“Mike has something he’d like to say,” David, my advisor said.
Great. Thrown right into this. That’s probably a good thing, I don’t know if I’d be doing this without that shove.
I stand up in front of the 30 strangers who are all a part of this writers’ workshop. I’m shaking, a nervous habit of mine.
“Hi, I’m Mike and the column I wrote was a goddamn joke,” I stuttered, putting way too much emphasis on goddamn. “I should’ve written something real like all of you, but instead do you know what I did? I wrote a goddamn joke. I should’ve written about how through seventh, eighth and ninth grade, I considered killing myself.”
* * *
The bell wakes me up like an alarm clock. Someone flicks on the lights, hitting my sleepy eyes, forcing me to squint.
I check the side of my mouth for drool with my wrist. None.
Thank god. What would people think if they saw me in a puddle of my own drool?
I drag myself out of Mrs. Simmons’ Algebra class behind the throng of seventh and eighth graders.
Tim, my best friend since second grade, leans up against a locker outside of class. When we were younger, Tim helped me learn how to ride a bike up and down Catalina in the summer. Going into eighth grade, we spent almost every day at Fairway pool flirting with freshmen.
He’s flirting with some cute sevie.
“Hey man, how’s it goin’?” I ask him, hoping he’ll turn and introduce me to the girl. He doesn’t turn around.
“Hey Tim, how’s it goin’?” A bit louder this time.
Maybe he just didn’t hear me last time, I think.
He doesn’t turn.
He doesn’t turn. I get the hint and merge into the crowd of students going down the hall.
What just happened?
* * *
It’s been another long day at school. I walk into my mom’s room, flicking the lights off when I walk in. They have a weird glare on the screen. That’s what I tell my mom when she jokingly calls me a hermit when she sees me sitting in the dark. She jokes, but I am like a hermit, I’m alone.
I flop down on the bed and grab the remote. I flip the TV on and I scroll through the DVR. “Friends.” Perfect. My favorite show. I’ve seen almost every episode.
I look at my phone. One text. All day. It’s from Jamison. I ignore it. It’s been three months since I’ve talked to Tim.
While watching Joey act like an idiot for the hundredth time, I realized something. Most of my “friends” never speak to me outside of school. I don’t have any of their numbers. I’m not invited to parties, to hang out. I’m barely talked to at school.
I realized that I spending most weekends alone. Alone in the dark watching some crummy 90’s sitcom that I’d recorded.
* * *
It’s late. Past 1:00 a.m. on a cold winter night and I’m laying on the couch watching, technically, Sunday morning cartoons. Freshman year’s been better than last. My phone usually has a message or two on it. People want to hang out now. But my mind still lingers in the dark.
The messages stopped hours ago. Everyone else has gone to bed. I need to start heading that way too. Not even “Futurama” is keeping me awake anymore.
I pry myself off of the floral, cotton cushions and walk to the bathroom to get ready for bed.
I fumble for the light switch in the darkness. I flick on the lights and my reflection catches my attention. I stare into my eyes. They’re empty. Still shadows.
My mind is desolate. I don’t feel anything. Not the laughs I got from watching “Futurama” earlier. Not the belonging that I’ve started to feel in high school. Not even the pain from the girl I want being with another guy.
I open my medicine cabinet and gaze inside. Toothbrushes. Contacts. A Swiss Army knife.
A red Swiss Army knife.
I grab the knife, forced by instinct. I had to take it. It feels heavy in my hand.
Draw out the blade, my instinct commands.
Feeling along the side, I find the groove on the knife. Click. It shines in the fluorescent light.
I sit down of the lid of the toilet. The blade rests on my wrist. I feel its edge. Sharp.
Push. Just a little, my instinct coaxes. I give in.
A little more. A little more. A little more.
The pressure builds and builds. Any deeper and I’ll stain my wrists the color of the Swiss Army Knife. Red. Just one flick. One flick, and I switch from on to off. I turn all the pain and loneliness off. One flick and I turn all of the light off and sink into the comfortable darkness.
What am I doing?! My conscious kicks in.
I pull the blade away from my wrist, close it and stuff it back in the medicine cabinet.
I sink down onto the lid of the toilet, submerging my face in my hands.
That wasn’t me. What was I doing?
In a state of shock, I go to bed. I just need some sleep.
* * *
We’re supposed to be going to the workshop’s awards ceremony after the our meeting ends, but there was something I needed to do first. There’s someone I need to tell about what I nearly did a year and a half ago.
I’ve got the elevator all to myself. Floor five. Six. Seven. Ding. The doors open and I walk down the hall to my room. I’m out the door again even before it has a chance to fully close. All I needed was my phone.
I decide to walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator again. Opening the door to the staircase I start scrolling through my contacts while climbing up the mountain of stairs. Floor eight. Nine.
There he is. I hit call and the phone starts ringing. 10. 11. 12. I finally get to the summit of the staircase, the place I always went to when I needed to write. It was hot, stuffy and peaceful.
“Hey pal. What’s up?”
“Dad,” My voice immediately starts shaking. “I need to tell you something.”
Through tears I explain everything to him. How depressed I had been. How I constantly thought about suicide. And how I had held that red Swiss Army knife to my wrist, and tried to end my life.
Then I told him how scared that made me. Something had taken over me, and it terrified me. I didn’t want to kill myself, I just wanted someone to notice me. To help me through.
I started talking to my friends. About small things at first. Things like troubles with girls or problems at home. The trust I had with others kept building.
I told him how at the end of listening to the most heart-obliterating stories, I finally let it out. I admitted that I’d try to kill myself for the first time to a group of the closest strangers in history, instead of reading what I had originally written; a little, heart-warming mush about my dad giving me “stupid slaps.”
“Well,” my dad says. I can tell he’s fighting a losing battle to hold back tears. “I’m glad you tried to use a Swiss Army Knife. You couldn’t have cut yourself deep enough to do much.”
Through the tears, I can’t help but smile.