Just Like Travis Jones

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* Looking back, I guess I shouldn't have written Travis Jones off completely when I learned he was
dead, but how was I supposed to know that his name would continue to come up throughout my high
school years? I was in the fifth grade, and I barely knew what suicide was, much less how to write
a paper about it. When Ms. Barker told us to write at least a page about what we'd miss most
about Travis, I didn't know where to start. I hardly knew him really. I mean, he was two years
older. I only knew his younger brother. Jake was in my class and hadn't come to school since
'the accident.' I didn't understand why parents and teachers kept referring to it as 'the
accident,' because from what I understood about suicide was that it was anything but accidental.
'After you write your papers, we'll give them to Jake so he'll have a nice way to remember his
brother,' said Ms. Barker, arm fat jiggling as she wrote the assignment on the board, distracting
me from everything she was saying. I stared off into space, imagining the sound of a gun, and the
cool, hard metal, pressed firmly against my head. I never heard the gunshot, and I never really
knew Travis, which could have been my reason for shrugging it off. Suicide was nothing more than a
word to me: no memories, no emotional attachment. In a small town- population three hundred- suicide
isn't a word heard very often. So when Travis killed himself, it made the local news. Adults
talked about it in whispers, rarely making eye contact with Mrs. Jones. 'It must be so hard to
lose a child.' 'I can't even imagine what she's going through.' None of the whispering
helped of course. It was just more small town gossip. In my town, no one died from anything but
old age. I'm not sure if we chose to distance ourselves from reality or not, but either way it
happened. 'Kids do stupid things,' they'd say, as if Travis just killed himself for the fun of
it. The Joneses lived a few streets over, and we had dinner with them on occasion. Travis used to
baby-sit me when I was younger and our moms were fairly close. I knew Travis played soccer and I
knew he played the guitar, but I never really knew him. But picturing that bullet through his head
really got me thinking. What did it feel like? How heavy was the gun? Did he know he was going to
die? Did he have a girlfriend? Who was going to feed his dog? And most importantly, why? I went
to his funeral in an itchy black dress that I hated. I hated pretty much everything about that
funeral, but the worst part was that no one had any answers for me. Mrs. Jones was sobbing loudly
into her husband's arms, and Jake sat silently at the end of the pew; trying to distance himself
from tragedy. Mr. Jones sat hunched over, stone faced, trying not to cry. I didn't hear a word
the preacher said. My parents gave their condolences while I sat in the pew wondering what a gun
felt like. When my parents were ready to leave, I wasn't. I just stared blankly at the coffin,
knowing that inside, Travis was in there with his head blown to pieces, and all I could do was
wonder why. My two-page paper was nothing but questions. When I handed it in, Ms. Barker told me to
re-write it, saying that it was supposed to include memories, not questions. But I wanted answers
so I never finished writing it, and in time, Ms. Barker forgot. Eventually we all did. I continued
my daily routines: washed my face three times a day, in a futile attempt to avoid acne, started
wearing a bra, and began thinking about boys. Life consisted of make-up experimentations; writing
in my diary, and fighting with my parents. Travis Jones wasn't mentioned again until eighth grade.
