It has been hours since I’ve been discharged from the hospital. Hours that have felt like centuries. Hours that have me in my bedroom with my sister, who has been cuddling my stuffed animals and playing with my hair. She is here to comfort me. She even missed school to do so, which I find so heartbreaking in a sense.
I cannot fathom the damage I have caused. My little sister doesn’t even feel comfortable enough to go to school.
My parents have come nowhere near me since we all got home. On the way back, they instructed me to leave the door open at all times, agree to have psychotherapy sessions with a professional, tell them where I go at all times, and that’s if I get the freedom to go anywhere anytime soon because I’m not allowed to leave the house by myself under any circumstances unless it’s school.
I get grounded for accidentally trying to kill myself. My intentions were true at first, but once I deemed suicide to be selfish and weak on my part, I had resorted to cutting. But I got carried away, and now I’m being punished for my actions.
It is one in the afternoon and I realize that my body is out of it. I have not gotten any proper sleep. Yawning, I roll over on my side and away from Emily, making sure my arm is propped on a pillow. The eight-year-old sighs loudly and then cuddles my backside, her legs hooking around my waist. I feel her breathing into the fabric of my shirt. We lay in a deafening silence with the door wide open. Our parents have not left their room in hours.
“Why are you so unhappy Ronald?”
Her question makes me tense and sad. Where do I even begin?
“I-It’s hard to explain.”
“Okay. I won’t rush you. I just want to know what pushed you over the edge.”
What pushed me over the edge? Everything Emily. Things that a third grader should not be concerned about.
“I’m tired Em,” I croak, closing my eyes and clearing my head. “I just want to get some sleep.”
And moments later, we both fade into a light, relaxing slumber.
I do not sleep for long. I am disturbed a hundred times it feels as my phone cannot stop buzzing under my pillow. I check it annoyingly, my head rampant with rhythm and my body feeling like it’s on lockdown. I have received 12 messages from Barbara, and they all read about the same thing.
Ron, are you okay? Plz text back
The others are worried about you. We need to know if you’re okay
Plz be okay Ron. We can’t lose you
The basis of her message is trying to figure out if I’m okay. My eyebrows furrow, attempting to make sense out of how she knows my conditions are not in their best state right now.
I scroll upwards, eyes scanning any messages that may have hinted towards me hurting myself. I find an unfamiliar, brief message I sent at two in the morning. This was right after I had stayed up for hours crying and stressing myself out in bed. My eyes widen as I soak in the dark undertone of my words.
Barbara, I think my demons are getting to me again. I need help.
She replied back too late. By the time I received her message, the demons had already possessed me.
Ron, what do you mean by that? Are you okay?
I’m coming over just tell me where you live.
My heart sinks, and just gazing at my bandaged arm breaks me into a million pieces that can’t be put back together. At least, not as defined as the first time.
I squeeze my eyes shut and concentrate on breathing. Breathing exercises manage to do the trick in situations like this. I just breathe, and breathe, and focus on my heartbeat. Just last night, I felt my heartbeat slowing down as death slowly gnawed at it’s core. It is a feeling I never want to experience again. Of course, I might have to because everyone dies one day, but I would hate to feel the functionality of my heart actually slowing and feeling light in my chest, my internal timer fading by the seconds. It is overwhelming.
I finally decide to text Barbara back. I need a friend right now. I need to see her nice, sisterly face. Using my right hand to type sloppily and slowly, I send her my address and tell her to use the study group excuse as her way of knowing me. She texts back okay and that she’ll be over in no time.
I really hope my parents let her in.
I’m in this weird trance where I’m asleep but still hear what’s going on around me. Emily had left and gone to her room awhile ago and I even heard my mother’s voice at one point. She said, “Ron, are you up baby?” and even though I kind of was, I ignored her. I cannot face my parents right now. My swollen heart just can’t take facing them full-on. I know I will break down and cry all over again.
Then I start to hear small chatter downstairs. Trying to sleep with the door open is unnecessarily difficult and irritating due to all the movements and natural noises I hear around the house. I manage to tune it out after some time, but when the small chatter makes it way upstairs and down the hall just a few feet away from my room, I grow impatient and just give up.
