Thursday, January 21, 2016

Of Terrible Timing and Travesty II

Tuesday, January 12, it snowed like crazy. It was cold and icy and several counties in the state were closed. Not ours, though. I refreshed the "closing and dismissal announcements" page more times than I can count. "This must be broken," I muttered. "There's no way we have school today. There has to be at least a delay."

Nope.

By 7:30 I was at school, curled up with my head on the table in the cafeteria. My friends and I all talked about hoping for an early dismissal. The ones with phones kept checking the website page. Still no.

Jersey shuffled in, headphones on and hair in her face. She sat down at the table beside us, turning the chair to face us. "Don't you hope we get a two-hour early out?" I asked.

"I don't," said MK. "I don't wanna go home."

"Me neither," said Jersey. "Actually, I'm not either way."

"Why, where are you going?" Anne curiously looked up from her phone. Jersey shook her head. "Come on, tell us. Where?"

"Just not home." I saw her hand slip into her baby blue sweatshirt pocket. There was the pouch from yesterday. My breath hitched in my throat.

"No. Don't say that."

"She got it," said Jersey, nodding at me.

"I don't get it," said Anne. "Where are you going?" Jersey just shook her head again. Anne's voice became irritated. "I said, where are you going?"

"Six feet under," mumbled Jersey. Anne's eyes widened. It had clicked. I glanced to see if MK had noticed, but she was turned around talking to our other friends.


"Jersey, no! You can't." Anne swiped across her phone screen, unlocking it.

"Yes I can. It's my body. My choice. I'm just-- I'm tired. I'm done. I've tried. I've given hints to everybody I care about, and they ain't done nothing to stop it from happening." Ouch. Suddenly I remembered what must have been subtle hints: the stories, the consultation about quitting her honors classes, the things I had "accidentally" seen, the facial expressions, and-- no. The letters! Had they been... suicide notes? Had that been her cry for help? She had reached out to me, struggling to keep her footing on the cliff, and I had brushed her hand away.

"It's not your choice. It's God's. He put you on this earth for a reason." Anne was typing furiously on her phone. "I'm texting my mom. I'll text my stepmom, too, she'll come get you. She's right down there at the middle school."

The smile on Jersey's face was bitter and sickening. Almost... complacent. Like she had the upper hand here. "By then it'll be too late." She moved, and the blue pouch in her pocket rattled. The sound was all too familiar. Pills. At this point I started to panic. "You can't stop me." We tried every form of reason and bargaining imaginable. Jersey would not budge. She just smiled, the kind of smile you plaster on when you're trying not to cry. She took one of the notes out of the pouch as we talked, rereading it. "You know what, I don't want them to find this one on me." She ripped it violently, throwing away the fragments. In the end we convinced her to come to prayer circle with us. (Our Christian Fellowship Club meets every morning in the Guidance Counselors' office to pray.) I chattered the whole way there, trying to talk reason to the girl. "You can even come home with me tonight if you need to, my family loves y--" "No. No, Rebecca." I bit my tongue and tasted blood. Tears sprung, but that wasn't why.

"Any prayer requests?" Yes. YES. But how do I say this? I couldn't find words. The boy across from me stared in concern, watching my face scrunch up as I tried to repress tears. Every part of me but my mouth was screaming for help. I listened to the others announce their petty requests. Head colds, ingrown toenails, dying grandfather's friend's half-brother's wife's aunts, etc. Suddenly it all seemed so lame. Is this really all we meet every morning to pray for?

"Let's pray." We joined hands. Jersey's was so frail and weak, light as a songbird. She was trembling, terrified. I squeezed her hand reassuringly. She squeezed back with surprising strength and didn't release it until the last "amen" had been uttered. I walked with her to first period.

"Stop crying, you'll make it harder!"

"Good," I managed to cough out. "Don't do it."

"I have to."

"I won't let you." A strangled sob erupted, causing people nearby to stare.

"You can't stop me." Then why did you tell us you were planning to do it? We were outside my math classroom door. I stopped in the middle of the hallway, reaching for her. "Goodbye," she whispered.

