Taylor went first, then Dylan was supposed to go, but somehow he screwed it up. I think he lost his nerve. I kept looking at him at Taylor’s funeral, but he wouldn’t meet my gaze. According to the straws, I was the last one to go.
Taylor was my man and had more guts than that whole jock posse that tormented people at school – Taylor, his dyed black hair, don’t give-a-shit attitude, his leather jacket, combat boots, tight black pants. One day he put construction adhesive on his hair. The Mohawk stood up like a head full of six-inch spikes. The entire school freaked at that one. Taylor reminded me of a squirrel dipped in mousse running around the branches of a tree, but he had balls. And don’t blame it all on the jocks. Depending on who you talked to at school, we were freaks, geeks, Goths, dorks. I say we, but I really didn’t dress the part. Most people looked past me: blonde, cute, dressed right out of a Tommy Hilfiger ad. I always helped my teachers. I was great in art and drama and had two AP classes under my belt. My English teacher said I could be a writer if I wanted. Here I was, a girl, planning to step out over the edge with these Goths. No one would suspect me. That would really blow their little minds.
When my roommate here first saw me, she said I looked like a freak. That was after the cops came to my house. My parents didn’t believe about our pact at first. Bringing me to the hospital, my mom was crying, saying Why? Why? My dad was stoic as a wooden cigar store Indian. He never did, as therapists say, share much emotion. But there I go, psychoanalyzing him. I hate when people do that shit to me. My first day here I found doors don’t close, windows don’t open, white walls, shiny tile floors. Someone checks your room every ten minutes to make sure you didn’t find a way to hang from the ceiling.
Later, when we became friends, my roomie showed me where she put out lit cigarettes on her thighs. Just snuffed them. I’m glad she is a burner not a cutter. Cutters are hard for me to take. Her legs are covered with big scar freckles, so I guess she’s getting better. That’s when she told me I scared the shit out of her the first night. Imagine, me, Miss Everything at school, hauled in and grilled like a criminal about our plans by a soft-voiced therapist. He wanted to know if I was doing drugs, or sexually abused or having sex. That can wear on a girl. But that first night, I remember pulling the hospital’s disinfected sheets over my head, wishing it was a coffin lid, and, like Taylor, not waking up in the morning.
Walt Peterson is a teacher and writer living in Pittsburgh. He has won the Gribble Award for short fiction, is a rostered artist with the PA. Council on the Arts. He has taught in prison and currently has fiction in Uppagus, creative nonfiction in Moss Motoring and poetry in Rat’s Ass Review.
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