Live Dangerously | Teen Ink

Live Dangerously MAG

January 17, 2008
By Stephanie Thiebold, Turlock, CA

It’s funny, but sometimes I’ll close my eyes and stretch my arms and just lean back, stretch my body everywhere from my fingers to the tips of my toes, and take a really deep breath.

It chokes somewhere in my chest before it makes it to my lungs like it can’t quite seem to make the effort to get that far.

That’s how I feel lately.

I know he’s gone; I’m not an idiot.

But sometimes it’s easier to pretend he’s still here. Like I’ll wake up in the morning and he’ll be there at the counter waiting for me, so we can eat our Cheerios together and talk about nothing.

He was my brother, you know. My brother.

He had brown hair, usually messy from where it rubbed up against his favorite baseball cap. I can’t remember what team it was. It’s so weird the things you forget.

It wasn’t him, at the funeral. They had this other boy, lying in a wooden box, looking like a wax figure. His hair was gelled. I could see very faint tracks where the comb had glided through, carefully parting his chestnut locks. Brandon hated combing his hair, dressing up. If we had seen that guy in the casket at a baseball game or in the hallways at school, he would have laughed and asked where his mother had bought him the suit. That was my brother. My big brother.

Only a year older, but it didn’t feel like anything. We were best friends, deep down – not all the time, but underneath everything I knew him like I knew the shape of my neck or the color of my hair.

The funeral was a dream, not even a nightmare ­because it really wasn’t that memorable. I kept thinking I should be crying or convulsing or yelling or something, but all I could feel was the same raw ache that wasn’t at all out of the ordinary. Not since that night. It’s amazing what you can get used to. Everyone else was crying, but I couldn’t feel any emotion for them either. It all felt like a soap opera, just some cheesy half hour sitcom you watch when you’re supposed to be doing your homework. Suddenly a very strange thought ran through my head, a line out of a historical romance novel an English teacher would make you read.

Hobbled by my misconceptions …

I knew what it meant. But I didn’t know where it came from. It kept running through my brain, like a line from a song I couldn’t get out of my head, over and over and over …

Hobbled by my misconceptions …

And without really thinking, I’m walking faster and faster away from Wax Boy and sobbing Aunt Martha in her lavender suit, away from all the stupid flowers Brandon would have hated and Mother crying with her head on Daddy’s lap. Brandon, you are so lucky to get out of this, I think. It’s sick. I’m sick. But I don’t even care. I have something strange running through my blood. I need to get out!

People are staring with that stupid gossipy faux-sympathy look.

“They say it may have been suicide, you know …”

“Oh, the poor dear …”

“Is that Chelsea running?”

People are staring now, and I find that yes, I am running. I run past the ushers, through the door, into the big bright universe, and it blinds my hard cold eyes.

I get down on my knees and sit for a while on the cement outside the church, arms twined around legs, breathing hard, gasping really. I look at the sky and it’s so big and suddenly that’s all there is. People are walking past and patting my shoulder, kneeling sometimes but not knowing what to say. The sky makes me dizzy, spinning out for all eternity and never ever ending, and I’m just a speck, a piece of gum someone flicked off their shoe, sticking to the sidewalk forever.

Are you there, Brandon? Have you ever felt this small? I look for him up in the sky, for a sign that he’s watching. A storm cloud maybe, or a violent and sudden outpouring of rain. Something big, bigger than this stupid, tacky funeral and all the mascara marks tracked down the cheeks of my female relatives. It’s a hopeless feeling. Why am I here, Brandon? Are you happier now, wherever you are?

“Chelsea?” It’s one of the ushers. A brave boy, tall and uncomfortable looking. I know him from Brandon’s baseball team. I had a crush on him for a little while. Middle school stuff. “Are you okay?” His eyebrows knit together in clichéd concern.

“No, leave me alone, okay?” I don’t want him here. I don’t want anyone to see me so weak. I’m angry, suddenly, incredibly pissed off at anyone who saw me break down. Brandon would have … I don’t even care. I’m not going to care. I feel like just another dramatic idiot making a scene.

“Leave me alone.” I glare, keeping my chin up. Looking down on him from three feet below. The usher looks scared. Good.

I get up and walk off without looking back, not bothering to wipe the dust from my black skirt. I hate black. I hate everything that goes along with this place, with this macabre show of affection for some dummy in a casket. My brother isn’t here. I don’t care what everyone else thinks. He’s not.

