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Nice.. it was at times triggering, especially to those with faint heart. It deals with heavy homosexual topic.
23 April 2020 (21:55)
Amazing and beautiful book . Tells alot about alot its beautiful thank you
02 September 2020 (19:38)
This is such a beautiful book. And it shows us what most gay or lesbian people go through. Accepting yourself is easier than others accepting and l saw a life so different from mine and l wouod like to say that Michael Thomas Ford write an amazing book l give this book five stars ✨ l loved this book
07 September 2020 (14:07)
I genuinely loved this book ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
30 September 2020 (23:45)
this is a really good book , i personally would of loved if it had a few trigger warnings because of a few events in the story, with regards to highly graphic explaining of c*ts etc and the s*xual scenes can as well be harmfull to someone who has suffered from the same thing but all in all it was a good and emotional read.
22 December 2020 (11:45)
An awesome book, and more people should read it.. It dealt really well with uncomfortable/ heavy topics people don't usually talk much about. I absolutely loved it
19 January 2021 (11:23)
Mathias MT Shija
I prefers to make a references from different books according to my studies at Universty
24 January 2021 (09:56)
A very good book which dwells on more heavy topics,a very good read in which i highly recommend
25 January 2021 (04:50)
I Love that book.
It's interesting how it tells more about things people aren't used to read.
More people should read it.
It's interesting how it tells more about things people aren't used to read.
More people should read it.
30 January 2021 (09:01)
The name of the book might sound a little sketchy but trust me, it's amazing. Probably the best book I have ever read.
02 February 2021 (07:47)
I really enjoyed it :)
17 March 2021 (04:28)
The book is very interesting with the concept of homksexuality, and how being categorised under gay or lesbian can affect the life of a person. The book points out how parents should deal with such situation and how people who can not open up about themselves to be positive and follow their feelings, not because they want to be part of a society, but because they are who they are. People who are gay/ lesbian should learn to accept themselves as who they are and the communities around them should not be so stereotype about them.
The books is also like an awareness on the issue of homksexuality because at the last of its pages, it contains details of people who a person encountering such situation can contact.
Overall, the book has some dialogues that are very funny and very reasonable.
The books is also like an awareness on the issue of homksexuality because at the last of its pages, it contains details of people who a person encountering such situation can contact.
Overall, the book has some dialogues that are very funny and very reasonable.
23 March 2021 (07:31)
What is the end result of sucidide
22 April 2021 (22:37)
No words are enough to describe it....but still I'll try to describe it or else what's the point of this comment,right?
This book very cleanly shows us the faint line between ‘sane' and ‘insane'.
If you are a person with an affection for humour then you must go for it.
You are going to enjoy it a lot.
Have a great time reading it...(IDK why but I felt like the author while I wrote the last line...lol)
No words are enough to describe it....but still I'll try to describe it or else what's the point of this comment,right?
This book very cleanly shows us the faint line between ‘sane' and ‘insane'.
If you are a person with an affection for humour then you must go for it.
You are going to enjoy it a lot.
Have a great time reading it...(IDK why but I felt like the author while I wrote the last line...lol)
05 May 2021 (17:36)
I don't usually read these kind of books (with a hooked title written in a handwritten font) but this one was really, really good. (good enough to compel me to review, which i usually don't do.) The characters are well thought out and the random references of life tossed in make it extremely real. definitely one of the best books I've read recently. a fast read, 2-3 hrs
12 May 2021 (06:53)
this book was absolutely amazing i loved it so much, made me cry on multiple occasions 5/5 stars.
13 May 2021 (10:46)
Kinda made me very sad but it is an easy 5/5
16 May 2021 (06:41)
Lovely book, although I wish for a 2nd book
24 May 2021 (06:55)
A very good book..it may break you at some point of the story for sure.
26 May 2021 (22:24)
Wow this book made me laugh and cry at the same time. One of the best books I've ever read.
29 May 2021 (11:19)
Day 28 What happened tonight wasn’t a dream. I want it to be, but it wasn’t. It really happened. And now I feel worse than I did when they took me off the happy pill that first week. A lot worse. I almost feel the way I did the night I tried to, well, do what I did. I went to bed around eleven last night. Even though things were okay between us, I was still a little freaked out about what happened with Sadie, and I just wanted to sleep for a while and forget about it. You know how things always seem worse at night, and how in the morning they aren’t that bad? Well, that’s not always true. Not this time, anyway. I was dreaming. In my dream I was running along a street somewhere. It was nighttime, and the moon was full. The stars were all silver and shining, and it was warm, the perfect summer night. I was just running along. Then I spread my arms, like you do when you’re a kid and you’re pretending to be an airplane, and the wind lifted me into the sky. There I was, flying. It’s not like I’ve never had a flying dream before, but this was different. I felt like a kite, riding the wind and watching the town below me. It looked like a miniature city, all the lights twinkling and the cars moving around like fireflies. It was totally beautiful and peaceful, and I never wanted it to end. Then something happened. It was like the dream skipped a few frames, or someone hit the pause button in my brain. In my dream I started to fall back to earth. I woke up, and for a minute I thought I really had fallen. I didn’t know where I was or what was happening. That’s when I realized that someone was in the bed with me. There was a body stretched alongside mine, and the sheets and blankets were pulled back. The moon was shining in through the window, and I could see it reflected on bare skin. Someone was touching me. There was a hand between my legs, stroking me. And I was hard. “It’s okay,” a voice whispered in my ear. For a second, I thought it was Sadie, and that this time I might be able to go through with it; . But it wasn’t Sadie. It was Rankin. He was in my bed, naked, and he was jacking me off. It was so totally bizarre that for a minute I was sure I was still dreaming. But I felt his skin on mine, and his hand going up and down. I could even feel his breath where he was breathing against my neck. All I could say was, “What are you doing?” “Do you like it?” Rankin asked me. “Don’t,” I told him. But I couldn’t move. It was like I was frozen. For a minute I thought I was still dreaming, that I might wake up and be alone in my bed. I shut my eyes. Rankin stopped what he was doing and moved his hand up my belly. His fingers were rough, but they still tickled. When he rested his palm on my chest I could feel the calluses he has from playing ball. “Your heart is beating really fast,” he said. He moved his head closer to me and kissed my neck. I wanted to tell him to stop. I wanted to tell him to get out of my bed and out of my room. But it was like my voice was locked in my throat. I kept swallowing, trying to break through the block that was there, but nothing worked. Wake up, I told myself. Wake up wake up wake up wake up. “You can touch me if you want to,” said Rankin. My hands were at my sides, my right one pressed against Rankin’s stomach where he was lying next to me. I could feel his skin, and the muscle beneath it. He moved closer, and my fingertips touched skin and hair. I was so scared I couldn’t move. Mostly I wanted to be anywhere else, but part of me was really curious. He pushed himself against me. He was hard. I moved my hand, and my fingers wrapped around him. I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. Maybe I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t do it. I just pretended I was still dreaming. Rankin’s body tensed, then relaxed, and the two of us just stayed there like that for a while. I could feel the blood pumping through him, and I started moving my hand up and down him. He put his hand back between my legs and did the same thing. Neither of us said anything while we did it, but every so often Rankin would brush his lips against my neck. I don’t know how long we were there, but it felt like hours. Then I felt Rankin’s body stiffen and he groaned. My hand was covered in sticky heat, and he gripped me harder. A few seconds later I was done too. I didn’t know what to do afterward. Rankin sat up and wiped his hands on his T-shirt, which he’d thrown on the floor. Then he pulled his underwear on and left without saying anything. When he was gone, I put my hand to my nose. It was still sticky from him. I could smell Rankin on my fingers, a mix of sweat and something else I can’t really describe. I wiped my hand on the sheets to get it off, but the smell stayed in my nose, no matter how hard I breathed to clear it out. I tried to get back to sleep, but I couldn’t. Every time I closed my eyes I could feel Rankin touching me, feel his breath on my neck and his skin against mine. Why did I do that with him? Why did I let him stay? I don’t know why. But I did, and now I feel like crap. Dirty. Worst of all, I have to see my parents today. And I don’t even want to think about having to see Rankin later. Maybe he won’t say anything and we can pretend it never happened. He’s good at that, right? And maybe it didn’t happen. Maybe it was all a sick dream, and I’ll still wake up. Day 08 This is my one-week anniversary at Club Meds. Instead of a party, my big surprise was that my parents came to see me. Or they came because someone told them to, at least. Anyway, when I walked into