"How am I supposed to know what to do?" Robert asked. "I feel like the whole world has just been slipped out from underneath me."
He sat on the furthest right side of his couch. Barbara watched him from the plush chair placed beside it. She moved over to sit beside him. With her arm up on the back of the couch to prop her head up with her hand, she said, "I think you just have to try to work with it. You know what I mean? Because you don't really have a choice in the matter."
Robert's parents had died the previous week. Both had advanced far in their years together, and when his mother had fallen ill, his father went along soon after. Their deaths had come in the same order.
"I just feel totally useless. Like I can't do anything. It's so weird."
"I know," Barbara was trying to be consoling, but also trying to help him get himself together. "I think all you can do is take what you've got, in a situation like this, and try to put it together in some way that you can understand."
"Yeah, but I've got no footing now, it feels like..." He thought about it. "I've got no control."
It suddenly felt like he could see the entirety of his life spreading out before him. It was like driving down a road in pitch black night with nothing outside the scope of the headlights. What had previously seemed like an almost incomprehensible collage of possibilities spreading out before him in all directions now just looked like a set path. He knew that there were certain decisions he would always make, safe ones, and he felt as if he had lost all the confidence he ever had with the loss of his parents.
"Well, it's not a matter of control," she tried to explain, "It's a matter of fact. And it's awful. And there's nothing you can do. But, it can be okay, too." She spoke the last sentence with what was supposed to be a comforting melody. "You know? You can try to take up your life here, like it's a whole new part of your life." She kept saying "you know?" because she thought it softened what she was saying. She also worried it might be annoying, since Robert didn't like repetition, so she spoke the words nervously.
"All I can think about now is growing up, and not being around at the end, and how meaningless the rest of my life looks like, now." Looking out on to his future suddenly included reflecting on his life up to that moment. It was his entire life, summed up in that very moment and every moment that followed. His life had ended. It would all be the same, from now on.
Barbara was looking for the words that could express what she wanted to tell him. Words that could help him understand how to orient himself, away from worrying about his life's story, and back towards the very moment.
Though still somber, she smiled and said, "That's not at all what you should be focusing on here. You need to think about where you are now. What you really need is structure, I think. Your parents... You said you don't have foundation now, because your parents always filled that role for you. But now you need a new foundation if you're going to get anywhere. You know? You need to get on that pretty quickly. You shouldn't dwell, because then that's all you'll do, is just dwell." She wanted to pull him out of his mind and back into his body, right there. She knew that he wouldn't find footing in that nebulous space of his memory.
Robert's head fell back, and he stared up to the ceiling of his apartment, not knowing where else to look. Barbara just looked at him. Robert wanted to reach up to the sky and put the missing parts of his life back in their places. Barbara just wanted to reach across to him, and hug him right there at that very moment.