Written ca. 2002.

Cedar Hills, Illinois, 1995. One might say that it’s not unusual for it to rain on suicidal afternoons. That is, if one even contemplates suicidal afternoons. Is suicidal afternoon even a phrase at all? One might contemplate after reading that first sentence. For that is, in fact, exactly what Charles Draper was contemplating that Tuesday afternoon. Indeed, it was raining. And indeed, he was feeling suicidal.

The rain was falling hard. He could hear it through the living room windows. It was his parent’s house. The one he had grown up in for the past 18 years. Not a bad house. A rambler. The living room was tidy. The floor recently vacuumed. The carpet was thick and soft where he sat. Beige carpet, though. It looked kind of lame. Kind of lame, like the matching beige curtains with brown diamond patterns on them. After Mrs. Draper had put them up she’d asked Charles how they’d looked. He’d say, “They look fine, mom.” She’d responded by saying, “You’ll make a good husband someday, Charles.” He’d wished he’d said that they looked ugly instead. He wasn’t going to make a good husband someday.

Charles wasn’t sure why that particular memory came to his mind at the moment. He’d never even really thought about how the carpet matched the drapes at all before. Maybe it was because that carpet was the last place he’d ever sit. He liked sitting on the carpet, his back against the couch, and his legs stretched under the coffee table.

He’d graduated from high school two weeks prior. Next up was college. After the summer. Community college had been his plan. Something to at least appease his parents into thinking he wasn’t a total bum. The plan was to live at home, and why not? It was about as pragmatic as it could get. Darcy was leaving Cedar Hills, going to UC Berkeley. UC-fucking-Berkeley, it wasn’t even in the same state! That’s why she’d dumped him. That and the fact that she thought he was evil.

There was a razor blade and a twenty bag of cocaine on the coffee table in front of him. A glass surface on the table seemed fitting. Charles always felt good about doing cocaine. It seemed classy to him. He’d read in a detective novel that you can function on cocaine. Do it every day, go to work, and nobody’d be the wiser. He’d started doing it his senior year, it hadn’t even been eight months. It was the same old story, meet a cool guy, he lets you get high a few times, then you have to pay for it. He liked it. It felt good. Darcy didn’t like it. That’s why she thought he was evil. She’d tried weed like everybody else, but cocaine was crossing some kind of line for her. Academics were important to her, though. They weren’t important to Charles. Maybe they should have been.

He grabbed the razor blade and sliced open the twenty bag. Just like in the movies, he thought as he used the razor blade to form a thin line on the table. Everything about it was cool to him. Cinematic, even. So much so, that his planned suicide at the end kind of seemed anticlimactic. What he really wanted to do was to get so high that he’d literally fly up into the air. As impossible as that thought was.

It took all of a second for the coke to shoot through his brain. Like a bolt of lightning. Perhaps not even a metaphorical bolt of lightning, as it was raining. There was a thunderstorm outside.  His mind went blank. Well, almost blank. Suddenly he was all the more aware of the storm outside. It wasn’t just rain, but wind too. That’s why it had been so loud against the window. Trees too. He heard trees rustling. He wondered how bad the storm really was. Were trees going to get knocked over? No. That was probably just the high speaking to him. It felt good. It felt exhilarating. It seemed like the perfect moment to go outside. To run around in the rain. To say hello to the neighbors. He could really go for a party right about now. Too bad the graduation party didn’t last for two weeks.

He’d been there. At the party. He’d been high pretty much the whole time. It was a glorious moment for him. As far as he could remember he’d been a riot. Well, he couldn’t remember that much. There was the part where he’d pretended he was a stripper and that Janette was a stripper pole. Darcy wasn’t too happy about that. Everyone else thought it was hilarious. He thought it was hilarious. He vaguely remembered making out with someone too, but he wasn’t sure who it’d been. Probably not Darcy. Darcy’d dumped him the next day. She would have dumped him regardless, though. She was going to UC Berkeley, after all.

This was it, though. The high was wearing off. He wasn’t even sure how long it’d been. Three thirty, that’s what the clock on the wall said. He was proud of himself for reading it. It was an analog clock. It was ticking too. He hadn’t really noticed that before. Well, not to the same degree he’d noticed the rain on the window. He knew that the clock ticked all the time.