* Go Ask Alice was the book we read in English class that year. The book is the diary of a girl who
falls into the world of drugs and living on the streets at a young age. She runs away from home in
an attempt to find herself. Although along the way she becomes addicted to drugs, she finally
decides that she should go back home. It seems she is getting better, and she and her parents have
a healthier relationship, but at the end of the book she dies from an overdose. The book was well
outside my realm of comfort but for some reason I related to it. Maybe not in an obvious way; I
mean, I lived in suburbia with no experiences with drugs, but for some reason I connected with the
book. It felt like I was traveling down that long dark path of self-discovery, filled with teenage
angst and confusion. I wondered if drugs really were a way of escaping from reality, which in my
teenage years was difficult. Our final project for the book was to have a class debate on whether
or not the death of 'Alice' was intentional, so mentioning Travis Jones was inevitable. 'Did
Alice simply take too many pills, or did she want to die?' At first, the room was silent, proving
that apathy is as cool as cigarettes. After several minutes of awkward silence, someone finally
spoke up. 'I think it was an accident,' blurted out the boy I had been crushing on from afar for
most of the year. 'I think she just took too much and that was the end of it.' 'I mean, she
was getting better and all.' Our eighth grade reasoning skills may not have been great, but our
point was conveyed and for the most part, everyone agreed that her death was not intentional. 'I
think she did it on purpose.' The class went silent to hear the girl, wearing too much black
eyeliner to be taken seriously, disagree with the entire class. 'I think she was sick of all the
sh#&@ with her family and she finally had enough.' We gasped upon hearing the word sh#&@ being
spoken in front of a teacher, but Mr. Johnson was unfazed. 'But who are we to judge, she's dead
and her book is famous because of it.' The bell rang but we barely heard it. 'It's like when
Travis Jones shot himself in the head.' We snuck nervous glances at Jake, sitting two seats over,
pretending to go through his notes. 'He was just sick of it.' We left the room, afraid to talk
and still in a sort of daze. But by the time the day was over, we were back to playing Truth or
Dare and staring at the opposite sex, still unsure of what to do about that tingly feeling in the
pits of our stomachs. * Freshman year was the first time I heard the name Travis Jones mentioned
outside of the classroom and away from the omnipresent whispers of adults. Chris Graham and I had
been dating for about a month, a new record for the freshmen class. Chris' parents were divorced,
and he lived with his mom. However, as I soon learned, his mom was an alcoholic and often left
Chris alone for days at a time. When she'd come home, she would always have a new guy on her arm,
displaying him as if he were a prize she had won from the one game she was good at: flirting. I
know Chris hated all of these men, but there wasn't much he could do about it. Some of them would
be gone before morning, others would steal his mom away for weeks at a time, but none of them were
his dad. He complained to me often about the new men appearing in his kitchen on Sunday mornings
and told me about how much he missed his dad. His dad lived in Texas, and only saw Chris about once
a year. I knew that Chris was lonely, and had some emotional issues, but for some reason I was
drawn to him, and I loved being his girlfriend. Chris invited me over one night when his parents
were out and told me we could just watch some movies together. I spent about an hour trying to
decide what to wear; finally settling on a black shirt that I knew would shield my insecurities and
my favorite pair of jeans. My mom dropped me off, too preoccupied with my little sister who was
sick, to make sure adults would be there and said she'd be back to pick me up at ten. When I got
into his house, Chris showed me to the living room where he had set up blankets and pillows under a
bowl of popcorn. He hit play and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre began. He held me tight and I
couldn't keep that big dumb smile off my face. He started kissing me and I couldn't have been
happier. The sounds of people dying became background noise as he rolled on top of me and I forgot
about the movie completely. I only became aware of his hands when they started towards the button
on my jeans. I pushed his hand away, thinking that his hand just slipped or something. His
intentions became clear however, when he refused to remove his hand from my zipper. I pushed him
off and scooted away, doing my best to distance myself from him. 'Come on, why else would you
agree to come over when my parents aren't home?' he asked. In that moment I hated him for
taking away my belief that there was such a thing as good intentions. 'You're just as much of a
tease as my mother,' he said, face red and blotchy. He got up and stormed off to his room,
muttering something about 'Travis Jones,' leaving me alone in the living room crying silently.
I paid no attention to his words and sat on the blankets feeling sorry for myself. Was I supposed
to be having sex? Fourteen seemed way too young for me. And what did the word tease really mean?
