After much cajoling, they had finally gotten Charlie down to the counselor’s office, where she had mostly cried herself dry while Ms. Millard had waited patiently.
“Are you ready talk about it?” Ms. Millard had asked when Charlie’s sobs slowed down.
“You’re not married, are you?” Charlie had already noted the missing ring.
“No, I’m not.”
“Not at the moment, no.”
“And you don’t feel like your life is worthless, do you?”
“No, I don’t.” Ms. Millard had waited for Charlie to say something else, but Charlie had just nodded and looked out the window. “Does my marital status have something to do with why you’re here?”
Charlie had shaken her head. “My friend. Lindsey. She killed herself because her boyfriend broke up with her. Before they met all she could talk about was how she didn’t have a boyfriend. When she finally got one, she was so happy. And I was so happy that she was happy that I didn’t worry about her putting too much stock in that one relationship.”
“Do you blame yourself for what Lindsey did?”
“No.” Charlie had hung her head. “I don’t know. Maybe. I was her roommate. I should have been looking out for her.”
“When someone decides to take their own life, they don’t usually broadcast it. There’s a reason those of us left behind are usually so surprised.”
“But there are signs.”
“Sometimes, but not always. The point is you can’t hold yourself accountalbe for her decision.”
“I don’t. I blame her for being narrow minded.” Charlie hadn’t even known it was true until she the words were out.
“Like I said, all she wanted was a boyfriend, and when she lost one, she killed herself. Nevermind the fact that you can always get another boyfriend, what about me? I loved her, but that wasn’t good enough for her? What the fuck?”
Ms. Millard had pursed her lips together for a few moments before saying, “Our society places a lot of emphasis on pairing up. Especially for young girls, it’s everywhere you look. On TV. In the movies. Books. Magazine covers. Everything is telling you that your primary goal should be to get and keep a man. Now, I’m not saying this is a good thing, but to an impressionable young girl whose friends are always pairing up around her, the effect can be significant. Of course there’s more to life than dating and marriage, but it can be hard to see that when you’re constantly bombarded by these messages.”
“So what? Are you saying our society killed her?”
“Charlie, I’m not trying to blame anyone for what happened. I’m just trying to explain it so maybe you can understand it from Lindsey’s perspective. In the end, her actions were her responsibility, and no one else’s. Regardless of what was going on in her life, she must have had some serious problems in order to do what she did.”
Charlie had looked at her hands, clasped in her lap. “There must have been something I could have done.”
“I’m afraid there wasn’t. Even if there had been, it doesn’t do any good to dwell on it now. You have to learn to let her go.”
“I’m still mad at her.”
“That’s OK. That’s normal.”