I stared at it for what seemed to be hours.
I studied it; observed its black contours, contrasted against my light wood dresser.
It was so small.
How could something so small do what I wanted it to do?
I looked up and out the window.
It’s dark now.
The last time I glanced up and out, the sun nearly blinded me.
How long has it been? Two? Three hours? How could I lose so much time?
It was the gun.
Had to be…
Why is this so hard? You just pick it up, put it in your mouth and squeeze the trigger.
No, wait… I might miss. Maybe I’m suppose to put it to my temple… or my eye socket…
I don’t know…
Maybe it’s not that simple.
Maybe it hurts.
I don’t think I want to do this anymore.
But what’s the alternative? What have I got to live for?
There’s nothing left for me here.
No hope. No light at the end of the tunnel.
No one wants me here.
No one loves me.
It’s all so hard.
I just want it all to stop…
I made an effort to reach for the gun a half dozen times, but my arms wouldn’t move. I’m serious! I physically couldn’t move them! Maybe because I knew…
But I had to do this now. Mom will be home from work soon. And if I hear her voice, I know I won’t be able to go through with it. I have to do it now.
My arms finally move.
My hand’s shaking like crazy.
My heart’s pumping so much, my skin feels numb!
My fingers slide along and over the black handle, until I get a firm grip.
It’s lighter than before.
It’s started. Can’t turn back now.
I want this to be over.
I was wrong. It’s a lot heavier than before. My arm is shaking. What to do, what to do…
I closed my eyes tight, hoping they wouldn’t pop out of my head when I… You know…
I flinched. The barrel felt icy cold against my temple.
I’m breathing hard now.
Almost panting. I can hear a slight whistle in my nose.
OK. All you have to do now is squeeze. Squeeeeeze.
Do it… Do it…
“What’cha doing?” he said.
I tried to ignore him.
“I know you hear me.”
I opened my eyes… disappointment… only to see him moving around out of the corner of my eye.
I Looked over toward the door and saw him in full view.
His name is Max. At least, that’s the name my friends and I gave him.
Occupation: homeless alcoholic, four years and counting. He was cool. He’d buy beer for us at the liquor store (for a small fee, of course). Word has it, he was a schoolteacher once, but the Schlitz Malt Liquor became more important.
And here he was, in all his smelly goodness.
But this time, he didn’t smell. He couldn’t’ smell. He wasn’t really there, right?
My trigger hand was growing sweaty. My grip was loosening. I could feel my ‘courage’ slipping away. All I had to do was squeeze and it would be over.
Why can’t I fucking squeeze the fucking trigger!?
“I can’t do this with you watching.” I said to my visitor, frustrated.
“I know.” He smiled, squatting, so we’d be eye-to-eye. “That’s why I’m hear.”
That’s when I noticed the gun was back on the desk. I didn’t remember putting it down.
“Go away.” I said.
“Make me.” He replied, still smiling.
“I don’t want you hear!” I screamed.
“You don’t belong here!”
“Then why are you hear?!”
He shrugged his shoulders and stood up.
He began to pace behind me, but I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of drawing my attention. I refocused on the gun.
I needed the find my courage again.
I started to laugh. So this is what it feels like to go totally insane.
“OK.” I sighed, thinking, I might as well play along. “I’m guessing this is one of those ‘A Christmas Carol’ moments and you’re from what? ‘Christmas past’?”
“If you want to see it that way, that’s cool.” He replied. “But I’m just here to keep you company. Answer any questions… things like that.”
Now I had to swivel around in my chair. “So will we be joined by some other surprise guests?”
“Probably. I don’t know.”
I turned back around, drawing my attention back to the gun.
Now it seemed even smaller. It wasn’t as prominent as it was in the sunlight. Somehow the setting of the sun; the ending of the day was draining it’s power on me. I looked at the clock.
Mom will be home soon. What the hell am I going to do?
“So…” I heard his voice again. “You’re really gonna do it?”
“Yep.” I softly replied.
“Things are that bad, huh?”
This time I just nodded.
“Why is it so bad?”
I was startled. This time the voice was different.
I turned to find Mrs. Clarke., my freshmen Biology teacher. 29 years of age, bearing a striking resemblance to Nia Peeples.
I looked around. “Where’d Max go?”
“Bathroom break.” She replied, in her usual deadpan delivery. “Answer the question.”
