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?That?ll be $7.50,? the bartender said as she shoved a martini in front of my face. This was my first drink. I handed the pink-haired, aging woman a ten dollar bill and she thought of herself highly enough to keep the change.
It wasn?t my twenty-first birthday. I was old enough not to be asked to show my ID. I?d been twenty-nine for seven months.
Staring into the triangular glass, I watched the ripples of gin form the face of Tucker. Maybe it was just because I figured that drinking alcohol may somehow make me feel closer to him. Maybe I would be able to cope with his death if I could feel just how he did before he left my life forever that night thirteen years ago.
My fingers played around with the stem of the glass. I could hear the bartender at the other end of the bar fixing someone else?s drink. Someone else?s poison.
I lifted the glass, tipped its contents into my mouth, and tried to swallow.
Fire burst down my throat and into my stomach where it sat, sizzling. With just one swig, the outlines in the dark room started to blur together. I took another sip, and the room swayed again. It was sort of calming, the fact that everything was just sort of fading. Pain was an illusion; it couldn?t really hurt you. Maybe that was the appeal that drew Tucker in.
Maybe the alcohol didn?t work for emotional pain, for that thought hurt as much as anytime I thought it before now. With a final gulp, I finished my first real-life grown-up drink. My throat was still coated with flames, but I was learning to ignore it.
?You want another?? the bartender asked.
I could tell that I was dangerously tipsy, but I nodded my head anyway and slapped a crisp ten spot on the counter again.
"But make it a double rum and coke this time."
Moments later, after the second round, there were two of everything and they were all moving. The jukebox wobbled in the corner as some sort of classic rock was dispelled from its speakers.
?One more. No coke,? I slurred to the bartender. I think she rolled her eyes.
I felt like I wanted to sleep. It felt like my body was sleeping, but my mind was awake?functioning on a two-second delay.
"I hope you have a ride home. You're completely wasted."
?Hey!? I stood and my bar stool clattered to the floor from under me.
?Settle down, Marci,? said a voice behind me. A warm hand fell onto my shoulder, and the people that had been dining in the bar behind me were no longer there.
?Tucker?? It was him. He looked perfect. My last memory of him was at, or rather after, the party he had crashed. He won whatever drinking game they were playing. He lost everything else. The last time I saw his body, it was limp on the floor, vomit leaking out of his open mouth. His face was pale and cold to the touch. I hadn?t been at the party that night. I received a call from one of his buddies there telling me to ?come pick up your boyfriend because, dude, he?s totally wasted?. I arrived and called the police. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Now he was staring back at me, alive and beautiful.
?I?m so sorry I left you. I love you, Marci.?
I looked behind me to see if the bartender lady was seeing this too, but she was gone. The bar was empty except for Tucker and me. I ran my palm down the side of his face, and he put his hand over mine. Warmth filled my entire body.
?Marci, I missed you.?
Tears came to my eyes. ?I missed you too, Tucker. So much. Why did you leave me? Why did you do that to me?? His eyes stared into mine and somehow everything became right.
I leaned into him and placed my lips on his. He was really, truly there.
I opened my eyes, and we were no longer in the bar. Tucker?s hand held mine. We were standing by a cliff. Behind us was a forest. The trees all melted together in greens and browns, like an impressionist painting. Above us hung a sky of pinks and purples. The ripe sun was setting. It was a beautiful, fantasy landscape.
?Marci, I know that I hurt you. I left you. I chose to leave you. I?ve been watching you all of these years. I never wanted to cause you that pain. I never want to cause you pain again. Marci, forgive me??
I stared into his eyes. How could I refuse? I had heard about people being visited by their deceased loved ones, and I wasn?t sure if this was one of those incidents. This seemed so much more than that, though. It was as if the worlds?of the dead and the living?had merged into one for this beautiful moment in history.
?Of course,? I gasped.
?Don?t you want to spend the rest of forever with me??
?More than anything else.?
?Hold on tight. This won?t hurt.?
He began to lead me toward the edge of the cliff. Looking down, I saw nothing. It was a pit of light, and coming up from the abyss it cast shadows on his and my face.
?Are you ready to be with me forever, Marci??
This pit must be some sort of paradise, I thought. Much better than a life I would be living on earth. The department store wouldn?t miss one sales clerk. The landlord of my decrepit apartment would find another tenant. And I would love Tucker, forever, all my own. Booze would never again be his first choice.
We jumped into the hollow of eternity together. I felt like I was being drowned with the most pure water, washing my pathetic past life from my soul.
Published four days later, in The San Francisco Chronicle:
SAN FRANCISCO?Three days ago, the body of Marci Johnson, 29, was found on the shore of the San Francisco Bay.
Construction workers building a strip mall in the area noticed the body while on break.
?We noticed something by the water. We figured it was just some trash washed up by the Bay, but when we went by we realized that it was a body,? says Jason Putnam, construction worker at the site.
The workers contacted the police. The body, later identified by relatives as Marci Johnson, was pronounced dead at the scene.
The results of the autopsy were released yesterday and revealed an abnormally high blood alcohol level. Police speculate that while under the influence, she somehow fell into and drowned in the Bay. Because of the water current of the Bay and the proximity of the body to the Golden Gate Bridge, police say that it is likely that she plunged into the water from the Bridge.
Since its opening, an estimated 1,200 suicides have been committed by jumping off of the 746-foot bridge. Police have no way of knowing how Marci got from the bridge to the water, but suicide is suspected. However, the investigation of the case is still underway. Funeral arrangements for Marci Johnson will be announced at a later date.