Alternative Failure. This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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Everything that has forced my state of mind was lost long ago. The stills and clips of my past, the memories through the years, played repeatedly in the theatres of affliction. Family tradition stood strong in the generations of failure, and pushed me to the inevitable. The bottles and promises called me to follow in the footsteps of the corrupt. My pride and judgment kept me from error, but when my past became too much, I gave in to the malicious face of escape.

I ran from everything, that’s how I ended up here, snuggled between white sheets and hand carved mahogany boards. Looking back, I’m not sure if I would change much of what happened, a word or two here and there, but I have never been so free. My viewing is this afternoon, followed by a short service and a smooth ride to my awaiting vacancy. The way I died, I don’t think many will be coming to see me. Aside from my parents and grandparents, all of whom are already dead, no one would still love me after what I’ve done. I can’t blame it all on an abusive childhood, festering anguish, and the folds of heartaches. When responsibility for actions passes mindlessly, honor dissipates leaving nothing but a musty air of failure.

Heinous nightmares and continuing disappointment prompted my drinking. It was so long ago now; all I remember is what a blessing passing out had become, I didn’t dream. When I blacked out my mind forgot every horrible memory, it just slept and recovered. The next morning I would realize what I’d done, who I’d called and pissed off. Shame engulfed me and my feelings of worthlessness amplified. Vodka, rum, whiskey, it was even more appetizing as the guilt crept in from friends’ tears. All I had to do was stop, and I wouldn’t hurt the people I cared about most. I held them up on a pedestal, they were all perfect and I was unworthy, as always. I wept when I disappointed them again, and reached for a bottle.

Eventually I came to discover I could only pass out at night. The adverse effects from booze bled into my daytime existence, and I didn’t know what to do. I could only run when the sun set, I had a job, school, friends, and a normal life I couldn’t just give up. One night after a show, I was offered a smoke. After hesitation, I accepted. My mom had smoked during most of my childhood, I hated it, everything about smoking and how she looked when she did. That night, though, it was a way to escape in the day. I bought myself a few packs and went on. Finally, everything was set up; I could drink and smoke, just run forever. I told myself everything was temporary, just a way to cope until I figured it all out.

Emma ruined my master plan. She looked on as I killed the kind, compassionate person she knew. I had told her everything that happened to me in an effort to make her see that I had a reason for what I was doing. Nothing I could say eased her hatred for my actions. Conversation after conversation, we repeated our arguments and stood fast to our stances. I slurred into her machine nearly every time I lost control, begging for her forgiveness. When she found out I started smoking she was furious. Not many things about Emma make sense to me, I know she is a wonderful person and friend, but that’s about all. She hates smoking even more than drinking, and they both scare her to death.

A few weeks later I made the mistake of using her in a photo shoot for my next painting. Cigarettes were the main focus, and out of love, or spite, she destroyed one of them. It was pathetic how distraught I was over one smoke. Anger and rage filled every bone in my body, I could never be mad at her, but the situation infuriated me. Sitting in my car after that, Emma said I was better than that, through tears. It broke my heart to see her cry over me, pleading that I stop this. I threw out every smoke I had, and quit drinking. Never again was I going to be the cause of my friends’ pain. A romantic resolution, isn’t it? I guess I wished it stopped there, end of story, happily ever after. Life never really works that way though. If it did I wouldn’t be in this god forsaken box, alone and never to laugh with Emma or anyone else forever.

I moved out of state to live with my grandparents. I was addiction free, smoke free, painting more and happy. Then, in one week, everything shattered, like cold, heartless ice. One swift swoop, my grandparents died in a car accident. The day of their funeral my father beat the holy shit out of me, so I drove back home. An eight hour drive back to a mom I hadn’t hugged in months. When I was thirty minutes away, I received a call from the state trooper, mommy and stepdad hit by a drunk driver, killed instantly. My empty house welcomed me and I collapsed on the hardwood floor. There wasn’t much left. I closed my eyes and wailed into the broken night, tears cascading down my skin, crashing down just as waves hit a rocky shore.