“I’m trying to sleep here. Can I please close the door?”
“Not until you talk to me first.”
I look over my shoulder and see a smiling Barbara walking cordially into my room. Mom stands in the crook of the doorway, arms crossed over her chest and face weathered with pain and exhaustion. I quickly focus my eyes back on Barbara. She stands at the foot of my bed, rocking back and forth on her heels and straightening her lips in a line. Her scent fills the entire room and it makes me slightly nauseous. Whatever she is wearing is too overpowered and too sweet-smelling, a total oxymoron to my situation.
“Hey Ron,” Barbara nods, and there’s a sad tone to her words when she realizes how gross and distressed I look. I get teary-eyed just looking at her. Mom clears her throat loud enough for us to hear and directs her sentences towards Barbara.
“I will close the door just so you and Ronald can have some private time. Please talk to him and if you need anything, I’m right next door.”
Barbara nods in agreement as my mom slowly closes the door. Neither of us says anything for a good thirty seconds. That is, until Barbara snorts and looks around my room.
“Your room looks like a five-year-old girl sleeps in here.”
“Thanks. I really needed that.”
“And you have a lot of stuffed animals. I think that’s kind of cute for some reason.”
“Thanks. I needed that as well.”
“And your mom is a really sweet person. I like her already.”
I sulk, eyes dripping with regret. Barbara stops being playful and morphs more serious. She sits down at the foot of my bed, eyes hooded and head lowered.
She softly pats my leg, which makes me sadly smile. Her hand feels super nice on my skin. I have to fight the urge to sit up and engulf her in a tight embrace. Receiving a hug right now can probably cure all of the self-doubt and loneliness I feel deep in my heart. I breathe slowly and allow her to keep touching me.
All of a sudden, Barbara catches sight of my bandaged arm and points to it.
“Why’d you do it?”
It would be shamefully discrediting to admit that the reason I felt like ending it last night was because I felt as if my last piece of hope had let me down. In the part of my brain that makes things out to be more complicated than they need to be, I had truly felt heartbroken that Blake had went behind all of our backs and dug a hole too big to fill. I had gotten afraid of the outcome; so afraid that I felt it necessary to harm myself. I feel like an idiot for even thinking such thoughts. Now I have to come to terms with such idiocy.
“Because I’m an idiot,” I admit, remorse falling from my words. “and I don’t deserve to be in this gang and you can tell Blake I said that myself.”
“Your validity in this family is just as rational as before. You let your demons get to you. That’s okay. We all have our dark days sometimes.”
I close eyes, allowing myself to block away the tears threatening to break loose. Nothing she says can wholesomely make me feel less like an idiot. I just have to burrow in this feeling for some time and maybe I’ll feel better in the long run.
But Barbara doesn’t take my defeated silence for an answer. If anything, she uses it as an opportunity to coach me about something.
“Each and every one of us has either thought about ending it, or attempted to end it. Each and every one of us Ron.”
She catches my eye and holds my gaze for awhile. I have no idea where Barbara is going with this.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about me, you, Valerie, Antonio, and even Blake. We’re all suicidal.”
The word feels like a knife to the chest, and just thinking about how all of us share the same messed up mindset makes me feel a little less like a nuisance and more like one of them. How crazy am I to think that these gang members haven’t been pushed to the brink of insanity before?
“We’ve all let our demons get to us at one point. With you, it’s more of an emotional pain. Just like me, you desire to be cared for and treated with respect, but we never seem to get that.”
Her eyes fill with bleakness as her hand stops caressing my leg. A tightening grip clutches at my heart to imagine that my gang members have all been void of life and happiness at one point. But then again, the lifestyle they live is enough to force any demon to a rude awakening. A lump forms in my throat and I feel like fading away; until Barbara says something funny.
“Life is just a fucking jerk, isn’t she? Constantly throwing bad shit our way and rarely granting opportunities for us to find peace.”
