Is this worth it? I wonder. I ignore that part of my brain and drag the razor blades over my skin, across my wrist. I watch the blood pooling there with a sick fascination.

My phone buzzes, but I ignore that, too.

The blood dribbles down my pale skin, running along the creases and dripping onto the floor.

It will be better this way, a part of me convinces myself. No more bullies, no more humiliation…

My phone rings, vibrating loudly in the silence and I glance away from my bloody skin to the screen. It’s my mother.

I sigh and pick it up. “Hello?” My voice comes out as a hoarse whisper, watching the ruby liquid painting my bathroom floor scarlet. I clear my throat. “Hi, Mom. What’s up?

“Hi, baby. I’m just calling to check in. How are things in Connecticut?”

“Fine.”

“How’s your father?”

“Busy.”

“Is he home?”

“He works late tonight.” I said.

“Oh, yeah, that’s right. It’s Thursday. I can’t wait to come home.” Mom told me. “I miss you. But this business trip will be over in a week and then I’ll be there.”

Yes, but I won’t be, I think bitterly. I shook my head. “Yeah. Can’t wait to see you, Mom.”

“Are you okay, Mackie?”

“I’m fine, Mom.” I lie.

“Malcolm, I can tell when you’re lying, even over the phone. Tell me what’s wrong.”

“Nothing, Mom. Really.”

“Mack—”

“I have to go, Mom.” I say abruptly. “I’ve got to make dinner.”

That was a lie, of course, but she doesn’t need to know that.

“Alright. I love you, sweetie.”

“Love you, too, Mom.” Tears begin to blur my vision. I wiped them angrily away.

“Talk to you later.”

“Yeah.”

Mom hangs up and I put my cell down.

I reach out with fingers stained red for the knife again. This time, I’m determined to claim my body as mine. I carve my name, Malcolm Fox, on my arm. The blood beads like sweat and I smile as I watch it roll off. The pain helps distract me from reality.

That’s why I do it.

To get away from the current pain of being me.

“Mackie?”

I flinch at the shout from downstairs. It’s Ryssa, my older sister.

“Mackie?” Ryssa calls again. “Are you home?”

I continue to stare at the dark liquid oozing out of my self-inflicted cuts.

“Mackie!” Her voice is right outside the bathroom door now.

“In here,” I say in defeat.

“You okay?” Ryssa calls through the locked door.

“I’m fine.” I reply. “I’ll be done in a sec.”

“Okay. Come down when you’re out. I’ll make supper.”

“Okay!”

Ryssa leaves and I listen to the sound of her retreating feet. Then I slowly get up, wash the cuts and the floor, then find a bandage and wrap it, putting on a long-sleeved sweatshirt to cover the mess.

Ryssa is standing in the kitchen before the stove with a large pot. “I’m making pasta,” she says, smiling.

She has no idea of the struggle I’m in. The unending bullying at school and the appeal of making it just go away…

My phone rings and I pull it out of my pocket. It’s my best friend, Ricky.

I answer it. “Hey, Rick.”

“How’s it going?”

“Fine.” I’m tired of lying to everyone, especially those close to me.

“I’m sorry Danny tried to shove you in a locker today,” Ricky says.

I shrug, then remember he can’t see me. “It’s okay. I’m used to it. I’m the anti-social freak at school who has one friend and spends all his time reading. I get it.”

“Yes, but that was uncalled for. My brother is a stupid asshole.”

“It’s not your fault your brother is a moronic jock.”

“I really hate the popular crowd,” Ricky sighs. “They’re all idiots.”

“Yes,” I agree.

“Are you busy tonight?”

“Rys is making dinner, but other than that… No.”

“Wanna hang out?”

“Sure. Where?”

“The park.”

“Okay. Meet you there.”

Ryssa smiles at me. “You’re going out?”

“I’m meeting Ricky at the park.”

Ryssa nods. “Have fun.”

 

Ricky Delgado is waiting for me outside the skate park’s gate.

The sight of him makes me sad. Sorrow almost chokes me. I should tell him… And I could. I could do it. It would be easy… Then why won’t I? Why can’t I just out this closely guarded secret…?

“Hey, Mackie.” Ricky greets me.

I take a deep breath and decide to do it. “We need to talk, Ricky.”

Ricky frowns, but lets me lead him over to the cluster of picnic tables. We sit down.

I face Ricky, but can’t look at him.

“What’s bothering you, Mackie?” Ricky asks.

I stare hard at the ground. I take a few calming breaths. Ricky’s my friend. He won’t judge me… “I have something I need to tell you, Ricky.”

“Okay…”

I take another deep breath and say it before I can chicken out and change my mind. “I’m gay.”

Ricky stares at me. “You’re what?”

“Gay.” I repeat.

Ricky doesn’t seem able to comprehend this and I immediately regret my decision to tell him. Does he hate me now?

“I…” I start, but Ricky interrupts me.

“You’re a filthy faggot!”

I blanch. “What?”

“You’re a cake boy!” Ricky exclaims. His face contorts in disgust and he leaps up from the bench to put a large distance between us.

A large enough gap extends between us that it feels like the hole in my heart keeps growing with every step he takes, and he’s still walking.

“Please tell me you’re joking, Mackie.”

I want to lie, but it’s already out… Might as well own up to it. “I wouldn’t joke about that, Ricky.”

“You mean, you like… men.”