"Bye. I love you." I let go reluctantly, then turned around and rushed the other way. Pushing, shoving, fighting the flow of traffic. Never had I felt so alone. So many faces, and I knew none of them. There was no one to turn to for advice; I was on my own. I took a moment to compose myself in the bathroom. My mind was jumbled chaos. If I can stop one heart from aching, I shall not live in vain. Not the time for poetry, Rebecca. You failed to save Jersey from herself. She's not dead yet! "No. No. No." Wait-- know. Someone needed to know.

I dashed back to math class, dumped my backpack, then speedwalked right past the surprised the substitute. With the weight on my back gone, I could run. And I did, straight to MK's history class. I waved her out into the hallway. The whole class gawked at me, but I was beyond caring. "Jersey was serious. See if Mrs. M will let you out. Come to guidance with me." Without questioning, MK asked, and we returned to the Guidance Office.

A note about my school's guidance office: it's a joke. They get paid to sit around, drink fancy coffees, and talk to a troubled kid or two in their lavishly decorated personal offices. Mostly people go there to skip class.

The secretary was on the phone as usual, chatting away like it was teatime. Several preppy girls surrounded her desk, looking bored. MK and I were unseen by any of them. I looked around for a guidance counselor, but there was no one. I shifted my weight from foot to foot, growing anxious. Finally one of them waddled in under three coats and a good number of scarves. (We'll call her Mrs. Bennet for the purposes of this story. P&P reference.)

"Mrs. Bennet-- Mrs. Bennet."

"Yes, dears?"

"We need to talk to you for a minute." When she didn't respond, I added, "Now."

"Give me a minute. Have a seat, girls." I could not. When she looked about situated, I walked into her little room uninvited.

"One of our friends is--"

"Have a seat, dear." I sat, irritated. I began again, and told her everything. Words tumbled out of my mouth unceremoniously. I stared at the flashy rings on her fingers, her boldly drawn-on features, and the heavy foundation line on her chin. A few grey hairs poked out of the dyed brown, bobbing as she nodded her head. Then she began talking a million miles a minute.

"Oh, yes, Jersey. You know I was just talking with her social worker-- you know she's a foster kid, right? Good-- we've been texting back and forth all week. I was supposed to meet with Jersey on Thursday, actually. Well, it's a good thing you've caught this. You did the right thing, girls. Jersey's got some good friends." Right. Sure. Okay. Good friends would have told someone at the first sign of depression. I suck. "You need passes back to class?"

"Um... yeah." Not that I would mind being late. It was a worthy cause. She scribbled on sticky notes and waved us out the door. MK wrapped me in a hug just outside. "It'll be okay. We'll figure it out." She said, squeezing. "Yeah," I mumbled, starting to cry again. I stumbled through the halls until I remembered where math class was.

All eyes were on me for a moment when I walked in, red-eyed and slump-shouldered. The boys at the back of the class exchanged glances. I thrust the note into the substitute's hands. "Here." My friends and I call this particular sub Santa Claus. He's short, round, jolly, white-bearded, and wears suspenders. In December he roams the halls in a Santa suit.

"Alrighty," said Santa. "You already have that packet they're working on?"

"Yeah." I sat without another word, pulling it out. The bell rang for second period. "You okay, Rebecca?" A girl I barely know patted my shoulder. "Yeah, thanks." I was thirty seconds into my worksheet when MK and Anne rushed in.

"Rebecca, what's Jersey's second period? We're gonna go find her."

"Um... I..." I knew this by heart, but I couldn't think right today. "I don't... know..." I stood up to clear my dizzy head and came around the table. "It's-- oh! Biology. She has honors biology. You know where that is, right?"

"Yeah." They were gone as quickly as they'd come. But since I was in a block class (two periods), I couldn't exactly leave at that moment. Santa Claus began teaching, and I blindly took notes. It's funny, really; he teaches us more than our actual teacher. She's frequently absent and he's always the sub. I enjoy Santa Claus's methods, but today I was not in the mood.

The lockdown siren went off.

The principal came on the intercom. "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a code blue medical emergency. Please follow all lockdown protocol like we practiced." My heart stopped. Jersey. They found her; it had to be. I'd been too late.

The classroom doors were locked, the window taped over, the lights dimmed. I turned around to find L looking at me in concern. As much as I wanted to, I couldn't just get up and tell her. "Are you kidding?" muttered the boy behind me. "How often are we going to have these drills?" It's not a drill! I wanted to scream. It's Jersey, I was too late.