Was I leading him on? Was the whole thing actually my fault? Ten o' clock came and I walked out
the door without saying goodbye. My mom drove me home and asked what we did. I told her we just
watched a movie and his mom made us cookies. I don't think she really believed me, but asking
more questions would only lead to a conversation neither of us wanted to have. I got to school the
next day to hear that Chris was in the hospital under suicide watch. The word suicide didn't work
for me. I needed to know what happened. From what I heard, he took too many sleeping pills and was
almost dead by the time his parents found him. I felt awful for hating him and I began to question
my morals. Maybe if I hadn't said no, he wouldn't have taken the pills. Maybe if I had just
done it, he'd be here right now, holding my hand. Sex wasn't that big of a deal I guess. Other
girls were doing it, so why did I have to say no? Chris transferred schools when he got out of the
hospital and I never heard from him again. I kept thinking that it was my fault; no matter how many
times people told me it wasn't. They didn't know what happened that night. Freshmen year ended
with guilt, depression, and still more questions, to none of which had answers. * Summer came and
went and by the time tenth grade had come, I had put Chris in the past. September came and I was
making friends with the seniors, scoring cool points with every conversation. Spirit week gave us a
break from the monotony of school, and we all were looking forward to Homecoming. The seniors began
explaining to me how to party. There were a lot of rules, but they seemed easy enough. First off,
I was told that every big party needs a theme. For example, GI Joe and Army Ho, CEO and business
ho, or golf pro and tennis ho. No matter what the theme, girls had to dress like sluts, and guys
had to look professional. Bringing 'Jungle Juice' to a party was also a plus. Another thing I
learned was that for a guy to get into a party, he had to have one of two things: beer or girls. A
girl was granted entrance based on attractiveness. Another rule was don't drink until you throw
up, it's gross, and above all else; never challenge a senior to a game of beer pong. Although I
never completely understood these rules, I went along with them, determined to be the coolest
sophomore ever. Maybe it's the mixture of sweat, Axe Body Spray, alcohol, and teen spirit that
reveal our hidden personalities, because the first big party I went to, someone ended up dead.
Caitlin and I weren't best friends, but we got along. She was a loner, but got along well with
almost everyone. We had a few classes together and had some of the same friends, but we never
really hung out outside of school. When I saw her at the party that night I said hello and we went
our separate ways. I went to the bathroom about a thousand times, she went to the hospital. It
could have been any of us that night, but it was Caitlin who decided to drink the most. We had all
had a few drinks, and were planning on staying the night. There were only a few sophomores invited,
so we had to make a good impression. A few lies to our parents, and an older sister pretending to
be a mom saying that our spending the night wouldn't be a problem, ensured that we'd be able to
make it. By one o' clock we were all drunk and ready to go to bed. But Caitlin insisted on
staying with the seniors, trying to impress them by drinking more and more. We tried to persuade
her to stop drinking, but we were in no shape to convince her. I woke up at six, to the loud
cussing of several seniors, and a whisper to call 911. My head pounding, I stumbled into the
kitchen where I saw Caitlin lying in a puddle of puke, passed out. A group of people were standing
around her uneasily, and I knew that there was trouble. I thought that maybe her mom was on her way
to pick her up or something, and no one wanted to help her get cleaned up. I volunteered, thinking
that she'd owe me later, until someone reached out and stopped me. 'She's dead.' I sunk to
the floor, eyes quickly blurring with tears and looked at Caitlin, lying motionless on the kitchen
floor. Paramedics got there and took her to the hospital, while I drove myself home. In that
moment, I felt ugly, hideous even, for not stopping her. When I got home my mom asked how the
sleepover was and I told her it was fun. I told her I was tired and was going to go take a nap. I
sat in bed staring at the ceiling, dreading school the next day and swearing to myself that I would
never drink to fit in ever again. Caitlin got to the hospital and was pronounced dead upon arrival.
Alcohol poisoning. Two words that put as much distance between the speaker and the mental image as
possible. Alcohol poisoning said nothing of all the shots, the tingly burn as they slide down your
throat, the way your mind becomes blurred, and judgment distorted. It says nothing of the morning
after, when you wake up with underwear in your back pocket and a massive headache, or when you
don't wake up at all. The girl who had the party was in more trouble than I thought possible and
the kids who stayed with Caitlin got Minor in Possession charges. Alcohol poisoning was a form of
suicide that was new to me. It was unlike Travis and Chris, who knew what they were doing. Caitlin
had no idea how much alcohol it would take to kill her. So I guess in a way, it wasn't suicide.
