I stood star-gazing with a boy I didn't really even like, the night that you killed yourself. Nothing titanic shifted in the world, no giant hole opened in my chest to tell me anything had happened. The night began and ended quietly normal, nothing remarkable about it except for the disappointment that the clouds blocked the stars.
I didn't know you were gone until school, until the overhead announcement crackled for a moment of silence for a student who passed away.
The whispers began immediately, and I don't even remember where or who, but your name connected the lines of static between the announcement and me. It was the first time I truly lost it at school, I couldn't stop crying. Heaving, shaking sounds that rattled my body.
Your friends, our friends, now just my friends all huddled together in a mass of tears and arms and confusion. We left school together and disappeared to my house where we ate cupcakes and swam.
I remember floating on my back, staring up at the sky and being stricken down with guilt. How dare I be swimming with friends, gazing at the world, eating chocolate, even laughing when you were gone. When you had clearly been in so much pain and I hadn't noticed it consuming you. How dare I still be alive.
The next day at school, tears still happened until one teacher pulled me aside and told me to get over it. It'd been a day, that was long enough to mourn and tears had no place in a classroom. I locked it up and tried to feel nothing.
The school brought in a preacher to help students grieve. We all circled together, holding shaking, sweaty hands as the preacher told us that you were burning in hell for taking your own life. I thought about the bible you carried around, passages highlighted, questions written all over it. I wondered if you really were in hell and if maybe the devil would answer all those questions always circling around your head.
You left poems behind, words that hooked into my skin and pulled my bones out one by one. How had I missed your pain? How had I not known? I failed you. I let you down. You'd thrown out the lifeline the only way you'd known how and I'd let it slip right through my fingers. My skin should be blistered from the burn of rope rushing out of my grasp.
Your funeral was closed casket, the weight of that lid crushed down over the pews. Your (our, my) friends sat huddled in the back, out of place in the church, but sitting with shoulders shaking, hands clasped and heads bowed. No one wanted to be there, no one was even old enough to drive themselves but we'd crammed into vans shuttled by silent parents.
This preacher was quiet, mourning with us, not at us. He spoke of your long talks on the bible and faith, about how he hoped you'd found peace, about how he would always hold close your Bible to remember to listen with more than just his ears. We cried but left without speaking to your family. Shame pulled us home.
I took to crying in the shower because it didn't count if I couldn't tell where the drops of water came from. Your (our, not my) friends drifted away, they walked across the stage without you and vanished into new lives. I never saw them again; you were the line binding us together and all of us let go, too painful to try to hold on. A smile became too much a reminder of what was gone.
As I sat staring at the half-empty pill bottle and a bottle of wine I wasn't old enough to drink, I thought of you. I wondered what happened, what monster made the decision to put a shotgun in your mouth and pull the trigger. I wondered how I didn't see it, how I missed the signs. How I, who knew the darkness, couldn't recognize it in someone else.
I remembered the shaking sobs. I remembered shaky, sweaty hands clasped together. I remembered the casket closed up tight. I went to the ER.
With time most memory of you has faded, your imprint on my life overwritten with one gloaming word: SUICIDE. But you're not the only one I lost. More have been added to that list of victims of the monster that waits for that one second of weakness. You were the first in my life but not the last and each one rips open carefully placed sutures I built over your memory.
Guilt ties knots around my heart, squeezing tighter with each beat.
And I know the lies. I know the voice of the monster calling itself truth. I know it uses every weakness to sink claw and fang into me to drag me down to its burrow. Every morning I wake and know that there is a reason our ribs are cages: a monster lurks in my heart.
And I fight. Day after day, I pick up your memory, and the memory of all the others, I toss them on my shoulders and I move forward. I stumble and crawl but I find a way.
I'm afraid of star-gazing now. I still love losing myself in the glitter of the world but the back of my mind scratches that night with claws on the chalkboard of my memory. I fear that monster waits in the space between stars, in the gap between me and everything, it waits.
But Dani, I still go and stare up into the world.
I just really wish you were still here staring with me.
About the Campaign
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
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