"Are you okay? You understanding everything?" asked Santa. I realized I'd been staring at nothing for some time.

"Yeah, fine. Thanks," I lied. The phone rang, and he answered it. I listened attentively.

"Well, I'm not supposed to let anyone out during a lockdown--" A voice came over the loudspeakers.

"We are no longer in lockdown, thank you for your cooperation."

"-- alright then. I'll send her right down." He ended the call with a beep. "Rebecca Foy, to guidance."

"Thought so," I said. "Do I need a pass?"

"Nah, go ahead." As soon as the door closed behind me, I covered my mouth with my sleeve and sobbed. Pain doubled me over as I rested for a moment against the wall.  I was too late. She'd done it.

This fear was reassured when I saw a bawling MK, Anne, and Brandi as I entered the office.

Jersey was dead.

"Is she--"

"Now, she did take some pills, but they got here in time. She's over at the hospital right now, they took her over in an ambulance." Mrs. Bennet motioned out the window, where the hospital sat above the practice field. "What's important is that you girls caught it in time."

There was no sound in the room except crying for the next ten minutes. We cried into tissues and hands and each other. Mrs. Bennet let us, just smiling her awful smile. That's what she gets paid to do, I guess. After a while, she stood and held out her bedazzled hands. "Let's say a prayer." We joined hands. "Father God, we thank you for the life of Jersey. We pray that you watch out for her and keep her safe. Amen." The prayer was short and shallow, like Mrs. Bennet. "Are you girls ready to go back to class?" No, but we all nodded anyway.

What had happened was Jersey had never gone to second period. MK and Anne had gone there searching for her. Brandi, who has biology with Jersey, asked what they were doing and got just as worried as they were. She promised to keep an eye out. On the way back to class, MK and Anne happened to pass by Guidance, where Mrs. Bennet was going crazy. Jersey was lying on the couch, overdosed, the nurse was fluttering about, Jersey kept crying. "I'm sorry-- I'm sorry-- you're mad at me--" The nurse ran back to her office and told the girls to keep Jersey awake. Paramedics came and took her out on a stretcher. The code blue was called off, and Brandi and I had been called down.

Now I walked a sobbing MK and Anne back to class. The hallway was deserted, void of all sound except Anne's crying. Teachers looked out at us in concern, but no one stopped us. I left them at the Spanish II door and kept on my way. The principal (My friends and I call him Boris. Gee, I never realized all these code names we have for people would come in handy during blog posts.) met me around the corner.

"She be alright?" he asked. How did he know who I was? Out of sixteen hundred students-- oh, right. Not many people were roaming the hallways crying. That had to narrow it down a bit.

"Yeah. In time."

"Everything's okay. You did the right thing." Boris patted my shoulder with a calloused paw. I shrugged it off, annoyed. When would people stop saying that?

I spent the rest of second period unmoving, crying quietly on occasion. I was furious with the Guidance people. There had been a good half hour between Jersey's overdose and the time they'd found her. That was plenty of time to do something. But mostly I was raging at myself. You could have stopped it. She tried to let you know-- you did know! You ignored it! Such a failure. Santa Claus looked concerned, but I brushed him away every time he came near. I could feel L's eyes on me, but she was too shy to get up and come over. Everyone else pretended not to notice, or else didn't care.

"Yes! Two-hour early out!' exclaimed the girl near me. The class erupted in celebration. I still didn't move. Nothing felt worth being happy about anymore. Not without Jersey.

6 comments:

  1. OH OH OH MY GOSH *HUGS FOREVER AND EVER* Are you ok?! Is everything ok?!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Evie. <3 Yeah, it's alright now. I finally got some word on how and where she is. I'm writing a letter to her right now, actually. I think everything is going to work out ok. Time will tell. *hugs back*

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  2. oh my gosh, i'm so sorry about jersey and i hope everything's ok!

    xo
    emily

    p.s. i mean, this seems stupid, but the way you wrote this is amazing and gorgeous and so sad, i'm sorry.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Keep me updated on Jersey. The girls in my Bible Study and I are all praying hard for her.

    -SG

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wish you all the best!
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    ReplyDelete

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Love,
Rebecca :)