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Fall: to drop or descend under the force of gravity, as to a lower place through loss or lack of support. Unless it’s the support that causes you to fall; I guess that would be push. Either way, the word “fall” seems much too chipper to serve as a synonym to my suicide.
The fact that I am able to talk about it so serenely makes me anxious.
I am going to kill myself.
The pasty words rolled through my brain effortlessly, like flying a kite on a windy day. I noted my final surroundings as I approached the Interstate 695 overpass at Harford Road. The ground was hard and cold, and it scraped and scarred my bony feet as I proceeded. My breaths were syncopated and heavy, embodying the drama behind their scarcity. Even the last few seconds of my life would be dramatic.
Should I be surprised?
A day in the life of Veronica Isabella Santoni, dramatic? Never.
I laughed coldly at myself, mocking the clarity of it all. After taking a few deep breaths, I climbed onto the guard rail. The rusted metal cut deeply into the soles of my feet, sending me painful waves of pleasure. I grabbed the barbed wire at the top and grazed the sharpest point across my palm in a straight line. My selfish blood trickled down my fingers. I smeared it across my face in attempts to remove a stray hair. I closed my eyes and clenched my fists, one clean and one blood-covered, at my sides tightly.
I am ready.
I climbed coolly to the opposite side of the fence and clung on with my frail fingers and bloody toes. My body convulsed as I felt the warmth upon each painful spot on each entity. I did my best to suppress the images that began to flutter through my mind, to no avail…
“Happy Birthday, Ronni!” My mom and little bother entered my room holding a pink-frosted cake that read “13” in purple icing. My brother was my best friend, my mom was our confidante. The thoughtfulness that went into such a simple act made me tear up as my he continued.
“Ron, do you like it? I picked the colors ‘cause I know they’re your favorite.”
“Yes, thank you very much, Tony. I love it. Thank you both so much.” Tony leaned in to give me a hug, and lost balance of the magnificent chocolate cake. It fell to the ground, covering the contents of my floor.
“I’m so sorry, Mommy! I didn’t mean to! I’m sorry!” He wailed, as my mother licked pink frosting off of her forearm. My mother grabbed a hunk of cake off of the ground and launched it at my brother. We paused for a second before we declared war. We laughed and played until the cake was unrecognizable. We were sticky. We were messy. More than anything, we were happy.
A car horn sounded loudly, causing me to recall my surroundings. I blinked twice and noticed the welts of tears that were forming in my hazel eyes.
I am a warrior.
I removed the careful lacing of my toes between the fence; first my left foot, then my right. I laughed nervously and happily, almost at peace. I released the firm grasp of my left hand, and my right soon followed as I screamed without restraint.
My name will live in infamy.
My world blitzed in a massive blur around me, as I spun rapidly into a pool of darkness.
The television in the family room blared loudly.
“Eighteen-year-old Veronica Santoni, known to friends and family as Ronni, was found underneath the Harford Road overpass on I695 at three this morning. Ronni was pronounced dead on the scene, by means of suicide. Investigators are still looking into what caused this high school beauty queen to take her own life. We’ve heard nothi—” My brother interjected.
“Mom. Seriously? Turn that off.” He knocked over a Coke can and its contents sprayed across the floor. Tony walked irately across the kitchen and turned off the television. My mother observed his actions bleakly, as if all the emotion had been sucked out of her.
“I just was interested in what they had to say about her. If it bothers you, I won’t have it on.” She brushed a stray hair off of her sweater—I realized the sweater was my own. Mom walked around the kitchen counter to get a paper towel. She began matting up the spilled Coke.
“You don’t understand!” Tony yelled. “It’s too soon, I can’t—I won’t—it’s just—first Dad and now Ronni. Someone please tell me what I did to deserve this!” My mom reached across the counter to comfort him, but he batted her arm away feverously. He began to cry as he continued. “She told me too. She told me she was thinking about it, I just never thought—” He paused, catching his breath. “If only I had done something differently or said something differently maybe she’d still be here.”