Cat Poop’s office for what I thought was going to be my usual brain-picking session, there they were. At first I thought I was seeing things, or that two people who just happened to look like my parents were there for their own session and I was interrupting. But it was them. They were sitting on the couch. When she saw me, my mother stood up and started to come toward me, but then stopped. I think maybe Cat Poop had told her not to make any sudden movements because they might scare me, like I’m a wild animal or something, because she kept looking at him and then at me. Finally she just said, “Hello, Jeff,” and sat down again next to my father. I sat in the big chair across from the couch and didn’t say anything. I mean, really, what do you say to your parents when the last time they saw you, you were practically dead and they had to call the paramedics? It’s not exactly your typical “How was school today?” kind of thing. And it’s not like we’ve ever been into the whole sharing thing, anyway. We’re not huggers. “Jeff, is there anything you would like to say to your parents?” Cat Poop said when we’d all been quiet for what seemed like a hundred years. Is there anything I’d like to say to them? I thought. Yeah, there was. Why didn’t you just let me die?, for starters. Why’d you have to come home early from your stupid party? Why’d you have to put me in this place with a bunch of whack-jobs? But what I actually said was, “What did you tell everyone?” My mother rubbed her hands together. “We told Amanda that you were in the hospital,” she said. “We didn’t tell her why.” “She’s thirteen, not four,” I said. “She must have asked.” I know my sister. She’s got to know everything about everyone. She can tell you which girl at school just got her period for the first time and who’s thinking about asking who to the dance. There was no way she hadn’t asked them what was going on. My mom looked at my dad, who looked at the floor. “We told your sister you were having some . . . problems,” he said. I laughed. I don’t know why it was funny to me that they hadn’t told Amanda the truth, but it was. And I knew they were lying about what they did tell her. They must have told her something else. I wondered what she thought was wrong with me. Cancer? A brain tumor? I couldn’t wait to find out. “What about everybody else?” I asked my parents. “What did you tell my school?” “We told them you were going to be out for a while,” my dad said. “That’s all.” “Haven’t any of my friends called to find out what’s up?” “Amanda has been letting them know that you’re sick,” said my mother. “Sick,” I repeated. So that’s how they thought of me, as being sick. Poor little Jeff, sick and in the hospital while the doctors try to figure out what’s wrong with him. The idea of everyone feeling sorry for me made me angry. “What about Allie?” I asked, surprising myself. “She hasn’t called,” my mother said. I didn’t say anything. “Is there anything the two of you would like to say to Jeff?” Cat Poop asked my parents. “We love you,” my mother said. I nodded. Like I said before, Hallmark moments aren’t my style. “And we want you to get better,” added my father. “So you can come home.” I won’t bore you with the rest. There really isn’t much more, anyway. Basically, we all sat there for forty-five minutes not saying anything unless the doc made us. Then there was this awkward good-bye part where my mother broke the no-hugging rule and my father patted me on the back. Then they left. Cat Poop had me stay, and when he came back from showing my parents out he asked me how I felt things had gone. “You could have warned me,” I said. “Why?” he asked. “Did you feel threatened by seeing them?” “No,” I told him. “I just wasn’t expecting it, is all.” “Were you embarrassed?” “It’s not like the last time I saw them I was winning the national spelling bee or making the game-winning touchdown or anything,” I said. “Who’s Allie?” he asked. “What?” I said, pretending not to hear him, and kicking myself for saying her name. Of course he was going to jump on that. “Allie,” he repeated. “You asked your parents if Allie had called to ask about you.” “Oh, right. Allie. She’s a friend from school.” “Tell me about her.” I shrugged. “There’s not much to tell,” I said, hoping I sounded casual about it. “She’s just a girl I’ve been friends with for a while.” “But it’s important for you to know that she cares what’s happened to you.” He said it like it was a fact, not a question. I didn’t want to answer him. But he was waiting for me to say something. “She and I were kind of going out,” I said finally. “God, you’re nosy. You’re worse than my sister.” Cat Poop wrote something on his pad, but didn’t say anything. I couldn’t tell whether he believed me or not. I wondered how much time was left in our session and prayed it wasn’t much. As if he could read my mind, he put his pen down. “That’s all for today,” he said. “We’ll talk more tomorrow. Oh, and your parents will be coming once a week from now on, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.” I got out of there as fast as I could, and I’ve been feeling weird the rest of the day. I don’t know why, exactly. Maybe because at first I thought getting out of this place would be a piece of cake. But I think I might have been wrong. Day 14 My bandages came off today. I didn’t know they were coming off, so it was a little bit of a shock when Goody Two-shoes called me into the medical room after breakfast and pulled out her scissors. And it was even more of a shock when she unwrapped the gauze and I saw the stitches. I don’t know what I thought would be there—maybe some tape or something—but there were little black crisscrosses along my wrists, like tiny railroad tracks. Or animal prints. It looked like a mouse had run across my arm with muddy feet. The stitches came out, too. That hurt a little, because the skin had healed around them. But Goody’s a whiz with her scissors and tweezers, and she got them out pretty quickly. Now I just have these reddish scars there. I guess I always will, although Goody says they’ll fade over time. I don’t know if I want them to fade. That probably sounds totally freaky, but part of me doesn’t want to forget what it felt like, even though it hurt. If I forget about the pain, I might also forget that it was a really stupid idea to do it in the first place. My mother told me once that having babies is like that. I guess she was in labor for something like sixteen hours when she had me. Also, it was the middle of July, and being super fat in the hottest part of the year wasn’t her idea of fun. All in all, she said, it wasn’t as beautiful an experience as they make you think having a baby is, and afterward she told my dad she would never do it again. But she apparently forgot how much it hurt, because two years later she had my sister. Although that time she planned it so she’d be her fattest in the winter, when she could wear a bunch of clothes to cover it and she wouldn’t mind being warm all the time. And she had them load her up on painkillers the minute she started having contractions. Amanda only took, like, two hours to pop out, anyway, a fact my mother reminds me of whenever she wants to make me feel guilty. Then I remind her that nobody told her to go and get pregnant. Not that I’m really comparing having kids to trying to kill yourself. I’m just saying that sometimes forgetting how much things hurt makes you do them again. And that’s not always such a hot idea. I’m not even sure I want kids, by the way, even if I’m not the one who has to be pregnant. It seems too risky. I mean, what if you end up with a kid that’s just plain bad? Or stupid? It’s not like you can give it away or put it in a garage sale or something. You’re pretty much stuck with it for a long time. I know now they have all these tests they can do so you can find out if your kid has three arms or is retarded or whatever, but you can’t test for everything. You can’t test for crazy, for example, or for bad taste in music and clothes and stuff. You can’t know if your kid is going to be someone you would actually want to have hanging around. You just have to take your chances. That seems like a pretty big gamble to me. Not that I’d be having any kids right away, anyway. I’m only fifteen. I know, there are a lot of fifteen-year-olds out there having babies, but not me. I don’t need to mess up my life any more than it already is. So no babies for me. I’m glad we got that straightened out. I don’t know how I got from my stitches to babies. Sometimes my mind goes in weird directions. Or maybe it’s the meds, which I’m still on. But Cat Poop says these are just antidepressants, and nothing too heavy-duty. Not like the Pez. Anyway, after I got my stitches out, I went to show Sadie. I know I kind of freaked out the other day when she mentioned them, but the truth is, she’s really the only person who hasn’t treated them like they’re a big deal, and that’s sort of cool. She asked if she could touch my scars, and I said it was okay. She ran her fingers over them like they were puppies, really softly, like she was afraid she might open them up again. “I don’t have any scars,” she said, and she sounded kind of sad. “Do you remember almost drowning?” I asked her. It’s something I’d been wondering for a while, but I wasn’t sure it was something I should ask. Now, since she was touching my scars and all, well, I figured it was as good a time as any. “I remember everything was green and quiet,” she said. “At first—when the air ran out—my chest burned. But then the pain went away, and everything was really quiet. I felt like I was flying. The next thing I remember is lying on the grass. Sam was breathing into my mouth and all these people were staring at me.” I asked her who Sam was, and she said he was the guy who’d saved her. He’d seen her jump into the lake with all her clothes on, and he’d thought it was a little weird. When she went under and didn’t come up, he jumped in and pulled her out again. “He’s called a couple of times,” Sadie told me. “You know, to see how I am.” After that I had to go see old Cat Poop. The first thing I noticed was that something about him looked different. “You got a haircut,” I said once I realized what it was. “Yes,” he said. I wanted him to say that I’d been right about