My Late Best Friend

Trigger Warnings: References to suicide, references to rape


Standing off to the side of the stage, I can see the entirety of the class. There are opening remarks and awkward pauses as principals and board members get emotional over the graduation ceremony about to take place. Meanwhile, I’m stony and cold with a low rumbling rage. I know every single pretty faced teenager sitting in their shiny black chairs, caps and gowns hiding their fancy clothes. But they can’t hide the elephant in the room… They can’t hide the fact that one of their classmates is missing.

Jessica Langston. My best friend.

Jessica Langston.

My late best friend.

A month ago, I remember stepping out of my house in pajamas, the morning air nipping at the exposed skin on my arms. I was confused by the presence of officers in my driveway and had raced down to meet them. A solemn recognition burrowed into my heart the instant they welcomed me with condolences. Nightmares that had been plaguing me for weeks came to fruition via the single bullet Jessica put through her brain the night before, leaving me with a memory that still causes me to grind my teeth in irritation.

Jessica was supposed to be on a suicide watch. I had reported my concerns to teachers and school counselors. I begged her other friends to make reports of any unusual behavior. Without a doubt, she was a danger to her self. I regularly checked in on Jessica to ensure her safety, but the girls always joked that she was only in trouble if she was ‘with the boys.’ This, of course, was a cruel joke. They always made sure that they said it loudly enough for everyone in the hallway to hear. I often left those conversations physically ill, though violently upset as well.

Before Jessica killed herself, I was her only remaining friend. Nobody else wanted to be seen with her after she reported the rape. Gazes that had once been envious burned black with jealousy; though, if they new the pain she was in – none of them would want for her life. Each person condemned her to Hell for her ‘sins,’ many of her bullies genuinely impious themselves; all the while her rapist has since been hailed as a king. It was a ‘sexual feat’ for him to bed the valedictorian.

What a feat – raping someone.

Adam fucking Addison.

He’s sitting right in the front, and I have to try really hard not to spit at him when I’m invited to join the principal onstage. Jessica was supposed to make her speech today but instead its me. She had wanted me to have a copy on the off chance that I was invited to honor her memory. Little did I know back then that it would come to fruition. I really didn’t want to do this but I feel that nobody else deserves to do it, either.

I catch a glimpse of the Langstons standing side-by-side in the crowd as a moment of silence is called in Jessica’s name. There’s no mention of her suicide, which shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. Anger has a way of eating through the reserves of common sense that we, as a sentient people, should have, and instead of redirecting it – I allow it fester. I’m going to need the adrenaline rush for the delivery of what, I believe, is going to be a very – memorable – speech.

While their heads are down, my chin is held high. I resist smirking at the false faith pandering through the crowd. If there truly is an afterlife, Jessica is scoffing at these scoundrels for their fake sympathy. Before her passing, she harbored immeasurable contempt for the hypocritical hatred borne from their religious regime. The devotees of her old faith betrayed her, essentially shepherding her to her grave. I scold each and every blasphemous fool before me.

And then Assistant Principal Masters denotes some of my lame accomplishments, though they are quite ordinary in comparison to Jessica’s incredible high school career. A few weak claps come as I slide up to the podium and prepare myself to become the voice of the voiceless. But I’m more than that…

Today, I am the voice of the dead.

“Good Evening, Barrington Heights, my name is Eli Chase – and I’m here because I was asked.” Faces are contorting at my verbal ambivalence, though I am sure that my own expression is quite the opposite. Dark amusement prickles along the back of my neck, anger seething beneath that in every layer of skin.

Murmurs are dying down, so it seems appropriate for me to continue. These people don’t know it, and they never will, but what I’m going to say is far less scathing that what Jessica could have been saying if she were here.

“I’m not going to say the words that she should’ve been here to share. I don’t stand here because I deserve it. I am here because I was the only person on Jessica’s side the day that she died.” Instantaneously, there are insults flying from the crowd. People who didn’t even know her now protest against me from the bleachers. The principal shuffles, I can see it in my peripheral vision, but he doesn’t come all the way to the podium yet. I point out at everyone, moving my arm around to gesture to every person who could be at fault for the events that have transpired.

“In the aftermath of Jessica’s suicide, we must all be reminded that terrible things do happen to people our age. We will be challenged in the years that come after high school, and we will come to live through the lowest lows of our entire lives,” I speak, hoping that my classmates with find clarity in what I’m saying. “How we choose to deal with those events will define out entire future. Remember exactly how great it feels to succeed today, because I can promise you that there is nothing more rewarding that proving what you are worth to the people who despise you, who judge you.”

The principal approaches me now, placing a hand against my shoulder blade, silently urging me to step away. I refuse to do this, though, because I’ve not said my piece. I will only leave once I’ve told everyone what I think they need to hear. “Finding your stride isn’t easy, and neither is keeping it.”