I'm sure she didn't mean to drink herself to death. But she did. No one forced her to keep
drinking, although I'm sure we could have stopped her. Why didn't anyone just cut her off?
Take the bottle away, and bring her home? I guess because that would have been too much work; too
much time out of our lives to save another. Caitlin died, and no one did anything about it. The
guilt about Chris that I kept hidden in the back of my mind came back ten times worse after Caitlin
died. I felt like I was responsible for both of them. That night haunted me for the rest of the
year. Seeing Caitlin's face lying in her own puke appeared in my nightmares constantly. That
night hardened me. I was no longer na've, and I realized that I had to watch out for myself. No
one else was going to. That night was my first and last time drinking. Even a simple beer made me
think of a dead girl's face. Being sixteen wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. * Junior
year was the next time we talked about suicide in class, and again we ended up with a writing
assignment we didn't want. It started in history class, in a discussion about culture. We
started talking about music and influential people. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and
Kurt Cobain were the big ones. As we continued talking, we realized that all of them had committed
suicide at age twenty-seven. We couldn't come up with a reason for their deaths, so Mr. Copler
had to step in. He told us to pick one of the musicians and write what we thought their suicide
note would say had they left one. At first it seemed like a cool assignment, but as it got closer to
the due date, I realized that writing a suicide note was one heavy project. I couldn't think of
anything to write. The majority of the kids in my class wrote theirs with no problems; sticking to
orthodox phrases like: 'I didn't want to become mainstream,' or 'I just took too many
pills.' I felt the need to write something more. This was my chance to find the answer to the
question I had been asking since Travis shot himself through the head nearly six years ago: why?
Why would someone feel the need to take his or her own life? I guess I spent way too much time
pondering it, because I fell into a state of depression myself. Everything was completely
overwhelming and I was constantly stressed out. I couldn't think of anything to write for my
suicide note, which was already a week late. Finally I realized that I wasn't going to come up
with anything brilliant so I sat down and wrote it, sticking to all the clich's about suicide that
I knew. I wrote about secrets. I wrote about no one ever paying attention to the little things
that mattered. I wrote about no one taking the time to sit down and talk. I wrote about drugs and
alcohol too, but none of them seemed real. With the conclusion of that note, I thought that I had
distanced myself from suicide for good. But for some strange reason, I felt the memories of Travis,
Chris and Caitlin start to melt, leaving a mess at my feet. That note made me feel even guiltier:
guilty for trying to understand what they were going through and guilty for trying to justify their
actions. They were gone and that was all that mattered. * Senior year came down to one night, home
alone; with those all too familiar tears pouring down my face. He was gorgeous. 6'2, charming,
and popular, he was every girl's dream. I was surprised when he called me, wanting to hang out,
but I couldn't have been happier. He called me around midnight, which was my curfew, but I told
Shane that I'd sneak out if he was willing to pick me up. He said he was just hanging out at his
house with a bunch of friends, and agreed to pick me up shortly. I ran to my closet to find the
perfect outfit. After deciding on a black halter-top and a cute pair of shorts, I got ready to
leave. I was a little nervous; I could feel my legs shaking, but I forgot about it as soon as I
heard him coming up the street. I put several pillows under my blankets, arranged like a person in
case my parents went in my room. Quietly, I opened the window and stepped out. I saw him pull up,
so I ran over to his big white pick-up truck and jumped in the front seat. When we got back to his
house, he led me into his garage, which had been finished and made into a playroom for him and his
siblings. It was dark when we entered, and no one else was there. I asked about his friends and he
took my hand and told me they weren't coming. We sat down on the couch, and within five minutes,
we were already fooling around. I knew we were taking things a little too fast, but I let it go. I