his needing to deal with his hair, but instead he launched right into therapy time. He reminded me that my parents were coming tomorrow for their weekly visit. Then he asked me how I was getting along with the other kids. I told him I was getting along fine, and he seemed happy with that. I thought things were going too easily. Then Cat Poop said, “I see your bandages are off.” Like he didn’t know. I’m pretty sure Goody would never have removed them without his permission. I looked down and said, “I guess they are,” like until then I hadn’t even noticed. “How about that?” “How do you feel about seeing the cuts?” he asked me. I shrugged. “I guess it means my career as a hand model is over,” I said. “That might take some getting used to.” The doc looked at my face for a long time, so I said, “Seriously, it doesn’t bother me. They’re just cuts.” I think he was trying to figure out how big of a lie I was telling. The thing is, I wasn’t telling one at all. Seeing the cuts really doesn’t bother me. Honestly, it’s better than having your wrists wrapped up like a mummy. Besides, as long as I wear long sleeves forever, I’ll hardly ever see them. “All right,” Cat Poop said, but I don’t think he was totally convinced. “Then that’s it for today.” All in all, it was a pretty good day. For one thing, I got Cat Poop to cut his hair, which I think is a totally huge achievement. Plus, I got my bandages off and didn’t freak out about it. I think I can honestly say that for the first time since I got here, I’m feeling more or less okay. Day 21 A couple of years ago my dad took us all to Hawaii over spring break. One of the things we did there was learn how to scuba dive. It was sort of fun, even though when we first got in the pool to learn how to use all the gear, I was afraid the air would just run out and I’d drown. But I got used to it. And let me tell you, there is some far-out stuff under the water. Our instructor said that something like 70 percent of the world is covered by water, and less than 1 percent of the population ever gets to go under there and look around. So when you do, you’re seeing stuff that not many people get to see. My favorite was this fish that kept swimming up to my mask and butting his head against it. I had no idea what he was doing, but when we got back to the surface the instructor said the fish was trying to fight his reflection in my mask. That’s how I feel being in this place, like I’m a diver looking at a bunch of really strange fish. Take today. For our group session, Cat Poop (who by the way shaved off the goatee, so that’s another point for me) had us do this completely retarded exercise. First he split us into two teams. Again, I ended up with Juliet, which left Sadie with Rankin. Martha got to be the audience, since she still isn’t exactly talking a blue streak. Then we had to pick these slips of paper out of three different boxes. The first one was a setting, the second was a situation, and the third was a line of dialogue. The idea was that we had to come up with a skit using the three different things. We had ten minutes to come up with something, and then we had to perform it. I let Juliet pick the slips. Our setting was a theater, our situation was that someone had forgotten something, and our line of dialogue was, “Would you like another cookie?” When we looked at what we had, we both groaned. I mean, come on, what are you supposed to do with that? But that’s the whole point of the exercise, right? So we went off in a corner and threw some ideas around. Juliet is the one who came up with the idea for the husband forgetting his wife’s name. Brilliant. It totally worked. I was the husband, and Juliet was my wife. The idea was that we run into someone I work with during intermission at a play and I’m trying to introduce my wife, but for some reason I can’t remember her name. I decided to use Martha for the third person, since she wouldn’t have to say anything. She stood there and Juliet and I pretended to run into her. I kept saying things about how great the show was, trying to avoid introducing my wife to Martha, and the whole time Juliet was pretending to eat these cookies she had in her purse. That was how we got the line of dialogue in: Juliet kept offering me cookies. Okay, so you kind of had to be there. Trust me, it was good. At least we thought it was. Sadie and Rankin’s skit was better than ours, but in our defense I have to say it’s because they got way better things to work with. Their setting was a spaceship, their situation was that they were lost, and their line was, “How did that get in here?” The two of them sat in side-by-side chairs, like they were piloting a spaceship. Sadie was the captain and Rankin was a brand new navigator on his first trip into space. He had managed to get them lost, and was arguing about it with the captain. While they were fighting, a fly was buzzing around, making everything worse. That’s when Rankin’s character said, “How did that get in here?” and opened a window in the ship to shoo the fly out. Because they were in space, they both got sucked out the window along with the fly, which the two of them acted out by rolling around on the floor together and screaming. See what I mean about watching a lot of weird fish? Sometimes they look normal, but then one day they go and do something that totally surprises you—and it gets them landed in a place like this. I don’t think anyone who knows me would ever have thought I’d do what I did. But I did. Day 04 Here are the basic facts. My name is Jeff. I’m fifteen. I have a sister named Amanda who’s thirteen, my parents are still married to each other, and all four of us live in a perfectly nice house in a perfectly nice neighborhood in a perfectly nice city that’s exactly like a billion other cities. My parents have never beaten us, I’ve never been molested by a priest, I don’t hate the other kids at my school any more than is normal for a kid my age, I don’t listen to death metal, have an obsession with violent video games, or cut the heads off small animals for fun. That’s pretty much everything I told Cat Poop in our session today, which is a lot more than I told him yesterday, when I basically sat silent in the chair across from him until he told me I could go. Today, though, he tapped his pencil against the pad of paper he was holding and just stared at me. Apparently that’s what therapists do to get you to open up. The thing is, it works. The longer he stared at me, the more I wanted to talk, if only to make him stop tapping. I didn’t want to talk about me, though, so I talked about everyone else in the group and how weird they were. This was after our second group session, in which I learned that Alice chews her hair, Juliet still loves Bone, and Bone still loves his shoes. Very deep stuff. “I don’t belong here,” I informed Cat Poop, thinking maybe this just hadn’t occurred to him. “These people are seriously demented. It’s not good for me to be around them. I might catch something.” He didn’t answer me for a minute. He just kept tapping—tap, tap, tap, tap, tap—until finally I told him if he didn’t stop I was going to grab the pencil and stab myself in the throat. Then he put the pencil in his pocket. “Why don’t you think you belong here?” he asked. “Why do you think I do?” I said. He started with the staring thing again but didn’t answer me. It’s amazing how that guy can go forever without blinking. I tried not to blink either, but my eyes got really dry. Finally I started talking again. “Are you a real doctor?” I asked him. “I mean, with a diploma and everything?” “I’m a psychiatrist,” he said. “So you’re not really a doctor,” I said. “A psychiatrist is also a medical doctor,” he told me. “A psychologist isn’t.” “So what you’re saying is that you think you’re better than a psychologist,” I said. “That’s not very nice. I mean, I bet they worked hard too.” “They’re two very different things,” he said. “Where did you go to school?” I asked. “A real college or one of those schools in the Caribbean?” I heard somewhere that people who can’t get into real medical schools all go to the Caribbean, where apparently all you have to do is drink fruity drinks and sit on the beach for four years and they give you a diploma. “I did my undergraduate work at the University of Chicago and got my doctorate at the University of Toronto.” “Canada,” I said. “So you did have to go to a foreign country.” I shook my head like this was a big disappointment. “I’m sorry, doc, I’m just not comfortable with your credentials. I think I need a second opinion.” “I’ve been working with young people for ten years,” Cat Poop said. “I assure you that I’m quite qualified to help you.” “Ten years?” I said. I was kind of surprised. I didn’t think he was that old. “What’d you do, start college when you were nine? Or by ‘working with young people,’ do you mean you were a camp counselor or something?” I thought maybe he’d tell me how old he is, but he went back to staring. I looked around the office, ignoring him. Besides his desk, there’s a couch and another chair besides the one I was sitting in. And they’re not the plastic kind we have in the lounge; they’re real leather ones that don’t make your butt hurt. There’s a bookcase with a bunch of boring-looking books in it, and a plant with pink flowers on top of it. On one of the walls there’s a painting of a black-and-white dog holding a dead bird in its mouth. He also has a window, and it doesn’t have wire in it. I guess they’re not afraid the shrinks will jump out. I thought about trying it, but we’re on the fourth floor, and I’m pretty sure I’d break my leg if I did. Then I’d be crazy and in a cast, which is kind of overdoing it a little. “I’m not like them,” I said when I got tired of looking at his office. “Not like who?” he asked, as if he’d already forgotten what we were talking about. “Them,” I said, waving my hands around. “The rest of the group. I mean, seriously, look at them. They’re crazy.” “Why do you say that?” I held up one finger. “One tried to barbeque a guy,” I said. I kept going, holding up another finger for each person I ticked off. “One is in love with another one who doesn’t seem to know who she is or where he is, and one,” I concluded, pointing a final finger in the air, “threw herself into a lake for no