“Yes.”

“You’re a dirty pervert!” Ricky cries. I get up to assure him I’m not, but he shouts, “Get the fuck away from me, creep!”

My heart felt like slashes were being cut into it. I quickly back up and st back down at the table.

Ricky continues to stare at me in disdain. “Oh, my god. Does anyone else know?”

I shake my head. “Just you,” I say hoarsely.

“Stay away from me,” Ricky yells. He turns on his heel and storms off.

I don’t follow.

 

My heart snaps.

I swear I heard it break in to a million pieces.

I had been in pain before, but this was pure agony. Excruciating betrayal.

If my supposed best friend was going to react this way, how would everyone else take it?

No one took it well.

At school the next day, word had spread like wildfire. Everyone knew I was gay.

Ricky works fast. He was more popular than I, always had been, and it appeared as if he had texted or called everyone he’d ever met and then they’d contacted everyone they knew and so on.

“Hey, Mackie!”

I wince at Danny Delgado’s voice. No…

“Mackie!”

I turn, unable to pretend I don’t hear him.

“I always knew you liked cake!” He shouts loudly, making people laugh.

I duck my head and wish desperately for him to go away and leave me alone.

I was raised atheist, so I don’t believe in God. But if there is a higher power, he must be one sick bastard. My prayer goes unanswered and Danny mocks me all the way to PE.

When we enter the locker room, everyone turns to stare at me. They refuse to move or change with me in the room.

I hear James Neyferd whisper to Steven Miller, “Careful, or he might develop… feelings for you.”

“Yeah,” Steven says back. “He’s probably been checking us out all year.”

I feel sick. My stomach clenches and my heart takes another beating.

“Get out of here, freak!” Collin Bell shouts.

I turn and flee the room. I don’t stop there, though. I keep going. I walk straight past the gymnasium, the front office, and my locker. I push out the front doors and down the sidewalk.

The sun is beating, hard and hot, against the pavement and my back. I ignore it and keep walking, not sure where I’m going.

My arm still hurts from the cuts. I ignore that, too.

I turn the corner and pass Ryssa’s car in the school parking lot.

I’m a loner. I’ve always been alone, but never this isolated.

My phone rings. I ignore it.

I ignore everything, trying to shut out the world.

The phone stops, but then buzzes again in my pocket.

I pull it out, annoyed, and check the front. It’s Ryssa.

I turn it off.

The phone rings again. This time it says Mom.

I don’t answer it.

Next, Dad calls. I still don’t respond.

An incoming text from Mom reads: Where are you?

I shut the iPhone down completely.

Maybe now I can finally have some peace and quiet…

But my mind was having a conversation with my legs that I was unaware of, and my feet were carrying me to an unknown destination.

Cars race by, but I ignore them.

I walk by Raven’s Haunt, the county graveyard. A big fat onyx crow caws in a gnarled tree above. Call me morbid, but I’ve always loved this place. The cemetery was the only place I could ever really be myself. With no one to judge me or hate me.

That’s the nice thing about dead people. The dead don’t judge. They can’t call you names or hit you or hurt you. Unlike real people, who are supposed to love you and accept you…

Except they don’t.

 

A cool wind blows over me and ruffles my short brown hair. My skin is still burning from the anger and humiliation of the locker room.

The shame.

People were put on this earth with one sole purpose: to disappoint you.

And friends were the best at it. Especially best friends.

I pull the pocket knife I always keep tucked in an inner pocket out and exposed my other arm, the one I didn’t mutilate last night. I took the knife and buried it up to the hilt into the inside of my elbow. I grit my teeth and squeezed my eye shut, liking the feeling of the cold and hard metal in my body.

I kneel down in the wet grass by a headstone. I stare down at the crimson mess on my arm. Slowly, carefully, I yank the knife out and stab myself again, this time in the middle of the forearm.

A sigh of ecstasy and relief escapes me and I twist the blade inside the wound.

I pull the knife out again, blood everywhere, and bring the blade down hard into my thigh. I scream. Not in pain, but in need. In longing. In desire.

I may be a masochistic, but at least I know how to shut out the torment of every day life.

Wanting to enhance the pain, I lift my arm up to my mouth and suck at the blood and plunge my tongue into the wound on my forearm.

I block out the horror of my life, immersing myself in the blackness encroaching and the redness flooding my senses.

But it isn’t enough.

I stand and make my way, painstakingly, to the edge of the graveyard. I stumble and limp towards where the Heartstead Bridge was. It takes longer than expected. But once I reach the bridge, I stand in the center and stare into the depths below. I take a relaxing breath and step forward so my toes are at the edge of the bridge. I swing myself over the railing.

Standing in the spray of the water, I’m free.

I feel whole.

Content.

For the first time in my life, as I let go and fall toward my end, I’m happy.

 

Water rushes over my head. I rise and look down at the body I just left.

The human shell I once occupied is now empty. Dead.

Death really is a beautiful thing. Especially when it’s your death.

The body is bloody and mangled. I am strong and free to be myself.

As a soul, I’m assigned to be someone’s guardian angel.

Mine wasn’t very good at his job.

But I feel weightless now. Without a worry in the world.

I just had to leave it to my family to find me now and put my body to rest. A watery grave wasn’t the best burial, and no doubt they’d want a “proper” one, but at least my mortal suffering was over now.

I was free.

Strong.

Brave.

I was endless.

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