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Decisions: Part One
“Are you scared?”
I can see that Devin is. His knuckles are bright white as he grips my hand, and for a moment, I want to lie. I want to say that no, I’m not scared. I’m brave. I can do this. So can you.
But I can’t. Even though he needs courage to do this, I can’t lie to him.
I open my mouth. “Yes,” I say, “Yes. I am. Of course I am.”
He squeezes his eyes shut tightly. “I am, too. I’m terrified.”
I take his hand, lacing his fingers through mine. “We can do this, Dev.”
He kisses my hand, eyes still tightly closed. “I am still...I am still so scared.”
I pick up the knives that are lying on the edge of the bathtub and hand him one. He takes it with his free hand. “Do you think it’ll hurt?”
“Dying? No. Yes. I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter, because soon, it’ll all be over. No more pain, Dev. No more suffering.”
“No more pain,” he whispers, “No more suffering.”
“We can do this,” I repeat, forcing his eyes up to meet mine. He nods, and we both press the flat of our blades to our wrists. Devin is hyperventilating, but his eyes are determined. “Five,” I say, “Four.”
“Three,” he murmurs.
“Two,” I continue, and the flashback starts.
I’m sitting in the bathroom, the same one that I would sit in with Devin in two months. I have my razor in my lap, and I am sobbing. I know what I should do, but I am afraid to do it.
There is a knock on the door, and I try to quiet my cries.
“Lizzie?” A voice says. “Elizabeth? What are you doing in there?”
“Go away!” I scream, and too late I realize my mistake. The banging becomes louder.
“Elizabeth, open the door now!” My mother sounds frantic. “Elizabeth!”
“Leave me alone!” I shout, “Go away!”
There was a beeping noise. “My daughter,” my mother weeps, “She’s locked herself in the bathroom. I think she’s going to kill herself.”
I glare at the knife, ready to cut, ready to die...But then, a man is pulling the knife from my grasp, lifting me into a cloud of white, and I think, ‘Am I in Heaven?’
But I’m not. I’m in a hospital, and a woman in white is handing me a brochure. I can’t read it. Everything is a blur.
“It’s for suicidal teens,” the nurse says quietly, “Your mother and your doctors require for you to go.”
“A club?” My throat is dry; the words are difficult to get out. The nurse smiles sadly.
“No, sweetie. It’s a school.”
It is a strange thought. A whole school of suicidal teens? How many teachers would you need to keep them not so much suicidal?
I open my mouth. I’m ready to tell her that I don’t want to go—I refuse to go—but instead, I say, “When do I leave?”
The school is not so much important in my memories as the people in it. There were all sorts; fat girls, skinny girls, fat boys, nerds, rebels, book readers...so many, I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t believe that all of these teenagers tried to kill themselves. Half of them were what we call “cutters”; slashes of ragged scars on their arms, legs, or anywhere else, an eighth tried drinking bleach, a fourth tried hanging, and the rest tried other ways.
The first person I actually talked to was in that last eighth. He had gotten into a car crash the year before, and he, in turn, killed three people.
“Was it on purpose?” I ask.
“It looked like an accident,” he responds.
He gives me a strange look. “Devin.”
“I’m a Cutter,” I inform him. Devin takes my wrist and examines it.
He traces the cuts with his finger. His gentle touch sends chills up my arm. “Do you ever....I mean, do you still...”
“I still want to die,” I say, “Doesn’t everybody here?”
He gives me a depressed look, and for a moment, I fear that I have offended him. “Yes,” he answers finally, “Yes, I believe they do.”
We are silent, pondering this confessed though, when he turns abruptly. “Elizabeth—?”
“Call me something else.” I press my fists to my eyes. The past is so painful.
“Dagger?” A question. I think, and suddenly it is so fitting—I am the key to either my survival or my death.
“Dagger,” he says, voice soft, “Why’d you do it?”
“Pain and suffering and ignorance,” I pause. “They hate me. They all hate me.”
Devin nods, understanding. “You want to know why I did it? Not because they hate me. I hate me. I despise me.”
“Yes,” I say, “But a car?”
“I can drive now.” He gives me a triumphant smile. I return it, and the smile falls away. “But those people didn’t have to die. I wish I thought of cutting. But I was too proud.” He stares wistfully at my scarred wrists.
I know he wasn’t proud.
I know he was afraid.
“It’s okay to be scared to die,” I tell him, putting a hand on his shoulder. “I had all the time in the world to do it, but I couldn’t.”
He gives me a small smile. “Is this the point where you tell me that killing myself isn’t worth it and I should just fall in love with you and live happily ever after?”
I feel a flutter in my stomach, but I say, “I won’t tell you to do anything. But all you need to know is that people love you, Devin.” I touch his cheek softly; I know I shouldn’t—I just met the guy—but suicidals have a special connection. Devin stiffens.
“I know they do. But I don’t want to go on when I don’t love myself.” He gives me an imploring look that says I’d never understand.
“I never said you have to,” I say, “But sometimes, Devin, people can be selfish.” He nods.
“How do you know? How do you know...people care? About me?”
“Oh,” I say, “It’s your eyes. You look at war with yourself—like you can’t decide who is more important, people who love you, or yourself. I’ve never had the feeling, so it’s strange when other people have it. And it’s more obvious to me.”
“What about you?” he asks, “What did you stop for? You don’t have anybody. You aren’t afraid of pain.”
“I was selfish. I was scared it would hurt. I was scared even though I knew everybody would be better off.” Three years old. In the bathroom. Crying as I press my knife into my leg and blood bubbles out. Devin touches my shoulder, drawing me from my thoughts.
“We better get to class.”
I nod, and we separate into the growing mass of suicidal teenagers.