Prompt Day #89: Frustrate a suicide
So first of all, I almost didn’t do this prompt, I thought: I’ll just finish my haunted brush one. Because the prompt seems like it would have to be funny or humorous, and having lost family members to suicide, there is nothing funny about it. But, I am in this for the long haul and I said I would do every single one. So, I put a lot of thought into it and came up with this story. It’s my homage to Dickens and Jimmy Stewart.
The Three Deaths of Christian Freeman
Christian checked the rope. It would hold his body weight. He got up on the step ladder and looped the end around his neck. Swallowing back his tears, he thought of his parents and hesitated. They’d be crushed of course but also they would be convinced he was going to Hell for doing this. But if he lived, they’d eventually find out he was gay (he suspected they already knew) and in their eyes he’d be going to Hell anyways. He’d rather die than to live the rest of his life looking at the disappointment in their eyes and to know that they loved him less for the way he’d been born.
He knew he should jump off the ladder. That would snap his neck and it would all be over quick, but he was a chicken and instead gingerly stepped off. His body weight pulled the loop around his neck taut. He couldn’t breathe. He hung there, seconds dragging while he thought about his short twenty years on this earth. Filled with intolerance for his “kind”, he’d spent the last ten or so feeling like he was living a lie 24/7. It was so much stress and pain, he felt like this was his only choice.
Closing his eyes, he let the darkness come. The sound of the garage door opening brought him back around. He opened his eyes and saw a large purple blur standing in the light just beyond the door. As more of the purple thing came into view, the door slid into the rope and snapped it. He fell to the ground instinctively gasping a breath. When his oxygen level was back to normal and his vision had cleared, he looked up to see Barney the big purple dinosaur standing there over him.
“Huh ha, Well hello Christian!” he said in his boisterous way Christian remembered from childhood.
“Barney? What are you doing here?” He felt ridiculous for asking but there was indeed a large purple dinosaur standing above him and unless he was dead or hallucinating, it seemed the appropriate thing to say.
“I’m the ghost of Christian’s past. I want to show you some things. Sing along with me, Christian…You’re important, oh, you really are You’re the only one of you The world is better just because you’re here You should know that we love you”
Christian remembered the song, he remembered how much he loved the Barney show. Barney marched along, singing the You are Special song, Christian followed. The garage door came up again and there was his childhood home. They walked up to the door and into the house. A young Christian sat in front of the TV playing with his sister’s Barbie dolls. Each one was dressed stylishly and Christian was pretending they were shopping together, buying dressers.
“See, Christian” Barney said “you were four years old. Do you think you knew anything about sex or liking girls or boys in that way?”
Christian watched himself playing happily, tears streaming down his face, the lump in his throat irritated by the swelling from the rope. He shook his head.
“Huh Ha, No! Of course not. You were just doing what made you happy. Do you think that’s wrong? Do you think any of this is your fault?” The friendly tyrannosaurus asked.
“I don’t know, Barney, I…” Just then his sister walked in and saw little Christian playing with her dolls.
“Mom! Chris has my dolls again!” She yelled. Barney took Christian’s hand and led him away.
“Come on, let me show you something else” He said in a sad tone that sounded so foreign coming from the usually happy dino.
They walked out of his house and into the backyard, it wasn’t the backyard though, it was the church’s softball field. An older Christian stood in the outfield watching a butterfly land on the dandelions. The batter hit the ball up and into centerfield where twelve year old Christian stood.
“I don’t want to watch this, Barney. I’m going to miss the shot and we’re going to lose the game. The guys will call me flower girl. Please don’t make me watch it.” Christian begged.
“Watch your coach then” Barney said. Christian watched the man who had always been so kind to him. He wasn’t watching Christian, he was walking over to Christian’s parents sitting in the stands. He heard the groans from the crowd and knew he’d just missed the catch. Barney walked him closer to his much younger parents who now looked almost angry. They listened to his coach
“Hey there Kate, Bill, how are you? Thanks for coming out. Listen, I gotta tell you, Christian doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself. I’m thinking Softball may not be his sport. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having him, he is the sweetest kid, easily the most well-mannered and behaved kid on the team, but he just isn’t happy.” Coach said.
