I stared down at the salmagundi of grotesque smells and fading colors as adrenaline coursed and sweat dripped down my body. Get out of here, boy, get out while you still can, my conscience bellowed. Swallowing my instincts, I shut out the voice, stood up slowly and looked at the scene before me. I’ve never seen anything more beautiful, I thought.
She would’ve been the love of my life. She settled under my skin like an early winter’s chill. At first I noticed the way she always tapped her feet in a pattern under her desk in our high school English class - the Jitterbug, she later told me. Dawn was a dancer.
I was so immature when I was in high school; all I cared for was keeping the tips of my hair colorful and my worn-down Heelies in-tact. Dawn knew who she was and the path she was taking to become even better. She was mature, feminine; braided bayalage buns, olive-green eyes that sparkled with life like a martini, bronze and honey skin covering willowy limbs, a smile made of stars and pastel poems with a laugh that warms you like a coconut & cilantro candle.
It started when I actually got up the strength - after three years of going to school together - to talk to her on a temptingly warm September afternoon. The scarlet and pumpkin latte leaves were blowing past the smudged glass window as I shakily walked to her desk once Creative Writing was over.
“Hey,” I uncomfortably said. It’s been way too long since you’ve talked to a girl. She blushed. “Hello there! How are ya?” And so it went, from birthdays to favorites to fears and everything in between, as we slowly made our way across the courtyard to her car.
When there was finally a pause to the conversation, she coolly said, “You wanna go somewhere?”
I smiled. “I’ll drive.”
We got in her caramel-spice Prius and started toward the canyon. I won’t bore with the stories of our sing-along to indie and alternative duets, but we kept driving around the bends and rivers until we had gone uphill long enough, and reached the point of the mountain. It was nightfall by the time the car was parked, so Dawn took a bundle from her trunk and laid a couple of plaid blanket across the hood for us to rest on. She and I spent hours staring at the luster of the valley below us, foolishly wishing on stars, and softly kissing cotton candy mouths and tanned necks until I knew her face better than my own.
After that night, we fit right into the crowd of teenagers drunk on infatuation. Being with Dawn was fun and enjoyable; we had all the bowling nights, takeout dinners, walks through the woods, and unproductive study sessions, just as if we were in love. But she changed.
We had it all, and she cast me aside like loose change into an artificial arctic fountain. Cast me aside for the gullible, boorish, tactless boy who called himself a man.
She called me late one November night, over Thanksgiving break, and told me to unlock my backyard fence. Hoping for a spontaneous make-out, I rushed to the door. Dawn smiled shyly, put her hand on my shoulder, and gestured towards the pistachio and sage hammock. When I leaned in after we sat down, she sat up straighter and gently pushed me away. She started with a sigh, “Tanner, I don’t know how to tell you this.”
“Then don’t,” I said, grabbing her face in my hands.
“Tanner, no!” She stood up and paced. Throwing her arms up in the air, she exclaimed, “You know what your problem is? You don’t want the same things as me. I want, more kids than you do, a different home, a completely different future. You are incredible, but I don’t see anything else happening. It’s always routine, and it may be exciting for you, but I guess we have different definitions of what that means. I just, have to be with somebody who has the same needs as I do.”
Tears stung at my hazel irises. I blinked them away. My emotions were all over the place, but I had to mask the sadness and fear of being alone again. “Fine by me! But don’t tell me you’ve found another ‘somebody.’”
“Griffin,” she whispered quietly, a hint of sadness and longing in her angelic voice.
“Cory Griffin?! How long have you been seeing each other?”
Cory, better known as Griffin, was one of those choir nerds who always wore a button-down and glasses. From what I heard from the other guys on the basketball team, he was a straight B student and hadn't had a girlfriend since junior high. Loser.
“We never said this was a closed relationship, so I've been seeing him for the past month.”
I kicked my legs in the almost frozen dirt and starting rocking in the hammock. Of all people? Why did she even date me in the first place? I may not be good enough for Dawn, but Griffin absolutely isn't.
“I'm happy, Tanner,” she said with more confidence. “Goodbye.”
As she started to walk towards the fence, I went after her, grabbing her arm and turning her until our left shoulders were touching. Her face was lit up by the already hung red and green Christmas lights semi-hidden behind frosty vines. “You're the one that I want,” I told Dawn in a hoarse voice, my mouth almost touching her ear. “And I will have you.” I let go of her and pushed her away. I could hear her crying as she went off into the dark starry night.
I will have her.
