She Didn’t Need Me

Her phone played the dial-tone sound three times before Kimball picked up. “Mildred? Oh thank God you called back! Mildred, what is going on? Everyone at work is talking. What did… Did you do something?”

“Kimball, listen. She didn’t need me. And call me Millie. Always call me Millie.”

“Mildred! Er, Millie, what are you talking about? What do you mean she didn’t need you? Who didn’t need you? What is going on?”

“Kimball, I had a dream. She was lying in a hospital bed on a theater stage and she kept repeating ‘You can’t save me’ over and over.”

“Mil… Millie, who are you talking about?”

“Ada. I’m talking about Ada. Who else?”

“Millie, what is this? Of course she needed you. Well, not you specifically, but one of us. She needed someone to help her pass, and for her that someone was you. She needed you. Is that what this is about? Are you freaking out about the job? Do you need to talk to the staff psychologist?”

“No, Kimball, I’m not freaking out about the job. That’s over now anyway. There’s no way they’d let me see the psychologist even if I wanted to.”

“Over now? What do you mean? They didn’t fire you, did they? Just come back and clear everything up. They’ll understand. Just come back. Everyone’s really worried. I’m really worried.”

“No, they didn’t fire me, I don’t think. But they will, or they would if I let them, but I’m done. I can’t go back.”

“Can’t go back? Mildred, you’re scaring me.”


“Okay, Millie, you’re scaring me. You’re not gonna… you know what I’m going to… what I have to ask. You’re not going to hurt yourself? Are you?” He whispered the last two words.

“God, Kimball, no. I’m not going to hurt myself. That’s not what this is.”

“Well then what is it? Please, Millie, I’m trying to understand.”

“I told you. She didn’t need me.”

“Millie. What does that mean?”

“Look, Kimball, you already noticed something was going on. A couple weeks ago.”


“Well, you were right. And they could never let me back, but I don’t even care. Kimball, I loved her. I loved Ada.”

“Oh my God, Mildred, Millie, what did you do?”

“I just told you. I loved her. Try to keep up. And you know what? She loved me too. I could feel it. When someone feels that way about you, you can’t not feel it.”

“But Millie, you… That’s… Well that’s not okay. God, Millie, what were you thinking?”

“What was I thinking? I don’t know, Kimball, probably I wasn’t. But she’s gone and now I’m gone so it’s not like I’m going to do it again. But that’s not the point.”

“Not the point? You did something completely unethical and you’re telling me that’s not the point?”

“No. It’s not the point at all. The point is that she didn’t need me. She just kept saying ‘You can’t save me. You can’t save me.’”

“Wait. She said that before, too?”

“No, just in my dream. But it was real. I mean, I know it was a dream, but it was something I’d been trying to piece together for a while. There was something about her. She was… God, how do I explain. She was tough. That’s not even it. The way she handled the pain. She never had that pleading look in her eyes, you know?”

Millie paused her energetic description for a moment and lowered her voice. “Kimball, I think she could’ve stuck it out. I don’t think she needed to be there. In my dream, when she said I couldn’t save her, I don’t think she needed to be saved.”

Kimball’s voice lowered to match hers and he slowly responded, his words measured, “Millie, I just don’t know what to say. I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me, or how it changes anything. She’s gone. Like all of them.”

“I know, but Ada was different.”

“Because… you loved her?”

“Yes, and because she loved me. I know she did. But she didn’t need me, and I don’t know what that means.”

“Millie, I’m really uncomfortable about a relationship like this between you and a patient. You didn’t… You didn’t cross a line, did you?”

“What? God, Kimball, no I didn’t ‘cross a line’. I mean, sure, we got close, and ethically I guess that’s a line. But not a physical line. I assume that’s what you mean?”

“Yeah, sorry, it’s just… That would be serious.”

“What is wrong with you? I just said I loved her and she loved me. It was real. And you immediately assume something physical.”

“Millie, I had to ask. If I’m going to help, I need to know how bad this is. You say there was nothing physical, and I believe you.”

“Help me? How do you plan to help me?”

“I don’t know, Millie. You’re the one that called me.”

“Yeah. Yeah I guess I was the one to call you.” She paused for a moment. “Meet me tonight for dinner. Szechuan Garden.”

“Okay. I can be there about 6:30.”

“Great, see you there!”

“See you there.”