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The silence of winter was intoxicating. The stillness of life, literally being frozen, captivated her wholly. Ruth sat outside and watched her breath against the backdrop of the crooked streetlight, absorbing every moment of her last winter. She clasped and rubbed her hands together, a small attempt to counter the frigid temperatures of the north. The tar beneath her had a thin layer of ice over the top. It was almost perfectly smooth, malformed just enough to distort Ruth’s image when she peered into it.
If death was anything like this winter, she was ready. Ruth had lived most of her life as the winter. She was cold and distant, too dangerous to stay for a long time without protection. The snapping rejuvenation that she once offered every time a cold breeze rushed from her mouth was now just biting. She slipped on the icy words she spoke more often than not now, so she decided to be done.
Winters may be harsh, but they’re not stupid. They are poignant and compelling and always, always get their own way. Ruth knew this and she would have hers too. Two days ago in the back of a classroom she began to figure it out. The mass of a human was simple and volume was an easy step further. She sat in the back of these classrooms and pressed herself up against the walls. If nothing else she wanted to just be an invisible auditor; there was no reason to be noticed, to induce guilt that she couldn’t undo. After anatomy was chemistry, the chances of them discussing the effects of excess IB Profin were slim, but she took them anyways. She dragged her feet as she left the room. Eyes to the ground, slipping through the cracks.
Google seemed a reasonable second option. See, Ruth didn’t want to kill herself too much. She wanted to do it just enough that someone could have made the difference. Someone could shift the balance if they came and found her. Someone could bring her back. But no one was going to look.
The calculations online were messy at best, so Ruth decided to take a break. She set her lap top down on the nightstand and walked into the living room. She left a note her roommate wouldn’t read on the dry erase board, grabbed her keys, and walked out the door.
On the way to the Rite-Aid two blocks away she got stuck at every crosswalk. The flashing red hand stopped completely whenever she approached. But she kept trodding, through the thick slush and ice, which was slowly being replaced by a virgin snowfall.
Up and down the aisles she meandered aimlessly. She decided now would be a good time for impulse purchases. The opportunity wouldn’t present itself again. After compiling a cache of magazines and chocolate, she loaded a large bottle of extra strength Tylenol into her purse. She’d pay for the rest, but this one didn’t seem worth purchasing.
The cashiers name tag said Chewbacca.
Ruth didn’t believe it.
“How are you tonight Miss?”
“I think I’m going to be alright now.”
“Good, did you find everything alright?”
Ruth smiled and nodded at him, uttering a banal hum.
Chewbacca printed off her receipt and sent her on her way. As she walked through the doors, the shoplifting alarm raised a sharp beep.
“Don’t worry about it; it’s been really finicky lately. Have a nice night.”
The lights were kinder to Ruth on the way back to her dorm room. As her keys jingled in the lock, which always needed a little extra effort to open, she heard her roommate utter some expletives of disapproval for Ruth’s return. This was a far cry from the smiles and greetings that once appeared as soon as the door opened, an occurrence that would likely remain merely a memory.
She walked right past Beth, grabbed her computer off the nightstand and went back to researching. She read somewhere that 50 pills would be just enough to take out a full grown man. Twenty-four seemed like a good amount for her. Her frame was petite and her body was slender. Often times she seemed outsized by her long torrents of hair. Her ice blond hair used to stop just after her chin, perfectly framing her face, but in the last few months she’d decided to just let it grow freely. Twirling them compulsively seemed like a better alternative to other nervous habits.
So, twenty-four it would be. Beth typically putzed around the room for most of Friday day, so Ruth decided as soon as she went out that night she’d be ready to take action.
The minutes crawled, slowly and with trepidation, like someone caught on too thin of ice. On their stomach, inch by inch, movement by movement was the only way to continue. But, as it must, the night came. Beth left; and Ruth was finally ready.
She couldn’t move. She was frozen and still, except for her eyes which continually shifted back and forth, counting and recounting twenty-four, again and again.
Somehow she couldn’t decide if she was changing her mind or chickening out. Either way it probably didn’t matter, she wasn’t doing what she set out to do. A fact that was surprising to no one.
It was 12:04 and she couldn’t count them anymore; they’d begun to blur together and as one they taunted her more than she could bear. Leaving her keys and coat she just left. Not sure where, not sure why, but Ruth was going. Away was all that mattered.
Her aim was to be found by someone, but she ran away again pushing through the crowds of everyone to get to a place of no one. She found herself in a quiet part of the town where the only sound to pierce the winter still was an occasional car zipping by. She watched her breath in the crooked streetlight and she watched it fade as the light flickered out. Total silence, total darkness, peace. The only thing that painted the tar was the soft glow from the changing light, barely enough to make out her figure.
In the distance she heard the un-muffled sounds of a well aged car. She looked up and down the street and couldn’t see its presence. Broken headlights she assumed.
So she laid herself down on the tar and waited for its roar to deafen the silence.