After that, something addictive ignited in me. All, I wanted, was to caress her, feel her fragile body underneath mine. And the only way to do that was to get Griffin out of the way. Some place inside me, I knew it was a little too fast. I knew I could work this out, but the funny thing is, that was the last thing I wanted to do. Dawn is cocaine - gorgeous, addictive cocaine - and I wasn't strong enough to go through the withdrawal.
With my connections on the basketball team and knowing some popular people, it didn’t take me long to figure out everything I needed to know about him. I stalked him like prey during our classes together, came to each choir practice to see how he acted, how he worked. He was smarter than I thought, but no challenge, no match to what I knew I was capable of.
I wrote down all my observations; too many to write now on this page, so many that I had to burn the notebook; burn it along with all the happiness and peace I could’ve felt in a normal life. Cory Griffin was always in my mind, as well as my plot for revenge - it was worse than being in love, but better than being suicidal all the time. I don’t even know when the suicidal thoughts turned homicidal, but it was all leading up to December 21st. The day I got my revenge and euphoria. Allow me to skip ahead.
I stopped him after choir practice that Monday. “Hey Griffin!” I said as I stopped him, absolutely faking positive emotion. “Hey man! What’s happening?” “Well, I was wondering if you were free this Friday night so we could get together, maybe play a little pool or something.”
He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and adjusted his salmon shirt collar. “Sure! What time should I come by?” I feigned another smile. “No worries, man. We can take my car, I’ll meet you here at seven, then we’ll have a night out on the town.” “Sounds great! See ya!” He waved and waltzed through the doors to the over-crowded hallway.
I will have her.
Friday the 21st couldn’t have come fast enough. I’m ready for my revenge. The whole week, I had been thinking, obsessing even, on how I would do it, dreaming of the look on his face when he would realize I had won. I met him at the entrance of our dim and dank high school. I found myself getting nostalgic as I pulled up, thinking, Has it really been over two years since I came here? Was it really only three months ago that I talked to Dawn, right through those doors? I shook it off, telling myself to man up and get over myself.
I parked in the red zone and slammed the door of my mini cooper. The anger and hatred I had for Griffin was already swelling inside me. He was sitting on the curb, and looked up from his phone. “Hello! How are y-” “Come with me,” I interrupted in a gruff voice.
I picked the lock to the main doors and pulled him by the neckband toward the elevator, where the stairs to the roof were located. I’m sure Griffin was complaining and questioning and protesting, but I was too busy thinking of Dawn, I didn’t hear. She was so beautiful; I’ll miss her, but nothing else about this gray slate of a world.
At the foot of the stairs, I grabbed his stereotypical poindexter glasses and threw them against the wall. Still holding on to him, I grabbed one of the larger shards and cut him along the cheekbones. He let out a whimper of pain, so I continued along his eyebrows and jaw line. “What are you doing?! Please, Tanner, don’t hurt me. Please, stop,” he said desperately. I laughed in disgust and triumph, then threw down the glass. It broke into even smaller fragments that I stepped on as we walked up the stairs. Right before we got to the top, I pulled a tight balaclava over his red face. His breathing became struggled and shallow. We’re almost done. I will have her.
When we got onto the roof, I tied Griffin to a one of the cold metal poles holding up the weak chain-link fence and stripped him of all his clothing. At this point, he was screaming and crying furiously. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, nor did I care. All I could hear was my own dangerous and dark thoughts.
He was shivering now in the winter air. I went behind him and grabbed a two jugs of ice water I had left there a few hours earlier. Griffin was scrambling to get away, but I knew he was no match for my Boy Scout knots. I couldn’t cease laughing as I opened the water and poured it all over his skinny body. The clear liquid and ice chunks turned his fair skin to burning, patchy sangria and mauve and wine splotches that I knew would bruise. This isn’t enough. I need her, this isn’t enough for her. Griffin was screaming in pain now, claiming he was freezing and unable to move. Good for you. Wanting this to only be torture, not cause of death, I unbound his wrists. “Come willingly and I might just spare your life,” I yelled to his face. I obviously scared him, because he walked just a little ways behind me down to the middle of the stairwell.
I could tell Griffin was at least a little relieved for the warmth inside the building. I will have her. “Tanner, why are you doing this? What did I do to you?” His voice was muffled from the mask, and full of - was it disbelief? Hatred? No. It was pure fear. I had him right where I wanted him. “You stole her from me,” I chuckled, surprised he hadn’t figured it out already. “Who? Wh-Dawn? This is all over a girl?!”