I slip past the mourners back into the church, walking into the main sanctuary, sitting next to my mother and father. Daddy looks like ice, automatically patting my mother’s shoulder as she cries big, heaving sobs into his only good suit. His face is troubled, gazing past the shrine of Brandon to an empty wall.

“Daddy?” Are you in there, Daddy? He doesn’t look back.

“Chelsea … get a ride home. We can’t leave yet … We’ll meet you later, at the wake. Make sure everything’s set up, okay?” He kisses me on the forehead, his mind wandering somewhere I can’t go. “Get the appetizers out, ask Aunt Ida to pick up the ice …” He’s saying these things, but they aren’t sentences, they’re thoughts spoken out loud, directed toward me. Daddy?

“Okay.” I walk back out to the parking lot and wait patiently by Aunt Ida as she talks to her friend, wait for a gap so I can deliver the news about the ice, ask to go home early to get the house ready.

I’m watching myself. I can see exactly how I would look if this were a movie I was watching: I would be crying on the couch by now, wearing old sweatpants and scarfing down popcorn, watching a pale, tired-looking girl go crazy after her brother’s untimely death. I close my eyes. If I count to 10 and open them, everything will be back to normal. Brandon will be standing next to me cracking his knuckles and talking about this sick new band he heard on the Internet … One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

“Chelsea, honey? Are you all right?” Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. I open my eyes. I see Aunt Ida and her friend gazing at me with concern. Aunt Ida’s purple eye shadow is creased. Disappointment settles in my gut. For the first time, I feel like I might cry.

“I’m fine. I need a ride home now so I can get the house ready for the wake. Daddy wanted me to remind you to pick up ice.” I sound like a little girl, a well-raised little girl. A cold breeze brushes my cheek and I hug my arms, bracing against it.

“Right, right.” She pats my shoulder. “Just get in the car. We’ll leave in a minute, sweetheart.” Pet names. I’ve never been called sweetheart, honey, babe, or darlin’ so many times in my life. Funerals bring out the worst in people.

I trudge to her ugly little forest green car and slip into the front seat. I don’t fasten my seat belt. Living dangerously now.

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This article has 83 comments.

on May. 25 2010 at 5:23 pm
TheSummoningFreak PLATINUM, Lugoff, South Carolina
41 articles 0 photos 122 comments

Favorite Quote:
if you can never let yourself fall you'll never know what it's like to love

OMG, i love this it's so good is there gonna be a 2nd part? please tell me there is,

on May. 25 2010 at 4:46 pm
phatbeats SILVER, Los Angeles, California
5 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" JFK

very touching.

on May. 25 2010 at 10:19 am
Still_Waters26 SILVER, Ladysmith, Wisconsin
6 articles 0 photos 88 comments

Favorite Quote:
"We few, we happy few/we band of brothers/For he to-day that sheds his blood with me/Shall be my brother"
-Shakespeare, "Henry V"

This is well-written but real sad.  Reminds me of when I lost my grandpa in '07.  I remember when that happened, the grief went on and off; one moment our family was laughing together, and the next we were crying.  It was a roller coaster of emotions, I remember that the most about it.

JessieB SILVER said...
on May. 3 2010 at 9:18 pm
JessieB SILVER, Elkton, Maryland
7 articles 1 photo 102 comments

Favorite Quote:
an eye for an eye, and the whole world goes blind~Ghandi

one word: WOW

my story is strangely A lot like yours.

you should check it out. The plot is similar.


JessieB SILVER said...
on May. 3 2010 at 9:16 pm
JessieB SILVER, Elkton, Maryland
7 articles 1 photo 102 comments

Favorite Quote:
an eye for an eye, and the whole world goes blind~Ghandi

one word: WOW.

you should check out mine. it weirdly A lot like yours. the plot and all. A little different, but I think it's weird that my story is so alike.

check it out(:


on May. 3 2010 at 6:58 pm
TaylorB15 BRONZE, Moultrie, Georgia
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

Fiction? Personally, I love this piece! It sounds like something that has happened to you before. Your imagery throughout the entire piece was incredible! It made it seem like the whole piece is nothing but a dream.