“Well, he needs to learn to enjoy it. He can’t sit around playing with dolls all day. He needs to learn to be a man” His father said not without animosity.
“Hey, no offense Bill, but seems to me there is a lot more to being a man than playing a spot. I noticed Christian really enjoyed helping with the Christmas play this year. He helped my wife making the costumes and painting the scenery. I know the community theater is always welcoming youths, perhaps that would be more his style.”
“Keith,” Christian’s mother said “we’re just concerned about Christian’s development. We feel that the Lord is directing us to help him find more masculine activities. If we encouraged his unusual predilections, well, we’d never forgive ourselves if he chose an alternative lifestyle. You understand?”
“No, Kate, I guess I don’t. Like I said, he’s a good kid. Kind and loving and he is artistic and enjoys that. I think that’s nature, not nurture. And if that’s the case, he isn’t choosing anything but happiness. What’s so wrong with that?” His coach looked at both parents who were no longer even making eye contact with the man. Coach stood there for a few more seconds then shook his head and walked away. Barney and Christian watched him walk over to the twelve year old boy who’d just missed a catch and give him a big hug.
“You tried, Buddy, that’s all I ask. Good job.”
“Come on” Barney said “Let’s go” The started back towards the house. “Do you see that you aren’t alone? There are so many people out there who don’t feel the way your parents do. People who love you unconditionally, for the person you are. You’re special, Christian. The world is better because you’re in it. Give yourself a chance to find that out.” They arrived at the garage door. It opened. The rope was gone. The ladder was now sitting back against the wall where he’d gotten it an hour or so before. Christian stared at it for a moment and turned to tell Barney that he hadn’t met anyone yet who truly understood him but Barney was gone.
Christian walked back into the house and to his room. He cried until his face hurt. Deciding that Barney was naïve and didn’t really understand, he went into the bathroom and started the water in the tub. He searched his drawers until he found one of his razor blades. He swallowed a few Motrins and got into the steamy water. He’d read that the hotter the water, the quicker he would bleed out. His blood vessels would be dilated and closer to the surface. He leaned back into the water and let it fill up until his arms were submerged. He sat there for a bit reliving the day he missed the catch. They got home after a completely silent ride. His father asked to speak with him in the den. That day his father made him read passages from the bible (all of which had been tagged with strips of sticky notes) about men who lay with men and sodomy. He remembered his father asking him if he wanted to spend an eternity in Hell and never see his family again. He remembered his father telling him that if he and his mother ever found out that Christian had decided to be gay, they would have no choice but to disown him. He felt the tear drop off his face and into the water.
He picked up the razor from the side of the tub and slid it gingerly across his wrist. It barely broke the skin. He hated pain, this was not ideal. He gritted his teeth and tried again. This time he cut much deeper, but not yet to the artery or vein. He whimpered.
“You know, cutting only makes things better temporarily, and if you were trying for something more permanent, then let me try to talk you out of it.” A girl stood beside the tub staring down at the blood running from the cut. She held up an iPhone and took a picture of it. Christian jumped.
“Hey! Who are you? Get out of my house!” he yelled. He looked at her. She looked a little familiar but he couldn’t place her.
“Here, take this robe” she said and there was a robe in her hands he hadn’t noticed at first. “then we need to go clean up that cut. Trust me, I know how to do that. She held out her own left wrist to him, she had a number of linear scars running horizontally up her arm.
“Oh wow.” It was all he could say. He got out of the tub and accepted the robe. He put it on and found himself completely dry and his wrist healed, leaving a faint line in remembrance of his act. “So who are you anyways?” he asked
“I’m you. The real you, inside. I guess you can call me the ghost of Christian’s present.” She smiled and he felt the warmth of that smile inside his chest. It was his smile. She was him, who he really felt like inside. She wore clothes he wanted to wear. She was the saddest hipster he’d ever seen. He chuckled.