It was a good party. He’d rather enjoyed it. He enjoyed all the parties he’d been to in high school, and that’s why it was time to go. The party was going to end. He wasn’t going to college, and if he did, it was going to be community college. Community college! Where a bunch of kids that live with their parents go. There weren’t going to be any parties there. End on a high note. That was his motto. He formed another line of cocaine with the razor blade.

It was bliss, again. He picked up the razor blade again, only this time it wasn’t to form a line. It was truly time to end it on that high note that he so dearly wanted this suicidal afternoon. Holding it against his wrist was a little surreal. He pondered deeply, well, as deeply as he could, what it meant that just pushing down on the blade was all between life and death. He even acknowledged that it was a little silly, yet still seemed like a good idea.

He pushed the blade a little.  His flesh split apart.  A thin line of crimson flowed out of the crack.  Pain struck through his body.  The drug had only mildly dulled his senses.  “Fuck it hurts.” He said aloud.  He laughed a little too. Just a little more pressure, he thought, half an inch in should probably do it.

The phone rang just as he began to press downward. Or at least he thought it rang just at that moment. Truth be told, he had lost almost all comprehension of time. The big hand on the clock showed four, it’d been at least half an hour, and he still had little more than a paper-cut. He did his best to ignore the phone. Whoever was calling didn’t matter. Probably it was someone calling for his mom anyway. They were a little early though. She wouldn’t be back until six.  It was the ringing that got him to stop, though. It was unbearable. It wasn’t like the rain. In reality it had only rung twice by the time Charles changed his resolve.  “Damn it,” he shouted as he stood up.

He worked his way to the phone.  “Hello,” he answered, not even trying to hide his anger.

“Charlie is that you?”  The voice at the other end of the line asked.  The voice was female, he couldn’t tell who it belonged to.

“Who is this?”

“Janette.”

Janette?  He couldn’t place a face to the name.

“Janette from school,” the voice replied to the silence.

Janette, he now recognized the voice. Duh, he’d just been thinking about her. Janette who he’d been grinding on at the graduation party. Janette who also happened to be Darcy’s best friend. He’d known that she wasn’t going to UC Berkeley with Darcy. It was the same old story. Two BFF’s go to different schools. Then they aren’t BFF’s anymore. Why would she be calling?  He didn’t really know her that well.  She’d been around a few times when he was with Darcy, but they had never really spoken. She was extremely attractive. He wasn’t even going to lie and say that he didn’t have a little crush on her. “What’s going on?” he had wanted to sound exited, as if to say, What’s happenin’ babe?, but failed miserably. Instead he sounded more like a high school counselor asking why she wanted to change classes halfway through the year.

“Oh, I was just at home, in the rain, and I don’t want to be alone. I mean, I know you broke up with Darcy…”

“Are you fucking kidding me!?” he replied without even thinking. “Umm, I mean, seriously? Why would you call me?”

“Oh, I just secretly had a crush on you while you were dating Darcy, and now that high school is over I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again.”

He had to reflect on this for a moment. He was still high. He wanted to party. He wanted to be around people. And one person was better than no persons. “What the fuck. I guess I’ll come over, but only because you’re hot,” again he wasn’t thinking. “Just so we’re clear, it’s only cuz you’re hot. I don’t want a relationship or anything.”

“I don’t mind.”

Good enough for Charles. Whatever, he could take care of this suicide thing later. He was a man on a mission. A hot chick was in need of some company, he might as well bring a party to her.

“I’ll be right over,” he decided.  “Where do you live?”

She gave him the address.  He hung up.

He looked down at his wrist.  It was bleeding. Not really the paper-cut that he thought it had been. Blood had run down his hands and fingers. He already had a stain on his shirt where his hand had brushed against his collar while he’d been on the phone.  “Fuck,” he thought out loud.  A bandage from the bathroom would stop the blood flow at least. But he couldn’t show up with a stain on his shirt. He’d have to change that. A Nirvana t-shirt seemed requisite in that moment, but he didn’t have one. A t-shirt with a soaring F-16 would have to do.

