Thursday, November 6, 2008

Portrait of the Writer as a Morbid Young Girl

I swear, everything I’ve ever written involves someone killing themselves or dying in a very tragic, over-the-top fashion. Even when I was younger I was penning either tearjerkers or straight horror.

Case in point: “Letting Go,” a short story I wrote in the ninth grade for this odd project we had going in class. The teacher gave you a blank hardback book, like an artist’s sketchbook that was white instead of black, and you designed a “novel” out of it. Cover, illustrations, text, the works. Most of my illustrations were stolen from teen girls’ magazines, with captions underneath them quoting my own text. Much like a real magazine story, right?

Oh, this is painful to even look at.

I don’t know why, but mine was published by a “Technicolor Publishers” out of Brussels, Belgium. The “copyright” is 1994, so it was either the second semester of ninth grade or it was the first semester of tenth. Either way, I was sixteen(ish) when the project was assigned. I was apparently in the throes of a hardcore ellipsis addiction, too.I must have been taking periods and shooting them straight into my arm, three at a time, every hour on the hour. I’m amazed I was able to break the habit and live to see adulthood.

The dedication cracks me up.

I would like to dedicate this book to all the people out there that hadn’t had a book dedicated to them before. This one’s for you!

What an unoriginal smartass, right?

The actual story is even better.

Sometimes I wonder if a human being can ever forgive themselves after they have done something so terrible that it could hurt someone... to death.

I wandered aimlessly for hours, with nothing but a pair of short shorts and a halter top on. I was freezing cold, but that didn’t matter. I needed to find Jami’s grave. I owed her that.

Jami had been my best friend, up until the night before she died. She had laughing brown eyes and pale blond-red hair, and skin so white and smooth that it seemed transparent. We’d never had a fight until that final day, when I spoke out the words that terminated our friendship - and Jami’s life.

It all started with Mike. At least, that’s what everyone else called him. Jami and I called him Michcael, and to us he wasn’t just another guy in out high school. He was our best friend, and maybe more if I hadn’t gone and ruined our triangle. I’d be lying to myself, Jami and the rest of the world if I say that I wasn’t in love with him.

Jami was too, I knew that, but neither of us spoke about it. It was as if the topic of our feelings was off limits to us. We talked about him as a friend, but never more than that. But deep in our hearts, we both knew the truth. We just never chose to acknowledge it.

I think it was the first day of ninth grade that I first started to noticed Michael... and Jami. They were always together, but it didn’t bother me... at first. In the beginning, we were all in a group, a tiny group, that only the three of us could belong. We hung out together, went everywhere together, and even ended up in many of the same classes together. But, very slowly and subtly, I ended up the odd man out. They started to go places, do special things that should have included me, by themselves. I couldn’t help but feel slightly jealous.

By the end of freshman year, getting into the summer, I was almost never with both of them at once. I hung out with Jami every day, she was my best friend, after all. I first started to notice that she was holding back on telling me things, keeping way too many secrets for a best friend. When I asked her what was wrong, she would get angry and snap, “It’s none of your business... forget it!” We started to drift away from each other, and she came closer to Michael. It irritated me. I felt so helpless standing there, watching m best friend and the guy I loved come crashing together only to leave me out in the cold.

One day, around the thirteenth of June, I was up in my bedroom, reading the latest copy of Cosmopolitan. There was a funny article on page 201 called How to Fix a Droopy Sex Life, and I was sitting on my bed having a good laugh over it. I remember wishing that Jami was there to share it too, but she was probably out with Michael.

A knock on the front door upstairs snapped my attention back to the real world. I nimbly jumped off of my bed and thundered up the stairs, throwing the door open while I gasped desperately for air.

I threw open the door and said, trying to catch my breath, “Yes?”

“Andi?” It was Jami... and Michael. They had such happy smiles on their faces that I instantly got jealous. Overwhelmingly jealous.

I felt left out even though I was standing right there. The feeling, how common it may be, is unexplainable.

“What do you guys want?” I hoped I didn’t sound too upset or anything. I didn’t want to start a fight.

“What’s your problem, Andi?” Michael asked me. I guess I did sound a little bit ticked off. “We just came over to say hi.”

“Oh.” Now I felt really stupid. I motioned towards the house. “Want to come in and get a drink or something?”

