a short story about two boys who want out
By the time of the first snowfall of my sixteenth year, I had not seen very much. I had never left my little town and had never walked on different pavement. I had never had my life rattled by natural disaster or tragedy. And when I was fourteen, I considered this life to be oh-so-mundane; but as I grew older and watched the news more often, I simply regarded it as relaxing. I realized that perhaps asking so much from life would give you more than you bargained for, and I got used to the bed I fell asleep in, the alarm I woke up to, and the same window I looked out every morning to see the same sunrise. It took a long time for the pinks and oranges and reds to become normal, but soon enough they did. But never boring, no, never sad.
The saddest red came into my life in the form a converse sneaker, smacking me in the back of my neck at two o'clock in the morning on a strangely, but comfortably, warm winter day, knocking me face-first into a pile of slush.
My two in the morning walks had never been so interesting, even if that was their point. They were born out of normalcy, well, in an effort to avoid it. I had started sneaking out my backdoor the same day I stopped needing to look around me. I was even able to avoid the dogs tied to poles and ignore their barks without looking up from a book. But something felt so wrong about living life without discovery, without looking up. When the lights went out, however, adventuring through the town felt like seeing new places. All I ever wanted to do was trick myself into traveling. It's why I read books, and it's why I wandered the town at the tiny hours of the morning.
And so there I was, spitting dirty, bloody snow out of my mouth, which had kissed the pavement hard enough to feel numb. I lifted myself up off the sidewalk and glanced at the red shoe only a few feet away, innocently sitting there, untied and covered in sharpie. I shook snow out of my hair and touched the back of my neck gently with my gloved hand, wincing at the contact. It would be strange explaining that the bruise there had been falling-red-sneaker induced. I grabbed the shoe, and that's when the most interesting week of my life began.
Roaring laughter sounded above me, above the flickering streetlights and it almost seemed to resonate above the sky itself, from the Heavens. I dropped the shoe immediately and stumbled to my feet, doing my best to ignore how quickly the Earth was spinning both around my head and beneath my soles. "Hello?!" I yelled out, voice cracking with fear. I didn't believe in ghosts. I barely believed in my own existence. But mostly, I didn't want to die. I backed slowly against a building, beneath its overhang, breathing heavily. My heart had never pounded so hard on Colonial Street. My heart had never pounded so much anywhere.
It nearly stopped when I finally got a reply.
"Hey! Come back! It was just mine!"
It was another sound from the clouds. I peeked out from the overhang and was shocked to see legs hanging over the side. I rolled my eyes. I should've known. The town's clock tower was a prime hangout spot for stoners and cats. And since I had only seen two legs, I guessed it was the former. I snuck out from beneath the overhang and grabbed the shoe, looking back up at the nameless pair of legs. I held it up. "This?" I called out. My head was still throbbing, and my ears became megaphones. I cringed.
The person shook a bare foot in response.
I sighed. I was afraid of girls and heights, and knowing at least one of those, if not both, would be up there kept me far below the top. They would just have to come get their shoe themselves. I placed it beneath the streetlight and waved dismissively. "Have a good night," I said, probably not loud enough for them to hear. But at that moment, it seemed as if the night had become colder, and I could still taste the blood that was pooling beneath my tongue. For once, I was ready to cut an adventure short for the comfort of my home, my bed, my normal. I began to walk away.
I should've known I wouldn't have gotten far.
Another red shoe came zooming down the side of the clocktower, zipping past my pink nose and slamming right before my freezing feet. I leapt back, and let out of huff that painted the air gray. I looked up again. Two bare feet hung off the edge.
"Don't go! Come up here!"
I shook my head and stepped over the second shoe, increasing my speed. I was after adventure, not inconveniences. But still to this day, a part of me believes that they may be the same thing.
"Come oooooon," the voice groaned, less angelic than it had seemed moments ago. Desperation was barely a good look for anyone.
And yet it was good enough for me. I stopped walking.
I still don't know why.
I turned and picked up both shoes, and they felt less like shoes and more like tickets to a ride I was still unsure about boarding. "Okay." I said quietly. I don't think they heard me, but they cheered anyway. It was too joyous. It was the sound of salvation and connection, the sound loneliness made when it found a friend and hurt made when it was held.