"I get down on my knees and sit for a while on the cement outside the church, arms twined around legs, breathing hard, gasping really. I look at the sky and it’s so big and suddenly that’s all there is. People are walking past and patting my shoulder, kneeling sometimes but not knowing what to say. The sky makes me dizzy, spinning out for all eternity and never ever ending, and I’m just a speck, a piece of gum someone flicked off their shoe, sticking to the sidewalk forever. "

This is the imagery I love most because you really let the reader know, and actually see, every little detail in the scene. It seems almost to real to be fiction. The charged diction you used, as well as power verbs, really enforced the emotion in the story.  

I hope this hasn't happened to you and if so thats awful and I'm so sorry. I"m glad you shared this on here. EXCELLENT JOB! I'd like to read more of your writings! :)

on Apr. 9 2010 at 9:00 pm
BleedingRose PLATINUM, Frederic, Wisconsin
33 articles 1 photo 378 comments

Favorite Quote:
*The darkness holds infinite possibilities.


Second time reading this- still amazing!  You're a very talented writer, you can actually feel the character's emotions, incredible techniques.  Would you mind giving my work some constructive critisism?  it would be big help.  5 stars!


on Feb. 1 2010 at 6:22 am
AleeHale SILVER, Agana, Other
8 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Good shoes take you to good places. Picking the right one is the hard part."

I agree with most. It really does feel like you've lived through this. If you have, I'm truly sorry that this experience gave you good material to write from. I always say, 'the only perk of a painful past is good material for great stories'. I hope that this isn't one of them. If it was an experience, I admire you for being able to share your story with the rest of us.

If you haven't experienced this, then I admire you all the same. You had me on the edge of tears. This is truly one of the best stories I've ever read.

maki:p GOLD said...
on Jan. 10 2010 at 10:56 pm
maki:p GOLD, Rocklin, California
17 articles 1 photo 47 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The only journey is the one within" and "You can't help anyone who doesn't want to be helped."

That felt too real to be fiction, especially knowing in part what you were talking about. Amazing. I would have sworn you'd lost someone close to you by that writing. Absolutely adn amazing piece.

on Dec. 20 2009 at 12:58 pm
emilysbreakfast GOLD, Alto, Michigan
10 articles 0 photos 48 comments
I was really surprised to see this under Fiction. it felt like you lived through this. absolutely amazing(:

millz SILVER said...
on Dec. 19 2009 at 9:28 pm
millz SILVER, Memphis, Tennessee
8 articles 0 photos 19 comments
That was so powerfull! You really did good developing the characters.

SamGurl said...
on Dec. 19 2009 at 4:24 pm
Wow, very touching. You are a very good writer.

Schubster said...
on Jun. 19 2009 at 1:34 am
You really achieved the reader-character connection here. I mean, I actually felt like Chelsea with all of her feelings and thoughts. Very well written.

4ever4jc said...
on Jun. 6 2009 at 8:19 pm
Wow. this was so well written. Everything everyone said in thier comments are so true. Please believe it. Keep writing. You've got an awesome gift in writing.

Maryt said...
on May. 5 2009 at 3:21 am
Maryt, San Antonio, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
that was a very good story that i can relate to in so many ways

on Apr. 26 2009 at 10:44 pm
KaylaKissesAlways BRONZE, Henderson, Nevada
3 articles 3 photos 14 comments
This piece is pure genious! You show how Chelsea is feeling. I can feel the confusion and the inner conflict as she tries not to accept the truth. Her brother is still alive to her. I would like to know how he died though. This is a good begginging to something wonderful.

on Apr. 19 2009 at 2:04 am
YeseniaG SILVER, Livonia, Michigan
7 articles 1 photo 122 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life is what happens when you're busy making plans.

Great work. From the first sentence, I was completely hooked. I'm glad you didn't say what it was that killed him too.

Bex24 BRONZE said...
on Apr. 8 2009 at 9:33 pm
Bex24 BRONZE, Toronto, Other
3 articles 21 photos 79 comments
That was lovely. Usually subjects like these are overdone and cliched, but your style definitely made me keep on reading; it was fresh and down-to-earth and well-written. Great job.

Asho said...
on Apr. 7 2009 at 5:01 pm
This was so very beautiful. Your writing style doesn't need a bunch of silly big words and feigned eloquence to be absolutely, heartwrenchingly gorgeous. It was like I was there with you, and it takes a wonderful writer to do that. Fantabulous job.

on Mar. 7 2009 at 2:34 am
when_we_were_thieves GOLD, Boise, Idaho
15 articles 11 photos 13 comments
i can relate... thats almost exactly how i felt when it happened..... i miss you graeme....