I guess I’m the stupid one for believing Rory.
I’m angry at him. I know there’s no point in that, because not only is he nowhere around to feel my wrath, he wouldn’t care if he was. Rory always went his own way. I needed him more than he needed me. Obviously. He proved that when he leapt into the great unknown without me. I can barely handle staying in my old familiar life, untethered from him.
Is it weird that my skin hurts? I’m so depressed my flesh actually aches. The ends of my hair feel sensitive as I watch Mrs. Greg approach with my math test in her hand. A bright red C sits at the top right of the paper. Thank God, I passed. My mom would take away my laptop if I fuck up in school again. Especially this close to graduation.
“I expected more from you, Lane.” Mrs. Greg sniffs and adjusts her black-rimmed glasses farther up the bridge of her nose.
I take my paper, feeling the eyes of the class on me. They probably all think I’m stupid. I’m not. I wonder how well they’d do on a math test if their best friend died the day before. I think a C was just fine, considering. Obviously I’m the only one who thinks that way since Mrs. Greg is still giving me a disapproving look, and the redheaded girl next to me is shaking her head. I want to skip ahead to lunch where I can tell Rory about how judgmental they’re all being. He’d rub my head and tell me to relax. You’re overthinking things again, L, he’d say with his white grin splitting his face.
But Rory’s dead.
My stomach rolls and I stand abruptly, knocking into my desk. “May I go to the bathroom?” Mrs. Greg hates letting kids go during class. But there must be something in my expression that softens her. Or maybe she just doesn’t want me throwing up in her classroom.
“Don’t be long.” She hands me the key with a huge wooden plaque attached.
I jangle my way through the hall and hurry to the bathroom. I slam into the stall and unload everything in my stomach. Then I sit breathing like a racehorse, with tears streaking down my cheeks. I don’t know what to do with all the rage I feel toward Rory. It feels like it’s eating me from the inside. I want to punch something. But instead I sit in a pathetic, crumpled heap, sobbing onto the wooden plaque with a key attached.
The bathroom door squeaks open and two guys come in. They’re laughing and fooling around. There are two stalls, and I’m occupying one. I peer under the fiberboard walls and glimpse expensive orange and black hi-tops. One person takes a piss while the other guy talks to him. I scramble to my feet and, keeping my gaze averted, go to the sink area and splash cold water on my cheeks. The guy waiting shuts up finally, and takes the stall I just left, as the other person comes around the corner and stops when he sees me. Then he continues on to wash his hands. Good bathroom manners. It’s a rarity among high school boys.
“Hey,” the guy says. He’s blond with spiky hair and the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. He’s watching me like he expects a response. Of course he would. Anyone well-bred enough to wash their hands after peeing expects a response when they speak to you.
“I have permission to be here.” I don’t know why I say that. We aren’t in prison, although sometimes it feels that way.
“Are you okay?” He sounds genuinely concerned.
Of course not, I want to scream. But instead I drop my gaze and turn to the door. “Is anybody?” I say finally as I leave.
Lunch is torture. If you’re dumb enough to only have one real friend to sit with, it kind of leaves you in the lurch if he kills himself. I’m not hugely popular. I’m not actually unpopular either. I’m one of those invisible kids who flits through the school years not leaving much of a mark on anything. God, maybe Mrs. Greg and that redheaded girl are right, and I am pathetic.
Somebody punches my shoulder. Wincing, I look up from my yogurt to find Mason Price standing over me. He’s the school clown. His talent surpasses just class clown. “I’m sorry about Rory,” he says gruffly.
He’s the only person who has even said a word about Rory dying. I’d have never expected such compassion from someone who sticks straws up his nose for a laugh.
“Thanks,” I say.
He punches my shoulder again and moves off. I guess hitting me makes him feel like less of a wimp when he offers me sympathy. I rub my shoulder and watch him join his friends. Someone plops a tray down across from me. Judy from science class has decided I need a pep talk. She has her hair dyed pink, with purple tips. Her makeup is similar to an anime character’s with thick eyeliner, and long fake lashes. She pops open her grape soda while staring at me. The color of the can matches the ends of her hair.
“You should have taken today off.” Her voice is gently chiding.
I stare at her wordlessly. If it were up to me, I’d take the rest of the school year off. But my mom wasn’t having any of it. She screeched at me until I was dressed and in the car. I didn’t have the energy to fight her. I just did as she said and now here I sit with my yogurt.
“There’s a suicide support group on campus. You should probably go.”
I wrinkle my brow and just watch her.
“Not that you’re going to hurt yourself. But they help the people left behind too.” She gulps her soda, her throat muscles moving up and down with each swallow.
Left behind. Fucking Rory left me behind.
“I’ll take it under consideration.” Wow. That was oddly formal. What, am I running for Congress or something? I’m finding it impossible to be normal. Well, my normal.
Her brown, makeup-enhanced eyes soften. “Rory was a dick.”
I should slap her for defaming my beloved friend. My lifelong buddy who jumped off a parking structure and left me all alone to face this fucked-up world. I’d rather hit Rory.
She crunches her way through a bag of chips as she continues to study me like I’m bacteria lying in a petri dish. Then she says, “You can always talk to me if you want. I know you’re shy, so maybe a big group thing isn’t for you.”
Why does she care? I’ve had maybe three conversations with her in the four years of high school. Is she a psych major? Maybe that’s it. They love psychoanalyzing everyone. It makes them feel less crazy.
Somebody has carved their name into the top of the table along with a heart. Steve + Sally 4-ever. I trace my finger into the grooves, wondering if their undying love has survived high school. Steve would never off himself and leave Sally alone. The table wiggles and I notice Judy is getting up to leave.