The mechanical garage door opened. The old Toyota Corolla had basically become his since he’d turned sixteen years old. It wasn’t a bad little car, it just wasn’t that good either. Not exactly classy, but no one in high school had classy cars. Not even everyone had cars, so he was cool enough just to be one of the kids that did. Rain was blowing into the garage. It was quite windy indeed. The reality of the storm seemed even more pungent with Charles heightened senses. It was real now too. Not just a sound pounding on the windows and roof, but actual drops of water touching his body. It was a good thing that his parents let him keep the car in the garage. He’d have been soaked just from the walk to the curb.

The windshield wipers couldn’t keep up with the rain. They hadn’t been replaced in a long time, but they weren’t squeaking like they would in a light shower. There was too much water for that. He wondered why she had called him.  They hadn’t really known each other at all. The most he had said to her at any given time was merely a few words. As he watched the cars pass by, he thought how easy it would be to die out here.  Just drive into a passing car. Maybe that wasn’t as easy as the razor blade. Maybe it was. It seemed easier, it seemed like it wouldn’t hurt as long, because he’d die instantly. He was going fast enough that an accident would be fatal.

As far back as Charles could remember, he’d been a suicidal loner.  Even at parties. True, he’d been the life of the party, friends galore. He rather enjoyed making people laugh. They’d laugh at anything, too. He’d just say what someone would normally say, only in a funny voice or accent, and suddenly he was a riot. It’d always been that way for him. Women came easier too. Like many of his peers he’d been deflowered at fifteen. It was with this girl Charise. They’d deflowered each other. It had been as awkward as imaginable, but a good experience none-the-less. Naturally, after the first time they had to see each other every day, to try to get things going a little more smoothly.

Darcy had basically been his dream girl, though. Hot, sexy, fly. She was smart too, though. He didn’t like that. He didn’t like smart girls. That was kind of his folly. He’d ignored her smarts in favor of her body.

No one ever said that Charles was a good kid. He had a reputation. He was a party animal. He did drugs. The preps hated him, because the women loved him. He had smoked his first joint at eleven, and it wasn’t his last.  It was his first time getting caught though, by his father, and he had taken a pretty big beating for it too. Charlie had been in Juvie multiple times, for multiple offenses, usually drugs, but occasionally for shoplifting.  He wasn’t a criminal by any means, just an addict. He knew he was an addict, he could at least admit that to himself, but he certainly didn’t want to give it up.  Cocaine was the best he’d done so far, but scoring it was far and in-between.

He doubled checked the address Janette had given him.  A couple more blocks down.  He pulled up in front of the house.  Only a single light on in the living room, the rest of the house was dark.  The street was dark for that matter.  It was dark out, but not that late, so the street lamps hadn’t turned on yet. Damn this city, he thought to himself, too cheap to get street lamps with light sensors on them.  He hated the city, he hated having grown up in the same house all his life, going to school with the same kids his whole life. It was a nice neighborhood and all, very little crime, in fact the only crime he knew about were his own, and the people that provided for him.  He’d raise his children in a neighborhood like this, except that he never wanted to have children.  He looked at Janette’s house and thought about driving away.  What did he care about Janette?  He couldn’t remember why he was so excited to come here to meet her when she had called ten minutes ago.  Heck he had completely forgotten about the razor blade, except that he had to put a bandage over his wrist.  Speaking of which it was soaked red, he didn’t know how much blood he had lost, not enough to make him pass out. Oh yes, he remembered, he wanted to party. That’s why he’d come. During the call, partying with one other person had seemed like a blast, but with the high wearing off he wasn’t so sure anymore. Maybe he should ask Janette to call some more of her friends.

He got out of the car, forgetting to turn it off, and walked up to Janette’s door.  Nice house he thought to himself, in truth it wasn’t any better than his own. He imagined Janette’s house would be clean inside.  He was right, she opened the door, the first thing he noticed was the neatly organized curious.  The second thing he noticed was Janette.  She was hot as hell, she always had been.  “Nice place you got here?”

 “Thanks, I guess,” she said.

“Well you called, and here I am.”  He knew he sounded rude, but he didn’t care.  He didn’t care about anything anymore.  He didn’t know what she wanted.  He didn’t know what he wanted for that matter.  To fuck her, maybe, but some how he didn’t figure that was going to happen.

“Come on in.” 

He stepped out of the rain. 

“You do anything exciting today?”

