My dad looks relieved. “Of course not. Go.” He is glad I’m going, and I’m glad I’m going. It’s easier this way, because otherwise we might all have to face each other and Eleanor and this thing that has happened with Finch. In that moment, I’m thankful I’m not a parent and I wonder if I ever will be. What a terrible feeling to love someone and not be able to help them.
Actually, I know exactly how that feels.
* * *
At an all-school assembly the second Thursday after Finch’s funeral, they bring in a martial arts expert from Indianapolis to talk to us about safety and how to defend ourselves, as if suicide is something that might attack us on the street, and then they show us this film about teenagers on drugs. Before they turn off the lights, Principal Wertz announces that some of the content is pretty graphic, but that it’s important we see the realities of drug use.
As the movie starts up, Charlie leans over and tells me the only reason they’re showing it is because there’s a rumor going around that Finch was on something, and this is why he died. The only people who know this isn’t true are Charlie, Brenda, and me.
When one of the teen actors overdoses, I walk out. Outside the auditorium, I throw up in one of the trash cans.
“Are you okay?” Amanda is sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall.
“I didn’t see you there.” I move away from the trash can.
“I couldn’t get through five minutes of that.”
I sit down on the floor, a couple of feet away from her. “What goes through your mind when you’re thinking about it?”
“Killing yourself. I want to know what that feels like, what a person thinks about. I want to know why.”
Amanda stares at her hands. “I can only tell you how I felt. Ugly. Disgusting. Stupid. Small. Worthless. Forgotten. It just feels like there’s no choice. Like it’s the most logical thing to do because what else is there? You think, ‘No will even miss me. They won’t know I’m gone. The world will go on, and it won’t matter that I’m not here. Maybe it’s better if I was never here.’ ”
“But you don’t feel that way all the time. I mean, you’re Amanda Monk. You’re popular. Your parents are nice to you. Your brothers are nice to you.” Everyone’s nice to you, I think, because they’re too afraid not to be.
She looks at me. “In those moments, none of it matters. It’s like that stuff is happening to someone else because all you feel is dark inside, and that darkness just kind of takes over. You don’t even really think about what might happen to the people you leave behind, because all you can think about is yourself.” She wraps her arms around her knees. “Did Finch ever see a doctor?”
“I don’t know.” There’s still so much I don’t know about him. I guess now I’ll never know it. “I don’t think his parents wanted to admit anything was wrong.”
“He was trying to fix himself because of you.”
I know she wants to make me feel better, but this only makes me feel worse.
The next day, in U.S. Geography, Mr. Black stands at the board, where he writes JUNE 4 and underlines it. “The time has come … people … your projects are due soon … so focus, focus … focus. Please come to … me with any … questions, otherwise I will … expect you to … turn them in on time … if not before.”
When the bell rings, he says, “I’d like to … talk to you, Violet.” I sit in my seat, next to the desk Finch once sat in, and wait. After the last person leaves, Mr. Black closes the door and sinks into his chair. “I wanted to check in … with you to see … if you need any help … and also to tell you … to feel free to turn in whatever … you have so far … I obviously … understand … that there are extenuating … circumstances.”
Extenuating Circumstances. That is me. That is Violet Markey. Poor forever-changed Violet and her Extenuating Circumstances. Must treat her carefully, because she is fragile and might break if expected to do the same as everyone else.
“Thanks, but I’m okay.” I can do this. I can show them I’m not some china doll, handle with care. I just wish Finch and I had pulled together all our wanderings, and maybe documented each one a little better. We were so busy being in the moment that I don’t have much to show for it except a half-filled notebook, a few pictures, and a marked-up map.
That evening, I torture myself by reading our Facebook messages, going back to the very beginning. And then, even though I know he’ll never read it, I open our notebook and start to write.
Letter to Someone Who Committed Suicide
by Violet Markey
Where are you? And why did you go? I guess I’ll never know this. Was it because I made you mad? Because I tried to help? Because I didn’t answer when you threw rocks at my window? What if I had answered? What would you have said to me? Would I have been able to talk you into staying or talk you out of doing what you did? Or would that have happened anyway?
Do you know my life is forever changed now? I used to think that was true because you came into it and showed me Indiana and, in doing that, forced me out of my room and into the world. Even when we weren’t wandering, even from the floor of your closet, you showed the world to me. I didn’t know that my life forever changing would be because you loved me and then left, and in such a final way.
So I guess there was no Great Manifesto after all, even though you made me believe there was. I guess there was only a school project.
I’ll never forgive you for leaving me. I just wish you could forgive me. You saved my life.
And, finally, I simply write: Why couldn’t I save yours?
I sit back, and above my desk are the storyboard Post-its for Germ. I’ve added a new category: Ask an Expert. My eyes move past these to the piece of paper that describes what the magazine is about. They rest on the last line: You start here.
In a minute, I am up and out of my seat and searching my room. At first, I can’t remember what I’ve done with the map. I feel this white rush of panic, which leaves me shaky, because what if I’ve lost it? It will be another piece of Finch, gone.
And then I find it in my bag, on my third time checking, as if it appeared out of thin air. I spread it out and look at the remaining points that are circled. There are five more places to see on my own. Finch has written numbers beside each one so that there’s a kind of order.