(So this is a short story that I wrote that I’m actually pretty proud of! Young adult, futuristic, science fiction. Trigger warning: the main theme of the story is suicide so some people may find this difficult to read!)
It should have been me. I know this sounds like the first stage of grief, but I assure you I’m not in denial. I know Kyle died. I know there is no negotiation that I can make with the universe to bring him back.
But I can bargain with the facts.
The fact is that I am scared of death. My first suicide attempt was when I was 11 years old. I’ve had plenty of reality checks to prepare me for this, but I never thought that he’d do it. The jokes about life being shitty that we both made. The way he still put so much effort in things, and only laughed when they didn’t work out. I mean, shit. Years ago, when I told him I liked him, his coming out was an apology. It wasn’t because of who I was, just that I was a girl. He changed. Became such an activist online, giving advice to people who used to be in his situation.
I thought I wouldn’t miss the red flags. I’d read the articles that said that people don’t usually attempt suicide until six months after an onset of suicidal thoughts. What an idiot I was to think that I could recognize when those thoughts started. That he would isolate himself, cry in my arms those few moments when we would see each-other. They never get it right.
I’ve already written him dozens of letters, so I’m all out of memories and metaphors. I’m over it. It’s been almost a year since he died. I’ve been going to therapy and my parents and friends have been crazy supportive. It’s just that the feelings sometimes bubble up, you know? Anyway, it’s almost 5 PM, and it’s a week after my birthday. I have to go pass the time.
“Hey, sweetie. You have your experiences piled up for today, don’t you?”
“I thought we had them both at the same time.”
“About that. I’d accidentally assigned it a week earlier, so I actually went through it on Monday, on the bus! Can you believe that I had to walk to work 87 times in between two stops?”
“What happened to the whole “mindfulness” thing?”
“Oh, screw those limitations. I’m not getting any younger. I want to appreciate the good moments, and it’s not the end of the world if I want to skip to them.”
“How is getting to work a good moment?”
“The temperatures get very low in the winter. Go now. It’s almost your time.”
I sit on the white floral sofa, facing the balcony as light is cut by the violet velvet curtains and falls on my body with warmth. Behind me, my mother is making coffee for herself. I turn to the clock and see that there are only a few seconds left before I have to go through every experience I’ve skipped this past year. I’m anxious because I just spoke to my mom, and I can tell she was fretting too. When you go through your time, you fully experience the things you skipped. But when you wake up, although you might have gone through a month’s worth of fast-forwarded time, no time at all will have passed back in everyone else’s world. So you could be in the middle of a burp when you go through hours of boring lectures and simply continue to burp when you’re done. But your memory is all messed up for a while afterwards. It will feel like no time has passed, which is true, and that plenty has passed, which is also true. So it’s good to go through your experiences when you are awake and alert but bored. Not very stimulated. Basically when you’re doing nothing. Theoretically, sleeping is best for these situations, but the transition from dream to past wakes a lot of people up and they develop insomnia for a while. I guess three realities are too much for the human brain.
Anyway, here’s hoping I make it out without too much second-hand embarrassment. Is that word too ironic? Just a-
1. I’m naked and I’m drying my hair.
2. I’m naked and I’m waiting for my skin to absorb body-lotion.
3. I’m waiting for the heater to make the room temperature bearable.
4. I’m putting on clothes. What the fuck? How
5. I’m watching my phone charge. can I be so impatient?
6. I’m waiting to fall asleep.
7. I’m on the school bus. I’m dressed in heavy clothing and the snow outside looks beautiful
8. I just told my dad I’m vegetarian and he is giving me a lecture on protein.
9. I’m giving a class presentation. Nice, I was wondering how that went. Alexis forgot to record me when I told her I’d be skipping because I was anxious.
10. I’m playing monopoly with my sister. Oh my fucking, this game takes hours! Ugh, she can’t even count the money properly. Why did semi-comatose me think that it was a good idea to let her be the banker? This is taking forever. Please end, please end, please end.
11. I’m playing UNO with my sister. Please end, please end, please end.
12. I’m having a panic attack at the school bathroom. Please end, please end, please end.
13. I’m at my desk at home reading a book assigned in English. It’s raining outside. Finally, I begin to hold back a little.
14. I’m babysitting for my neighbor. Fuck, the kid is screaming. I can’t move. I hope he calms down soon. Shit, was that security camera always there? Maybe that’s why she never hired me again. I’m an idiot.
15. I’m waiting at Kyle’s room. Why am I in his room? Oh, he just came out of the bathro-.
16. I’m at a playground with Kyle. The sun is setting. No, it’s rising. And I’m about to gulp down a plastic cup of water. Wait no, that’s vodka. Fuck. That tastes horrible. I hate alcohol. Why am I drinking another one? No, stop!
17. Good thing I don’t drink often. But it was nice that I got to see Kyle again. I miss hearing his voice. Nobody can feel much emotion during flashbacks, but even this watered-down sadness is enough to get me to start crying on my way back from school.
18. I’m in the kitchen, making pasta. I hope I see Kyle again.
19. I’m in my bed, hugging a pillow. I have horrible period cramps. I don’t think I could bear seeing Kyle again.
20. I’m sitting on the toilet and I have diarrhea. Of course there won’t be much Kyle, I loved every moment with him, I wouldn’t skip any.