reason.” “And you feel that you’re different from them?” he said. “Um, yeah,” I told him. “Don’t you?” “Tell me about your family,” he said. Like I said, my family is totally normal. Well, as normal as most families are, which means that sometimes we fight about stuff but the rest of the time we get along. We’re so boring that I almost wanted to make up a bunch of drama to tell Cat Poop, like that my mother locks my sister and me in the cellar when we complain about what she made for dinner, or that my father pressures me to be the best at everything. But my dad always says he was never good at math either, and that my As in English more than make up for my Cs in trigonometry. And my mom usually picks up dinner at China Dragon or South of the Border because when she tries to cook the stove catches on fire, so dinner at our house is never a problem. “They’re great,” is what I said to Cat Poop. “Everything is totally great.” “Then why did you try to kill yourself?” The guy has a one-track mind, and it’s getting on my nerves. I waited a long time, to make him think I was seriously considering the question. Then I sighed. “Okay,” I said. “I guess I can tell you.” Cat Poop straightened up a little in his chair. He took the pencil out again and held it over the pad, like he had to be ready to write down every single word of a historic speech or something. “I did it because . . .” I hesitated, blinking and sniffing a little, like I might start to cry at any second. “I did it because . . . because I couldn’t stand to live in the same world as Paris Hilton.” I waited for him to yell at me, but he just sat in his chair, scribbling on the pad. After a minute he looked up at me. “Somehow, I doubt Ms. Hilton is responsible for your troubles. As annoying as she may be, she has not, as far as I know, been responsible for any deaths. So why don’t you just tell me the real reason?” “There is no reason,” I said. I was getting angry because he wasn’t listening to me. “I just did it. I’m a teenager. We get bored and do stupid stuff. Now I’m over it and I want to go home.” He looked at his watch and said we were done for the day. I just wanted to get out of there, so when he told me they were taking me off one of my drugs and that I might feel a little out of it tonight I just nodded and walked out without looking at him. Sure enough, when Goody gave me my afternoon paper cup of happy tablets, one of the blue ones was gone. For a couple of hours I was okay. Then I started feeling a little tired, and now I feel like someone kicked me in the head a few thousand times. It’s a really crappy feeling to realize that your entire outlook on your life can be controlled by some little pill that looks like a Pez, and that some weird combination of drugs can make your brain think it’s on a holiday somewhere really sweet when actually you’re standing naked in the middle of the school cafeteria while everyone takes pictures of you. Metaphorically. Or whatever. Day 10 I couldn’t sleep again tonight. I don’t know why. I’m pretty used to functioning without the little blue pill now, and it wasn’t like I was having bad dreams or anything. I just couldn’t sleep. So I went into the lounge, thinking I might finally write Allie that letter after all or maybe help Nurse Moon with her crossword. But Sadie was in there, sitting on the couch and reading a magazine. “Don’t you ever sleep?” I asked her. “Did you know that only about half of the eggs that get fertilized ever actually turn into babies?” she said, putting down the magazine. “And out of those, only about eighty percent are actually born. The rest get miscarried.” She counted on her fingers. “That means out of a hundred fertilized eggs, only forty are ever born.” “Those aren’t the best odds,” I said. “And that doesn’t include the ones who are born with defects,” Sadie added. “That’s something like another ten, so ultimately we only have about a thirty percent chance of coming out with no defects.” “I guess it depends what you consider a defect,” I told her. She nodded. “If you look at it that way, there’s like a zero chance of being born normal. But think about it: Right from the start the odds are against you. It’s kind of amazing that any of us ever get here at all.” “Sort of makes you feel even worse about trying to kill yourself, doesn’t it?” I said. Sadie shrugged. “I hadn’t thought about it like that,” she said. “But yeah, I guess it does in a way.” “Are you sorry you tried?” I asked her. She looked out the window. It was snowing. Not hard, just a few flakes. If I’d been at home I would have been hoping for it to turn into a blizzard so that school would be canceled. But when you’re locked up, blizzards don’t mean much. “I don’t know if I’m sorry or not,” Sadie said. “If I hadn’t tried, I’d probably still be sitting around in my bedroom being miserable and writing bad poems.” “I don’t think most people would consider that a good deal,” I said. “Maybe not,” she told me. “What about you, are you sorry you . . . did what you did?” “I’m sorry they stopped me,” I told her. “What’s so bad about your life?” she said. “From what you’ve told me about your family, they don’t sound so bad.” “They’re not,” I admitted. “They aren’t the problem.” “Then what is?” “I am,” I said. “I’m the problem.” “And what’s wrong with you?” “Nothing’s wrong,” I said. “I’m just complicated.” Sadie rolled her eyes at me. “Everyone thinks they’re complicated,” she said. “But actually there are only a couple of things you can have wrong with you. Which one did you get? Low self-esteem? Fear of failure? A martyr complex? Trust me, after three shrinks and a couple of visits to this place, I’m an expert on all of them.” I was surprised to hear her say that. I didn’t know she’d been in the hospital before. “I thought this was your first time here,” I said. “Second,” she said. “The first time it didn’t take, so they sent me back. But we’re not talking about me; we’re talking about you. So talk.” “I have a better idea,” I said. “Let’s watch some TV.” I turned the set on and flipped around. Finally I settled on the Lifetime channel, which is always guaranteed to have on some completely idiotic movie about a girl with anorexia, or a woman who gets amnesia and forgets she has an evil twin, or maybe even a family who hires a really creepy babysitter who ends up stalking them. And sometimes you hit the jackpot and end up with a movie that has all of those things in it. And believe me, a movie about an anorexic twin with amnesia who hires a psychotic babysitter is not to be missed. “Want to play the dialogue game?” I asked Sadie. “You’re on,” she said, and I turned the sound off. We sat and watched the movie for a few minutes until we had the main characters figured out. One was a teenage girl, and the other was an older woman who seemed to be the girl’s mother. They were in a diner, eating greasy burgers and arguing about something. “I’ll take the mother,” Sadie said. “Alison, I know you’re keeping something from me,” she said in what was supposed to be a motherly voice. Alison is Allie’s real name, and for a second I wondered if Sadie had picked it on purpose. But there’s no way she could know about her. It was just a freaky coincidence. “What makes you think I’m hiding something?” I said, trying to sound like an annoyed teenage girl. “I found your diary,” said Sadie. “And I read it.” “How could you!” I said. “I had to, Alison,” Sadie continued. “And I’m glad I did. How else would I have known about . . .” “About what?” I demanded. “What do you know about?” “About Chris,” said Sadie. “That’s right, I know about Chris.” “I was going to tell you,” I said. Sadie shook her head. “I’m so disappointed in you, Alison. How could you not tell me? I’m your mother. If you’re seeing a boy, you should talk to me about it.” “Chris isn’t a boy,” I said, surprised to hear the words come out of my mouth. Sadie turned and looked at me. “What?” she said. “Chris isn’t a boy,” I repeated. “Chris is . . . a girl.” Sadie cracked up. “I didn’t see that one coming,” she said in her real voice. “Good twist. I thought she was just going to be knocked up.” “Yeah, well, you can’t go wrong with a teenage lesbian story line,” I said. “Had enough?” Sadie nodded. “I think we’ve worn this one out. Besides, I’m kind of tired. I’m going to bed. What about you?” “I’m going to stay up for a while,” I said. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” After Sadie left I just sat there looking at the television screen. The sound was still off. In the movie, the girl and the woman had gotten into a car and were driving somewhere. They were still arguing. I watched their mouths moving without any sound coming out. And the more I watched them, the more I thought that that’s exactly how most people are. They move their mouths, but nothing important comes out. They just talk and talk and talk. That’s what Cat Poop wants me to do: talk. But like I keep telling him, there’s nothing to say. Day 22 It was the “Fun with Marjorie and Eric Show” again today. Otherwise known as my parents’ weekly visit. Seeing them wasn’t high on my list of preferred activities for today, but I didn’t have much choice. It was that or, well, nothing. The theme of today’s get together was Why? As in, Why did Jeff do what he did? Again, not really something I felt like discussing, but it wasn’t up to me. Apparently Cat Poop had talked to my parents before I came in, because the three of them seemed to have some kind of plan for getting me to talk about what happened. First, Cat Poop told my parents how well things had been going with me. Then he asked my parents to tell me how they’d felt when they found me that night. My mother immediately turned on the waterworks. She said she’d come upstairs and seen blood all over the floor. She said at first she’d thought I was playing a practical joke on her, and she’d laughed even though she thought it was a mean thing to do. When I didn’t respond, she apparently totally freaked out, because my father heard her screaming and ran up to see what was wrong. I’m not saying she was lying or anything, but I do want to point out that she’s always said that if she hadn’t become a lawyer, she would have been an actress. Seriously. A couple of years ago she even performed in this completely tragic community theater production