“I have some great hair.” He said smiling and reaching out to touch her long, wavy blonde hair. As soon as he did, they were no longer in the bathroom but standing instead in the cafeteria of his college. His major was agricultural science which he hated. His father expected him to take over the family greenhouse business at some point. What he wanted though was to be an art major. He wanted to be an art therapist. His parents, however had explicitly forbid it. If he chose to throw his life away then he could be sure of receiving no support of any kind from them. He saw himself sitting alone in a corner booth and assuming she wanted to show him something, he started over that way. She grabbed his arm.
“No. leave him for now. I want to show you some others.” She walked around the café with him. They walked past a girl sitting alone reading a book called Women’s Realities, Women’s Choices.
“She can’t read that book at home. Her parents are fundamentalists. They believe a woman’s place is in the home. She leaves her home every day wearing the traditional garb and changes when she gets here. She is majoring in early childhood education so that she can teach her children at home. That is the only way they would agree to allow her to put off her arranged marriage and go to school. She wants to escape, she doesn’t know how. She thinks about killing herself every day. They walked on. The came to a young man also alone. He sipped his drink from a straw and stared into space.
“This one is practicing not looking at other guys walking by. He is in your business math class. He finds you attractive but senses that you have not come out, he hasn’t either. He too would be disowned. He goes home alone. He doesn’t try to make friends for fear they would see through him. He wishes he could die.” They kept walking. As Christian walked by, the boy looked up and for a moment they locked eyes. The boy looked away first. “He doesn’t see you. Perhaps he senses a kindred spirit, but he can’t see you.” She said as if reading the question on Christian’s mind.
They walked past the rest of the tables and booths and into the girl’s bathroom. Christian grabbed her arm.
“Hey! I can’t be in here.” He whispered. She turned to him with a smile. “Really? You belong here though, don’t you think? Besides, I told you, they cannot see or hear you. Besides, there is a reason I brought you here.” Christian could hear sobbing behind one of the stall doors. The girl waved a hand in front of it and the door disappeared. A girl sat on the toilet staring at a positive pregnancy test and sobbing.
“This girl was taken advantage of at a fraternity party. She cannot remember who did it to her. She simply remembers waking up on the couch at the frat house with her pants off. She is a brilliant girl in the pre-med program. Her family will disown her for her premarital fornication, but have also taught her that abortion is murder and worthy of an eternity of damnation. She believes this because it is all she has ever known. She is now a lost soul. She is going to drop out of school and get a job waitressing full time. This girl, had she finished her education and went on to medical school would find a passion in research where she would have developed therapies for both ALS and MS. She would have won a Nobel Prize for her work. She has no support, she has nowhere to turn. She will commit suicide before the pregnancy is over.” Christian stared at the girl wanting nothing more than to wrap his arms around her and tell her she is not alone. She is loved and accepted.
“You are not alone either, Christian.” The girl said. He looked up at her from his bathtub. They were back to where they started. The razor was gone though. She reached her hand out and put it on his bare shoulder. He saw a tattoo peeking out from under her flannel shirt sleeve.
“Can I see your tattoo?” he asked. She held out both arms and pushed her sleeves up.
She pointed at her right arm where a tattoo of words were configured in the shape of a cross. Lyrics from a popular song: I can’t change, even if I tried read vertically; crossing it and sharing the letter I was: Even if I wanted to. “This arm represents intolerance” and she pointed to the ladder of cutting scars up her left arm “and this arm represents self-hate. Beware them both, but mostly beware intolerance. Because unless something is changed, it will take many lives in the name of religion.”
“But what I can I do to change all of this?” Christian asked
“Well, nothing if you’re dead.” She said and walked out of the bathroom.
He sat in the tub until the pink water was cold. He let the water out and went to his room. Could he be strong enough to call his parents and tell them he was gay? See what would happen. He picked up the phone and dialed his mother’s cell phone. It was on its second ring when he hung up. He couldn’t. His situation was just as hopeless as the others he’d seen today. He couldn’t help them because he couldn’t help himself.