Quick as lightning, I unsheathed the dagger I stole from my father that was hiding in my boot. I held it against the grain of his cold neck. “What did you think? That I didn’t like your singing voice? Come on, Griffin. You stole Dawn from me. You stole my light and I have been in an eternally depressed night since.” I tore off his mask and looked him dead in the eye. My words were coming fast, my voice wavering. He was still naked, and starting to tremble again. So was I. “I fell in love during my freshman year. It was unplanned and unexpected and while at the time I thought it was the best thing that happened to me I was so, so wrong. She screwed up my entire life, and I’ve been spending the past two years repairing the mess she left that is my heart. Do you think it’s easy, for me to watch who could’ve been my redemption run off with some geek?! Dawn was probably my last chance at happiness for long time and YOU TOOK HER AWAY FROM ME.” My voice was full of anger and hatred, but tears were streaming down my dirty cheeks like they never had before. “That’s why I have to kill you,” I shrugged, my voice small and full of despair; dim as the cursed stars.
His eyes held more terror than I thought possible. “No, Tanner, you can’t. Please, I’ll break up with her, I will do anything you want, anything in the world.” For a brief second I took my knife off his throat, stood up, and turned around. It was still chilly, I had left the roof door open, but I was sweating like a whore in church. “I’m so sorry, Cory. I really am.”
Abruptly, I turned around and stabbed my dagger into Cory’s neck. His eyes bulged out of his head and his breath stopped as I put all my strength into moving the blade through his neck. Blood surged from every angle. It got into my mouth and eyes and on my treasured obsidian and shamrock jacket. I will have her. “I WILL HAVE HER!” I helplessly screamed over and over again. I repeatedly sliced his neck until all the skin and muscles and cells were torn, for what felt like hours, until his still head rolled down the ash and iron steps. Thump, his head softly hit the door. I continued to scream and sob until I threw up. I threw up my soul and life and everything I had never known and brought a brand new slimy texture to Cory Griffin’s dead body. He’s dead. I killed him. At last, we can be together. But Dawn will never take me if she finds out what happened… I shook it off. I wasn’t done getting my revenge, after all.
Working through the bodily fluids, I laid his haunted body as straight as I could along the treads. I wore my voice out screaming again, transpiercing and slashing his abdomen. I dug into and around his chest until I found his heart - calm, silent, bloody. I tossed it in my hands for a few minutes; the salt streams ended and a smile emerged.
I stared down at the salmagundi of grotesque smells and fading colors as adrenaline coursed and sweat dripped down my body. Get out of here, boy, get out while you still can, my conscience bellowed. Swallowing my instincts, I shut out the voice, stood up slowly and looked at the scene before me. I’ve never seen anything more beautiful, I thought. I really hadn’t.
I threw Cory’s heart against the wall. The sprinkles on the wall were dark red because of the water I poured over him earlier. That was forever ago. Giddy, almost like a child with a new toy, I ran after it, and kept going until the walls were splattered with color. I was tired, but finally, for the first time in years, full of life.
But you won’t get her. How could you face her after what you’ve done? I said a string of explicit curse words towards myself. Knock it off, knock it off! Suddenly, I was importuning for a referee for my inner battle. You know what to do, the devil inside me said. My conscience actually agreed.
So now, I’m wiping away my last droplets in the main office of my colorless and lifeless secondary school. Writing my suicide note in a Word document to print up and tape on the counselor’s door. Who knows, maybe I could've gotten away with it - but the real victory, I have realized, is conquering, vanquishing my thoughts. Those will never leave; only the sweet escape of death will save me. I'm not scared or worried at all - I've seen it first-hand, and it is marvelous and gorgeous beyond words, beyond compare.
Now I will finish writing this, put in an envelope, seal it with the blood I will get from cutting my arm one last time, then leave a trail - because you will know I was here. Everyone will fear me, even after I’m gone. I want you to be able to find the body, to see what my abilities really were. For all the times I was doubted, mocked: you will know what I could’ve done to you.
After that, I will go to the roof, climb the fence and hang on with one hand, and puncture my heart, so I come crashing, crashing down into a blanket of snow. As simple and elegant as that. A harmless suicide.
Tell Dawn Brooksfield I wish for her to have a good life. I wish it had been with me, but the reality of death has shown me that I’m no good, for anybody.
“They tell us that suicide is the greatest piece of cowardice... that suicide is wrong; when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person.”
- Tanner Anderson