“You know what? Why don’t we just forget it? Why don’t I go by myself? I think I’d rather go alone anyway.” Through the phone, his voice sounds hollow, and then he hangs up on me.
I’m still staring at the phone when Ryan walks past with Suze Haines, hand in hand. “Everything okay?” he says.
“Everything’s fine,” I answer, wondering what on earth just happened.
Days 66 and 67
The Nest Houses aren’t there. It’s dark by the time I stop in downtown New Harmony, with its brightly painted buildings, and ask everyone I can find about where the houses have gone. Most people haven’t heard of them, but one old man tells me, “Sorry you came all this way. I’m afraid they been ate up by weather and the elements.”
Just like all of us. The Nest Houses have reached their life expectancy. I think of the mud nest we made for the cardinal, all those years ago, and wonder if it’s still there. I imagine his little bones in his little grave, and it is the saddest thought in the world.
At home, everyone is asleep. I go upstairs, and for a long time I look at myself in the bathroom mirror, and I actually disappear before my eyes.
I am disappearing. Maybe I’m already gone.
Instead of feeling panicked, I am fascinated, as if I’m a monkey in a lab. What makes the monkey turn invisible? And if you can’t see him, can you still touch him if you wave your hand around in the place where he used to be? I lay my hand on my chest, over my heart, and I can feel the flesh and bone and the hard, erratic beating of the organ that is keeping me alive.
I walk into my closet and shut the door. Inside, I try not to take up too much space or make any noise, because if I do, I may wake up the darkness, and I want the darkness to sleep. I’m careful when I breathe so as not to breathe too loudly. If I breathe too loudly, there’s no telling what the darkness will do to me or to Violet or to anyone I love.
The next morning I check messages on our home voicemail, the landline my mom and sisters and I share. There is one from Embryo for my mother, left yesterday afternoon. “Mrs. Finch, this is Robert Embry from Bartlett High. As you know, I’ve been counseling your son. I need to talk to you about Theodore. I’m afraid it’s extremely important. Please call me back.” He leaves the number.
I play the message two more times and then delete it.
Instead of going to school, I go back upstairs and into my closet, because if I leave, I will die. And then I remember that I’ve been expelled, so it’s not as if I can go to school anyway.
The best thing about the closet: no wide-open space. I sit very quietly and very still and am careful how I breathe.
A string of thoughts runs through my head like a song I can’t get rid of, over and over in the same order: I am broken. I am a fraud. I am impossible to love. It’s only a matter of time until Violet figures it out. You warned her. What does she want from you? You told her how it was.
Bipolar disorder, my mind says, labeling itself. Bipolar, bipolar, bipolar.
And then it starts all over again: I am broken. I am a fraud. I am impossible to love.…
I am quiet at dinner, but after Tell me what you learned today, Decca, Tell me what you learned today, Theodore, my mother and Decca are quiet too. No one notices that I am busy thinking. We eat in silence, and afterward, I find the sleeping pills in my mom’s medicine cabinet. I take the whole bottle back to my room and drop half the contents down my throat and then, in the bathroom, bend over the sink, washing them down. Let’s see what Cesare Pavese felt. Let’s see if there’s any valiant acclamation to this. I stretch out on the floor of my closet, the bottle in my hand. I try to imagine my body shutting down, little by little, going totally numb. I almost feel the heaviness coming over me, even though I know it’s too fast.
I can barely lift my head, and my feet seem miles away. Stay here, the pills say. Don’t move. Let us do our work.
It’s this haze of blackness that settles over me, like a fog, only darker. My body is pressed down by the black and the fog, into the floor. There’s no acclamation here. This is what it feels like to be asleep.
I force myself up and drag myself into the bathroom, where I stick my finger down my throat and throw up. Nothing much comes out, even though I just ate. I try again and again, and then I pull on my sneakers and run. My limbs are heavy, and I am running through quicksand, but I am breathing and determined.
I run my regular nighttime route, down National Road all the way to the hospital, but instead of passing it, I run across the parking lot. I push my limbs through the doors of the emergency room and say to the first person I see, “I swallowed pills and can’t get them out of me. Get them out of me.”
She lays a hand on my arm and says something to a man behind me. Her voice is cool and calm, as if she is used to people running in wanting their stomachs pumped, and then a man and another woman are leading me to a room.
I go black then, but I wake up sometime later and I feel empty but awake, and a woman comes in and, as if she reads my mind, says, “You’re awake, good. We’re going to need you to fill out some paperwork. We checked you for ID, but you didn’t have any on you.” She hands me a clipboard, and my hand is shaking as I take it from her.
The form is blank except for my name and age. Josh Raymond, age 17. I start to shake harder, and then I realize I’m laughing. Good one, Finch. You’re not dead yet.
Fact: Most suicides occur between the hours of noon and six p.m.
Guys with tattoos are more likely to kill themselves with guns.
People with brown eyes are more likely to choose hanging or poison.
Coffee drinkers are less likely to commit suicide than non–coffee drinkers.
I wait till the nurse is gone and then put on my clothes and stroll out of the room and down the stairs and out the door. No need to stick around here anymore. The next thing they’ll do is send someone in to look at me and ask me questions. Somehow they’ll find my parents, but if they don’t, they’ll bring out a stack of forms and calls will be made, and before you know it, I won’t be allowed to leave. They almost get me, but I’m too quick for them.
I’m too weak to run, so I walk all the way home.
Life Is Life meets on the grounds of the arboretum in a nearby Ohio town, which shall remain nameless. This isn’t a nature class, but a support group for teens who are thinking about, or have attempted, or have survived, suicide. I found it on the internet.