God, I love him so much. Our hands are tangled in each others’ hair, limbs wound around other limbs, and I am left breathless by his love. Everything that happens then is precious to me, even though I know it shouldn’t be. Even though I know he doesn’t really love me.
When it’s over, he holds me, and his arms are so gentle around me that I close my eyes and pretend, just for a moment, that this is real. True. Good.
“Do you ever feel like you’re going crazy?” He asks me.
I don’t answer for a while. I think, yes, thank god, I thought I was the only one, but I don’t say it. I am coy when I’m with him; I am brave. I bristle at his words, though, and I know he feels it. “Maybe. I just think so much of what goes on in this world makes no sense. I try not to think about going crazy on top of that.”
“Agreed. But still…I just don’t know what to think sometimes, you know?” He says with a sigh, rubbing his hands over his face. And I nod, because I get it. I get him. He’s one of those beautiful things that I get to have, but can never keep. We made an agreement: no strings attached. Just conversation. Just two young people exploring their options. At first, of course, that’s all it was. He was just a pretty boy, and I was just an unexperienced girl head-over-heels with the fact that he was interested in someone like me. I know exactly how long I’ve allowed myself to love him, truly, deeply, wholly, with every inch of my soul and being—I can count the days on both my hands. He doesn’t know; he’ll never know. I keep secrets like that tucked away where no one will ever find them. Temporarily in love, I like to call it. It’s all we’ll ever be, because for some reason he doesn’t think forever exists. Neither do I. But I guess…I guess I was just hoping we would change each other’s minds.
I hardly noticed the bottles of pills on his desk. He rarely kept a light on during our midnight rendezvous, so how could I? I guess I should have known that night, when he found me first, when he pulled me down on the bed before I could even mutter out a weak “hello”. I should have known it wasn’t me he really wanted, but some disillusioned version of me he kept locked in his head for when he felt like shit. I guess he felt like shit then. His parents were always fighting, fighting. They must have had a rough night. I knew it was hard on him, so hard, to watch his mother be pushed around. Not to snap his step-father’s neck in two and damn the consequences. But he kept his mouth shut, and his fists clenched, and did his best to protect her from the shadows. Sometimes, though, the shadows take hold of you and won’t let go. Sometimes, even, they manage to win. I guess the shadows led him to that little bottle of pills—they were his mother’s. They weren’t meant for him. They were never meant for him. But anyway, he got a few of those lovely pills in him, and then he got into that bottle of wine his brother kept hidden in his room, and he lost all sense of time and responsibility, like he always did when he was around me.
Maybe if his mother had known about the gun in the foyer closet, she would’ve ended her marriage long ago. Maybe Jason would’ve ended both their marriage and his stepfather’s life. There were so many possibilities, and as I sit here now, I can’t help but contemplate them. If he had known how things would turn out, how miserable everyone would be, would he have changed his mind?
I can still see the blood dripping slowly, slowly from the little cuts on his wrists. I put my fingers over them, again and again, to try and stop the bleeding. It never works. I sit with his head in my lap and sob into the telephone, the woman on the other end of the line helpless to decipher my words through such violent tears. And when the sirens come, and with them this divine “help” that everyone is always talking about, there was nothing for me to do but watch and cry and scream his name.
I screamed it until my voice was scraped raw, till his mother came and dragged me across the hallway and down the stairs, who forced me to look her in the eyes and take a deep breath. But I didn’t want to keep breathing, not when he couldn’t anymore. I didn’t ever want to do something he wouldn’t do.
He would never get married.
He would never have a child.
He would never even get to graduate high school.
And so as I sit here in this black robes, not of mourning, but of supposed celebration, the graduation cap on my head grows heavy. The people around me can’t see that I am bleeding; the bruises are hidden behind smiles that I force. Inside, there’s a fever like no other. He will never graduate. So I don’t feel like doing it either.
I cross the stage with weary footsteps. I look on at the crowd of watchers, their smiles so wide, and so putrid, and I let the gunshot ring out high and clear inside the stadium.
My body falls.
And I see his face again.