Five Stages of Grief
Author's note: I have a had a fair share of grief in my life, as I'm sure all of us have. I was inspired to... Show full author's note »
AngerThe gun is cold in my hands.
I have never wanted this, never thought it would get this far. I have told myself every day for the past two months that I can take it, but every day I know deep in my subconscious that the declaration of “I’m fine” is getting steadily weaker.
My upstairs room is dark, illuminated dimly by the one lamp I have on my bedside table. Clothes litter the floor, laundry from two weeks ago that I never found time to put away. Posters of rock bands cling to the dark blue walls, a few Playboys-courtesy of my step-dad- sit untouched by the door. My trig homework lies scattered on the desk, discarded for the gun I hold.
My hand shakes slightly, as my feet nervously spin the swivel chair back and forth. I can’t see my face, but I can picture the paling of my already-white skin and small beads of sweat silently running down my temples. My mom calls from the kitchen that I’m going to be late for school, but my eyes refuse to budge from my index finger on the trigger.
It was my third year in high school I fell in love with Brian McCarthy.
He sat behind me in my metals class, close to the heater in the back of the garage where the class was held. I knew a lot of the guys in the class-mostly from the basketball team- so he was one the few faces I didn’t recognize.
I walked into the airy garage first day, backpack hanging lightly from my shoulder. Laughter and shouts bounced off the walls when the guys saw me, and I have them a tentative wave.
“Hey Josh, get over here!”
I started stepping over to them, but the loud screeching of the late bell interrupted me. Mr. Brenin immediately ordered everyone to their seats, and the guys booed loudly as the slowly found where they sat. I moved the back of the class- I hate sitting in the front, too many people staring at the back of my head- and plopped down into the desk in front of Brian.
“So, first thing’s first,” Mr. Brenin eyed us all suspiciously. “Look around you- these are your cell mates. You will work together, suffer together, and cry together. This class will be the death of you, so you might as well meet the last people you will ever see alive.”
We all snickered- even if he didn’t seem like it, Mr. Brenin was the most laidback teacher in the school. He overdramatized everything.
“Come on, daffodils, turn around and introduce yourself to the person sitting…behind you.”
I smiled (I was going to love this class) and turned around to look at the boy sitting behind me.
My first impression of him was his black hair- longish pencil-straight black hair, covering his face as he bent over a pad of paper on the desk. I figured he was one of those rocker dudes, because he wore spiked bracelets and a long metal-linked keychain from jeans that matched his hair.
He held a black pen in his hand, and finished a long stroke with it over the notepad. He lifted his face and leaned back against the seat, stared intently at me with light green eyes.
His face was surprisingly soft- his facial features blended into each other easily, not at all like the sharp angles I’d been expecting. What really caught my attention though was his shirt. A smiley face stared out at me from the center of his grey T-shirt.
“So what’s your name?”
He was abrupt, but I recovered and said, “Josh.”
He nodded slightly, warily eyeing my letterman jacket.
I felt like turning around right then because of how awkward it was getting, but then I glanced down at the notepad on his desk. The close-up face of a young girl was drawn in pen, her eyes looking away from me and filling with tears.
Usually I would have dismissed it- the drawing was pretty depressing- but there was something in her face that drew me in, I didn’t know what. Brian must have noticed me staring at it, because he shifted his body to look at his work from a different angle.
“What do you think?”
“It’s amazing, did you do this yourself?”
I glanced up at him and he nodded. I could tell he was trying hard to make it look like he didn’t care, but I could clearly see the small smile that was playing on his lips. His obvious pride made me smile, too.
I asked about how he drew so well. He seemed hesitant at first- I could guess people asked him that a lot but weren’t really interested. But I must have seemed interested enough because he started talking and he didn’t stop. I’m nowhere near artistic, so some of the things he told me didn’t make any sense, but he looked so into it that I let him go on.
Five minutes later he was showing me how to shade, and then Mr. Brenin called us to order. Brian and I laughed, and I turned around to listen to the teacher.