I knew how to get up to the top of the tower, of course. Everyone did. My dad told me stories about his teenage years being spent sneaking to it, mostly out of spite because plenty of people had warned him and others ever since someone had fallen off and died. He told me that's why the bottom of the staircase to the top had been fenced off.
I climbed over it.
The trek up the stairs was slower than I had expected. They were made of the kind of clanky metal I was scared of and covered in graffiti that was probably more suited for private journals. There were penises and peace signs, of course, political statements and defaced bumper stickers. But there were cries for help, poems and hearts drawn with initials inside them. I began to think of how many GC's and BH's that I knew, and it made me sad to know a lot. I stepped on their sharpie hearts. They were already chipping.
When I got to the top, I realized that only one of my fears existed to there. And as long as I didn't look down, I assumed I would be fine. A barefoot boy faced me.
He was not dressed for the winter. He was pale with dark hair; half under control by gel and half pouring out over his eyes in waves. He wore a video game t-shirt that was too big for him and a pair of dark, ripped capris, one pant leg rolled unreasonably high. His hands were gloveless and shaking. In fact, his whole body was shaking as he forced out a smile to me. He only had top braces and dimples. I smiled back.
"Hi," I said. I walked forward slowly and held out my hand, holding it out for him. He never took it, only stared at it like it was a weapon. I sighed and dropped it along with his shoes. They landed between the two of us and I had never felt further from anyone. "I'm Quinn?" I offered my name, something I hadn't done in what seemed like years. When you lived in such a small place for so long, you didn't need to introduce yourself anymore. They all knew.
He moved so quickly then it startled me. He swiped his shoes so rapidly it felt he was reaching for me, and I so jumped back. He laughed and plopped on the ground, shoving his shoes back on roughly. "I'm Not Quinn," he joked. His voice sounded different up close. It was raspy but not tired. But it wasn't the angelic call it seemed to be from the ground. But things were never as good as they appear from afar.
I laughed lightly to his joke and then stepped forward cautiously. His shoes were finally squeezed on but he didn't bother tying them. I held out another hand to help him off the ground and again, he ignored it, almost as if it didn't exist. "Tell me your name?" I asked, desperate to put a new name to a new face.
"No!" He was laughing, which was strange, but I had already decided that this entire experience was setting up to be even stranger. I didn't mind his laughter, not at all, I just wanted his name. The strangeness would soon get to be too much, and knowing who he was would settle the universe again for me. I told myself again that I was looking for adventure and nothing else. But for me to believe that adventure came easy was silly.
"And why not?" I asked, grinning a bit more. He was being coy and playful and I for some reason wanted to pry some more, to play along too. He stood up and stared right into my eyes. He was far away, but the way he stared made me taste his breath and feel his shakes.
"I'm going to kill myself, and I don't need you or anyone else caring about me."
My mind began to race. I forgot that people killed themselves. Of course, I knew people did, but part of me believed that people did that outside of my town, my bubble. There was such a sense of pristine goodness in my town that it seemed that right outside its edges, people were killing each other and themselves and their dogs. But never in my own town, with all its farmer's markets and friendly crossing guards. There was a Catholic not too far and a daycare across the street. It was not a place where people killed themselves. The people who lived here were not people who killed themselves. And whilst I couldn't take my eyes off of him, I could barely stand to keep looking. No wonder he hadn't been familiar. He didn't fit in. And everything, even towns, cover up their imperfections.
I would learn later that he was not the imperfection.
"Kill yourself?" I stuttered. Nobody ever taught me how to deal with these things. I never got a pamphlet on it, I never had a class. He nodded, still smiling at me. Suddenly, I saw his eyes closed and his smile and dimples gone, his body paler than now but without the shaking. I saw him dead, and though I had just barely now learned he was alive, I wanted him to stay that way. We stood there in silence for a long time, until finally he broke away and walked toward the edge of the clock tower. My feet were frozen to the roof with fear and shock. I thought he was going to jump. He sat down.
"But not tonight," he said, his back facing me. "I'm not really dressed for the occasion."