He needed to end it and it needed to be error free. The only way he knew to do this was a gunshot to the head. He hated the idea of his parents coming back from vacation to find him dead and then to have a huge mess to clean up on top of it, but there seemed to be no other choice. He knew where his father—a good conservative—kept all his guns. It was the hand gun he wanted. That one was kept loaded and in his father’s nightstand drawer. He pulled it out. It felt alive in his hand. He didn’t like it. It was funny in a way. He wanted to die, he wanted to kill himself, but this gun felt like a killer. It felt like at any minute it would leap out of his grasp and shoot him all on its own.
He carried it to the basement. It seemed like the best place to do it. The mess would be easily cleaned and any remaining stains would be hidden from future guests. He took a deep breath and brought the gun up to his temple. He was shaking, but managed to take the safety off and get his finger on the trigger. He didn’t pause to think about anything. He pulled the trigger.
Nothing happened. The gun was gone from his hand. He opened his eyes which he had squeezed shut when he pulled the trigger. There stood—in his basement no less—Freddie Mercury.
“That may not have worked anyways” he said smiling his tooth-filled smile. “You are pretty thick-headed.”
“Where’s my gun? I don’t want to talk to anybody else. I don’t want to see myself anymore or anyone else.” Christian said
“Guns like that no longer exist in the future and that’s where we’re going, darling” Freddie said.
“I have no future, Freddie.” Christian said.
“Now that’s bloody ridiculous” he said “When they told me I had a newly discovered disease that there was no cure for, do you think I laid down and died then and there? I had no future darling, but that didn’t stop me. There were people out there who believed in me, who loved and needed me and I gave them everything I had right up to the end. So don’t give me any more of your shit” He spun around, his frilled cape flying up into the air with the spin. There were two bicycles sitting there and Freddie got on one “Come on, darling, I’ll race you.” He laughed and drove his bike right through the wall of the basement. Christian followed. He had no choice.
On the other side of the wall was a funeral home. He saw the pregnant girl from the bathroom, they rode past the sparse mourners and a sign proclaiming RIP cure for the deadly diseases MS and ALS and through the wall into another funeral home where the boy with the crush lay dead. Again, a handful of people scattered about on chairs. No one was crying. A sign by his casket read Would have saved a child choking in a restaurant. They rode on, one after another, all the scenes were the same, just the dead were different and the signs telling Christian what wonderful things those kids—some as young as 13– would have done had they lived. The last room contained a closed casket. Freddie stopped beside it. Christian stopped too. He looked at the mourners and saw his parents and sister, her husband and children. He saw his softball coach; the only one crying.
“Oh shit, this is me, isn’t it?” He said to Freddie. “Why the closed casket?”
“You blew your brains out, darling, what do you expect?” he said. “Besides that is not what I brought you here to see.” He reached out to the tripod sitting beside the casket. Freddie turned it around. There was not a single statement but an entire paragraph:
Christian Freeman 1994-2015
Would have converted his family’s greenhouse into a center for those who are discriminated against, judged, shunned, or otherwise abused
Using his degree in art therapy, he would develop a center of tolerance, love and education
His organization would grow and eventually become a powerful force in Washington D.C. lobbying for the rights of the LGBT community, women, minorities and the underprivileged as well. He would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of forty.
Instead, he took his life at the age of 21. He will be remembered for a short time by LGBT groups on Facebook and other social media outlets where his suicide will bring about a number of heated debates, sadly, within 3 months’ time, he will be forgotten and relegated to the list of nameless faces who lost their lives to hatred and bullying
Nothing will change until we all do.
“Very sad, darling, when someone with your strength just gives up. I wish I could have done what you have the chance to do if you’re brave enough.” Freddie said. “But you just seem so determined to avoid your destiny.” He shook his head sadly. Kissed Christian’s forehead and rode away. Christian’s bike was gone. He stood there in the middle of the funeral parlor. He walked over to the casket and opened the lid. The rope, the razor and the gun lay there where his body should be. He reached out and touched each piece and then decided to leave them there. He shut the lid of the casket and walked out of the funeral home.