What happened during the fire?
The sky painted orange and speckled with sunset,
Those flames lapping at the sloped ceilings,
The walls ready to burst with yet more heat,
More ash and debris to smother the air,
What happened inside the smoke?
As it curled like a snake around the room,
The world stifling and scalding, the ember-arrows flying fast,
What happened inside the haze?
As everything went rainbow with red,
And the burning blurred all that was?
What was lost in the blaze?
As windows shattered and screams were let loose?
What was said in the shrieks?
As souls cried for mercy and lovers, each other,
What happened when it was silent?
The crackling of warmth and the groaning of wood the only sounds,
The shouts choked by the acid air, the world brilliant and dark,
And so terribly bright.
What happened during the cold?
In the rains and snows that chilled the glow,
Too late to stop this treacherous, beautiful thing, too late to save the victims,
But arriving just in time to slip ice over gray skeletons and melted hearts,
Just in time to freeze the chaos forever,
So that people would stop, and look upon this place, and wonder,
What happened during the fire
but never know.
On the night of August 29th 2013, I found out one of my best friends had died. This scenario had often played out in my nightmares, but I never imagined it happening in real life. The Marin County sheriff declared that my friend, who I had seen laughing and smiling a mere four days earlier, had been found dead; washed up from the water underneath the Golden Gate Bridge like a seashell washed up onto shore. She was beautiful, but cracked and chipped from life’s thunderous waves.
She had the biggest smile in the room, the most creative costume at Halloween, and the loudest laugh. She will live on forever in beautiful memories and pictures; and, she will look down on me and other loved ones as the brightest star in the sky.
The road ahead will be full of sleeplessness nights and broken hearts; especially rough for myself and others affected. However, this piece of writing I constructed a few days after her passing is a fundamental step in my personal healing process. I share it with you today in the hopes of touching or helping even one person realize that there is nothing more valuable or worth saving than your own life.
There must be many reasons for a person to take their own life; I can’t imagine it being just one. But maybe there was one thing that threw you over the edge. One event that formulated the feeling that you just couldn’t take it any more. Like if you received a ticket from accidentally running a red light, or the server gave you the wrong order at Jamba Juice. Maybe you had a bad dream that put you in an especially depressed mood, or you earned a low grade on a test. Your brother yelled at you for taking too long to get ready in the morning. You couldn’t pay for lunch because you forgot your money. The parking space you always snag was taken. Your pen ran out of ink in class and no one had an extra pen. Your biking wound contracted an infection. You ate a spoonful of yogurt in the morning, only to realize that it had been molding for months. Your asshole boss told you that your method of bagging groceries was stupid. Your mom told you that if you didn’t study for the SATs you were stupid. Your counselor told you if you didn’t take five AP classes you were stupid. You convinced yourself that you were stupid. You opened up a starburst packet only to find the absence of your favorite flavor: orange. You pressed “seek stations” on the radio and the Backstreet Boys came on- what the heck was this world coming to? You looked in the mirror and thought that you looked fat. You came home from school and saw that your fly had been down all day and no one had cared enough to tell you. You thought that meant no one cared about you. You thought back to last time you saw me; I was drunk, and didn’t even say goodbye. You thought that meant I didn’t care. Maybe that’s why you jumped.
You were wrong, I did care. See, while you were stuck remembering all the shitty times, you must have forgotten to think of all the reasons NOT to jump. You forgot all the good. Maybe if you’d remember that time you found a four leaved clover. Or when you successfully slack-lined three feet. Or when you beat all of us at arm wrestles, despite being less than one hundred pounds. Your last kiss. When you walked down the street and some guy wolf whistled and you blushed. You looked in the mirror at prom and finally saw yourself the way we saw you: beautiful. You hung out with all of us in an Elf Costume because you thought it was comfortable, and we called you a goon. You played dress up one random afternoon at my house, and we acted like four year olds in ABBA costumes. You laughed for more than half an hour when I cooked the worst pasta imaginable while backpacking in the Sierras. You tried the pasta and spit it out and almost threw up. You were in hysterics when we had to eat it all. You took me on my first mountain bike ride, and convinced me that five miles an hour was not even that slow. We went on a ride after school and our friend flew across the trail and sprained her wrist: but, we still rode down Tenderfoot. You kicked ass at nationals. You earned three A+s in a row on essays you wrote. You were given your own horse, and absolutely adored it. You drove your car for the first time. You had us all over for a pool party and we ate ridiculous amounts of chocolate cake. Your family’s reminders that they loved you. Our continuous never-ending love for you.
Maybe you had chemical imbalances in your brain that prevented you from seeing the good. Maybe you had deep emotional wounds that none of us knew about, or you suffered through a secret traumatic event. Maybe it was all of this and more. I only wish that I had known. If best friends are meant to tell each other everything, then why did you stay quiet? Why did you suffer alone?