of Fiddler on the Roof. She was actually pretty good, which is why I wouldn’t put it past her to make things sound more awful than they really were. I mean, finding your kid almost dead is bound to ruin your night, I get that. But it’s like she was trying to make me feel even worse about it. My father didn’t cry, but he said that seeing me on the floor like that was the most horrible thing that’s ever happened to him. Then he described how he’d made these tourniquets using some torn-up sheets from my bed and held me until the paramedics got there. He said he kept telling me how much he loved me, over and over, in case hearing it helped me stay alive. That got to me way more than my mother crying. My dad never says sappy stuff to us. He’s the kind of guy who can sit through a movie that has everyone else bawling like babies and all he’ll say is, “Can you believe how big Julia Roberts’s mouth is?” I’m serious. Nothing gets to him. He’s like one of those cowboys in an old western. Listening to my parents talk about that night, I thought about the time Sadie asked me who had saved me. She was right that it was my mom and dad and not the paramedics. If my mother hadn’t come up to see me, and if my dad hadn’t known what to do, I really would have died. Three weeks ago, that’s what I thought I wanted. Now things seem different. Not totally different, but different enough that I guess I’m glad they did what they did. But I wasn’t about to tell them that. Then Cat Poop asked me how I felt about what my parents had said. What are you supposed to say to something like that? Gee, I’m really sorry I freaked you out, and thanks for making sure it didn’t work out? It just sounds so stupid, like the big moment in one of those cheesy made-for-TV movies where the kid who ran away from home and became a hooker does a giant boo-hoo after her mother fights off her pimp with an umbrella to get her off the street. I couldn’t say those things, even if I was thankful for what they did. And I was. I mean I am. Thankful. Sort of. On good days. What I did say was that I was sorry for making them worry. That seemed like a good compromise, right in between the stony, uncommunicative teen-ager and the cry-till-your-nose-runs breakdown I could have gone with. I said I was sorry that they were afraid for me and reassured them that everything was okay now. I should have left out that last part about everything being okay now, because that’s one of those statements the doc jumps on like a cat on a mouse. Sure enough, he said, “What’s different about how you are today from how you were that night?” Oh, man. He pushed me right into that one. Here we were back at the big Why? I was supposed to show how much I’d learned about myself, and they were supposed to get some answer to explain it all. But like I keep saying, there is no big reason. I had to say something, though, so I said, “I guess I’ve learned that no matter how bad things get, there are always people who love you.” I won’t blame you if you stop to go throw up right about now. I know I would. But it sounds pretty good, right? If you were my parents, you’d buy it. And they did. I felt a little bad when I saw the look on my mother’s face. She seemed really relieved, like she’d been worried all along that the reason I tried to off myself was because I thought she didn’t love me. But that was never it. I know she and my father love me. This was never about them. I think Cat Poop knew I was handing them a big pile of crap and calling it a present, because he pushed me even further and said, “How would you handle things differently now, Jeff?” What I wanted to say was, “I’d lock my door.” I was getting tired of having to make everyone feel better. I’m sorry I freaked everyone out. I’m sorry my parents are sad about it. But it’s over. Can we all move on? I thought for a minute or two until I wasn’t quite so steamed, then I said, “I’d talk to somebody.” I didn’t say who. I just said I would talk to somebody. That way they could each think I meant them. It was the right answer, I guess, because Cat Poop finished with the third degree and moved on to some other stuff. It wasn’t anything exciting, so I won’t go into it. Basically, he talked to us about better ways to communicate. Blah. Blah. Blah. I was really thrilled when it was all over and my parents went home. I was even more thrilled to go back to my room. Let me tell you, writing a report on Lord of the Flies, which is what I was doing for my English class assignment, is way better than spending an hour with the doc and my parents. Given a choice between discussing the symbolism of a pig head on a stick and discussing my feelings, I’ll take the pig head every time. Day 24 You know how Hindus believe that when you die you come back as something or someone else, and that if you screw up the life you have now you come back as something worse until you learn your lesson? Well, if that’s true, then I must have really pissed off God—or whoever—in my last life. Otherwise what happened today would never have happened. It’s even worse than what happened last night. See, I’d done an okay job of forgetting what I’d seen Rankin doing in the shower. Even at breakfast, while he choked down his oatmeal, I could sort of pretend I’d just dreamed it. Then we had group. And that’s when Cat Poop announced that we were going to do some more pairing off. As soon as he said it, I felt my stomach knot up. I closed my eyes and waited to hear him say I could pair with Sadie or even Juliet. But of course you know what happened. And it gets even worse, if that’s possible. The exercise we did involved picking questions out of a box. There were all of these strips of paper in there, and each one had a question on it. Things like “What are you most proud of in your life?” and “If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?” We were supposed to pick a question and talk about it with our partner. I really, really hoped I got something easy, like “What is the meaning of life in three words or less?” What I actually got was “What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?” I know. I swear to God, that was the question. Sometimes I think there’s someone up there just sitting around thinking of ways to make me look like a complete moron. Seriously, I bet there’s an angel—or, more likely, a demon—assigned just to me. And every day it gets up and asks itself what it can do to ruin my life. Well, today it got an A plus. So Rankin and I pair off. I’m still not really looking at him, just sort of around him. And of course all I can picture is that big hand of his going up and down, and then I’m staring at his crotch remembering what’s there, and eventually the only place I can look is at his face, and when I do I’m surprised to see that he doesn’t seem the least bit embarrassed. Instead, he’s looking at the paper in his hand. He’s looking really hard, like he can’t quite figure out what it says, like it’s written in Japanese or something. He looks and looks and looks, and finally he looks at me and says, “What do you think about when you jerk off?” I know you think I’m making this up, but I swear I’m not. That’s exactly what he said. I sat there staring at Rankin, sure I’d heard him wrong. Then this big grin spreads across his face, and he starts to laugh. “Got you,” he said. I wanted to hit him, I really did. I couldn’t believe he did that. He thought it was hysterical, though. He was grinning his big stupid jock grin from ear to ear and rocking back and forth with laughter. “Would you shut up!” I said. Rankin wiped his eyes and quieted down. “I’m sorry,” he said. “But you should see the look on your face.” “What does it really say?” I asked him. “Why?” he said. “Don’t you want to know the answer to the question I read?” “Not really,” I told him. “All right,” he said. He looked at the paper again and read the right question. “What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?” He sighed. “I guess that would be telling my dad that I don’t want to play football anymore.” “I thought you liked to play football.” “I do. I just don’t want to play on the team anymore.” “Why not?” I asked him. Rankin shook his head. “I just don’t,” he said. “What’s your question say?” “Just a minute,” I told him. “You can’t say you ‘just don’t want to.’ We’re supposed to talk about this crap. I want to know why you don’t want to be Mr. Big Football Player.” Rankin put his head down. For a second I thought he was going to tackle me, but he just sat there. When he looked up, I could see he was trying really hard not to cry. “Do you know what it’s like to have everyone expect you to be the best at something?” he said. I shook my head. “That’s not a problem for me,” I told him. “I’m not good at anything. Nothing important, anyway.” “I am,” Rankin said. “I’m good at throwing a ball and catching a ball and knocking people out of the way when they get between me and the ball. That’s what I’m good at.” “So what’s the problem with that? Everybody loves jocks, right?” I admit I said it kind of sarcastically, because he sounded like such a bonehead and I was still mad at him about what he’d done before. “Yeah,” Rankin said, snorting. “Everybody loves you. When you win. Then you’re the hero. But when you lose, you’re just the stupid meathead who couldn’t make the play.” I was having a hard time feeling sorry for the guy. I know that sounds harsh. But I wasn’t ready to let him off the hook for being a jock in the first place. Everybody knows those guys get most of the breaks in school, and it seems to me that if all they have to worry about is playing a dumb game, then they have it pretty easy. “You know what my father said when I told him I wanted to quit?” Rankin asked me. “I wasn’t there,” I said. “You’ll have to fill me in.” “He said if I wasn’t going to play football, I wasn’t his son.” “He did not,” I said. “Why would he say something so stupid?” “Because it’s how he feels,” said Rankin. “That’s all he sees me as, a football player. He was a football player. His dad was a football player. His dad was a football player. That’s what the guys in my family are.” “But you’re his kid,” I said, still not believing him. “And as far as he’s concerned, his kid plays football.” He laughed. “Why do you think I’m here?” “Because you get down