21. I’m in my bed, under the covers, on my side, staring at the wall. I guess I was waiting to fall asleep. I have to pee. Why didn’t I remind myself that if I had to pee, I could go and do that? I suppose strictly staying in one stop would get me to fall asleep faster, but this is just uncomfortable. And what’s that sound? Like pebbles on my window. I hear something. Is that Kyle? It stopped. Where did he go? Shit, the door. Is it Kyle? I get up from bed and look through the eye-glass.
22. He’s staring straight at me and it looks like he’s been crying. FUCK. He’s wearing a green tee, and his ripped jeans. The clothes he was wearing when they found his body. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.
He’s banging on the door. “Chart, are you there?” I miss hearing him say my name.
“No.” I reply.
“Don’t fuck around now, Chart.”
“Let me sleep.” Please figure out what’s going on.
“Don’t fuck ar-around.”
He’s slurring his words. Is he drunk? “The only thing I want right now is to go to bed. I wish to spend a lot of time with you, just not right now.” Oh my god.
“So you only want me when I’m happy? When I’m pretending to be okay? You always do this. It’s like I’m a circus animal, but hey, the only payment I get is more fucking pain and isolation. But yeah, I forgot. The animals don’t earn shit. They’re trained to put on a show. Tortured. I guess we have a lot in common.”
“I want you to leave. I do not only want you when you’re unhappy, I just do not want to be with you now.” How did I not wake up from this? Why didn’t I lower my sensitivity, what the fuck is wrong with me? Kyle, please figure this out.
“Fine. You’re an asshole, Chart. Just like my parents. Just like everyone else. If I don’t act all perfect and talk about the things you want me to, then you just ignore me. Like I’m Pavlov’s dog, an experiment. Yeah, chisel me to your liking, as if that will change what I’m made of.” Kyle. Kyle. How could I have shut off the world like that. As if I don’t owe anyone anything. I failed him. “I fucking hate you. Nothing I do ever makes me happy. It’s not even worth trying anymore. I’ll die anyway, so I’ll just make it quicker to skip the drama. Like everyone fucking does. Yesterday, my dad skipped when I started talking. You’re all fucking hypocrites.” Does he know I’m skipping? Why won’t he understand? Why doesn’t this change anything? “At least my death will fill you and everyone with guilt so that’s a couple of people in this world a bit more aware about how huge pieces of shit they are, and that things should change around here.”
23. I’m going back to bed. No, no, no, no.
24. I’m at the school bathroom, crying after I heard about Kyle. This can’t be happening.
25. I’m texting my mom to come pick me up. The tranquility of flashbacks has me calmer now.
26. Kyle’s mom is talking to me about not blaming myself. How we cannot hold ourselves responsible for the pain someone else had been going through. She’s crying. Before this, I’d been blaming myself for not being there.
27. I’m lying in bed the next day. I’d been there.
28. I’m still lying in bed. Is it weird that I blame myself less now than when I didn’t know I could have maybe saved him?
29. I’m at the gym, doing cardio.
30. I’m at my sister’s birthday party.
31. I’m trying to fall asleep.
32. I’m at Kyle’s funeral.
33. I’m in chemistry class.
34. I’m in physics class
35. I’m trying to fall asleep.
36. I’m at the gym, doing cardio.
37. I’m trying to fall asleep.
38. I’m in my school’s therapist office.
39. I’m on a family trip to the woods.
40. I’m in biology class.
41. I’m in math class.
42. I’m having a panic attack in my room.
43. I’m having a panic attack in my sister’s room.
44. I’m in homeroom. I guess it’s better that I’ve crammed my trauma in these moments of lowered senses. I couldn’t have gotten over his death, if I’d been awake.
45. I’m putting everything in my room that remind me of him in a brown box. He wouldn’t have died if I’d been awake.
46. I’m cleaning the dishes. He would have died in some other way if I’d been awake.
47. I’m brushing my teeth. He was in full control of what he did. He had the most power over his own decisions.
48. I’m combing my hair. Even if I did contribute to his suicide, then it was only by a small amount.
49. I’m taking a math quiz. But my action helped me. And that’s what’s important. He’s not here anymore, and the only person in pain that I should concern myself with, is me.
50. I’m arranging my books alphabetically. He would want me to get better. Even if he said the opposite, he would.
51. I’m making pasta. I think this was recent.
52. I’m getting groceries.
53. I’m making my bed.
54. I’m taking a shower.
55. I’m eating alone.
56. I’m waiting for my nail polish to dry. I still have that color on, so I’m getting close.
57. I’m waiting to fall asleep.
58. I’m calculating my GPA.
“- few more seconds.” I spill, and drop to the floor. Kyle. My head makes a loud thud, and the tears are warm on my face. I killed him. My legs keep shaking, and my shoulders feel like they will erupt out of my skin any moment. I deserve more than guilt. I hear my mom calling out my name, and then her calling someone with her phone.
Two women in white uniforms carry me into the back of a van. They inject something that calms me down. It feels similar to the flashbacks. My eyelids turn heavy, and all the stressful thoughts leave me at once. Sentences trail off and I know that I will not wake up this calmly. I know that I will have to go through Kyle all over again. My thoughts during the flashbacks will come back to me. I will feel like myself again. I will be mature and know that it was not my fault. It will be a while until I get there. Then, it goes black.
I wake up in the hospital, and Kyle’s mom is standing over me.
“Don’t be startled. I just got here. And be quiet, your mom just barely fell asleep. She’s in the other compartment.”
“Your mom told me it had something to do with Kyle.” Her eyes tear up. “I’d like to know.”
I stare at her, numbly. I will help her, but not at my expense. I intend to tell her everything. I set the time 5 minutes from now.
And she does the same.