was with Shane Conners. My shirt came off soon after, and I began to get a little nervous. For the
first time in a long time, I though about Chris, and I questioned Shane's intentions. I went with
it for a while, until he went for my pants. This was the first time I had ever even hung out with
him, and I already felt like a whore. The whole time, he wouldn't kiss me on the lips. He kissed
my neck, my stomach, and my collarbone, but never my lips. For some reason it reminded me of that
scene in Pretty Woman, when Julia Roberts is explaining how she never kisses on the lips. Her
reasoning was because it was too personal. His lack of intimacy surprised me, and I wondered if it
was normal. His hand found its way to my zipper and I felt like nothing more than a prostitute. I
stopped him and told him that I didn't want to have sex, but he didn't take it well. 'Why'd
you agree to come over then?' 'You know you want to.' He kept kissing my neck and breathing in
my ear, but it was no longer fun. I knew this would not be a story I'd want to tell my
girlfriends on Monday, but a story that no one should know about. I started to get up to get
dressed and I asked him to take me home. He responded by throwing me back down onto the couch,
digging his knees into my elbows, and starting to unbuckle his belt. He then pressed his hands into
my arms and used his legs to hold mine down as I tried to kick him off of me. My arms went numb
from the pressure of his hands and I wasn't strong enough to get up. Screams of protest
couldn't be heard from the garage; besides, his parents weren't home anyway. His smile was
almost cruel as he touched my thighs, and without warning he took my virginity. I cried the entire
time, begging him to stop. 'Baby, you're so hot.' 'God, you have such an amazing body.' I
hated him and his stupid power over me, within the constant rhythm he created. He finished with a
grunt, and finally stood up, allowing circulation back into my arms. I had always thought of myself
as strong, but with Shane I was helpless. He went into the bathroom, allowing me to finally get
dressed. I tried to ignore the pain between my legs as I put my shorts back on. I quickly finished
getting dressed while trying to think of what to do next. I had no friends who could drive me home
this late, and I couldn't call my parents. Shane came back in the room and smiled. I glared at
him, letting the tears drip onto his carpet. 'Come on babe, I'll take you home.' I hated him
calling me babe. It wasn't sweetly possessive- it was vindictive. I got into his truck and sat
as close to the window as possible, praying that my parents were still asleep and hadn't
discovered that I was gone. The ride home was silent and when he pulled up by my house, I jumped
out while the truck was still moving. I made my way to my window and climbed back in. So here I am.
On my bed, watching him drive away. This was not what I wanted. I have no one to talk to about it
either. And besides, who would believe me? They'd say I wanted it. If I didn't, I wouldn't
have snuck out. I never told anyone about what happened that night with Chris. No one asked about
my involvement that night with Caitlin. But for some reason I'm thinking about suicide yet again.
Only this time it's me contemplating it, instead of asking questions. I never thought that I
would be the victim of something such as rape, yet I was. I am. I hate the fact that I wasn't
strong enough- I let it happen. I know this isn't something that is going to just go away. I
can't even consider pressing charges. I don't think I could handle seeing his face. His smug,
repugnant face. I don't know how I ever thought he was handsome. I wish I could lay all the
blame on him. But if I did, I wouldn't be being completely truthful. I snuck out. I agreed to
go with him. Maybe I did bring it upon myself. Maybe Chris was right, all those years ago. I am a
tease. I just thought I was stronger. Rape is an ugly word. A word often tossed around carelessly
by many, myself included. I guess it's how we distance ourselves from it. But now I can't.
It's a part of me now. Should I choose to press charges, that's how others will see me as well.
The Girl Who Got Raped. An unfortunate title for a girl with dreams. Dreams of going to college,
maybe becoming a teacher. So much for that. I don't think I can even bring myself to face
what's left of high school. I'm not stupid enough to take pills, or na've enough to drink.
But maybe I'm brave enough to pull a trigger. Just like Travis Jones.





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