"There's a... a certain way to dress?" I asked. I finally was able to move, knowing that he was safe, if only for tonight. I took a few steps towards him, too scared to get close to him or the edge. I couldn't tell if he was fearless or not. I wondered if it even mattered at all to someone who was going to kill themselves. I wondered in anything mattered at all. He nodded again, and this time his smile was gone. He was dangling his skinny legs off the edge again, and this time I got a closer look at them. They were covered in scars. I knew better than to ask. "Have you ever... uh, tried to kill yourself before?"
"Can't say that I have," he replied, after a moment of thinking. "Have you?"
My entire body recoiled. I almost gagged. The idea of it disgusted me, it scared me. "What? No, of course not!" He started laughing at me again. He was laughing so much that I began to think that this was a joke, or maybe I was the joke. I wondered if this was something the cool kids did, or if I had missed a memo. I wanted him to stop laughing at me, but I didn't want him to die.
"Didn't think so," he said, behind his laughter. He stood up and looked at the ground far below him for a long time, before looking at me. I suddenly felt out of place, something I hadn't felt in years in my own hometown. "It's going to be fun, I think." My jaw dropped and at that moment I remembered the blood dripping from my lips and down my chin. We both watched it drip to my feet. "I hope I make a noise when sound when I hit the ground."
"Why!?" I exclaimed, wiping my chin on my jacket sleeve. It was going to stain. He shrugged in response, and there was still a ghost of chuckle sitting in the back of his throat. I wanted him to stop laughing. "Well," I started, feeling lost, "okay, I-"
"Do you want to try too!?" He suddenly asked, grabbing me by both my hands and dragging me to the edge of the building. My mind told me to scream but the rest of my body was frozen from both fear and the night, which had gotten colder and colder. And then we were standing with our toes hanging over the edge and I couldn't breathe, and all I could see was the pavement below and all I could feel was his hand in mine. And suddenly all I could think of was the kid in school who disappeared after he was caught holding another boy's hand. I wanted to let go, but at the same time, I did not trust myself being alone on the edge. "It could be more fun to jump together," he said quietly, as if his voice would push us down. I realized that he too, did not trust himself to be alone on the edge.
Finally, I pulled him and myself backwards, looking for air again. When I found it, I let him go and plopped down on to the roof, my stomach and head churning. "No, I-I don't wanna jump! It's not my thing." I tried not to look at him. I figured he would just go away, or maybe he'd get so mad he'd hit me and I would wake up in my familiar, warm bed next to a closed window with a sunrise outside of it.
"Why not?" He whispered. He was sitting down in front of me now, very close. Our gray air mixed together and then faded into the night sky. Together. I glanced up at him for a moment and saw someone much different. He was no longer a quick adventure at the top of the building. He was the end to one, at the bottom of it. The bags under his eyes told more stories than his mouth.
"Because I like living," I replied. "I like life."
More laughter. "Why?"
I did not have an answer.
We went our separate ways after that. I went home and he went wherever. I washed the blood out of my mouth and crawled into my bed. It wasn't as comfortable as I remembered. It was so uncomfortable that I stared at my ceiling fan, watched it spin until morning, and then watched the sunrise. For the first time in my life, I was sick of the color red.
I don't know why I went back the next day. I remember having one foot in my house and one foot out the black door, staring down at my watch. It was going to be two soon, and I had make my decision. My aching body screamed bed, but my my new, curious mind pushed me out the door. I walked back to the clock tower.
A part of me wished that he wouldn't be there, and that I had only been seeing things the day before. I remember trying to justify insanity with monotone, telling myself I was dreaming up people because they were all starting to become the same. It could have been true, and I wished it was.
I found myself at the top of the clock tower once again, watching the stranger walk across the ledge, his thin arms spread out like skimpy wings and toes pointed gracefully. I had distanced myself, knees pulled to my chest and chin resting on my knees. He stopped walking and looked at me, motioning with his head to come join him. I shook my head and he lifted a leg, beginning to balance one only one. My breath quickened.
"I don't wanna die!" I shouted out, in response to his invitation. Ever since he saw that I had come back, his stupid grin seemed to be fueled and he laughed and smiled more. He seemed too happy for someone who was going to kill themselves.
"Not yet," he replied, simply. I pursed my lips and watched him curiously, then let out a squeal as he jumped. But he jumped back up on to the building. I blushed and stood up, grasping for my lost masculinity. He mocked my squeal and then walked towards me. He was dressed a bit nicer this time. He swapped out his rags for some dress pants, and a soft t-shirt that was tucked in. He was still wearing his red sneakers.
