They say no one knows when they’re gonna die. That might be true, but I don’t think that applies to people that actually want to die, you know? I think they have their own pace, and so just kinda trudge through life with the rest of us. Then at some point they go ‘yeah, I’ve had enough’ and then just end it.
My name’s Shawn, by the way. Well actually, it’s Mackenzie, but no one calls me that anymore. Shawn’s my middle name. Mackenzie Shawn Nixon. I’m 17 and I play the drums. I guess I’m what you’d call a Norman. That means normal person, according to my neighbour Lilly. She says she’s a minus, whatever that is. Yeah, she’s kind of an oddball, but I guess she’s loveable in her own right.
Another thing, this is a journal. A journal. Not a diary. I’ve been trying it as a coping mechanism. Lilly suggested it to me; “Taking note of your thought processes in a visual space should help you better understand what you’re feeling and help you figure out how to deal with it.”
Or something like that. Sometimes you can’t tell with her. Ever since I met Nikki, I’ve been trying to understand people who are depressed or suffering from mental illnesses. It’s been hard, since you can’t really see what people are thinking, but I think I’ve got the general idea of it. It’s hell. I think it’s a miracle that people last as long as they do. It’s also weird how it goes totally unnoticed. I mean, it’s not all that obvious. I get that. But pay a little attention, dammit. Well here I am, emotionally writing into a journal. But it really does help, I guess. I’m not as angry as I used to be, and I guess I could always just set this thing on fire if I get tired of it.
So back to what I was saying earlier. I guess suicidal people had always existed, but I just never really understood them. Why would you want to kill yourself just because you’re sad? It all seemed really dumb to me. Of course, that was before I met Nikki. She helped me see beyond my ignorance. Nikki. You know, when I first met her I had no idea she’d become such an important part of my life.
It was a Tuesday; I was walking home from school. It was kinda late—coach had kept us longer than usual—and I decided to take a different route home. Partly because they’d finally fixed the roads so it was accessible, and partly because Lilly had called me a ‘predictable creature of habit’ and I wanted to prove her wrong. So anyway, that was when I saw her. I wondered why no one else had seen her before I got there. She was sitting at the edge of a building. It used to be an office building but the company that owned it had gone bankrupt so the building was basically abandoned.
She didn’t even seem scared or anything. There was a certain calmness about her. I didn’t know why, but I felt compelled to talk to her. So I made my way up to the top of the building. “Hey.” I called from behind her. It didn’t seem like she heard me so I went and sat beside her. “Whoa.” I muttered. Watching my legs dangle aimlessly so high above the ground was a little surreal. One bad sneeze and that was it for me. I turned to look at her and immediately forgot what I’d been planning to say to her.
She was looking down at the world below her. Her hair was tied up in a messy ponytail and it shook restlessly in the evening breeze. It shocked me more was that she was crying. Without making a sound, or even any movement, she just sat there gazing into nothing with tears running down her face.
“You uh, you come here to jump too?” I asked casually. I don’t know why I said that. It was my first time talking to a suicidal person and I had no idea how to go about it. What was I supposed to say?
“You here to talk me out of this?” she looked at me. Her eyes were soft, but they also contained a kind of contempt...disgust, more like.
“Thought I might give it a try,” I shrugged. “I mean, this can’t be the only way to fix your problems, right?”
“Depends on the problem,” she shrugged and wiped her eyes.
“Well, what’s the problem?” I asked. She looked at me again, this time she had a small smile. “Reality.” She said.
“Reality?” I repeated. “What-what do you mean?”
“Oh, you know,” she gestured randomly. “Life and stuff. It’s all meaningless.”
“Well that’s still no reason to just try to run away from your problems,” I said. “You should stay and fix them. Eventually things will get better and—”
“Do you really believe that, or are you just trying to convince me not to jump off this roof right now?” she smiled at me. Did I believe it? Of course I did. There were no problems that couldn’t be solved. I nodded at her and she laughed a little. “Okay, supposing I stay and fix my problems.” She said. “Then what? There’ll always be more problems. Always. You can’t avoid that.”
“If there’s more problems, then fix those too.” I said. “Keep at it.”
“But then I’ll just be solving problems forever, won’t I?” she gave a coy smile.
“No.” I said stubbornly. She wasn’t making any sense. “Things will get better down the line. Trust me.”
