I’ve been trying to think of what to say about “She Walked Out The Door” for a few days. It seems simplest to be honest about it.
I said the other day that it doesn’t have a speculative element in it, and that is true. What is also true is that it shares its heart with “Ash and Dust” and “Snowfall” and all my other apocalypses. The difference is in the scale.
I’ve mentioned how I’m drawn to write dark and sad things with hopeful endings. It may be that I simply love number six of Vonnegut’s eight tips for short fiction far too much.
But it’s equally likely that it I do it because I’ve struggled with depression for all of my adult life. Depression of the sort that can bleach the world colorless and make every step through it feel pointless and daunting.
Once you’ve spent time in that landscape, something changes within you. Nothing will ever feel quite as certain again. It’s a lonely place to begin with, and in this culture, where mental illness in all its shapes is treated as shameful, it quickly can become an isolation chamber.
One of the things you learn is that returning from that place is a journey of a thousand careful steps. At first, you’re so intent on taking them that you don’t see anyone around you, but eventually you begin to look. What you find is a world full of people taking those same careful steps. People who have been carried to the edges of their own lands by private disasters, and into places they don’t think they will be able to return from.
They can. They do.
Chances are, most, if not all, of us travel to those places at some point. Lives break every day. Hearts and minds, though, they are resilient. Given the chance, they will find a way to rebuild. Grief shapes you into something new, but it doesn’t dissolve you.
“She Walked Out The Door” comes from that place.