She threw away the damp paper towel and approached Tony with open arms, who accepted her comfort this time. “Sweetie, I know it’s hard. We’re all hurting, but this isn’t your fault. Ronni loved you very much and she wouldn’t want to see you this upset.”
“Yes I would! Well, would I? I want you to miss me, Tony, but I don’t want you to hurt!” I realized my voice was hoarse, like I was coming down with a cold. I stared into my mother’s wilted eyes and then into my brother’s. I looked around and realized although I was in the room with my mom and Tony, I was not in the room with my mom and Tony.
How could I be? I’m dead.
I stared at my fingers and my arms. I touched my cheeks lightly. I could feel my entire body, but it was only my spirit that remained in my childhood household.
“Why don’t you go upstairs and lie down, Tony. We’ll see if you’re up for going to the funeral tomorrow.” My mom looked intricately at her thirteen-year-old son before giving him a hug.
I followed Tony, as he proceeded upstairs and sat down on his bed. He stared at my recently taken graduation photo that rested on his bedside table. With one swift motion, he picked the picture up and ripped it into tiny little pieces. He opened his bedroom window and disposed of the pieces, as if they were worthless.
I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach.
My brother doesn’t care that I’m dead!
When Tony turned around and plopped back onto his bed, I noticed he was crying. Not just casual tears, these were heavy droplets, like the individual icy snow pockets that make up an avalanche. I’d never seen my brother cry before; my brother possessed an uncanny resilient strength from the day he was born.
My stomach turned over again, this time more severe than the last. I felt a surge of guilt through my still heart so powerful that reverberated through my dormant veins.
I ran to my brother and tried longingly to put my arms around him. “Tony, I never meant to hurt you. I love you, Tony. I love you!” My efforts were pointless; he couldn’t see me or hear me. He reclined in his wooden bunk and bawled, until he finally fell asleep.
A wave of melancholy washed over the entity that was me. I closed my eyes to regain my composure. When I opened them, I looked down and I didn’t see my brother’s bedroom floor, I saw a grand marble staircase. I looked up, to my left and to my right. With a beat, I realized I was on the steps in front of The Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on Charles Street, in the heart of Baltimore. The streets were blocked off, causing a heap of commotion. The parking lot was filled, as were the streets, with hundreds of cars.
I knew exactly what was going on. I had arrived at my own funeral, and I was late. Classic.
I opened the heavy wooden door and walked down the center aisle.
I surveyed the thousand-or-so people who knew me, who loved me, who cared. I saw my tenth grade English teacher and her two daughters sitting about twelve rows back. Next to her was my dance teacher Ms. Nina, from way back when I was five. In the aisle opposite from them was my boss Angela from my first job at the pizza shop.
As I walked closer, I began to see people I knew more intimately. In the fourth row was a boy named Charles that I used to like me in the ninth grade. I never really had feelings like that for Charles, but he and I had been friends for the past four years. I saw dozens of my former classmates until I found who I was looking for; Chelsey Pizarro, my best friend. Chelsey sat in the front row, to the right of Tony and my mom.
The priest was speaking gentle words of the Lord, and it’s funny how much they resonated within me, considering I think Catholicism is a bunch of bulls***. I didn’t quite understand their meaning, but the words were pure and light; it was exactly what I needed.
I sat down next to Chelsey in the first pew, as the priest continued to speak. He finished reading and invited my closest friends and family members to say a few words about me. Chelsey got up and proceeded to the altar slowly, with a crumpled piece of paper in her hand. Her eyes became watery as she began to read:
“Ronni was the bravest person I knew. She decided at a young age that she was gonna be successful, no matter what she did. I always envied her for that. Ronni had charisma, a sorta spunk you might call it, that made people drawn to her.” She made big gestures with her hands when she described me. She always used to do that when she was telling me about a boy she liked or a fight she had with her mother. She returned her hands to the piece of paper and continued reading.