“Trust you?” she grinned. “I don’t even know who you are. For all I know, you could be some guy that likes to stalk people about to attempt suicide.”
“Well I’m Shawn, if that’ll get you to listen to reason.” I said. “Life gets better.”
“Well Shawn,” she dragged out my name a little. “No one ever survives up to that point. It’s always something. Heart attack, car accident, cancer…anything.” She shrugged. “Life is suicide, Shawn.”
“What do you mean?” I asked irritably. Her negativity was overwhelming. I didn’t see how anyone could go through life that way. I mean try looking at the bright side sometimes. Sheesh.
“Well think about it.” She said. “You’re born, you grow up, you get stuck in a loop between your family, job, and your bills, you finally retire when you’re too old to do anything fun, and then you die.”
I was getting sadder just talking to her. It was utterly ridiculous. “You know what?” I said as I got to my feet. “I don’t know what kind of problems you think you have, but if you really think this is the only way to solve them then you just go right ahead, ‘cause I’m done here.”
“But I thought you came up here to try to talking me out of this.” She called after me. I didn’t like the condescension in her voice. I turned around to face her. She was sitting cross-legged right at the edge of the roof, facing me directly. One sudden gust of wind and she was gone. It kind of lent a lot more recklessness to her than she probably originally had.
“Well I did,” I said. “But if you won’t let me help you then—”
“Then what, Shawn?” she dragged it out again. “You're just gonna let me die?” she smiled at me then and…the look in her eyes...they say the eyes are the window to the soul. In that moment I'd her soul was a cold and arid wasteland. I wasn’t sure there was much holding her here at this point.
“I don’t have to.” I decided to call her bluff. “You won’t do it. You can’t do it.”
“Can’t I?” she leaned backward a little. “You’re not gonna stop me, so why not?” Okay so she was probably more serious than she was letting on. I was starting to think this wasn’t just a bluff anymore. “B-because you’re scared.” I said uncertainly.
“Do I look scared, Shawn?” she tilted her head. She really didn’t, but I was just about ready to shit my pants. It was like if I said one wrong word, it’d send her right over the edge. And I really didn’t want that.
“Well no, but this is just typical behaviour.” I folded my arms. “You don’t really wanna die; you just want the pain to stop.”
“Maybe,” she sprung up to her feet suddenly and I took a hurried step forward. “But there’s no way to stop it. I might as well just—”
“No!” I took another step forward. “You really don’t have to do this. At least not right now. Think about all the people that are gonna miss you. What are they gonna think when you show up on the news as a suicide victim? You really wanna break all their hearts?”
Her smile faded completely and I was able to get a good look at her face. There was a fierce determination in her eyes. I wasn’t gonna be able to stop her unless she allowed it. “Can I tell you a secret, Shawn?” she asked.
“Sure, anything.” I nodded slowly.
“I haven’t been home in two days.” She said. The tears were back in her eyes. “No one’s even called to find out where I am. Not even a text or anything.” She scoffed. “I think they’ll be fine. I’m all out of reasons to stay here. Just let me go.”
“I won’t let you.” I took another step forward. I was about three feet away from her now. “If you need a reason then I’ll be that reason. Even if I’m not able to help you, I at least wanna understand you.” She seemed to consider my words for a while. I just stood there wondering where those words had come from.
“You really think you wanna do that?” she asked at last.
“Yes, I’m sure.” I said softly. “Just come down and we can—” The breeze suddenly picked up a little and she started to tip over. I basically jumped forward and caught her before she fell. What I hadn’t counted on was losing my footing and falling on my back. The girl rolled off me and just lay beside me, breathing softly. The stars had started to come out and the sun had set just enough to give the sky that lavender colour. It briefly crossed my mind that if given a choice, I’d stay there like that forever.
“Hey Shawn?” she called, almost damn near giving me a heart attack. “What were you about to say before I almost fell?”
“I was gonna say we could get some ice cream,” I replied.
“Ice cream?” she repeated. “What good would that do?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “But it always cheers me up when I’m down; I thought it might be worth a try.” She chuckled a bit and sat up to look at me. She had on a regular smile now and there was a kind of soft light in her eyes. “That sounds nice.” She said.
“Alright then, uh…” I laughed nervously. “I’m sorry, I still don’t know your name.”
“It’d be really weird if you did,” she giggled. “I’m Nikki. Nice to meet you.”