Despite how positive my message is, and the temporary calm amongst the crowd, I still hear the dissenting voices of Jessica’s bullies damning me for my audacity to speak out. They would have me stay silent and pretend that they’ve done nothing wrong. This is when the principal urges me to please step off the stage. Scoffing, I choose to disobey.

“Today when you stand up, throwing your hats in celebration of this milestone in your life, remember that Jessica isn’t here to share in your joy. She was raped and abused by people standing next to you right now. Not every smiling face smiles for you; not every ally is standing next to you; and not every friend means well by you. Sometimes – more often than we’d like to think – we must be our own heroes.” On that note, I shove past the principal, swearing at him for his willful ignorance, and strip my graduation garb to the ground. I don’t care if I leave it behind because the second I slip through the emergency exit, I’m climbing into my illegally parked car and running away.

All that’s left now is to drive as far away as possible, as fast as possible.

Advertisements

A Prisoner’s Home

To you I say, “I’m taking a job that will makes us move far away,”

And you said back, “I will come because my home is wherever you go,”

But I saw that look on your face,

I know that you wanted to say ‘no.’

 

But I’m addicted to how much you need me,

So I’d rather let you sacrifice your dream,

Than be alone when I leave.

~ I ~

I will not do, I will not be, and I will say,

I cannot do, I cannot be, and I cannot say,

I have never done, I have never been, and I have never said.

 

Three stages of reminders and assurance,

You have learned from your observance,

And you will never become what you saw,

And if you try to hard, then you will surely fall.

 

I will not do what he did, so I will do this this instead,

I will not be like her, so I will be like this instead,

I will not say what they said, so I will say this instead,

But your mistake is not realizing that the faster you run from one extreme,

The closer you are to the other.

 

I cannot do what he did because I am not like that,

I cannot be what she is because I am not like that,

I cannot say what she says because I am not like,

But when you say ‘cannot’ you do not claim the logic of freewill,

Instead you blame the limitations on your lack of mimicry.

 

I have never done, but in shadows you always did,

I have never been, but when nobody looked you always were,

I have never said, but in your mind you always thought,

And all those years you were sure you would never become that image of what you hate,

You just walked a different path that made you the same.

The Hate Within

I like the way I can’t breathe when I wake up;

I like the way I can’t see when I fuck up.

I love the way I can’t speak when you make me mad,

And I love more than anything…

The way I can’t find the strength to live when I feel sad.

 

I hate my rhymes and stories and songs,

I hate everything that ever happens so I just play along.

I hate when I smile and I hate when I laugh.

I hate thinking that you might judge me so fast.

I hate that I hate everything.

I literally hate everything.

 

I even hate the way I like the terrible things that make me feel like death.

And the worst part is – I haven’t figured out what to do about it yet.

I supposed I could drown in medication so that I could function.

I could take a pill every day so that I could live without disruption.

But those are I coulds – not I wills.

I have no desire to replace my meltdowns with pills.

The only thing I want to depend on is me, myself, and I; and what I know to be true.

And this is what I know today – I hate myself, but tomorrow I’ll hate you.

Broken-Hearted

You say things that make me question myself.

It gets me asking if I belong in Hell; Things that I refuse to address.

You casually bring those long forgotten concerns back to the surface.

You suggest things that I wouldn’t normally want to hear; And you do things I simply don’t want to believe.

And, of course, you smile in a way while you do it all that I – I cannot breathe.

Why I have so much stock in you – could I ever really know?

Regardless of the reason why, I feel as though…

It will always be painful to watch you go.

 

When you take that step in the opposite direction I realize that I am alone with my thoughts;

Thoughts that you have sown unintentionally into my head.

Tomorrow I will likely wake weaker than today – but I won’t let a single soul know.

I will never let on to anyone that I have changed – not even you.

Easy and helpless as it was – I can’t say that I’m sad that it’s begun.

I feel more awake than I have in years; and while awake I am without my deepest fears.

 

These truths that once crippled me are things I now foster happily.

Of course, I have to do this all so carefully and quietly – without any speculating eye.

My silent wishes cannot ever be spoken because all that I know can be broken.

I would rather suffer a lifetime of fruitless daydreams,

And never once taste the true motivation behind the things you ask me.

This life is not as bad as never knowing the reason behind your hard questions.

I can’t begin to know or pretend to know – there is no way I can even so much as guess.

 

Do these same curiosities also sneak through your head?

 

There is so much that we both leave unsaid.

Maybe we are ruining something perfect before it begins,

Or maybe I am creating a fake possibility in the recesses of my mind.

Just dreaming as though I were asleep hoping for a life that could never be mine.

 

I’ll write these words and consider myself mental, consider myself pathetic;

I’ll consider myself heartless and worthless; knowing the eyes that matter will never read it.

 

Maybe if I write enough lines of this ridiculous poem I’ll forget why I started.

Maybe I’ll forget that you reminded me that this isn’t love…

 

…This is broken-hearted.