“I will.” Jami wiped off her forehead. She looked as if she had been running. “I need a drink so bad.”

“I’ll stay out here,” Michael said.

Once we were inside, things started to go downhill. Jami knew me too well for too long to let my mood swing go by unnoticed. “Andi, what’s wrong with you? Are you mad at me... or Michael?”

“You know very well what’s wrong.” My fingers were trembling. I felt so stupid but so angry at the same time. Oh, how I wish now that I could take back the words, all of them, that I said that day. I just wish I could erase the whole day.

“No, I don’t.” She didn’t get it. “Does it have something to do with us?”

“It depends on what you call ‘us’.”

“I don’t get it.” Wow, I was right.

“Oh, too bad. Poor baby Jami. Why don’t you go talk to Michael about it?”

“That’s low, Andi. You know how much I like him.”

“You never told me how you felt. You never talk me to me at all anymore.”

“You’ve been such a skank that I can’t. I don’t understand why, either.”

“Go away, Jami.”


“Go away.”


“I don’t want to talk to you.”

“I’m sorry.”

“If you were really sorry you wouldn’t have stolen him.”

“I didn’t steal him - he was never yours.”

I glared at her with anger burning in my eyes. “He wasn’t yours either.”

“Why can’t we all just be friends?”

“Because I don’t want to be your friend anymore - or Michael’s.”

“We’ve known each other for years, Andi. You can’t just let it go all of a sudden.” She sounded desperate.

I didn’t know what I was saying. It just came out so fast. “Oh, yes I can. You hurt me, Jami.”

“Fine, have it that way,” she said as she left the house. She never even got her drink.

I sat and read magazines and watched movies all day long. The sun started to come down when the phone in my bedroom started to ring. I thought maybe it was Jami. I’d thought long and hard about how I’d treated her and decided that no guy would ever come between us. If she wanted to go out with Michael, that was find with me. I was sure that there was a way that we could all be friends. “Hello?” I said cautiously into the phone. Maybe she didn’t want to be friends.


“Yes?” It didn’t sound like Jami. In fact, it sounded a lot like her mother.

There was a lot of sniffling on the other end of the phone. It sounded as if she had been crying. “Jami - Jami... Andi...” She sighed. “Jami is dead.”

It couldn’t be true! I knew it had to be a prank all. “No...”

My voice was choked as the tears slid down. Jami’s mother would never lie to me. As soon as I could talk again, I said, “How? Why?”

“She and Mike were swimming at the little cove about five miles from here when the tide came in. Jami caught her foot under a rock and drowned. Oh, God, my daughter, my poor baby...” Her voice faded as she started to sob. “Why Jami, why my little girl?” I felt my throat closing in on me. “She was so young, too young for what happened. Why Jami? Anyone but my little firl!” I closed my eyes, but that helped very little. Explosions like firecrackers danced behind my eyelids.

Suddenly images came to me, still-motion pictures of her in pigtails, of her in her too-big overalls, giggling. I saw her when she had hardly any teeth and a pocketful of quarters, grinning because the tooth fairy had arrived. Then I saw her as she was eight hours ago, her face mixed with anger and sorrow. The tears welled up in my eyes. I could still hear Jami’s mom talking, but I couldn’t bear it. The phone dropped out of my hand and into its cradle, cutting off her bother’s anguished cries.

Six months later, after the pain had dulled to a faint throbbing inside me and the tears had dried up, I walked into the graveyard with a bouquet of roses in my hands. Finally, after two hours of searching, I found her tiny headstone. It was smooth and black with Jami’s picture embedded in the lacquer. I felt the old familiar tears search their way up to my eyes, and they fell in such a torrent that I could hardly even see. “Jami,” I whispered, “I’m so sorry.” I dropped the flowers down on her grave. Her picture seemed to be smiling at me, as if our fight had never happened. But I knew better. It had occurred, and the guilt could very well rot me inside out forever. “I’m so, so sorry,” I whispered again. Then I turned and walked towards the graveyard gates. I could swear on the way out I heard these words float on the breeze as I left -

It’s okay, it’s okay...

There you go. Fifteen hundred words of vintage Jessica. Bonus points for for the irony-free usage of the word "skank."

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