"Not ever," I spat. The fact that he considered me to be like him was insulting, almost. I liked to believed I had better control over my life. I think we all like to believe that.
He looked up at the sky, which was cloudy. More show had been threatened by the news channels but it had yet to come. I wondered if he was waiting for it. "At some point," he began, smile fading and voice dropping. "Whether it be tomorrow or years from now, when you're shitting your pants in a nursing home and you can't remember your name..." He whipped around and faced me, grin back and eyes devilishly bright. "And when your frail bones are aching for health." He grabbed both my arms and squeezed them. It didn't hurt but I winced anyway. He kept squeezing however, to the point where it began to hurt and I could see the bruises that would form by morning. I pushed him away and he snickered, wiping his hands and patting his back for a job well done. "Someday," he finished, "you're going to want to die."
I rubbed my arms and glared at him from underneath my messy fringe. "I'll worry about that when I get there." I gave him the satisfaction of being right, while knowing he was wrong. Or maybe I was just in denial.
"How are you going to do it? You know," he was on the ground now, leaning on his hand like a toddler excited for story time.
I thought of how many ways I could kill myself and then got cold. I shook it off and remembered who I was, or at least, who I thought I was. "How are you gonna do it?!" I retorted.
He rolled his eyes. "Jump off this clock tower, like I said... splat." He clapped his hands together and the moment his palms touched, his eyes lit up with what to this day I could only describe as pure, undiluted joy. I remember becoming confused as to what happiness was. I still am.
"I think I would shoot myself," I suddenly admitted. "My dad likes guns." I felt my body dropping, like falling, and realized before I could stop that I was laying beside him, shaking and vulnerable. I tried to imagine what the end of a pistol felt like against my temple. Cold, like snow. I stared up at the clouds.
He was silently for a bit, out of surprise. He wasn't surprised that I answered, no, he knew k would all along. But he was more so surprised with what my answer had been. I was too. "Messy," he finally whispered.
"So is jumping off a building."
"Yes," he admitted. "But you don't get a thrilling free fall with daddy's pistol." He glanced at me and for some reason, I began to laugh. I laughed like he did, sickeningly hard to the point of nausea and he did, too, pushing his hands together in the shape of a gun and shooting into my wide open mouth.
The next day was too slow. I was excited to see him again. I had never had a friend quite like him, and I didn't even know his name. I began ignoring my friends at school. Suddenly, their stories paled in comparison to his. Their thoughts and ideas were nothing. I remember sitting alone at lunch, and not feeling guilty. I told them all that I had a new friend. I didn't know if I could call him a friend, but I wanted to.
I decided to dress a bit nicer to meet up with him the next day. I figured if he was going to look nice to die, I should too, just to watch him at least. I wore khakis and a dress shirt, but kept my winter boots on. I shed my jacket. I was becoming fearless, and even learned to climb the clock tower stairs without stopping to breathe and relax. Heights were no longer frightening, not with my new friend at the top.
We were sitting on the edge when he stopped swinging his feet suddenly, and let them lay still against the building. "Aren't you going to stop me?" he asked. At that moment I had cracked a smile, like he was joking. But thinking back, he may have been asking because he wanted me to.
"Stop you?" I repeated. "You're going to do it no matter what."
I faced him excitedly, grabbing his shoulder. We both wobbled to capture the balance I had ruined, but my heart did not drop. If we fell, we fell. We didn't. "I'll go to your funeral," I swore. "Put flowers on your grave if you'd like."
This seemed to bring him back. He turned to me with my favorite sadistic grin. "My favorite color is blue."
"Well, goodnight," he finally said, and I was confused. The night still seemed so young. He began to get up, taking a moment to look over the edge sharply and then making his towards to stairs.
"I'm exhausted!" He said, rather dramatically, slinging his back over the stair's railing. He grabbed it and threw himself over, backflipping around and landing back on the first step. He smiled, braces glimmering in he moonlight. I sighed.
"Well, will you be back tomorrow?" I asked him that every night.
