Death comes easy. Life comes hard.
I'd been sat, alone in my room, for an hour or so. Not long. I'd been thinking about all the things that had gone wrong. Eve had said that maybe we should think about seeing other people. I was thinking that maybe it was a test, to see if I really loved her, but when I phoned her, I found her on her way out with "a friend". I guessed that it probably wasn't a test.
Work hadn't been going too well either. I lived in constant fear of my boss, missing deadline after deadline, worrying about the future, that my boss might realise just how incompetent I actually was, and fire me there and then. Everyone else in the office seemed to make fun of me, laughing at me every time I did something stupid. I'd sit alone at my desk, not breaking for coffee, just longing for 5 o'clock when I could go home and sit, alone in my room.
I stood up. Today had been a particularly bad day at work. Having missed a deadline, my boss had come and asked if we could have a talk. Like I had the choice, I said of course. He talked me through the workings of the company, the reasons for the deadlines, etc, etc. I've had this speech before, every time from a different person. Sometimes I think they're moving me round the company because no one can be arsed to fire me.
I walked to my bed and sat down. My bed was quite soft, a double bed. Eve used to like it. We would sit on it for hours, not really doing or saying anything, just ... being with each other. There's a certain bond you feel, when you're sitting with someone you love, just knowing that you're with them.
I lay down. Of course, that brought back more memories. Lying with her at night, the thought that even though everything wasn't alright, it was. I felt secure. Even if, as it turns out, I wasn't as secure as I felt.
I shed a lone tear. It wasn't a Hollywood one, that rolls down your cheek slowly, only to drop off your cheek onto the floor. No, this was the tear that you didn't want to be there, and so as soon as you realise that it is you quickly wipe your eye with the back of your hand. I don't mind crying. But this wasn't a release of emotions, this was more, so much more. I don't mind crying, if I know what comes after it: this I didn't. I didn't know when I'd stop crying, or why. So I had to stop it after the first tear, to be safe.
My jaw ached, my stomach felt tense. I got up from the bed and walked back to the middle of the floor. I'd had an argument with my mum that day too. She'd said something about someone I knew, without even considering their feelings. I lashed out at her verbally, saying that maybe this person was much better than she knew about. I hate arguing with my mother. I think everyone does, after the age of eighteen at least. I don't feel that I can win any argument, because, well, she's ... infallible, I guess. She's my mother.
I find that I've missed another tear. Because the previous one had been smeared all over my face, this one also didn't follow the nice neat path that the tear of a heroine in a film might. It kind of zigzagged about, ending up rolling onto my chin and down my neck. Messy. But I should have learned to expect that.
I get up, walk over to the mirror, look at myself. Eyes slightly red. I see Eve behind me, laughing at me, with her "friend". Annoyingly, he's not big and butch, but short and scrawny. But he's still laughing, laughing at me. I fall on to my knees, and crawl back into the middle of the floor.
I've given up not crying now. I start bawling like a baby. I'm kneeling, rocking backwards and forwards, my head clutched in my hands damp from tears. Every so often I have to sit up, wipe my sleeve across my eyes, sniff so that I can breathe again, and then start over. I finally spread myself across the floor on my front, the room seemingly spinning around me, sobbing quietly.
I just lie there for a while thinking.
After a minute I realise I've stopped sobbing. I realise that I can't remember whereabouts in my room I am. I look up, and see the mirror in front of my face. But of course. Where else.
I'd never really thought of suicide as an option before. It always seemed such a hollow thought, devoid of any meaning. The thought of it now, it... I suppose it inspired me. I was certainly at a real low, couldn't think of anything to keep me going. So suicide was, well, a target.
At this stage the word suicide sounded odd. I think it's an odd word anyway. But I could not think of any other solution to my problems, so that was what I was going to do. It was that or... no, it was just that.
I found myself thinking about methods. Gory, I know, sick to think of it now, but at the time, just pragmatic. I eventually came to the conclusion that the best way would probably be lethal injection. But that wasn't really an option. Ideally something which would kill me in a peaceful sleep, but I couldn't think off anything that I could do. So in the end, clichéd as it is, I decided that falling onto the ground would be, well, quick at least.
I sat up. I had a sudden thought, which told me not to think this way. It told me that suicide was bad, but it wouldn't tell me why, and I couldn't think of a reason. Rid me of the shame of losing Eve, rid me of the embarrassment I get at work, the dread of the next day, rid me of the need to face my parents.
Best of all, I wouldn't have to do my work presentation. The next day at work, I would have to stand up in front of one hundred people, and tell them what I had achieved in the last six months. I knew that it would not go well. I wanted more than anything in the world for it not to happen. I knew that it would. I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it. Well, there was one thing.
I stood up. I felt empty somehow, as if something had been removed. My feet walked without being told, they walked me to my wardrobe. I opened the doors, not knowing why. There was my dinner jacket, fresh back from the dry cleaners. The last time I had worn it was to one of Eve's work dinners, and her boss had thrown up on his plate at the end of the night. Very amusing, except that I was sat next to him and got a splatter. I thought of the fun that we'd had that night. How much I'd miss Eve, no matter what.
I sat down in front of the wardrobe, and stood up again straight away. I walked over to the window. It wasn't a big window, but it had a good view. That's what really matters. I lifted the sash window, knelt down and put my elbows on the window-sill. As I knelt there, dreaming of what I could look forward to after the jump, a bird flew down in front of me. I watched it for a second or two. So graceful. How could something so small and, dare I say it, simple, look so completely in control of its own destiny?