If only I had told you my story. I have been there. I know what it feels like. Just a few months earlier, only a mile away from you. The wind whipped around me; so strong that I started to lose my sense of balance. I half-hoped that I would just fall and not have to make the decision. My tears flew around my head, raining on the rocks below. I stood at the edge, and decided that if no one came and looked for me, if no one noticed I was gone, then no one cared if I died. I braced myself to jump. Demons surrounded my mind and refused to move. A dark abyss flooded my vision. A creeping sense of shadowy impulse clasped my body in ways I cannot put into words. I squeezed my eyes shut in the hopes of fighting the darkness. Reasons flooded my mind; reasons of betrayal. Reasons of loneliness. Reasons of pain. Reasons of isolation. Reasons flooded into my brain like a flushing river from a broken dam.
I opened my eyes, and for the first time in over half an hour I realized where I was. Looking out on the desert landscape, my eyes followed the silhouetted figure of a giant, far away rock structure and noticed the prickles on a nearby cactus. The more I noticed in the land around me, the less dark my world seemed. And then, something changed. By some miracle, a fleeting thought brushed through my mind. But there’s so much I want to see. I then thought of my upcoming gap year, my dreams of changing the lives of sick children with music therapy, my passion for reading and learning. I forced myself to start naming countries that I wanted to see, foods I wanted to try, and people I wanted to meet. I pictured my future wedding and the looks on my parent’s faces upon seeing their first grandchild. I forced myself to think of everything I would miss out on. My demon’s surrendered.
I was able to do what you were not. I was able to see what beauty there is in this world and force the darkness away. If only I could go back in time and show you how. You were so strong, but not strong enough to do it alone. I will always regret that I didn’t tell my story sooner so you could have fought the darkness. I wish you understood that suicide is a permanent fix to temporary feelings. There is so much more our world has to offer; beauty, wonder, elegance, excitement, first impressions, last impressions, relationships, hard work, opinions, wind chimes, ferry rides, fish tanks, s’mores, rideshares, rainy days, bike rides, vibrant cultures, stunning views, train rides, sunrises, sunsets, discovery, music, happiness, heartbreak, growth, learning, dreams, imagination, and love.
See, there may be many reasons to commit suicide. But there are infinite reasons to stay alive.
[Editor's note: If you, or someone you know, is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and/or seek professional help immediately.]
His name was Edward Collins. I absolutely adored him. I mean like staying-up-until-three-thinking-of-baby-names adore. It takes a lot of energy to think about someone this constantly. Your fingers get cramped after writing too many Letters-Not-Sent. You get headaches a lot when you spend hours politely browsing through their Facebook history from the past three years.
I was sitting in the locker room trying to guess what he would be wearing when I saw him during our 1st period together which was PE until the girl who’s locker was right next to mine poked me in the shoulder and asked me if I was okay. This was an appropriate question considering that I had been staring at my black-screened iPhone for about seven minutes and was starting to drool.
I cleared out of the locker room along with all the other girls who had PE, leaving behind the stragglers who hadn’t gotten dressed yet. As soon as I stepped out I saw him. Standing there, with the morning sun shining down on him, enhancing his already built shoulders and prominent jaw and shining a new light on a face that I could lose myself in for hours at an end. He was wearing his freshly-washed Shilo Creek High PE clothes, I should’ve guessed that’s what he’d wear. Once I realized that I had been standing still staring at him for quite a bit now, I rushed into the gym and sat on the floor waiting for the teacher to take attendance then excuse us to play dodgeball or ultimate team handball or whatever silly sport he had for us.
The teacher chose ultimate team handball as the game of the day and we where all put onto teams, I was heartbroken when I wasn’t put on Edward’s team. But once the games stated I saw him standing in the corner with his friends and went over to see him. I slowly walked over to them, and with a combination of shyness and sexiness that I had perfected after three long years of public high school I asked if I could talk to Edward in private. His friends scattered, shooting looks at me then grinning at Edward.
He started talking about how his dog got mad cow disease and foamed from the lips for about 5 hours then died over the weekend, but I could barely hear what he was saying. All I could do was piece together the vibrations and tone in his voice and shiver under the influence of his beautiful voice.
He paused to sneeze.
