My therapist said that it would be good for me or whatever to eat lunch with random people and take notes on their behavior—because according to her, invading the personal space of emotionally-diseased teenagers would help me make friends. I wasn’t massively depressed or anything. Quite the contrary. I was happy living my life exactly as I had for the past six years—alone and in a dark hallway, wondering what people would do if a giant snake suddenly slithered its way into the school and ripped everyone’s heads off.
My therapist didn’t believe me, of course. She told me that rejecting the companionship of others was an unhealthy activity and that I shouldn’t go about life throwing away the opportunities in front of me, and then she reminded me once again that I was depressed.
“I’m not depressed,” I snapped.
“Lina,” my therapist said gently. She was going to launch into her usual speech—the one where she talked about emotional damage and trauma and letting go and all this other stuff that I can’t list here, because I always stopped listening around the letting go part.
“I’m not depressed,” I said again, cutting her off before she could open her mouth. “Some people just have a different taste in fiction, that’s all.”
I was referring to the 107 Murders of Lina Parker—the writing that started all this therapist business in the first place. I guess I must have sounded suicidal to my mom when she read it and all, so she called up a therapist and made me sit in her foul-smelling office every day after school, all the while being forced to stroke this stupid stuffed animal for “comfort”.
“Lina, it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re depressed,” my therapist said, using this sickly-sweet voice she always used with me when I was being difficult. “This is a good project for you. It will open you up to so much more—like it or not.”
She told me that I should start small, like with another loner. She made me take a camera too, so I could be a creepy photographer as well as a creepy space-invader. I rolled my eyes at her a bunch and put the camera over my head, which made me look like a disturbed, underachieving tourist.
“Bring me back the pictures,” my therapist instructed.
I rolled my eyes at her again and dragged myself out of there, inspiration for Murder 108 flashing through my mind—tomorrow afternoon, lunch time, where I get massacred to death with forks for daring sit at someone else’s table. The best part was the blood—oozing through those three puncture marks and staining my skin, my shirt, oozing and gushing and squirting and gurgling and finally bursting out from my aorta at the delivery of the final blow—one puncture mark this time.
I didn’t care to involve myself in an education system controlled by corporations, so I slept through my all my classes the next morning—nothing unusual, just me exercising Henry David Thoreau’s ideas about Civil Liberty. Then came lunch time and I was faced with the awful task of sitting next to another human being, something that I absolutely dreaded.
I chose a girl sitting just off to the side of my school’s overpriced vending machine, alone and wearing the most oddly-colored sweatpants I’d ever seen. They weren’t quite brown but they weren’t quite gray, but it didn’t matter what color they really were because whatever color they really were was disgusting. I wrinkled my nose and sat down, slamming my backpack on the floor in front of me to create a barrier between us.
“Hi,” I said, rolling my eyes at the stupidity of it all. “Can I take your picture or whatever?”
The girl looked up. Her face was covered in a smattering of pimples, big and red and blistering and angry on her face. I half-expected her to say no, can’t you see that my skin sucks, but she didn’t, instead nodding her head up and down, looking at me with glistening eyes.
I held my therapist’s camera up to her face and snapped the “capture” button. It was a film camera, for whatever reason, so I had no way of knowing how the picture turned out. All I knew was that my therapist was going to see this picture and she was going to make me do something stupid with it, like make a collage or something.
“What’s your name?”
I raised my eyebrows, annoyed that she wanted to talk to me. “Lina.”
“My name’s Maggie.” She had such a tiny, pitiful voice that it was no wonder that she sat by herself. That and the puffy face and the disgusting sweatpants. “W-what grade are you in?”
I could feel the annoyance building, and I wanted nothing more than to flee from here and go back to my usual dark corner. Curse my therapist, for forcing me into doing this project. Curse my mom, for thinking I needed it.
“W-where do you sit, u-usually?”
“I u-used to sit with Paula Davis.” Her voice less pitiful now, just pathetic—strangled and choked up, which made me groan inwardly with exasperation. “Do you k-know her?”
My stomach clenched. “Sure.”
“We were best friends. B-best friends.” More strangled noises, more groaning inwardly with exasperation—until she was sobbing—full on sobbing, choking and gasping and retching and everything.
My mouth opened slightly and I glanced around, wondering if it would be socially acceptable at this moment to get out of here. Maggie was shaking, each sob only getting louder and louder, her face all red and puffy, tears dripping down her cheeks—
“Maggie, stop crying,” I ordered. “Stop crying now. I don’t like it.”
She didn’t seem to hear me.
“Oh for goodness sake.” I marched over to her and began to pat her a bunch on the back—not because I really cared or anything, but I’d seen it on TV and it had proven to shut people up. “Maggie, please, stop crying.”
“S-s-she betrayed me,” she choked. “I-I trusted her.”
“You can’t trust anybody but yourself,” I said harshly. “People only do things for their own self-interest. That’s the reality of the situation.”
Maggie’s arm wrapped around to grip my shoulder. I felt my muscles tense and I pushed her away. “I don’t mean to be rude,” I said. “But I’m not really touchy-feely person. I prefer to be alone.”
“No one should be alone,” Maggie said, her voice less shaky now.
“Yes, someone should, and that’s me,” I said. She was getting very tiresome, and for once I was beginning to anticipate the bell.
“Being alone hurts,” she countered.
“In the best possible way,” I finished. “You learn to love it. Trust me. And then you find that you’re better off.”
“No,” she said, and I rolled my eyes.
“Listen, Maggie,” I began, but she cut me off.
“No, you listen,” she said. “I’m depressed. I’m depressed because I’m alone—” Here she began to cry again, much to my exasperation. I resumed the awkward back-patting, which shut her up enough for her to finish her sentence. “I’m depressed because I’m alone,” she said, “and it’s tearing me from the inside out.”
My eyes squeezed shut—in further exasperation, because I was yet again faced with the D word.
I’m not depressed. I thought, and my therapist’s usual speech flew to mind—trauma, loss, letting go, and all that crap. I dismissed it, of course, but there was something knawing at me, something I couldn’t place. It was probably just more misplaced revulsion, I decided. Pure revulsion at the fact I had to sit next to this girl, and that our knees were touching.
I’m not depressed, I thought again, moving away slightly—enough so that there was space in between us and we were no longer in contact. The feeling only got stronger, stronger even than the image of a million needles ripping into my heart—
That was 109 Murders of Lina Parker—110—111.
I bit down hard on the inside of my cheek and turned once again to face her, washing away the blood still clinging to my skin.
I’m not depressed. I thought back six years, back to when I knew Paula Davis—back to when I knew her like my very own self.
Or thought I knew her.
That was it, wasn’t it? The trauma that my therapist had talked about? The loss? The letting go? The part where Paula Davis left me in the dust to return to the #1 Most Hated group of girls in the school, because I wasn’t worth it. Because I was stupid. Because I wasn’t good enough.
Maybe that was the turning point or whatever. The point when I became all isolationist and started writing the scene where I got murdered by Paula Davis over and over and over and over again, 111 times, only now this was the 112th. The 112th Murder of Lina Parker, the murder where I die at Maggie’s hand.
I didn’t like Maggie. I thought she was weak-willed, pathetic, and a generally disgusting person. But she deserved to hear the words I’d never said aloud to anyone, not to Paula, not to my mom, not to my therapist—not even to myself.
“You know what, Maggie?” I said. I laughed—just enough so that I could stall this a few moments longer. “It’s funny, really.”
Maggie looked at me.
“I’m depressed too.”