sometimes,” I said, remembering what he’d said the first time in group. “Yeah,” said Rankin. “But that’s not the real reason I’m here.” “Then why’d you say that?” I asked him. “Come on. Nobody says why they’re really here,” Rankin answered. “Not at first. Nobody wants to be the biggest freak. Didn’t you?” “Didn’t I what?” “Lie,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to when you’ve got these,” I said, showing him my wrists. “But that doesn’t say why,” he reminded me. “So we both lied,” I said. “Why are you really here?” “Because my father wants to know what’s wrong with me.” “He sent you to the psych ward because you don’t want to play football? You’ve got to be kidding.” “I’m not,” said Rankin. “That’s why I’m here.” “That’s messed up,” I told him. “Supremely messed up.” Rankin nodded. “Yeah, it is. So what’s your question?” I told him. “And I think you know the answer to that one already,” I added, knowing I was probably turning a hundred different shades of red. “Your wrists,” he said. I looked at him. Did he really not get it? No, not my wrists, I wanted to say. It was walking in on you pulling your pork. Rankin either didn’t think that was embarrassing, or he was trying to pretend it never happened. But I don’t think that was it. I think he honestly didn’t think it was a big deal. I would. Seriously, I’d rather have someone walk in on me cutting my wrists than have them see me doing that. Between you and me, I think Rankin’s priorities are a little screwed up. Day 15 So my parents came again today. This time things went much better. At least I think they did. The only weird thing was that my mother kept staring at my wrists. Somehow I’d forgotten about the scars already and I wore a T-shirt. I tried to cross my arms and tuck my hands in, but I was afraid they’d think I was being hostile, so instead I just clasped my hands together and tried to keep the scar sides in. Still, she kept looking down there. Cat Poop started off the session by asking my parents each to name one thing about me that they were proud of. You can imagine how excited I was about that, but actually it wasn’t too cringe-inducing. My father said that he’s always been proud of the fact that I do well in school, which is a pretty dad thing to say, very neutral and not too touchy-feely. My mom said she was proud of everything I did. Cat Poop asked her to be more specific, which made me want to laugh (but I didn’t), and she said she guessed she was most proud of the fact that I was a good person. I’m not sure what a good person is, exactly. On the one hand, it could be someone who always plays by the rules. But someone can follow the rules and still be a real jerk, you know? In fact, some of the biggest idiots I know are people who follow the rules, usually because they make you feel like crap when you don’t. Or maybe a good person is someone who’s always doing good things for other people. That sure isn’t me. I’d probably get kicked out of Boy Scouts if I was in it because I wouldn’t help old ladies across the street, if you get my drift. Not that I’m a jerk or anything; it’s just that other people aren’t always my main priority in life. I kind of wish Cat Poop had asked my mom to be even more specific, but I think he thought she’d done the best she could. Instead, he asked me to tell my parents two things about them that I was thankful for. I thought it was a little unfair making me say two things when they’d had to come up with just one each, but I gave it a shot. First I said I was thankful that they always made sure I had everything I needed, like clothes and food and a house. Second, I said I was thankful that they never made me feel bad about myself. I was thinking about Sadie when I said that, about how her dad always made her feel like she was a problem. I also thought about Alice and her mother’s boyfriend. I still have a hard time believing that any mom would let that happen to her kid, even though you read about it in the paper and see it on the news all the time. Until I met Alice, I always assumed it happened to “other” people, as in people I didn’t know. I guess there are a lot more other people than I thought there were. After we talked a little more, they said they had a surprise for me. Amanda was with them. Cat Poop wanted to talk to my parents some more, so he told me to go into the room next to his office, which it turns out is almost exactly like his office except there’s no picture of a dog carrying a dead bird. I guess it’s for another shrink, although it looked like no one had used it in a long time. Amanda was waiting there. When I came in she jumped up and gave me a big hug. “Watch it,” I told her. “First mom, and now you. This hugging stuff is starting to scare me.” “You jerk,” she said, but not in an angry way. “You scared me. Don’t ever do that again.” I still wasn’t sure how much she knew about why I was in the hospital, so I was a little nervous. Again, I tried to hide my wrists by sticking my hands in the pockets of my jeans. “It’s okay,” Amanda said. “They told me. Besides, it’s not like you could hide the bloodstains on the carpet. There was a lot of it.” “They let you see it?” I asked. She shook her head. “I snuck in. At first they tried to tell me you sliced yourself opening a CD with a box cutter.” She rolled her eyes, and I laughed. That’s totally something my parents would do. I could just see Amanda demanding to know the real story. “Are you really okay?” she asked me. “Sure,” I said. “I’m fine.” She gave me a look like she didn’t believe me, but she didn’t say anything. I knew she wanted to believe that everything’s all right, and even though she probably had a million other questions, she didn’t ask any of them then. Then I noticed her hair. “I dyed it,” Amanda said. “No kidding,” I said. Had she ever. Her hair is naturally this kind of blondish red, just like my dad’s. Now it was a lot more red. In fact, it was really red. Like a cherry Popsicle. “Relax,” she said when I didn’t say anything for a minute. “It’s just Kool-Aid. But don’t tell Mom. She thinks it’s permanent.” I laughed. It felt good. I hadn’t had a real laugh since I woke up in the hospital. “I won’t,” I promised. “Why are you torturing her this time?” Amanda shook her head. “No reason,” she said. “It’s just fun.” That’s what I love about my sister. She does things just because she wants to. I know you’re not supposed to think your little sister is cool, but by now I think it’s pretty obvious that I don’t exactly do things by the book. Amanda sat down on the couch, and I sat in a chair across from her. “What’s the word around school?” I asked her. My heart raced a little as I waited for her to answer. I don’t really care what people think about me most of the time, but disappearing and ending up in the hospital are a little more serious than breaking out in zits or wearing the wrong sneakers. “That depends who you ask,” said Amanda. “The popular theory is mono, although I’ve also heard that you have cancer, hepatitis, and maybe a brain tumor. Oh, and for about a day and a half you’d run away because mom and dad caught you doing drugs.” “Excellent,” I said. “Does anyone know the real reason?” “If they do, they didn’t hear it from me,” she told me. “I’m sticking with mono.” Then I asked her the one question I was really interested in hearing the answer to. “Have you seen Allie around?” “Yeah,” Amanda said. But there was something in her voice that sounded weird, as if she really didn’t want to talk about it. So of course I made her. It turns out Amanda saw Allie at lunch about a week after I came to the hospital. She thought Allie would want to know that I was okay, even if she couldn’t tell her exactly what had happened, so she went over to her and started talking. “But all she did was kind of nod,” Amanda said. “She was sitting with this guy, and it was like she didn’t really want to talk to me.” I told Amanda that we’d had a fight about something, but that it wasn’t a big deal and Allie would get over it. I know Amanda didn’t buy it, but for once she let it go. Like I said, she’s pretty cool. Not that I’d ever let her know that. I have to keep her in line somehow or she’ll think she’s the boss of everything. “Anyway, you’ve got to get out of here soon,” said Amanda. “They’re driving me nuts.” I knew she meant my mother and father. I could just imagine what they were like to live with now. I’m surprised they hadn’t installed security cameras in Amanda’s room. And now her Kool-Aid hair made even more sense. Knowing Amanda, she’d done it just to make them worry. “Sorry about that,” I said. And I really was. I mean, it’s not Amanda’s fault that I’m in here. “I can handle it,” she assured me. We just sat there for a minute, like we’d run out of things to say. But it wasn’t awkward or weird. It was kind of nice. Amanda was treating me the way she always does, not like I’d done something crazy. Then Cat Poop opened the door and my parents came in. I don’t know what he said to them, but they were all smiling again, like circus clowns. I wanted to hand them some balloons. “We’ll see you next week,” my mother said. She looked like she was going to hug me again, but I moved so that Cat Poop was between us and just said, “Okay. See you then.” No one else tried to hug me, although I know Amanda would have if my parents hadn’t been there, and that would have been okay. They all said good-bye and left. I’m sure they were as happy to get out as I would have been if I was leaving with them. It made me think of Mrs. Christensen. Mrs. Christensen is about seventeen million years old. She’s a friend of my grandmother’s, and she lives in a home now because her entire family is dead. Every Christmas we have to go visit her. We take her a fruitcake and some presents, like slippers and chocolate and whatever. We spend about an hour with her, and it’s the longest hour in the history of time. The home smells like old people, and even though they put up all of these decorations, it’s still depressing. Mrs. Christensen always acts like we’re her real family, but we aren’t, and I can’t wait to get out of there. I bet that’s how my parents and Amanda feel. I know I would if one of them was in here. I’d just want to get it over with and leave the fruitcake. Day 39 I was sitting in Cat Poop’s office today