And he always said the same thing: "If I'm alive, yeah. No promises." Then he disappeared down the stairs and his steps echoed loudly in the night. For the first time, I was alone at the top of the building. I laughed.
The next day, a counselor came to get me in the middle of English. She made me lay down on a couch while she sat at a computer and asked me questions. She said my friends were becoming worried about me. She asked me how my home life was, how my classes were, how my life was. I shrugged and said, "normal." She said shutting myself away and ignoring people was not normal and I told her that she didn't know what normal was because normal was different to everyone and she told me to be quiet, and that back talk wasn't very nice and then we started fighting and she pickedupthephoneandbegantocallmyparentsandIhitthephonefromherhandandILAUGHED.
I showed up first to the clock tower and even brushed my bed head. I couldn't wait to tell my friend about what I had done, what I had said. I knew he would smile. When I heard his steps coming I turned my cheek a little to show the bruise I got from my dad when I got home. We were going to compare battle scars. Pink and purple and red and faded and ugly and wonderful. He was wearing an oversized tuxedo, with his red shoes and a green tie.
"The tux is a bit too big, don't you think?" I said, immediately forgetting my own problems. I walked over to him and grabbed a loose bunch of fabric. He tugged himself way and straightened it out, dusting it off lightly.
"My mom wouldn't let me buy a new one, so this is my dad's. What a bitch." His ferocity was something new to me. Up until now, all he'd ever been was enthusiastic, whether it was about death or something else. The tuxedo and the aggravation and his tight lips and tired eyes told me that tonight was the night. But I didn't want him to go. I needed him, more than I realized. I pushed people away because none of them seemed to be as interesting and eccentric and so out of the normal. I replaced my thoughts of everyday things with scars and how to make them and ways to die, just in case someone else needed to. Wanted to. But I still didn't want him to go.
"I thought you liked blue," I said, matter-of-factly. I reached forward and tugged his tie, pulling it out of his tux jacket.
He glared. "I do."
"Then what's with the green tie?"
"I don't have a blue one," he replied, straightening his tie and walking toward the edge. I ran to catch up with him, grabbing him by his extra bit of sleeve. I pulled the jacket off and he whipped around.
"I have one!" I exclaimed. This got his attention. He came towards me slowly, leaving the edge behind. He grabbed his jacket and folded it close to his chest. He mumbled something quietly into the fabric, and I leaned forward, smiling expectantly.
"Could I maybe borrow it?" He finally said, out loud. I nodded and he let out a sigh of relief, settling on to the ground.
"Of course you can," I added. "In fact, you can have it." I sat right beside him. Partly because I knew I would not be able to do it for long, and partly because I did not want to look into his eyes. They had already died.
"You don't need to do that," he mumbled.
"Actually, I do."
He looked at me and he smiled, and I wished so much that he would do it again, at least once more. I wanted him to smile long enough for me to take a picture and remind people of who he was meant to be, and who he was so close to being. If I couldn't be the one to save him, I wanted to at least be the one to remember him.
So when his smile faded, I nudged him to spur it again. I wanted to see him smile one more time.
He never did.
The next day in school the counsellors took me in again to ask about the bruise on my cheek. They cared more than my friend from the roof did, but I didn't mind. He wasn't there to care anyway. I told them what my dad told me: "Sometimes things get a little too rowdy in my house. Nothing to worry about."
And when they called home he said, "nothing to worry about."
So they sent me back class and I pulled my sleeves down while they polished their plaques on the walls, declaring them heroes. My scars had declared them useless.
I remember noticing the scars on my friend's legs and wrists for the first time. I finally went home and looked on the Internet and found loads of kids a lot like my friend on the roof. They dragged little silver blades across their bodies until they bled and I marveled at the fact that both sunrises and blood were the same color. And then I stole my dad's razor and did the same, to look like my friend and the others. They all must've learned that bleeding alone was not fun.
When I got home, I rummaged through my brother's drawers in search of a blue tie. I had seen him wear it one time, I knew it. It was in the bottom drawer. I stole it and crumpled it up to hide in my pocket, just to make sure I wouldn't forget. I remember sitting at the dinner table that night and feeling it weigh me down, as my parents asked whatever happened to the kids I used to hang out with. They didn't bother asking what had happened to me. I did not eat dinner.