“See you in class, I guess.” She wanders away into the crowd of students. She’s still easy to spot with her pink hair, though. Maybe that’s the point.
When I get home, the house is empty. My mom must be picking up my little brother, Kit. My stomach clenches when I think about how upset Kit was when he found out about Rory. He idolized Rory. I guess it isn’t that unusual for a twelve-year-old to look up to an older kid. At the back of my mind is the nagging question: why doesn’t he idolize me?
After I grab a pudding cup from the kitchen, I turn on my laptop and sit staring at the screen as everything loads. I’m bursting with the need to do something about my feelings concerning Rory. But I can’t think what that might be. The idea of going to that group Sally mentioned makes my flesh crawl. Do I think I’m better than all those people? Is that it? The more I think about it the more I realize that can’t be it. It’s probably that I don’t want them to see into me. They might find out what a nothing I am. I wasn’t even able to save Rory.
I think about how he was on the last night we had together; not counting having no appetite, he seemed like he was in a good mood. He hadn’t been lately. In fact, he’d been very introspective the last few weeks. But that final night, he had me fooled. He’d kicked my ass at League of Legends just like always. You’d think if you were planning to kill yourself you might be distracted and not play as well. Why would you be concerned with your ranking? But he had laughed a lot and elbowed me when I sulked at losing. Just like always.
I’m going to start a blog in memory of Rory. I need to say some things and I can’t find the words in real life. But not a typical blog. This one is where I’m going to say how mad I am at him. Why do I have to be nice about things? He wasn’t very nice when he killed himself without even saying good-bye. Besides, no one is even going to see this blog but me.
I find WordPress and I make an account. A lot of the blogs have cute kitten and puppy pictures. I’m not sure what that’s about. I decide to use pictures of just Rory since he’s the subject matter. I stare at one of the photos I’ve used as wallpaper for my site. Rory looks back at me, smiling. I lean closer and notice that his grin doesn’t reach his eyes. Was that a warning sign I overlooked? Is it possible to scrutinize a person’s every smile? I’m mad at myself for believing Rory when he said he was better.
He obviously wasn’t.
This blog isn’t going to be long-winded. Maybe it will actually be more of a journal than a blog. In fact, it will be more of a “thought of the day” type of thing. This will be my sanctuary. Somewhere I can come and jot down my feelings. No one will know it’s me, so that is sort of freeing. I can say whatever I want and vent about Rory. I’m going to call it Ranting about Rory. Maybe I should make it private? I tap my chin trying to decide. I’m inclined to make it public. Maybe if someone stumbles across this page, they will gain insight. Perhaps they’ll succeed where I have failed. Maybe they will be able to save the Rory in their life.
I write my first post:
Rory killed himself. I didn’t even see it coming. I want to punch his fucking face in.
I read and reread my post many times. I think I’ve captured my emotions quite succinctly. I hit Publish and click out of the page. There’s a knock on my door and my mom comes in.
“It was a crazy day at work, so I brought Chinese food home. Dinner is in ten minutes.” She studies me in that way parents do when they’re worried but don’t want you to know it.
“Okay.” I drop my gaze to the tan carpet and chew my lip.
“How was school?”
“Fine.” Do kids my age ever give any other answer? I think parents keep hoping we’ll come up with something interesting to say about our day. I certainly never seem to.
She clears her throat. “You know you can talk to me if you ever need to, right?” She sounds breathless.
Nodding, I meet her nervous gaze. “Of course.”
“It must be hard for you.” She winces.
I just stare because I have no idea what to say back. I’m frozen. Numb.
“I just keep thinking how Rory’s parents must feel.” Her voice trembles. She blinks rapidly as if fighting back tears, and my stomach begins to churn. Oh, God. If she gets emotional, what should I do? Hug her? I’m really not a hugger by nature.
Does she not know Rory wasn’t close to his mom and dad? His dad doesn’t even live there anymore. He’s made a new family across town with a younger wife. Rory’s mom was working so much she didn’t seem to remember she had a kid still at home. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t love him, I guess. It’s not fair of me to blame her for not seeing the signs. That would be a little hypocritical of me.
“At least he didn’t do it at home where she would have been the one to find him,” I say softly.
My words do little to comfort my mom. I can tell this as any color she had in her cheeks drains away. She presses her lips together and says, “You would tell me if you had bad thoughts again like Rory. Right?”
God. I have so many bad thoughts I would never tell my mother. She probably means suicidal. I have those too. I’m not comfortable telling her that, though, because of the other time. Certainly not now, so soon after Rory. I don’t want her to worry. I want her to wipe that frightened, stressed look off her sallow face and cheer up.
I suck in a big breath and then smile. My face feels like it’s about to crack, my skin is so tight. But I concentrate on crinkling the skin at the corners of my eyes. That’s where a false smile can give you away. I noticed it in Rory’s photo, where the smile didn’t reach his eyes. He should have crinkled the skin more like I’m doing, if he really wanted to fake a good smile.
I say what I think will comfort her. I’ve heard her say this before, and I know if I say it, she will think we’re on the same page about suicide.
“Rory took the coward’s way out.” I keep good eye contact with her to make it believable. God, this is so much work, trying to seem so sincere when I’m this depressed.
She slumps with relief. My words must have calmed her a bit. “Yes.” She nods and leaves my room, closing the door quietly.
I sink onto the mattress and curl up in a ball, feeling sick. I didn’t bother to mention to my mom that while I actually do think suicide is the coward’s way out, I myself am a bona fide coward.
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