At that precise moment the phone rang. I remember the moment with such intensity that I can live it again whenever I want. I sat there for a second or two, my elbows still on the window-sill but my head turned back in to look at the phone. I sat there wondering who it could be. I hoped it wasn't my mother. I couldn't face her right now. Maybe it was Eve, suggesting we meet up? More likely that she'd tell me she was getting engaged and not to come near her. Oh God. What if it was my boss. He might have finally realised how bad I am at my job, and be phoning me telling me not to come in the next morning. Ideas raced through my head, who it could be, why they'd be calling me at 9pm in the evening. Nobody calls me in the evening.
I suddenly realised how long I'd been watching the phone ring. I launched myself towards it, dreading that whoever it was might ring off. Even if it was bad news, the worst, better to know than not to.
I fumbled the phone, succeeding in throwing it on the floor a magnificent three times before getting it to my ear.
A nervous voice came back, "Hi there."
Oh, what a great start to a conversation. This woman obviously hadn't thought this one through very clearly.
"Can I help you?"
Still nervous but now embarrassed as well, the reply was, "Hi, sorry, yeah, it's Sally, from work, you know, in the office?"
Now my mind was going nineteen to the dozen. Sally, she was the one who sat directly behind me, long brown hair. Had my boss not got the guts to call me himself, and hired her to do it? Had she phoned to tell me to stop looking at her legs so much or she'd sue me? I do tend to look at them quite a lot. Was she going to break the news that the office had burnt down because someone had left a convection heater on? And finally it occurred to me: how many different places did she think I worked, that she had to specify? I could have asked her outright which of these it was, but rather than do that I thought I'd just play the nonchalant.
"Oh hi Sally, how's it going?"
I didn't actually mean for her to tell me, you understand."Fine, yeah fine. I was really..."
She trailed off, but managed to carry on thank goodness. I didn't think I could follow that as it stood.
"I was really just calling to check you were ok, you know?"
Check I was... what? This phone call was peculiar. I tried to get her to explain herself.
"Well, over the last couple of weeks you've been rather quiet. No, not rather quiet, I probably wouldn't have noticed if you'd been rather quiet. You've been very quiet."
She was beginning to open up properly now, her words were flowing and not sticking to her teeth like before. I suddenly realised that this meant she had noticed me. She carried on (I couldn't stop her).
"I can't remember the last time you had a cup of tea with the rest of us, people are starting to wonder if it's someone in particular you don't like. Even Brian has mentioned that you seem to have been avoiding him."
Well that was true, Brian was our boss. I've been avoiding him like nothing on earth. I just kept thinking of this lovely young woman, sat at home, worrying about me. I tried to say something, but couldn't really manage it.
"I... er... I was... sort of..."
Thankfully, Sally noticed that I was having issues so she continued full steam ahead.
"And what with your presentation tomorrow..."
Yeah, thanks for reminding me.
"... I thought that you might be having a tough time of it. Don't worry about it too much, everyone knows that these presentations mean nothing more than an excuse to get everyone together and chat. Ok, I'm done talking now. You can say something if you want."
With this permission having been granted, I felt it only polite to accept.
"I... er... I guess I have been quite down recently. A few things really, not just work. Do people really think that I don't like them?"
"Well, that's the only reason they can come up with."
"But that's silly, I love those guys."
Not entirely true. Some of them I loved, some I got along with really well, some I could cope with fine. But none that I really didn't like.
"That's what I tried to say."
"But this presentation is really getting me down..."
And that's where it started. We proceeded to have a long conversation, me lying on my back in the middle of the floor, about what I was going to put in my presentation, why I didn't think it was good enough, and why she knew that it would be fine. And the more she said it, the more I knew it would be fine. Not because she kept telling me, but because I knew it myself.
She also eased my mind about Brian. He's had the same conversation with her twice, and she's only been there six months.
Eventually, we finished the conversation, and I thanked her for her concern. She told me to think nothing of it, and to "give 'em hell" at the presentation tomorrow. This last suggestion, no, more like an order, really inspired me. I would. I'd give them a presentation like they'd never seen one before. Ok, so it doesn't sound that exciting to say these things back now, but it sounded good in my head.
I put the phone down. My mind wandered a little. I thought back to what my mum had said. Thinking about it, she would never have meant it the way I took it, she's just not like that. I guess I must have misunderstood her. I'd phone her tomorrow and apologise. Also tell her how my presentation had gone.
I got up and sat on the bed. Naturally, that brought my thoughts back to Eve. I wasn't going to pretend that I wasn't going to miss her. I would. But when you spend most of the day staring at another girl's legs, the relationship can't be perfect. I hoped she would change her mind and call me, but I also knew now that other girls noticed me. That's all it took, to know that they noticed me. It made my heart beat faster.
And as for Brian, I thought back to all the things that had instilled fear into me in the last few weeks. Not all of them were definitely aimed at me. Hell, some of them I don't even think he knew I was there. I think he's just a scary type of person.
When I'd sat on my bed for ten minutes, thinking, I took my shoes off and lay down, thinking mainly about my presentation, but also about all the other things that were going through my mind. I remembered that not half an hour before, I'd been ready to ... make the jump. It sent a shiver down my spine. The question is, did Sally know? Or was it just coincidence? I don't know, and it didn't really matter. All the things that had made me want to leave this place had turned in to reasons to stay alive.
As I slowly drifted off to sleep, bedroom light still on, window still open, the traffic noise outside blending into itself, I was looking forward to the next day at work.
© Henry Bush, 2013
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