I left the house earlier than usual again in order to beat him to the rooftop. I knew tonight was going to be the night. I imagined over and over again what it might look like, to see him fall, and what it might sound like, when he hit the pavement, getting everything he wanted. I walked very slowly around the bottom of the clock tower, over the pavement that was slowly turning white. It had finally begun to snow.
I made my way to the top and was relieved to see nobody. I had gotten there first, buying myself the most time with him. I felt underdressed. The tight fabrics I had worn in the day rubbed against my scars, and I didn't like the pain nearly as much during the day than I did at night. I changed into sweatpants and a sweatshirt, and one of those hats with strings and puffballs at the end. I looked up and caught a few snowflakes on my tongue, no longer fascinated with the way they melted, like I used to be. I was simultaneously disinterested in what the world had given me and interested in what it had yet to give. My friend on the roof explained that he had seen all there was, and he didn't like it. I wondered if he'd ever seen fireflies in a trail while holding his mother's hand, or if he'd seen puppies wag their tails and people fight for love. I wondered if he'd seen those things and didn't like them.
And then I heard his steps.
He seemed to have taken the tip, and self-tailored his big tuxedo. It fit almost perfectly now, but not perfectly, of course. It perfection existed he would not need to jump off a building. His hair had been fixed, too, washed and brushed to one side. It looked like the night sky in the summer, with all the snowflakes in the dark curls. His red shoes were swapped for shiny loafers. All he was missing was a tie.
I pulled it out of my pocket and held it up. It dangled in the wind. "It's nice," he said, defeated. I began to shake. I had imagined his death over and over again the past few days and only now was its reality beginning to scare me.
"My b-brother," I stuttered. "He wore it at his graduation, I remember."
His eyebrows shot up beneath his bangs. "From high school? Last year? Here?"
"Funny," he said, without laughing. I remember thinking back about how badly I wanted him to stop laughing, but at that moment I nearly prayed for him to do it again.
"I could of seen you there," he said, walking towards me, eyes only on the tie.
"You were there?"
"Crossed the stage like big bro," he replied. I tilted my head. I didn't recognize him one bit. All I would remember him as was the boy on the roof, and not the boy in the cap and gown, with the diploma, with the drive. I wished I had knew him then. "But now, all that education down the drain." His voice became much darker and I felt a new sort of chill down my spine.
"Shame." I whispered.
We sat in silence as the snow collected at our feet.
"Give me the tie," he suddenly growled, tearing it from my grip and holding it tightly in his own. He rushed towards me, then swung the tie around the two of us, tugging me in close and slamming his forehead against mine. I let out a cry of pain and shock and fear and for the first time in his presence I began to feel alone. "You dressed so terribly for this," he groaned, and even his breath was cold and dead.
"What?" I asked, looking away and down.
"I got my tux and you're wearing goddamn sweatpants!" He was so angry it seemed, that he couldn't bring himself to yell. He only clenched his teeth and spoke in a cold, billowing whisper. I wiggled to get away but he just grabbed my hair and twisted his fingers in. I yelped again.
"Excuse me!?" My voice was breathless and scared.
"You're so selfish." His words tore and ripped more than any blade had, stung more than any bruise or fall. There was something so damn hateful about pretending to like someone.
My mind was racing and soon I was sputtering anything I could. "We-we are selfish creatures!"
"Right we are," he agreed, and I thought he smiled but I couldn't tell, because he slammed our foreheads together once again. I was so dizzy that he looked like an angel and I felt like I was already falling. "We're leaving everyone behind for a thrill! A splat!'
"I'm not doing that! You're crazy," I spat. I still felt bad though. The connection we had created was something I could not ignore, and while I knew he was crazy, and perhaps I was too, I didn't want to hurt him. But I was too scared to be concerned about feelings.
"Maybe," he mumbled in reply. I tried to pull myself away again, feeling my chest tighten with anxiety.
"Please stop," I begged. And finally our eyes met and his were so glazed that I saw myself in them. I couldn't look away. It had been my biggest fear, for I knew from day one that his eyes had seen enough to die first, and to look into them would be to die as well.
"We can jump together!" He whispered, suddenly pulling me in for a hug, or perhaps just a squeeze and a grasp for reality and human touch. "Quinn and Not Quinn!"