“Her addictive personality made her a person people were addicted to being around. She really always knew how to entertain a crowd. I remember this one time, Ronni and I were at the inner harbor, and there were some guys, a couple of guys who were throwin’ some torches back and forth. Ronni and I watched them for a minute or two, then she went up to the guy and asked if she could join.” I laughed. I remembered this day so vividly; that day’s events made up one of the happiest days of my life. Chelsey continued, “Ron took one of the flames and started tossin’ it like she was a pro. A buncha people came over and started watchin’ her and all, like she was some sort of goddess or something. I looked up at her and smiled. And in that moment I thought ‘Damn, I’m glad that girl is my best friend.’
“It’s important to me that I don’t focus on the bad times that Ron and I shared, and I know she’d want all of you to do the same. She was a tough kid, she really was, but God, I loved her. I’ve never known anyone so compassionate. Ron would always put me before herself. She’d save her money up from work to buy me presents and things, and when I didn’t have money to get food or something, she’d always lend it to me. And that kind a thing means a lot to a person, y’know? It’s the little things in life that matter, and although there was nothing little about Ronni Santoni, she captivated the essence of life’s little things with her big heart.”
Chelsey stepped down from the altar, blinking rapidly and wiping away her quiet tears. I cleared the moisture from my own eyes so no one would see my weakness, until I remembered no one could see me at all.
I felt my presence throughout the majestic cathedral. I took note of the hundreds and hundreds of sad faces, and I wanted to be there. I wanted to comfort all my friends and family and the people who loved me. I wanted to hug my mother and give Tony a big wet kiss on the cheek. I longed so dearly to sit on the pew next to my family.
The room began to swirl around me. I ended in a white-walled room, with a white ceiling and white tiled floor. There was nothing in the room except for a single light switch, which was bright red. It was quite peculiar; the switched was balanced perfectly between “off” and “on.” I stared at the light switch for a few minutes until I heard a slow beeping. I looked around, trying to find the sound.
“Ronni?” A voice came from above me. My eyes jolted towards the vast white ceiling. “Ronni, it’s me.”
“Dad?” I knew that voice so well.
“Ron, sweetie, listen to me. You don’t have much time. Now, I made a hell of a lot of mistakes in my life, but there’s only one of them that I would change, and that’s leaving you, your mother and Tony. I was a selfish fool, Ron. I’d give anything to be back with you.”
I closed my eyes and let my father’s voice wash over my pasty skin. Selfish. It felt so good to hear him admit that.
Wait, I am being selfish. How could I not have seen this before?
I twisted a curl in my hair as I reached the epiphany I didn’t know was coming. “Ronni, your mother and Tony need you. They love you, as do I. Whenever you’re ready, you know what you need to do. Your direction is up to you.”
“Wait!” The beeping sped up and my Dad’s voice faded. “What do I need to do? Dad!” I walked around the white room and continued thinking. I remembered the faces Chelsey would make at me when we were sitting in class next to each other. I remembered the times my Mom and I played Scrabble when there was too much snow on the ground. I remembered helping Tony ride a bike for the first time. He had a beautiful, bright red bike that my Grandmother gave—
The light switch!
I walked over to it, and remembered my Dad’s words: Your direction is up to you. The beeping grew louder as I continued thinking.
I am a warrior.
I reached towards the switch, toyed with it in my hands for a moment or two, and flipped it on. I fell backwards immediately.
I opened my eyes slowly. I noted my opaque surroundings. I felt as if nothing were inside of me, as if there was nothing to me. I was just Ronni.
I smiled warily, grateful to be home.
In that moment, I was splashed with a cool wave of appreciation for life, for laughter, and for love. All my troubles, all the people who ever wronged me, anyone who ever told me that I wasn’t good enough; none of it mattered. Depression seemed to be nothing but a simple word of my past. I was successful; I achieved the most challenging feat of all.
I was bleeding, I was in pain, and I was dismantled. More than anything, I was happy.