Today is Saturday, which means it is time for me to continue this story. Honestly I’m not entirely sure how much I like it myself, but some of you seem to be enjoying it, so I’ll continue. For those of you who are interested here is part one, part two, and part three. For those of you who are not interested, here is a summary of what’s happened so far:
It’s graduation day at Jude Christian Academy, an international Christian school. Joe, Ruth, Fred, and Annemarie all should be graduating. Something happened the year before that makes them all feel uneasy today. It made Joe fail his classes last year, preventing him from graduating. Ruth did better, but barely. Fred is graduating valedictorian, but something is bothering him. And Annemarie… is gone, but she’s watching them. When Fred gives his speech, he emotionally falls apart, and it is revealed that Annemarie is a ghost. (It’s much more interesting when you actually read it.)
funny what the weather does sometimes. when I walked home from graduation, it was pouring buckets, and you’d think it’d be sunny, ‘cause it was supposed to be happy day, you know? and last year, with all that crap that happened, it was sunny. every freaking day. i really hated the sun for shining like that. i know it’s dumb, but i did.
though during that time, the sky did have the decency to rain on one day. i remembered that a little better than i wanted to. i was sitting outside during the service. just sitting there, letting myself get soaked and shivery cold. it was actually the last time i talked to ruth.
“joe, why aren’t you listening to the service?” she sat down next to me, pushing that frizzy blonde hair out of her eyes. always getting concerned for others, that ruth.
“i don’t wanna.” i didn’t look at her. i just couldn’t.
she sat there for a while. “why not?”
“’cause.” i figured i had to tell someone, and it might as well be her. “’cause I don’t care what that idiot pastor has to say. it’s all a load of crap.”
then she gave me that look. that oh my gosh I thought you were a better person than that how can you say such a thing? look. “joe, I know you’re going through a hard time. my golly, we all are. but this isn’t the way to deal with it.”
“then what is the way to deal with it?”
“turn to god, joe. find his love, his comfort.”
“oh yeah? well, what did that comfort do for Annemarie? did god’s love help frank become a good person? and don’t even get me started on jacobson. then there’s us to talk about. we all believed in god, and look where that got us. i’m done. i’m just sick of the whole thing.”
she turned kinda pale and trembly. “no joe. no. please, please don’t give up.”
“i’m not giving up on everything. just on god.”
ruth looked so hurt and upset that for a moment, i kinda regretted sayin’ all that, but not really, ‘cause it just felt so good to say the truth. she started to say something, then she just shut her lips and walked inside. and we never talked after that.
and now that i could look back, it wasn’t just depression that made me fail all my classes my junior year. it was that i hated jude christian academy so much. ‘cause I could believe in god before i went there. and you know, i make about as much sense as the weather. i’d wanted something bad to happen to the school for so long. now it had. but it didn’t make me feel happy. i just felt empty.
I could only remember three times when my family left me alone like this. (When our dog died, last year, and today). Not even mom tried to talk to me, which she usually did. But I was kind of relieved, because there are sometimes you just want to be alone. (Like when you’re staring at a picture of your kindergarten class and you think it might kill you.)
Taking a picture is like taking a piece of the world and freezing it forever, so that even after your world shatters and rebuilds itself a million times over, the world you took a picture of still exists in a small way. But sometimes pictures just tell you how much you’ve lost. (Like right now)
First on the left was Fred, with his crazy carrot hair and a splash of freckles. (His looks never changed much, but I hardly recognized him anymore.) Then came Joe, with sparkling dark blue eyes (which no one would remember without pictures because he stopped smiling) and his perfectly combed brown hair (which has been a mess ever since he lost his smile). Then came me (and I can’t name all the things I’ve lost) and then came Annemarie (the biggest loss of all).
And I couldn’t stop thinking about Joe, and how life is so unfair. (I know everyone says that too much, but that’s because it’s just so true). Because last year, when the world fell apart, I stopped doing my school work, too. I was just as bad as Joe. And now here I am graduating and heading off to university, while Jude Christian Academy refused to give Joe a diploma. So instead of doing what he wants this summer then going to the university of his choice, he had to do summer school and then go to community college until he could transfer. (not that there’s anything wrong with summer school or community college, just that Joe should have had the choice)
That wasn’t because he was smarter than me, or dealt with the trauma any better than me. Here’s the truth. Mr. Jacobson didn’t like him. Joe was ADHD and never a serious student like the rest of us, so Mr. Jacobson was happy for an excuse to throw him out. I, on the other hand, was a just the kind of studious, happy, church-going kid that he wanted at his school. So I was allowed to keep attending school and graduate. It was so unfair.
I picked up another picture from the floor, one of our junior class, of all the people who had been my best friends throughout the years. But even though I loved all of them, (I did, really) Joe, Annemarie, and Fred always had a special place in my heart. Now Fred thought I hated him. (which if I’m honest, I did a little. And Joe definitely did) Joe and I hadn’t talked. (which was all my fault. I really hated myself for showing him judgement when he needed love) And Annemarie…
Blinking back the tears, I thought about how much I missed all of them (so much that it physically hurt). Right then I made a decision. I pulled out my phone with shaking hands, and for the first time in over a year, I texted Joe. Coming to the graduation party tonight?
Because even though I didn’t know if he would come or not (or if he would even read a message from me) I knew that we all needed each other more than ever now.
I didn’t go home after graduation. I just took off and roamed the city without telling anyone where I was going. My family didn’t call, so they must have known where I was, or at least that I wanted to be alone. I had only done this once. Last year.
As I walked around the park by myself, still wearing my graduation outfit, I thought over everything that happened, down to the last detail. I remembered how Principal Jacobson stood in front of the room. I remembered how we were all still talking and laughing then, since we didn’t know what he was going to say. I remembered someone wondering where she was, then me feeling relieved she wasn’t there. I remembered hating myself for that later.
But most of all I remembered what it felt like when Principal Jacobson announced the news. All of the sudden the whole world started sobbing and screaming, but I just sat there, feeling like I had been run over by an eighteen wheeler. I didn’t know if I should feel loss, pain, guilt, or indifference. I felt all of them but the last one.
Then after that day at school, I just wandered around the city, not sure where I was going or where I came from. For the first time in my life, I didn’t do any of my homework assignments, but no one noticed, because pretty much no one did homework that whole week. What they did notice was that one day later, I started doing my homework again. I was actually probably the first person in my class to start doing homework again. And I started doing more homework than ever before.
Everyone thought that I did homework because I didn’t feel as upset as the others. That wasn’t true. I did homework because I felt as upset as the others. I just dealt with it differently. Even though I always played it cool and made jokes about having senioritis, I almost never stopped working. It numbed the pain, somehow, and I thought I was accomplishing something.
Now that I was walking through the city again just like last year, I saw that I had accomplished nothing.
Here’s the awful truth about what happened last year.
Here’s the tragedy that tore the world apart and took me away. That revealed the dark side of everyone I know. That perhaps showed our lovely school community for what it was.
The world piled on pain after pain, shoveled on shame, and tore away everyone I trusted. Until I decided it wasn’t worth it. Nothing could make me live through another day. I was through.
So I killed myself.
I had no pills or poison, so this is what I did: One day after school, when no one was home, I went to my kitchen and took the biggest knife. Then I locked myself in the bathroom. And I cut. I cut one smooth line across my left wrist. For good measure, to speed the process, I cut the other.
And I watched my life pour out.
I left the world
Now I was a ghost, watching from above.
Author’s note: I don’t believe in ghosts haunting places. I’m not sure if I believe in people watching us from Heaven, as happens in this story. I just used it for the sake of the story.