I took the opportunity to pull a kitchen knife out of my bra and jam it in his throat in one fluid motion, then catch his body as the life quickly faded from him and drag him behind a mat before anyone saw what I had done. I snapped a selfie with his body then ran to the teacher asking if I could be excused to go to the bathroom. They probably wouldn’t find his body until the blood started to pool and stream out from under the mat. Flowing, trying to escape from the host it had lost. I was about forty yards away from the school when I heard screams and alarms beginning to go off. I sighed, knowing his voice wasn’t a part of the horrific screams coming from the gym. I would totally kill so I could hear drone on about his dead dog again.
by Alex Price
Five Doctors poured over me all at once as I entered the emergency room. Poking, prodding, stitching, and doing other things that they’re paid to do. Why you might ask? Why am I lying on a doctor’s bed, mangled, broken, and bleeding from all parts of my body, even the one part that no hands could ever touch? Well some dumbass going 70 down highway 101 bumped into me while I was trying to cross the street. Hah. I wish that was how it went. Then I might be able to blame someone else other than myself and my close friend Mr. Daniels. Then I might actually win a lawsuit and get some money off of the jackass who hit me in his Lexus. If I survive.
“Doctor, do you think he’ll make it?” one of the nurses whispered standing a little too close to the doctor. God that was fucking cliche. Please don’t let me die like this. Please don’t let me die surrounded by people who probably studied for medical school by re-watching Grey’s Anatomy and House. Silence. I try and open my eyes and see what had happened, but I couldn’t. Then all of a sudden I was dreaming. I was looking around the doctor’s room and everyone else who had been in the room was on the ground covered in blood. A new doctor walked in. He whore all white and he was covered in what I guessed was the blood of the other doctors. Every inch of his skin was black, not African American black, I mean black you could barely tell any facial features from looking at him head on he was so black. He was absent of all color, absent of life. I was screaming in my head. Dying to be free. I tried to move, but I couldn’t. It felt like I was buried under ten tons of dirt. He stood by my side and took my hands in his and held them in the air for what seemed like eternity. Then it was suddenly over and I could, for lack of better description, feel my soul leaving my body and transitioning into yet another dream relm. I felt myself floating. Like in water, but I wasn’t in water. I was floating in myself. I started feeling the floating sensation leaving, replaced by solid ground beneath my feet, but there was still nothing around me but dark and empty space. Then two doors slowly appeared in front of me. It seemed they where absent of any color, if possible, it was like they where transparent without being see through. As I was contemplating opening one, the first began to glow. This glowing light coming out of the edges of the first door was the exact opposite of the color of the doors, it seemed like it was every color at once but still no color at all. What a trip. My natural curiosity compelled me to open that one. And I did. And I guess that’s when I started my new life as a dead person.
Prompt: Lock. Unlock. Lock. Unlock. Lock.
BEFORE THE FACT
Lock. Unlock. Lock. Unlock. Lock
He always locks the door three times. Everything in threes.
Doctor Simone said it was OCD, but he firmly believes that number three is magic.
He turns away from the door.
Looks right. Left. Up. Never down.
He walks down the hallway and down the stairs. Three flights.
He lives in apartment three hundred and thirty three on floor three on third street.
He fought hard for that apartment; thirty years actually.
He walks out to his car. A 2003 Audi.
He puts the key in the ignition. On. Off. On. Off. On. Always three times.
Often times favorite numbers are used in name games or as an icebreaker; they seem to be a normal thing.
So he always wonders why people stare at his routines.
His favorite number just happens to be three.
He pulls out of the driveway.
He can’t think of the last time he went on a blind date with a women. A few years, “probably three,” he thought.
He pulls up to the restaurant and parks. He only turns his car off once because turning a car off is a negative; he never does anything negative three times.
He steps out and crosses the street. He looks into the venue. “Nice place,” he remarks.
He steps inside and gives his name to the hostess, “Gregory Timothy Sivari.”
AFTER THE FACT
A few minutes later a beautiful chestnut haired women saunters to his table.
He stands and holds out his hand.
“Gregory Timothy Sivari,” he smiles.
“Sarah Jessup,” she doesn’t.
“Please sit. Nice to meet you. How was the drive?”
“You too. Beautiful but busy.”
“Seattle sure is beautiful. Lived here my whole life. What about you?”
“I moved here when I was twelve. It was hard.”
“Wow, that must of been hard. Seventh grade was a challenge. Have you stayed here since then?”
“Yes I have. Except college.”
“Where did you go? I loved my college. Did you like it?”
“Loved it. Portland.”
“Awesome. Fun City. Which college?”
“Lewis and Clark. You?”
“Cornish School of the Arts. Drama Geek. Guilty!”
“Book geek. Guilty.”
“Favorite book? Mines Catcher in the Rye. So much emotion.”
“Great Gatsby. Classic.”
“Any pets? Dog person? Cat person?”
“Dog person. Yellow lab.”
“Cute! I’m a dog person too. What their name?”
“Kitty… I like a little irony.”
“…Do you have a favorite number? I know its a weird question. But its important to me.”
“Yes I do. What’s yours?”
He took a deep breath.
“Three.” He didn’t need to finish his triplets when he was saying his own number.