"I-I don't wanna jump," I whispered, right into his ear. Then I yelled, screamed, cried. "I don't wanna jump!"
"Yes you do!"
"No I don't!" I growled, louder than I had ever been before. "And neither do you!" I broke away but he held on to me, catching my gaze again for a moment before throwing me backwards in rage, and I felt my shoulder crack against the rooftop and I swore and let the tears rolls down my bruised cheek. I tried to get up for a moment before realizing my feet were hanging off the edge. I let out another yell and scurried away, scrambling up to my feet. I didn't want to look at him but I knew I couldn't help myself. It was like trying to take my eyes off a car crash. I knew it was deadly and dangerous and a mess but I needed to see. He was breathing heavily, wrapping the tie around his knuckles until they were white and biting hard, letting out a frustrated scream into his first. He had ruined his hair. His suit was disheveled. I began to walk a cautious circle around him. "I thought... I thought this was all for show," I whimpered. I felt tired and defeated, and the wind was beginning to pick up and sting our faces.
"Shows end," he replied, ripping his fist away from his mouth. His eyes followed me but I never let them catch me.
"Yes," I agreed. "Shows end with bows and curtains and roses..." I stopped walking and his eyes continued past me, looking away. "Not with a... with a splat." I remembered his hands coming together to clap and the joy and excitement in his eyes at the prospect of colliding with the ground. I shivered.
"But we're not normal, Quinn, we're gonna end with a splat." I suddenly despised him saying my name. I couldn't my name spilling out of a dead boy's lips.
"We? You!" I corrected him.
His eyes shot up from the ground and directly at me again. I backed up a bit. "Listen to me, you piece of shit," he grumbled. My jaw dropped, and I was about to argue but he screamed right over me. "We are all sick! We are all sick in the fucking head!" His neck was pulsing and his eye was twitching, his mouth was turned upwards in a snarl. "And, and, and the sickness, all it does... it festers until you believe it is you."
"What?" I whispered. I couldn't even dare myself to speak up, I was so scared.
"But it's not you," he replied, his voice similar to mine now, quiet and careful. He was walking forward and I forced myself to keep my ground because I knew that the edge was not too far back. He laid a bare hand on my shoulder and a part of me felt compelled to hand him my gloves. "Quinn, I like you too much for you to become what you fear and what we hate. We can't keep getting sicker. We have to escape." He let me go and walked past me towards the edge. He began to put the tie on.
I don't know why I followed him, but I did, and we stood next to each other while it snowed around us and I saw the bottom of the clock tower and felt myself suddenly wanting to go to the bottom. "Escape?"
"But I don't want to."
"Not yet you fucking idiot," he snapped. "But why wait? What a waste, when we know we're going off a building at some point."
"But in between we have time to stop people," I said, grabbing him and pulling him from the edge. I was clinging very tight. I dug my nails into his skin. "We need to stop people so they can create and do something worth dying for." He pushed me away and I furrowed my brows and clenched my teeth. I slammed my foot down and made a fist. "What the fuck are you dying for?!"
"Myself!" He screamed back. "What the fuck are you living for?!"
"I don't know!"
"Then stop!" He finally said, and he grabbed my hand and before I knew it we were running towards the edge. The snow was whizzing past us and all I could hear was the word "stop" over and over in my head, and all I could see was the black sky and all I could feel was his freezing cold hand and we were running, no, springing. Step by step by step by step by step by step bystepbystepbystepby STOP.
I skidded to a halt at the edge and let go of his hand. He glanced at me with betrayed eyes for a moment and tried to reach for me again. It happened too quickly. I reached to bring him back but his dress shoe slipped off and then so did he, and he didn't scream he just fell and fell and then he got what he wanted, a splat.
I screamed. I screamed and huffed and puffed and I threw myself down the stairs, tumbling all the way to the bottom but not letting my cuts and bruises and soreness stop me from trudging through the storm. I limped through the snow, forgetting how to breathe and believe, and as I turned the corner to get to his body I saw it twitching and bleeding and writhing in the snow. I screeched again.
I dived into the snow beside him, felt his own blood soak through my sweater. I pulled it off and tucked it underneath his gushing head, gasping for air and answers. I put my gloves on his shaky, broken fingers and he started screaming at me, blood in his mouth. "I don't wanna die, I don't wanna die, Quinn, please!"