“Why… is… it… so… bad….”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. Just is.”
“Just is.” She repeated. “Just is… just is…”
“Yeah! Just is!”
“I heard you the first time!” she almost laughed. “Somebody’s a little jumpy.”
“Yeah, trying to kill myself.” I replied, turning back to point at the gun…
…but there was no gun. It was gone.
Now I was really freaked.
“Wow!” she said in a sarcastic attempt at surprise, suddenly appearing beside me. “What a plot twist.”
“Shut up!” I shouted. “Where is it?”
“Where it’s always been.” She pointed to my right hand. “You never put it down, genius.”
I looked again, and sure enough, the black firearm was dangling in my sweaty trigger finger.
Ms. Clarke laughed. “Don’t sweat it. Max does crap like that.” She came and leaned against the desk beside me. “He likes to fuck with your head. That’s his secret power of distraction.”
I began to sarcastically ask her about her secret power, but then i noticed her short skirt and long legs; remembering failing my midterm, due to watching them pacing back and forth in the classroom.
I tried to clear my head. “What the hell am I doing?” I mumbled.
“Hell if I know.” Mrs. Clarke replied. “Honestly, I can’t believe you got a ‘B’ in my class. This is possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen anyone try to do.”
“Stop it!” I screamed, putting the gun down. “You’re confusing me!”
She smiled. “Yeah, which is kind of a trip, being that i’m a figment of your imagination, and all…”
And that’s the voice changed again
“I’m just something you created to help flesh out your thoughts.”
This time the voice hit me hard. I didn’t have to look this time.
It was Gary. He was my best friend… that is before he lost his life to a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting three years ago. I remember staring down at him on the sidewalk. He was suppose to be heading home for dinner when I first heard the shots. I turned around in time to see his head jerk from the impact and stumble over the curb.
I knew his arrival was strategic. You see, he’d been shot in the head.
Right in the temple.
Right where I was planning to do myself. I remember all the blood. The frozen, shocked look on his face. I still get that scene showing up when I sleep, from time to time. And now here he was, the Ghost of ‘Things To Come’.
He walked to my side, but I didn’t look at him. Instead I stared at the tiny gun in front of me, doing my best to block my peripheral vision. Maybe if I concentrate, Max or Mrs. Clarke will come back. I can easily deal with them.
Not with Gary.
In defiance, I grabbed the gun again. Angrily, I stood up and faced by dead best friend, shoving the barrel of the gun to my temple, once more.
He didn’t flinch.
“I’m curious, man. What brought you to this point?” he started interrogating me in his usual ‘Holier Than Thou’ tone. I hated that. “What could possibly bring you to the point of putting a bullet in you head? Why is it so bad?”
“Just is?” my dead best friend was now angry. “Not good enough! I need specifics.”
I remained quiet. I didn’t want to encourage the figment anymore.
“What is it? Kate? She doesn’t like you anymore? Tough! She won’t be your last girlfriend. What else? Mom’s comin’ down on you? Hell, try taking out the trash for once. Maybe she won’t scream anymore! These aren’t reasons to…”
“Did it hurt?” I interrupted him with a whimper.
“Did it hurt… when you were…”
His went from being angry to being confused. “Uh… no, I guess. Shock is a dying man’s best friend” he chuckled.
“That’s not funny…” I said, dropping the gun to my side.
“I know. But you know I can’t answer that question. I’m not me. I’m… you… How the hell should I know?”
I sat down.
God, I was so tired.
He sat on the corner of the bed directly across from me. “But what I do know, is you don’t wanna find out.
And that’s when I saw the headlights of my mother’s AMC Gremlin pull into the driveway.
“No…” I whispered, turning back to see Gary’s smiling face.
“Time’s up.” he said, with a wide smirk. “You don’t want Mom’s last memory of her son, being the sound of a gunshot and finding his brains splattered on the walls, do you?”
I would’ve been angry, but I was too tired to be. Plus, I hadn’t taken the trash out yet, so I was totally freaked.
“I’ll just do it tomorrow.” I said in defiance.
“Then we’ll see you tomorrow.” he replied.
And as I heard my Mom jiggling her key in the front door, I quickly stashed the gun under my bed.
I buried my face in my trembling hands, waiting for my mother’s screeching voice to hit me any second.
“God, how can I get through this?” I whispered.