and all of a sudden I asked him, “How do I know if I’m really gay or not?” It just popped out of my mouth, but once it was out there I really wanted to know. Cat Poop leaned back in his chair and looked at me. “What’s your favorite color?” I told him it was blue. Then he asked me why. “Why what?” I asked back. “Why is blue your favorite color?” he said. It seems like a dumb question, right? I mean, why do you like anything? I told him I like blue because when I look at blue things, they usually make me feel good. “Okay,” he said. “Now what’s your favorite song?” I told him it was Lolly Dreambox’s “Snow Cold Sunday.” At least right now. I’m sure next week it will be something else. That’s how it is when you’re fifteen. He asked me again why it was my favorite. I said because whenever I hear it I want to sing along. I picture myself on a stage, singing, and it makes me feel good. “Okay,” he said. “What do your favorite color and your favorite song have in common?” The answer is that they both make me feel good, although in different ways. That wasn’t too hard to figure out. But then he said, “How do you feel when you think about girls?” That seemed like a trick question to me. There are a lot of different ways to answer it. So I asked him to be more specific, and he asked how I felt about girls when I thought about going out with them, like as a boyfriend. I said I didn’t really feel any particular way about it. It didn’t make me feel good or bad. “Sort of like vanilla ice cream,” I said. Then he asked me the same thing about guys. I got kind of embarrassed, because I’ve never talked with anyone about how guys make me feel. But finally I said that when I think about going out with a guy, it makes me feel all kinds of things. I feel excited and scared at the same time. “Sometimes we don’t know why we like certain things,” Cat Poop said. “Or at least we can’t put into words why we like them. We just know that we do. Being gay or straight—or something in between—is often like that. We just like one thing or another because of how it makes us feel.” That still didn’t answer my question, and I said so. I asked him how I would know for sure that I’m gay. “Maybe it’s just something I feel right now,” I said. He said that maybe it was, which didn’t make me feel any better. “The only thing you can do is listen to your feelings,” he said. “If you’re honest about what you feel, you’ll know what’s true about yourself.” I swear, sometimes he’s like one of those weird old guys in martial arts movies who show up and say all kinds of crazy crap that the hero has to figure out so he can find the sword or save the girl or kick the bad guy’s ass. You know, like, “Find the whistling pine tree and ask it for the key,” or something. I guess I know what he means, though. It was like the night I was with Sadie, when I knew I couldn’t have sex with her. It just didn’t feel right. Yeah, maybe it would feel different with another girl, but I don’t think so. With Rankin I knew. Even though he wasn’t the right guy, being with a guy felt right to me. Everything about what we did was scary and weird, but I knew it was what I wanted. Not with Rankin, and definitely not here, but someday with someone else. Someone I like. Then Cat Poop brought up the idea of telling my parents. I said I wasn’t sure if I could do that or not. “So you’ve never talked about it with them?” he asked. “We don’t talk in my family,” I said. “We assume.” “What do you mean by that?” he said. “I mean my parents assume,” I explained. “They assume that Amanda and I will ask them if we have questions about anything. Otherwise, they assume it’s all good with us.” “And do you ever talk to them?” I gave him a look. “You’ve met them,” I said. “What do you think?” Now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t think my parents have any gay friends, at least none that I know of. So I don’t really know how they feel about the whole gay thing. Besides, I think it’s different when it’s your kid you’re talking about and not some stranger. I know my mother is all into the idea of having grandkids someday, and my dad teases us about how he’s going to screen everyone Amanda and I bring home when we start dating. I can’t exactly see him sitting my date down and asking him what his favorite football team is. I asked Cat Poop if he would tell my parents if he was me, and of course he said he couldn’t make that decision for me. I figured he would say that, but it was worth a shot. So then I asked him if he had any advice on how to decide whether or not to do it. “You could practice telling them,” he suggested. “You mean walk through it in my head?” I said. “No, I mean with me,” said Cat Poop. “You don’t look much like my mom,” I informed him. “Even without the goatee.” He smiled. “I could play your dad, then,” he said. “I don’t know,” I told him. “That’s kind of weird.” “Well, think about it,” he said. So now I’m thinking about it. I’m imagining sitting down with my parents and actually saying, “I’m gay.” And you know what? It makes me a little mad. I mean, straight guys don’t have to sit their parents down and tell them they like girls. Everyone just assumes that they do. But if you’re gay, everybody makes this ginormous deal out of it. You practically have to hold a news conference and take out an ad in the newspaper. Why? Just because it’s not what most people do? That doesn’t seem fair. Why should my parents know? So they can get used to the idea of not having a daughter-in-law? So they can practice imagining me walking down the aisle with a guy? I don’t get it. Why is it that you have to warn people about who you are? Why can’t it just be something that happens? I know why. I’m just blowing off steam. It’s a lot of pressure, telling someone something like that. It’s like you’re committing to it. “Mom, dad, I’ve thought about it a lot, and I’ve decided I’m gay.” Like you’ve read all the brochures and comparison shopped. Or finally decided what college to go to. Only if you’re wrong, you can’t exactly get a refund or switch schools. Well, I guess you could, but then you’ve gotten everyone all excited for nothing. Copyright Suicide Notes Copyright © 2008 by Michael Thomas Ford All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Ford, Michael Thomas. Suicide notes / Michael Thomas Ford. — 1st ed. p. cm. Summary: Brimming with sarcasm, fifteen-year-old Jeff describes his stay in a psychiatric ward after attempting to commit suicide. ISBN 978-0-06-073757-3 [1. Suicide—Fiction. 2. Psychiatric hospitals—Fiction. 3. Homosexuality—Fiction.] I. Title. PZ7.F7532119Su 2008 [Fic]—dc22 2008019199 CIP AC First paperback edition, 2010 EPub Edition © 2010 ISBN: 9780062043078 10 11 12 13 14 LP/RRDH 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Day 02 This just gets better and better. It turns out I really am in the hospital. Not Limbo. I’m pretty sure that it is Hell. Because I’m not just in the hospital. I’m in the mental ward. You know, where they keep the people who have sixteen imaginary friends living in their heads and can’t stop picking invisible bugs off their bodies. Whackos. Nut-jobs. Total losers. I’m not crazy. I don’t see what the big deal is about what happened. But apparently someone does think it’s a big deal because here I am. I bet it was my mother. She always overreacts. They weren’t going to tell me—you know, about the mental ward thing—but I found out when Goody left my chart next to the bed while she went to get something at the desk. Someone should tell her that you really shouldn’t leave something like that lying around if you don’t want someone to look at it. Anyway, I just happened to pick up the chart, because that’s what I do when someone leaves something around and I want to know what it is, and right there on the top of the first page it said psychiatric ward. At first I figured it was someone else’s file, but then I saw my name. Let me tell you something, seeing your name and psychiatric ward on the same piece of paper isn’t the best way to start your day. When Goody came back she saw me looking at the file and the smile plastered to her face finally disappeared. “You’re not supposed to be looking at that,” she said, like I didn’t know and would apologize. “This is a psych ward?” I said, trying to read as much as I could before she grabbed the folder, which she did about two seconds later. “It’s time for your medication,” she said. “Uh-uh,” I told her. “Not until someone tells me why I’m here.” “I think you know why you’re here,” she said, giving me that look people give you when they know you know what they mean. “I’m not crazy,” I said. “Nobody said you were crazy,” said Goody, her smile returning. Suddenly she was all happy again, like there’d been a momentary blackout in her reception and now we’d returned to the regularly scheduled program. “That file does,” I shot back. “It says it in big letters.” “Take your pill,” she said, ignoring me. “You’ll feel better.” “No,” I told her. “I don’t even know what it is.” Goody smiled, which was starting to get on my nerves. “It’s a sedative,” she said. “So you’re drugging me?” I said. “Why? What the hell is going on here?” Goody took the paper cup she was holding out to me and put it back on the tray by my bed. “I think maybe you should talk to Dr. Katzrupus.” “Catwhatsis?” I asked her. “Cat Poopus? What kind of name is that?” “Katzrupus,” she said again. “I’ll get him.” She disappeared, taking my file with her, which she totally should have done the first time, because then we wouldn’t have had this problem. At least not right now. After she left, I stared at the cup with the pill in it. It was a small red pill, round like a ladybug. I almost took it, just to see what it would do, but I didn’t want Goody to think I thought I needed it or anything, which I don’t. Goody came back a minute later with some guy. He was short, with really wild black hair that was about three weeks past needing to be cut, and he looked like he hadn’t shaved in a couple of days either. He seemed way too young to be a doctor, and at first I thought he was some kind of student doctor or something, like I didn’t even rate a real one. “I’m Dr. Katzrupus,” he said, holding out his hand. “Why am I in the nuthouse?” I asked him, staring at his hand without shaking it. “You’re not in a