I stared at him, dry heaving over his bloodied and broken body. I cried too, and shouted words that I can't recall. I don't even know if they were real.
"Call my mom, call my family!" He was becoming more desperate sounding, feeling himself begin to fail. He was sobbing. "Help, help, help, Quinn, Quinn, Quinn!"
"I can't!" I screamed back, and fumbled in my pants pocket for my phone. I sloppily dialed 911, his blood was all over the screen.
"My name," he gasped. "My name is Gabe, tell them their boy is dying and it hurt so much, I hurt so much, I, I.. I..." He stopped trying, and he gave into screaming and sobbing until he fell almost silent, and then all you could hear were gargles of blood and my own empty cries.
"Gabe," I whispered. "Gabe, Gabe, Gabe, Gabe!" I slammed my own body over his and smelt death and salt and blood and tasted it and it made me warm and shook me to my core.
"911, what is your emergency?"
My eyes widened and I reached for my phone, feeling it tremble in my hands. "Gabe, Gabe... splat... bl-blood!" I yelped, noticing that my hands were dark red.
"Can you please tell me where you are?"
"I don't know!" I was frustrated. They we're supposed to have come already and saved him. They were failures. Everyone was. "Just fucking help me!"
"Okay, we're sending someone your way. Are you in danger?"
"We all are!" I cried, pushing my lips against the phone. I tasted my tears. "We're all so sick, so sick in the head..." I whispered, his words echoing throughout me. I looked down at him, and saw the blue tie all covered in blood. I knew this is not how he wanted to die. And this is not how I wanted him to stop laughing. I fell silent.
"Hello? Hello, are you in danger?"
A cop car and an ambulance showed up not too much later. Their sirens were so loud, their lights so red. I remember the grown ups kneeling beside me and ignoring Gabe, and I was pushing and shoving and screaming for him and mankind and how life isn't fair and neither is death and nobody is safe and everybody is sick and that we are all headed off a building.
They started asking me questions and pulling me away from his body and I kept pointing and yelling and they said, "you're okay, sweetie," and I told them nothing was okay. I kept yelling that he jumped, he jumped, but I know
I was in a psychiatric hospital the next day.
I sat across someone a lot like the counselor from school, but older, and wearing more white. I had my head down on a cold table because I couldn't take sitting up and existing in a world without Gabe. He made me realize existing in a world with him was toxic, too. I couldn't win.
"Quinn," the doctor said. "Do you wanna talk about Gabe again?" I watched him click a pen. I watched my drool drip on the table.
"Is he okay?" I whispered. I shuffled in my gown. It was itchy.
"Quinn," he said slowly. I raised my head and wiped the drool from my chin. He handed me a tissue. I glared at him and he sighed, dropping it in front of me. "We've talked to the police many, many times. There was no one named Gabe there that night. It was just you."
"No dress shoe on the top?"
"No dress shoe on the top."
"I miss him." I whispered, setting my head back down. "He was there, I know it. And he was so sad and sick."
"You haven't seen him since that night?" He asked, writing something down on his clipboard.
"What are you writing?"
"You haven't seen him since that night? Is that right Quinn?" He was ignoring me. I reached out to grab his board and he pulled it away quickly, shaking his head.
"No," I whispered, defeated. "I haven't."
They kept me there for another night.
I had nightmares and saw Gabe and his blood and I woke up to a dark room and cried and then fell back asleep, and thus into the vicious cycle again.
I woke up the next morning to a person at the end up of my bed. I fluttered my eyelashes and squinted to get used to the light. I suddenly shot up and cried tears of joy, crawling forward desperately to the end of the bed.
Gabe stood there in a hospital gown, smiling just like he used to. His hair was clean of snowflakes and blood and his face was soft and angelic. He held a handful of pills and blue flowers. I reached out and grabbed them, falling into his body for a hug. I sobbed and sobbed and felt him rub my back. He pulled back and closed the pills into my own palm.
"Doc dropped them off this morning. Second times a charm, Quinn," he whispered. "You know what to do."
I held him close as I shoved them into my mouth. I was not going to be sick any longer.
solivagant (adj.) - wandering alone