It was always those first few minutes of class that we talked, and maybe the last few if Mr. Brenin was done “working us to death”. We talked about everything- the sports he didn’t play, the drawings I couldn’t make, school. His nose creased a little when he laughed, and he got in the habit of calling me “Pyro Boy” since I got busted by Brenin for messing with the blowtorch. I acted like it made me mad, but I really didn’t mind. The drawings in his pad were in general really sad, but there was something about them that felt real.
The weird thing was that whenever my other friends came over to talk to me, he would shut down. I could almost visibly see a shield fall over his face when Jeremy said hi to him, and while I talked to Jeremy, Brian bent his head down over the notepad and drew. He shut everyone out but me, and I didn’t know why.
Brenin knew it was kinda stupid for a metals class to take any field trips- where would we go, another garage? But he didn’t care, and he sent permission slips home for the bowling alley the last week before winter vacation.
Jeremy and the rest of the guys I usually hung out with had given up talking to me when Brian was around. They must have figured the eventually the weirdo would get too weird for me, and I would be the perfect jock again. Truth be told though, I had a lot more fun that night with Brian than I would ever have had with the team.
I sucked, and Brian was a freaking natural, so really what I did all night was cheer him on and be irritated when my ball went in the gutter. But Brian got the idea of using the launcher- you put the ball on top of this metal slide and pushed it into the lane, like the kids used- so I sucked a little less afterwards. He used it too, and he moonwalked like Michael Jackson every time I hit a pin, which only made me burst out laughing.
We stood by the old jukebox for about half an hour, arguing about songs.
And then it happened. I was in the bathroom, washing my hands, and Brian came in. I said hi, and he just stood up against the back wall, waiting for me to be done.
I started talking about trying another bowling round- maybe I wouldn’t suck as much this time- when he kissed me.
His hands held my shoulders in place, so that I couldn’t move away. I didn’t even really think about it, I was too surprised to do anything. His lips were soft- not that I noticed or anything.
And then Jeremy came in, yelling at someone outside the bathroom.
He saw us, or I guess he did, because the next thing I knew I was sitting down hard on the sink and Jeremy had Brian pushed up against the wall.
“What the hell did you do that to Josh for?!?”
Jeremy slammed his fist into Brian’s lower jaw, and he crumbled to the floor.
I stared blankly at Jeremy as he screamed at me, wanting to know what Brian had done to me, what had happened.
The next thing I knew, Mr. Brenin had come in and dragged both Brian and Jeremy out of the bathroom. I stayed in there for a few minutes, dazed and still feeling the buzz of Brian’s lips on mine.
I figured the Jeremy told everyone in the school about what happened at the bowling alley; I also figured that he made Brian out to be the biggest gay-monster in history. And I did nothing to stop him.
I tried to talk to Brian a few times, but he never responded to me. Mostly I hung out with Jeremy and the guys, and when they saw him walking through the halls they yelled horrible things, threw stuff, some of them even made like to jumped him.
One day Brian came to school with a black eye and a bad limp, but he never said anything to anyone, especially not to me.
This was the time where I stayed holed in my room a lot. I thought about that happened mostly. This is also when Mike, my stepfather, started bringing me Playboys from the local drugstore. Mike had heard about Brian, and I guess this was his stupid way of bringing back to the reality of things.
It went on for months like this.
One day, Brian didn’t come to school. I didn’t think anything of it- he was probably trying to avoid me. But then he didn’t show up the day after that, or the next day.
I guess he had gotten tired of being bullied, because a week later that principal released the information that Brian had overdosed and killed himself.
And I never did anything.
Only afterward did I realize what I was, what we could have been.
Mom calls to me again from downstairs, but I don’t respond.
Jeremy did this. He made Brian look like a fool, a monster. He made him feel like no one on this earth would ever want him, and I helped by not doing anything. But it wasn’t me, Jeremy had killed Brian.
I heard mom’s feet pounding on the staircase, and I quickly stashed the pistol in my backpack.