle hearing the news via email. One conversation was enough. Besides, she’d be seeing her soon, too.
Are you going?
This one really stumped her. In theory, yes, she was. The flight was booked and the venue had her name on a clipboard. But humor her in this moment, when her suitcase was empty and her good heels were tucked somewhere in the closet, likely behind the skull rain boots she bought as a joke at Mardi Gras. Humor her, because in this moment, she was, in fact, very much not going.
She was so far from going that some might even venture to say that she was staying.
And what of the pullout couch? Made with as much care as a grown man could muster? The empty seat on the airplane? The “My Name Is” sticker left unstuck on a folding table? The emails from mom subjected as “Re:”, “Re: Re:”, and “Re: Re: Re:”?
And what of everyone else? Those who, in the dichotomy of Going and Staying, fell invariably under the Going column? Certainly they would heed her absence. Mothers would call mothers, would call her mother.
They would whisper her name with thinly veiled reproach. And surely they would bring up the wedding, if her brother did.
She packed her small suitcase. She packed lipstick and eyeliner and pantyhose. She packed that one dress, the only dress, but did not bother to fold it because she knew her mother would demand she buy a new one upon arriving.
The Uber arrived early. Driver called her several times, and nearly left, because she was trying to get her good heels down from the top shelf, and then trying to get everything else back into the top shelf, and she had a lot of things.
And for all the time it took her to decide whether or not to go, it was surprisingly easy to admit, over text, to a friend with whom she had cancelled dinner, that she had gone.