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Aimee approached the door. Breathing was impossible. Her heart drum rolled in her ears. Beads of sweat cascaded down her spine. She knew what was at stake, and certainly realized the possibility of frightful consequences for her actions. But Aimee’s caution had been thrust to the wind long before she ventured into this trap. She managed a shallow gulp of air and she-


“What was that?” I think to myself, looking around the room wildly. I’ve been manically typing for the past six hours, running on seven mugs of cheap coffee and a piece of toast. I glance at the top of my computer screen. Two thirty am. Who the hell would be pounding on my door at this hour? Well, they’ll get it slammed in their face, anyways, and have their eyes seared out with pepper spray if I’m feeling bold. I snatch the tiny bottle off the shelf above my desk. A creepy bearded man was lurking in the lobby a few weeks back, so we all got complimentary supplies from the housing staff.
I haul my sleep-deprived carcass off my chair, still enraged that someone would interrupt me in the middle of my work, and tiptoe to the door. I bump into Chandra’s violin case, which comes crashing violently to the floor. She stirs peacefully in her bunk. Lucky.
I grasp the handle and fling the door open. I cannot believe my retinas. There, standing in front of me, is my past. He’s staring me straight in the face.
The pepper spray drops to the floor and rolls away. I forget about the story. My mind churns a thick, dusty tornado of memories I’d gladly chosen to forget.
My body, on the other hand, ceases to function. My muscles have turned to bricks. If I could activate my limbs right now I would slam that door like I planned. No. I would slap him. Then pepper-spray him. Then run.
“Were you… uh… expecting someone else?”
His hands are shoved in his pockets. The collar on his flannel button up is ripped. His shoes are practically falling apart, as usual. His socks poke out of the holes. He’s grinning, slightly, and his eyes are shining. But they’re dull, too, and rimmed in red. Two years haven’t done him well. He’s at least fifteen pounds thinner. His face is gaunt. Clearly, he’s moved onto a new kind of self-medication. I’m repulsed.
“Can I… um… can I come in?”
The bricks crack. I stumble back into the room, my whole body trembling, and fall onto my bed. I clutch a pillow for stability as I stare intently at the ground. I hear the click of the closing door, and the subtle drone of the fluorescent lamp on my desk.
“Can I sit down?”
Silence.
He places himself carefully on the edge of the bed. He doesn’t want to fall through the thin ice he knows he’s about to venture across, even though he’s taken the plunge more times than he or I can count.
“Can I explain?”
Bitter silence.
He takes a deep breath. Well, a deep breath for him. His lungs are too covered in tar to harbor much oxygen anymore. The bed quivers. He’s shaking, too. Good riddance.
“Look, I… I know this is unexpected. I know I can’t get you back like before, and I only did then because… well, you know you the only person that’s ever really loved me. Loved because you probably don’t anymore. I wouldn’t expect you to, after all the stuff I’ve pulled.”
He waits for me to say something, anything. I know how much he wants it. I’m not giving in this time.
“When everything was happening, I never… I never realized how much you were hurting. I only thought about what I was… what I was going through. I was stupid. I am stupid.”
He thinks he’s admitting some huge personal secret to me with that one. What an inspiration.
“But when you called me that night I… well, the only thing that ever made me really happy, in my whole mess of a life, was standing right in fr4ont of me, and I lost you… I didn’t know what to do.”
Why did I know this was coming?
“I was so scared. Scared of finally returning the favor, you know? You deserve so much more than a train-wreck like me. You deserve someone who can always take care of you. Someone who doesn’t treat you badly. Someone who isn’t selfish. Someone who listens when you tell him to stop. Someone who isn’t me.”
The room spins. My grip tightens on the pillow.
“Maia… I came here because I had to give you something back. I had to tell you that… that I love you. I’ve always loved you, Maia. You’ve been the only one. It’s taken me seven years to say that, I know. And I’m too late. But it only makes sense when I say it with your name. I’m in love with you, Maia. I love you.”
I haven’t cried in two years. Thick calluses formed over my eyes. I haven’t let anything in so nothing can go out. Anthony just took a razor, much like the one he’s taken to his own wrists before, and sliced the grub away.
I look up at Anthony. His emaciated face is stained with tears. He hasn’t bothered to wipe them away. They gush from his big, brown, tired eyes. The eyes I never stopped loving.
I collapse into his chest. He holds me tight. I can feel his ribs. He’s been trying to kill himself, and he’s succeeding. We fall back onto the mattress and clutch each other, crying hysterically until we slip into slumber.


