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Ways to survive
I carried them everywhere, the notes they left behind, whether they were meant to be reassuring or hateful towards those they chose to leave behind; I carried them. Whether the people decided to keep the notes left or throw them away in a fit of anger, it did not matter, I always have a copy as my own twisted sign of respect for those whose happiness I have took… but, this short narrative is different because this note is barely acknowledged, instead it was another message they decided to leave behind.
23rd April, 2013.
I’m sorry that this has to be written, but I can’t leave you without anything at all, can I? I’m sorry, I’m so sorry but I can’t stay here anymore. I feel blank and lifeless. I can’t bring myself to laugh anymore. To fake and pretend that everything is fine, because it’s not! Not anymore. I am just so numb. There’s too much noise inside my head, so much space for my own creations to bounce around in. My own monsters are tearing at me, so much rain and tears, they’ve given me an umbrella but I’m drowning. It’s become too much. But, in a weird way, I’m content, because when you decide to die all these little things begin to happen. You stop looking both ways before you cross the road; you start answering the door without asking ‘who’s there?’ You don’t hold onto the railing when you go down the escalator, you play with matches. You smoke and breathe it in; actually praying that it will make a difference. Deciding to die is actually almost... nice, in a way, you stop caring. Even if you are not pro-actively looking for ways to kill yourself, you stop looking for ways to survive.
When they do take their lives, the people that surrounded them can go one of two ways; unaffected or start to suffer themselves. After seeing it countless times I have begun to wonder if anyone in this world can carry on happily, knowing they were a part of a life that was so miserable that they had to end it. Could any human be so heartless?
I was there, just a lingering shade in the corner, around to see everyone receive the news of little Suzie’s suicide. It tends to be the best way to pick out new ‘victims’, after all death affects everyone. Oakdell Academy’s head teacher stood up reluctantly to walk the few steps to the centre of the stage and cleared his throat, he began; ‘Suzie... Suzie Walks, she was a quiet girl...’ a sob broke through the hall, each pupil trying to see what teacher snapped and each one wondering why. ‘Um, she, she was known for not paying attention and, um, always having her iPod plugged in,’ he was stuttering and stammering over his own words, trying and failing at a small twitch of his lips.
A bitter smile took over my face as I studied him and the others, no one had yet noticed his use of the past tense instead they all just looked more and more baffled. Returning my gaze to the teacher on the stage, his smile turned to a frown as he rolled his shoulders back and carried on, ‘Suzie had depression, something I am sure no one here knew of, and something I am sure none of us could have controlled. Something out of ours, and her own, hands...’ He trailed off and I could see the hesitation of what he had to say next, the ugliness of the news he had to give to this hall full of fifteen-year-olds. With a final deep breath he stated softly,
‘Suzie committed suicide last night’.
The hall was dead.
Breaths were held, eyes widened and the school’s head teacher carried on, ‘Anyone in need of support over this tragedy please come to PFS* or my office. Thank you,’ He went to walk away but quickly whispered into the microphone, ‘Suzie, you will never be forgotten at this school,’ I snorted at that, fair enough it was a nice line to end on, makes you sound good but, it’s all fake. Every school says it then pretty soon she becomes ‘that girl that killed herself’. Ah well, there are no victims here anyway, seems that girl wasn’t close enough to anyone for her death to truly affect them.
27th April, 2013. A mother’s account.
I watched as they lowered the coffin into the ground, I watched as the mother just stood there, vacant, devoid of any emotion, and I watched as she cracked and fell. The agitation was evident at all the sympathy calls, she soon gave up, gave up on answering them as they came hour after hour after hour. The death only affected this one person, usually it was the whole family, but... it’s just her. She was completely alone in this. She was a victim. The vicar asked her to throw the first handful of soil on top of the coffin, I never understood that part: why would you want to be the first one to start burying them? Was it a symbol for something, to show the humans acknowledgement of their own feeble mortality. Look to their own deaths as they bury their
Her robotic-like movements matched her detached eyes, her life became hollow and she now stared into oblivion – alone. With only me for company.
And this oblivion, this isolation makes you into a walking corpse, it was like a submersion; like you are drowning but there is no instinct kicking in telling your body to swim, or kick out and try. Your body has given up on surviving the oppression of the world, with even oxygen choking you, and not loosening its grip – it is relentless. All you can do is sink.