And Gary’s voice came back to me, one last time. “The answer’s hard, but at the same time, very simple. The trick is…”
“…to keep breathing.” I told Tristen calmly, trying not to make any sudden moves.
Trying to appear comfortable and confident.
She had to trust me. She had to believe I knew what the hell I was talking about.
She sat in the corner, the barrel of the shotgun placed firmly under her chin, her sweaty fingers on the trigger. I glanced at the clock, and it had been almost an hour since I found her in this position. She’d been shaking the whole time, as if she was cold from her sweaty t-shirt. A number of times she’d closed her eyes tight, as if it was time to pull the trigger. But each time, I was able to find a way to bring her back, just long enough to steal her attention.
“What?” she asked. “What did you say?”
“The trick is to keep breathing.” I replied, as if brandishing some sort of 30-something wisdom.
She shook her head. “Why does that sound familiar?”
I smiled nervously. “It’s a song. Garbage? The trick is to keep breathing?”
“Oh.” she sighed. “And what does suppose to mean?”
I shrugged my shoulders.”I don’t know. I just saw it on that poster. Kinda sounded cool for the moment.”
Tristen looked up at the large poster above her head and smiled. “Oh yeah. Cool song.”
She focused her glazed look back on me, as if trying to bring me into focus. “I though it had something to do with me.”
I had to think quickly. “I does.” I replied. “Well, It can.”
She grew agitated. “You’re making this shit up, aren’t’ you?”
Oh shit, I’m tanking…
“No, not all of it. The whole ‘ghosts of christmas’ shit? Yeah… total fiction. But me with the gun? All true.”
I inched my way off of the bed corner and onto the floor, closer to her.
“I was ready to blow my head off that day. I thought I had lost everything. My best friend was dead. My girlfriend broke up with me. The only time I heard my mother’s voice was when she was yelling at me. Life sucked!”
That’s when she started to cry.
I needed her to cry.
“Back then, from the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep, I was hurting. I couldn’t find away to stop it.”
“It hurts.” she mumbled under her sobbing. “It hurts so bad. I just want it to stop.”
“It will.” I inched even closer. “Time will pass, and each day, the pain will lessen.”
I gently placed my hand on the barrel of the shotgun. “The trick is the keep breathing… long enough for things to get better.”
I watched her finger slide off of the trigger and into her lap. I quickly grabbed the shotgun and slid it across the room. I looked up and saw her parents’ worry-torn faces peaking through the crack in the door.
I waved them to back off. We both needed to decompress the situation.
She slouched backwards onto the Garbage poster, exhausted from her emotional suicide attempt.
“Wow.” she said, looking up at me. “I can’t believe you pulled that off.”
I smiled, trying to keep myself from tearing. “Me neither. I was shittin’ bricks there.”
We sat there in silence.
We could both hear the frantic commotion of the her parents and the police in the connecting room.
Tristen eventually broke the silence. “So, what happened?”
“To you. What happened to you?”
I smiled. “Depends. Do you want the truth, or the Twilight Zone ending?”
I made her laugh. “The truth, idiot!”
“My mom came home. I was so scared, I hid the gun. By the time I had the next opportunity, things didn’t seem that bleak. It didn’t hurt as much as it did the night before. So I planned for the next night. But it just got better.”
“Boring.” she replied. “What about in the Twilight Zone?”
“There was a big explosion of some kind, some cool fighting like in the Matrix, and I think there was a battle to the death with Britney Spears.”
“That’s more like it.” she replied with belly laugh.
You could still see the pain in her eyes, but she was fighting it. She chose not to die that night, and that was all I could hope for. And in the coming weeks, with the help of her parents and myself, she would get better.
It was the same for most cases. Unfortunately, there was always a few kids who I couldn’t help.
Sometimes, I lost. And after those times, I’d tell myself I can no longer do the job.
But then, another kid comes along that needs my help.
Someone like Tristen.
And then I remember how it felt for me all those years ago. And I remember why I do this; why I have to do this.
And as I helped Tristen to her feet, she gave me a big hug. “I guess it’s time to face the music?”
“Yep.” I replied taking her firm grip in mine.
“You’ll be around, right?”
“Yep.” I sighed. “As long as you need me.” And her grip tightened and she smiled up at me.
“You’re gonna be alright?” i asked.
She shrugged her shoulders as the door slowly opened to reveal the faces of her worried parents.
“I’m still breathing. I guess that’s something, right?”