My alarm breaks the dark quiet. Goosebumps flesh out the void next to me. His hand has been replaced with a large Ziploc bag. I hear the bullets shift around in their plastic orange cases, and the peaceful clanking of his machetes. He’s giving himself a chance. I open up his mistakes. I’m still vengeful.


“Hi, everyone. I’m Anthony Lang. Since I’m a West High grad, Mr. Royce asked me to talk to you guys about my life. Well, uh, as you can see, I look pretty good today. I’m wearing a nice suit. I drove her in a nice car. I look like a pretty successful guy. Success doesn’t make you who you are, though. Failure does. So I’m going to talk about the biggest mistake of my life, and the consequences it had for me. This is pretty tough stuff, but I want you to hear me out.
Maia Moore and I were best friends from the moment we met. We were fifteen at the time, and we had so much in common. We both loved to write, but had… uh… troubling family situations. Maia’s step dad paid her unwanted visits in the middle of the night. My mom’s boyfriend liked to kick me out of the apartment a few times a week. As we got older, we found different ways of coping with the pain. Maia turned to her writing and moved in with her biological father. I started cutting myself and smoking weed. I moved onto my mom’s medicine cabinet, then cocaine, heroin, meth, then anything I could get.
My sober moments were spent with Maia, and in those, she tried to help me get clean. She would drag me to Narcotics Anonymous meetings, therapist offices, church centers, anywhere that could wake me up. Naturally, I didn’t listen, because I was frighteningly addicted. All I could see was my next fix. But she didn’t abandon me like everyone else. Sometimes, she’d drive into the city to pick me up from school, because I was too high to find my way to the subway. Most nights she stayed on the phone with me until I sobbed myself to sleep. She’d always tell me how much she loved me, and that she would never let me go.
But during our senior year, Maia completely cut off communication between us. She wrote me a letter. She told me she couldn’t take care of me anymore, and begged me to get help for the last time. Instead, I dropped out of school, moved in with my then-girlfriend, and started dealing.
Two years passed. My drug use was still out of control, and Maia was still the only person I could think about. I got higher than ever and hopped on a bus to North Carolina, where Maia was going to school. For the first time in our twisted relationship, I spit out the three words that scared me most: I love you. She didn’t believe me. When I left the next morning, I gave her my stash. Three bottles of pills, enough cocaine to kill a horse, and a couple razors. Eight months later, I was out of rehab and immersed in sobriety. I found a low-paying but steady job, bought a tiny apartment, and went to NA meeting three times a week. It was all for her… I thought she would appreciate it.
That wasn’t the case. I foolishly believed that Maia would still be waiting for me. After I left for what she must’ve believed was the last time, Maia got angry, just like I did. Maia got hooked, just like I did.
The last time I saw Maia was July 27th, 2003. I tracked her down with the help of my sponsor. She was turning tricks in a crappy part of Raleigh. The beautiful girl I once knew was in cheap clothes and makeup, covered in bruises. She couldn’t stand up straight. She didn’t recognize me at first, but when she did, she dangled a Ziploc of crack in my face. She smiled. Then she stumbled into the night. Her body was found a couple weeks later in a dumpster, pipe in hand. Her pockets were stuffed with baggies, all but one used up. It had ‘Anthony’ scrawled across the plastic.
The point of my story, I guess, is to remember how your actions affect other people. I know you guys have a lot going on with apps and schoolwork and just peer pressure and stuff, but… for the love of God, do not wake up every morning thinking that you’re the only person on the planet. People love you and care about you, and you can be damn well sure they’ll be stabbed with every puff. In the end, you will live with the angry gash in your heart. Nothing can make that guilt close up.
Now, uh, any questions? Don’t be shy. I don’t lose control anymore.”





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