The week of a lifetime, it’s something, quite extraordinary, the irony of it all. Needless to say, I pursued comfort in the bottom of a bottle, bought cigarettes by the carton and didn’t seek employment. To my luck, or misfortune, I found friendship in enabling hooligans. I needed to get out of my reality, and they had the tools to do it. At first it was just pot, a chill relaxer, laughter and hunger the only side- effects. Soon, that wasn’t enough; my stepdad had been a coke addict, so I couldn’t bring myself to sniff the famous release of fakes. Heroin was introduced by a guy I had been with often, I didn’t trust him. But when he whispered a promise of ultimate euphoria, a world where every dream I had would come true, I jumped at such a possibility. Spoon, flame, needle, belt around the bicep, and the rush flooded my body. It was true; the most magical world was surrounding me. Everything was perfect.

Addiction had really out-done itself. I was hooked, opium trips every night, and as tolerance increased, I fell farther and farther. That rush consumed me, the cool vapor of losing all control, of heaven shooting into my veins. I was fantasizing of that feeling the day I died. Smack was on my mind when I saw her. Emma was laughing with her friends. I panicked, and then noticed how happy she was. The only thing I ever brought her was pain, tears, and disappointment, but with me out of her life she flourished with no worries. I miss her, as I missed everyone that was in my life before. Standing there I realized that I was completely useless to the world. I had always believed I was worthless, but I held onto the potential to be useful to humanity. That’s gone though; I never changed her live with my friendship, not for the better. I destroyed everything, and cemented the fact that I am a waste.

The door gave into my raging movements. I blundered up the stairs and crashed to the floor. Spoon, flame, needle, belt around the bicep, and it wasn’t enough. Again. Again. That was it. Rush, rush, then my breathing slowed, and I blacked out. Another teenager lost to drugs. Congratulations, fate, my grinding teeth are yours for the taking. A neighbor found my body when he discovered my door was wide open. I got my picture in the paper, a nice little obituary, “Young life lost to drugs”. Embalming was slightly invasive, not very pretty, the process, but the mortician did a wonderful job masking the track marks that mapped the last routes of my life.

I can smell the flowers as they bring me into the funeral home, fresh, but insanely overpowering. There’s soft, comforting music playing across the room, I suppose it’s necessary, but it’s definitely not my style. The well-dressed men set me up in front of the pews and open half of my casket. I’m positioned perfectly; I couldn’t sleep that peacefully when I was alive. My cousins, aunt, and uncle shuffle in, heads bowed, dripping eyes. I look away as they slowly pass; on a table beside my body are pictures of me with my mom and friends, happy. I chuckle as I reminisce those beautiful times, the laughter and ridiculous, late night escapades. We had fun before, when my life was advancing on enjoyable. The other guests march in, business-like and somber.

Emma steps through the door, and my astral heart stops again. She’s been crying, worse than I can imagine, and she’s despondent and broken. The photographs I was admiring earlier catch her eye and she breaks down again. I hate myself for doing this to her. But what did she expect from me? She knew I couldn’t live up to her expectations. She knew all along.

Emma makes it to my body, the tears flowing freely.

She whispers, “You were better than that, Norah. You were better than that.”

No! No! Emma, wait! You have to understand, you must understand, I didn’t mean for this to happen. I… I…

My words are silent, hopeless pleas, I can’t go back now. Nothing I can do will change what happened. If I could I would change everything, that first night I would have reached out. It’s over now. A dead body never has the last word, no chance for explanation. My situation was abhorrent, but I could have made my life something great. I’m so sorry. In the service they say countless things I wish I had made true. My last car ride is lonesome and uncomfortable. As they put me in the ground I look on across the few that have stayed with me. The moonlight engulfs the flush greenery and chiseled stones, passing over my newly mounded dirt. I chose this horrific destiny, I killed myself in cold blood, and Emma held my trial. I murdered the warm person I once was and replaced her with a vicious degenerate. When the frosty abyss of consequence forces a frozen stasis of loss, it’s too late to ignite the fire of change.





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