I chuckle because it’s brutally true. At the end of the day, none of us asked to be brought here. We just were, and now the daily endures of challenges, hardships, and stress is all that’s encountered and it sucks.
Her calm brown eyes are what make me choke on my next words. It’s the mystery behind my abrupt texts last night and how Barbara knew I was in trouble this morning. I need to know how she found out.
“Um, quick question. How did you find out I had gone and hurt myself last night?”
She smiles and starts talking to the floor instead of me.
“It was around three in the morning when I got your text saying that your demons were getting to you. I was at my nana’s house watching TV and I almost hopped out of my skin when I put two and two together that you were gonna hurt yourself. I didn’t know where you lived and was panicking, so I had to sadly call Blake and ask for your address, which he surprisingly gave up despite being pissed at me. By the time I ran to your place out of breath and hoping I had made it on time, I saw the ambulance outside your house, with you on a gurney. You looked dead.”
The imagery in my head looks warped but vivid. My brain recalls myself seeing flashing red lights and paramedics hovering over my face. I still thought I was dead. For all I knew, maybe those moments were what my spirit was viewing from afar?
Barbara inhales a deep breath then chokes on her next set of words.
“I felt so bad, seeing you like that. I wish you would’ve waited for me just a little bit longer. I wanted to fall apart when I saw you on that gurney. I had thought it was too late.”
Her face reddens, and I hear sniffles emanating from her nose. Barbara stands abruptly and wipes her face on her sleeve. Seeing her cry is making me want to cry again and I don’t appreciate it.
“No one deserves to feel that hopeless Ron. You can always talk to me and the family if you feel like your own isn’t enough. Trust me, that’s why I hate it when the gang doesn’t get along sometimes. You guys are all I’ve got. I can’t afford to lose any of you.”
Then she looks at me. Firmly. My heart cracks within my chest, wallowing in the mere thought of someone actually needing me. It feels weird. It feels almost unbearable to an extent.
Before I can open my mouth to say something - anything - Barbara’s phone rings. She clears her throat, answering with a steady voice.
“Hey Blake, what’s up?”
It takes several seconds for me to remember that Blake and Barbara are not on the best of terms right now. Blake still blames Barbara for her rushed decision in deciding to sell to the Pine Hills boy. Why he was so bothered by it is beyond me. The suspicion that he is up to no good weighs down heavier and heavier every time I think about the situation.
I study Barbara’s face as she hangs on to every word Blake is telling her. Her expression morphs from focused to confused then back to focused again. She ends the call with a pitiful, “Sorry for everything,” and then turns to look at me.
“Blake asked if you were alright.”
I frown, knowing damn well he didn’t ask about my well-being for three minutes.
“I want to be alright, let’s put it like that.”
“Well, from what Valerie and Antonio told me this morning, Blake did something bad last night. Killed some people more specifically.”
“Yeah, I was there. When Antonio and I arrived back at the hideout house, we saw him in an unfamiliar car with a mask on. He was covered in a lot of blood.”
Just thinking about it sends chills up my spine. It hurt to see someone as strong as Blake look so scared and hopeless.
He had made me scared and hopeless.
Barbara takes a peek out of my blinds and talks to the sky instead of me.
“There is no time to worry about whether or not Blake covered all his tracks with his killings. All we need to worry about is selling to this rich kid’s birthday party tonight and coming up on a few grand.”
“H-How am I going to participate? My parents won’t even let me close the door anymore, let alone go out outside.”
This is why you should’ve controlled yourself. Now you’re creating more problems on top of a bigger problem.
Barbara grins, deattaching herself from the window and moving in short strides around my room.
“Don’t worry, you will get out tonight. We’ll make sure of it.”
“So what happened with Blake? Do you know?”
My head is spinning with disturbing images of Blake murdering people in a white ski mask. It makes me sick to my stomach. All I want is for Blake to hold me and tell me everything is okay. I don’t want my only hope to be out and about making horrible, hasty decisions.
Blake is my source of sanity. I need him to know what he’s doing.
Barbara’s answer confirms otherwise.
“I have no idea. But if there is a war soon, we will know why.”