Two years ago he would have made up a lie to sound cool. “Not really, just watched some TV and stuff.”

“Yeah,” she said, “not much going on between now and college.”

Yeah, college, he thought. That was the last thing he wanted to talk about. “You were planning on going somewhere right?”

“Yeah, I start at U of I at the end of the summer.”

“Yeah, what are you going to major in.”

“Economics and maybe double…” Very interesting. Of course a double major. Who wasn’t double majoring? Everyone was just so smart. Darcy was going to double major. Poly Sci and Physics she said. He didn’t even know how those went together, but somehow it was possible. Whatever. He knew UC Berkeley students were smart. “Do you think that’s a good idea?”

Oh great, he wasn’t even really sure what she was asking about. Was it about double majoring, that’s all that he really knew that she’d said, but what if she’d gone off on whether or not she should live in the dorms or in off-campus housing? What could she have possibly said in the few minutes that he’d lost concentration? “I dunno, you gotta do what you gotta do,” he said. A nice safe answer. He nodded too, to add a little effect. A kind of circular nod, so as to be neutral.

They were sitting on the couch. Side by side. The sense of her arm against his felt good. Cocaine did that. Though he wondered if it might be more comfortable on the floor. Like he’d been sitting at home.

 Janette’s living room had a glass coffee table too.  Some dull paintings on the walls. One of a dog. A relative must have painted it. It wasn’t that good. A grand piano in the corner, nice. Maybe Janette played. Someone must be playing to have something like that around. Janette’s purse was on the floor, she reached into it. Charles expected her to pull out a condom. Maybe they were going to fuck after all. Instead she dropped the object she pulled out of the purse on the coffee table between them.  A small baggie, white power inside.  “What the hell is that?”

“Oh, I think you know.”

Yeah, he knew.  “I’m mean what the hell are you doing with that?”

“Nothing right now, but I plan on getting high, with you.”

“Oh, I see how it is.  I’m here in case you get caught, that way you can say it was my idea, and my stuff, well fuck that! I’m outta here.”  He stood up and headed to the door.

“Damn you Charlie, I wasn’t lying about having a crush on you.  I thought we could have fun together.”

He stopped.  “Yeah, right.”

“Yes, right.  I’m serious.”

“Have you ever even done that stuff before?”

“Yeah, plenty of times.”

Plenty of times, he could tell just by looking at her, that it was two maybe three times, tops.  “You know that stuff rots your brains, I can’t remember my middle name anymore.”

“I’m not too worried about that.”

“It also makes you a loser, like me.  I mean look at me,” he held up his wrist, “just before you called I was about to kill myself.”

She hadn’t noticed the bandage till now, but it didn’t bother her. “You’re not a loser Charlie, you’re like the most popular kid in school.”

Was the most popular. I got nothing now. No parties to go to. I’m not going to college. I gotta become a working stiff or something. You have a decent life, and a future to look forward to.  I’ve got nothing that is why I’m such a loser. High school is over. The party for me is over. You shouldn’t be throwing your life away.”

She looked at him almost confused.  “You’re the last person I expected to be preaching to me about being drug free. Anyway, it’s just a little high it’s not going to ruin my college career.”

“Hell, I think you’re a lot better off being drug free.  I do drugs to get rid of pain, but I’ve been doing them so long, I can’t remember what pain I’m trying to get rid of.  You think I like being a loser.  You think I like waking up in the morning and seeing myself in the mirror.  I hate seeing myself in the mirror.”

His words were getting to her now.  She had a frown on her face.

“Hell if you had wanted a fuck, I’d given you one, but drugs, hell no.  I don’t condone what I do.”  He marched out of the door, and hopped in his still running car.  What was wrong with Janette? He didn’t know.  He wondered if he’d had any effect on her.  Probably not, but he sure felt good about it, for once in his life he felt good about something.  He knew, right then, that he would never do drugs again.  In fact he’d start his life over, he would for sure go to community college. Maybe he’d join a support center to help kids get off or stay off drugs.  It was too late for him to join the DARE program, the cops would never let him in, but he could do what he could to help people quit drugs.

SMACK!  His car slammed into another car hydroplaning on the road.  He found himself in a ditch, and felt something warm pouring down the side of his face.  He tasted blood, and waited.

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