Eventually the current washes up onto the shore and leaves you, and the rest of the crap it doesn’t want, behind as an empty shell on the overcrowded and polluted beach. You realise how aimless your future is, how futile your efforts are, and just how worthless your existence has become. Bitterness envelopes you in its sanctuary of resentment, safe from everyone except yourself. You are paralysed as you watch the tide wash back out, leaving to find more weak people. As it is only the weak who drown.
The childless mother walked up the concrete stairs (four flights) to their flat (No. 17), with myself tracing her steps as a perfect imitation of her own shadow. Opening the door she stared at the door adjacent across from her – Suzie’s room. She stood there for a while, recollecting her thoughts maybe. Reflecting on how she watched as her own daughter shattered, as the number of elastics around her wrists grew. How the dark circles under Suzie’s eyes grew darker. How good she was at faking that smile each and every day. The air itself was pressing in and suffocating her, as I stepped forward her shoulders visibly slumped, as I reached out to her, salt water built up and spilt from her eyes. She was gone.
Now she carefully walked forward and pushed open the squeaky door, letting it swing and hit the wall. Staring in without stepping in, unspoken tears dragged along her cheeks as the deserted belongings stared back. An overflowing bin stood near the door’s frame, and her laptop lay out on her bed switched off and decorated in worn stickers of old indie bands. Along with her iPod plugged in on the dock – charging. Getting to charge back its near-infinite life. In a flash of panic she all but tripped out of that vacant room and came back with a small hand gun. In her unsteady hands she pulled back the slide on top of the barrel, so a bullet slid into place, soon to be fired.
And it never did.
I tried. I placed my own stained, scarred hands over hers and helped place the gun’s barrel into her mouth. A simple, pain-free death. She tasted the greasiness, felt the cold metal bang against her teeth and didn’t pull the trigger. Instead, stood there, quivering in paralysed fear of finally facing death.
Slowly moving the frozen finger away from the trigger and, with difficulty, pull the gun from between her lips trailing a string of saliva down her chin, not bothering to wipe it away. Sobbing grew stronger and was physically and visibly racking her body. I furrowed my brows, that one simple movement could have ended this pain so quickly, why pull away?
I tightened my grip over her hands and gun, prying one hand away to lift the other still handling the gun to her temple. She felt the cold, the pain she knew that could end... knew it could all be over, and she pulls away again. Only to just stand there, limp, only to finally fall forward, painfully hitting her knees against the hard flooring.
This pitiful woman would not walk willingly into me, Depression, she just kneeled in the middle of her dead daughter’s room. A gun held in her limp hands, as her heavy salt-water stained face gazed at her surroundings.
And then she saw it.
From the side of the bed where the bed-side table and bed met, there poking out was the corner of something pink. Crawling towards it, almost desperately, the gun now completely forgotten and I stared in wonder at the mother’s actions.
Wasn’t she supposed to be a victim?
Shouldn’t she be praying for death by now?
No, she took a rather worn looking hard-back book with no title and opened it to the first page.
On the inside of the cover was a scrawly mess of letters:
Hey Mum, I’m so sorry, instead of my note this is like my personal message to you. Whatever it was that has happened to me... it wasn’t you. I love you mummy and this is meant to show you how much.
From then on it was just pictures, colour filling every piece of blank white paper – a scrapbook. Photographs of mother and daughter, smiling, laughing, showing how being together was enough for them. Any pieces that were left on the page had been coloured in with bright yellows, pinks and blues with paint highlighting those smiles and doodles covering every inch.
It was blinding.
Once again sobbing shook the already weak mother’s form, bones rocking with the force of her cries as tears fell and wetted her daughter’s work. With this colour-filled book she took all the grey I had shrouded their lives in and returned it to... whatever happiness they both held.
Clasping the book close to their chest, surely to hurt with the corners digging into flesh, the mother curled up whispering over and over and over to herself, ‘I love you too baby, I love you too,’
I felt myself leaving without moving, she wasn’t okay but she was safe, from me at least and death’s clasp.
This is one and only time I will narrate, for it is the one and only time that a human had completely diverted my grip. My heavy weight of left suicide notes were shouldered onto my back each day, as I carry on my duty of balancing sickening happiness with bitter sorrow. Yet, that mother holds that scrapbook as knight would hold his shield, as protection against the evil in this world. Maybe, only maybe, humans aren’t as feeble as I thought if they can carry on living for their dead, then for me this ‘Love’ is completely unfathomable.
*PFS - Pupil Family Services