She smiled, “two.” She didn’t either.
Oh, we’re halfway there
We reach the middle. Someone once said, when you are halfway through a forest, you have the same distance whether you go forwards or back; It is just your decision as to the direction you go from there. Of course, we don’t know for certain how long is halfway. Then again; what is the point of certainty. We glance at each other. Nod. Keep running. Through the willow trees and under the brush. Over the knobby root. I trip and bring you down with me. We stand up again and stumble before continuing our journey. Together. We push through a clump of poison oak; it can’t hurt us now. Physical pain doesn’t exist while travelling in the mind. We stumble through a bramble. Thorns rip our skin, but we continue. Blood drips off our body and falls on the ground, and the wounds heal like an invisible bandaid covering our flesh. We emerge. Our eyes are graced with a beautiful sight. We stand atop a cliff face jagging out on the land below. Green, lush, vibrant; the natural wonder leaves us gobsmacked.
Living on a prayer
We are the angels and the land is Earth. It is teeming with potential; it just needs rulers. We close our eyes and listen. “Look for the silence,” he said. No word spoken, no noise made, he said. Find it, he said. We found it. We know what to do next. I turn to you. I wink.
Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear.
We are at peace; no, we are peace. We jump, we soar, we fly, we live, We cut through the clouds. We burst through the light. We break sound barriers and light barriers. We are the opposite of truth and yet we hold no lies. We hold nothing. We are nothing but uncertainty and everything besides a definition. We are peace.
Living on a prayer..
Living on a prayer.
I was born in a large warehouse to my father, Dr. Plastic, and my mother, Ms. Mold. They sent me off to finishing school when I was only a few minutes old, after a very short discussion. Throughout my education, I learned, after many nips, tucks, paints, and carving, what it meant to be truly beautiful. When I was done improving myself, my family and teachers sent me off in the real world. However, everything was not as nice as I thought it would be. As I gazed into the butt-ugly face of my transportation driver, I knew that I was going to have to establish myself as Queen of this world. I mean seriously, the dude wasn’t even blonde.
Many different people handled me during my travels and none of them were anywhere near as perfect that I was. Actually, there was this one girl, but she wasn’t even proportionally correct; she was huge, had flat heel-less feet, and her boobs weren’t bigger than her head!
Finally, this one fat-ass dropped me off at my new home, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had arrived. My future was gleaming. I was on the way to stardom. I looked up at a large sign that read, “Toys R Us.” I didn’t know why they spelled “are” wrong. The only reason for the horrible spelling I could come up with is that the unattractive people must also be damn stupid.
When I arrived, this asshole named Cart made me get on him. Before I knew it, all these other girls were on top of my travelling case. They will soon figure out that I belong on top, I thought. Cart took me to meet a lady called Shelf. I liked Shelf because she knew her place. She had respect for her superiors. When I told her that I wanted to be in front of the other girls, she collapsed to the ground, so that the other girls would be reorganized into place and I could be “Front Bitch”.
A couple days later, I was complaining while standing on Shelf. “Why has noone come to take me home yet?” I whined. But she told me that no kids come during school days. Apparently people normally came on the weekends and would pick me up then. I hoped that I live with an aesthetically pleasing family. Because lets be real, I am a very multitalented person: I am doll-certified as a nurse, fashionista, doctor, teacher, bathing suit model, singer, celebrity, camper, and lawyer. I deserve it.
She had grown to love the dark. Grown to love her dark mornings and dark evenings, dipped in black and glazed over with the familiar buzz of everything around her. All she knew was black. Her reds and yellows and violets were black. So were her sunsets, pink balloons and front yard full of sunflowers and marigolds. And yet, she had grown accustomed to her black curtains. She was used to hearing only the sounds of voices and the touch of the gentle world around her.
Sometimes, if she shined her father’s flashlight from under the sink and pointed it at her eyes, her black curtain would lift ever slightly, and become a lighter dark. This lighter dark was called “grey.” Black and grey. This was her pallet, and she had grown to find comfort in her boat, floating through her sea of darkness.
Her parents didn’t want her to go to school like all the other kids who could see the differences between their reds and yellows and violets. “It’d be difficult. You don’t want that. There are others options.” Options the girl didn’t want to pursue. She knew she could battle the light, live in her speck of dark and live amongst those who could see and experience what she heard and what she touched.
She asked her mother what she looked like once, reaching out to touch her mother’s face, then her own, running her fingers from her forehead to her chin. “Well, you’re beautiful,” her mother replied, touching her daughter’s hand.
“What color is that?” asked the girl.
At night, she was told the world mimicked her black curtains. The light was extinguished from the sky and replaced with her sea of black. At night the girl didn’t feel like was missing out. At last, the rest of the word experienced what she experienced, felt what she felt, and saw what she saw.