nuthouse,” he said, taking his hand back and pushing his glasses up his nose. “You’re in a hospital.” “Right,” I said. “The nut ward in a hospital.” “It’s a psychiatric ward,” he said. “And you’re in it because we’re concerned that something might be bothering you.” He spoke in this really calm and casual way, as if he was telling you what he had for dinner. For some reason, that really bugged me. “Something might be bothering me,” I repeated, mimicking his voice. Then I laughed. “Why would something be bothering me?” Cat Poop got this weird look on his face, like he didn’t know what to say. I just kept staring at him. “Are my parents around here somewhere?” I asked. “’Cause if they are, I’d really like to go home now.” “We need to run a few tests,” he said. “And, no, your parents aren’t here.” I thought it was kind of weird that my parents weren’t there, and I wanted to ask where they were instead of being with their kid in the hospital, but I didn’t. “I’m not so good at tests,” I said instead. “Especially pop quizzes. Could I maybe have some study time first? I wouldn’t want to bring the curve down for the whole class or anything.” He looked at me for a second. Then he said, “I’ll see you later this afternoon.” After he left Goody came back with this other guy who I swear to God was a vampire. He took what seemed like three gallons of blood out of me, test tube after test tube of it. After the fourth one I started to feel really sick. Finally, the Human Leech and Goody went away with his tray of tubes and a woman came in. “I’m Miss Pinch,” she said. I swear. I’m not making it up. I don’t know what it is with the names around here. I’m not sure this isn’t all a dream, because in the real world people just aren’t named things like Nurse Goody and Miss Pinch and Dr. Cat Poop. “I need to ask you a few questions,” Miss Pinch told me, pulling a chair up beside my bed. Turns out that was the understatement of the year, unless to you “a few” means eight thousand and sixty-two. “Have you ever taken Ecstasy?” Miss Pinch asked me, smiling and cocking her head like a bird. An irritating, nosy little bird. “No,” I told her, and she made a check mark on the folder she was holding. “Methamphetamine?” she said. When I didn’t answer right away she added, “Crystal? Ice? Tina?” “I know what it is,” I told her. “And no, I’ve never taken it.” She made another mark. And she kept making marks after every question and answer. Cocaine? No. Check. Alcohol? No. Check. Marijuana, GHB, snappers? No, no, no. Check, check, check. I kept answering no to everything, because I really haven’t ever done drugs, and she kept looking at me like maybe I was lying just to get her out of there. So finally I said that yes, okay, I’d smoked pot a few times, and that seemed to make her happy. Like it’s not possible that there’s a kid on this planet who hasn’t smoked pot. Moron. “How about glue?” she asked me. I nodded, and she lit up like a Christmas tree. At least until I said, “I used to eat paste. In kindergarten. Bad habit. I totally gave it up, though. I swear. It didn’t mix with the apple juice so well.” I have to say, I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t madder than she was. Maybe talking to crazy people all the time makes you kind of immune to it. She just kept asking and checking. After we went through every drug known to science, Pinch said, “Now let’s talk about sexual activity.” “Let’s not,” I said, giving her the same big smile she was giving me. “Have you ever—” she started to say. “Seriously,” I said, interrupting her. “Let’s not. It’s none of your damn business.” “I’m only trying to help you,” she said, still smiling. “Well, you’re not,” I informed her. “You’re just pissing me off. Now go away.” She stared at me. “Seriously,” I said. “Get out of here. There’s nothing wrong with me. I answered your stupid questions about the drugs, and I’m not telling you anything else because there’s nothing else you need to know. So either go away or else sit there while I take a nap, because this is the last thing I’m saying to you.” She snapped her file shut and stood up. “I’ll just get the doctor,” she said. That seems to be what they do around here when you say no to them, like the doctors are the National Guard or something. So once again I got a visit from good old Cat Poop. This time he shut the door so that we were alone. I pictured Goody Two-shoes and Pinchface standing outside, pressing their ears to the door to try and hear what the doctor was saying. “You’re not making this very easy,” he said. “Sorry,” I said. “I guess my kindergarten teacher was right when she said I don’t play well with others.” “We want to help you.” “You know, everyone keeps saying that,” I told him. “But I have to tell you, I’m starting to think you don’t. Because if you did, you’d let me out of here. There’s nothing wrong with me.” “There’s evidence to the contrary,” said Cat Poop. “I’m fine,” I said. “Really. Do you want me to sign something saying that? Then will you let me go home?” “I’m afraid that’s not an option,” he said. “What about my parents?” I asked him. “Where are they? Tell them I want to go home now.” “Your parents agree that you need to spend some time here,” he answered. “You can’t keep me here against my will,” I informed him. “In case you don’t know, this is the land of the free. People have rights. I have the right to free speech, and to bear arms, and to not be locked up in a nuthouse!” I knew what I was talking about. I mean, I’ve read the Constitution. In sixth grade, and I don’t remember exactly what it said. But still. Cat Poop looked at me for a moment, then said really calmly, “You’re in a psychiatric ward because you attempted to commit suicide. You may think you’re fine, but you’re not. If you don’t want to talk about it right now, that’s your decision. You have forty-three more days to talk about it. Do you have any more questions?” All I could do was sit there for a minute or two, watching him watch me. “What do you mean I have forty-three more days?” I asked him finally. “You’re in a forty-five-day program,” he told me. “You’ve been more or less awake for two days, counting today, which leaves you with forty-three more to go.” “What kind of program?” I said. “To determine the cause of your distress and work on your healing process,” he told me like he was reading a brochure. “You’ll participate in individual counseling sessions with me and in group counseling with some of the other patients.” “Other patients?” I said. “What other patients?” “Other young people,” Cat Poop told me. “You’ll meet some of them tomorrow.” “Why?” I asked. “Are we having a sing-along?” “If you want to,” he said. “But usually the patients just sit in a circle and look at each other until someone decides to talk.” “I don’t have anything to talk about,” I informed him. “Then you have forty-three days of staring to look forward to,” he said. “Is there anything else you’d like to discuss?” “How about the environment?” I suggested. “Maybe the effects of greenhouse gases on the Amazon rain forests? Or what will happen when the polar ice cap melts? Did you know all the polar bears are drowning because they have nothing to sit on?” “Perhaps another time,” he said. “I have rounds to make. We’ll hold off on the rest of your evaluation until you’re in a more cooperative mood.” “Good luck with that one,” I called after him as he left. He’s wrong about the suicide thing, by the way. This is just a big misunderstanding. I’ll sort it out in the next couple of days and then I’ll be out of here. In the meantime, maybe I will take the ladybug pill. If I have to be here, I might as well get in a good nap. And, really, I kind of like how these pills make me feel. I’ll have to remember to tell Pinch. She’ll get a kick out of it. Day 32 “What’s playing tonight on Nuthouse TV?” I asked Sadie. As usual, we were in the lounge. Everyone else had gone to bed, even though it wasn’t all that late, and except for Moonie, we had the place to ourselves. It reminded me of how sometimes Allie and I stay up late watching movies. Well, how we used to. Sadie flipped through the channels. “Um, we have a vampire movie, a documentary on whales, or the Home Shopping Network.” “Definitely the Home Shopping Network,” I said. Sadie settled on that channel. The host, a woman with big red hair and an even bigger smile, was showing off some ugly jewelry. She was holding up a ring with a giant fake diamond in it. “And for only twenty-nine ninety-nine you can have this genuine artificial piece of crap that everyone will know isn’t real,” I said. “No fair,” said Sadie. “You’re supposed to make up something completely different than what it really is.” “That is completely different than what she’s really saying,” I argued. “She wants us to think that buying that ring will make our lives perfect.” “Maybe it would,” Sadie suggested. “Right,” I said, snorting. “No, really,” Sadie said. “Maybe someone out there has been wanting a ring like that their whole life. Now they can get it for twenty-nine ninety-nine.” “Plus shipping and handling,” I said. “What’s gotten into you?” “I don’t know,” Sadie said. “I’m probably just premenstrual or something. It just kind of makes me sad to look at that ring and think that somewhere there’s this person who has to have it. And I really wish that ring would make that person’s life better.” “Did you take all your meds today?” I asked her. Sadie turned the TV off. “Let’s just talk,” she said. “About what?” I asked. “I don’t know,” said Sadie. “Me. You. Us. Anything.” “I know what this is about,” I said. “Cat Poop got into your brain. He’s turned you into Therapy Girl.” “Bite me,” Sadie said, slapping my leg. “Nobody talks around here,” she said. “We all pretend to, but we never really do.” She pointed to the television. “We’re like the people in there,” she said, like the TV was an apartment house or something. “We open our mouths, but nothing really comes out.” I’d never heard her talk like this, and to tell the truth, it was a little freaky. I mean, I could always count on Sadie to be sarcastic and funny. Now she was going all Oprah on me. “Come on,” Sadie said. “Tell me a secret.” “Now we’re telling secrets?” I said. “What’s next, Spin the Bottle?” “Tell me a secret,” she said again, poking her finger into my thigh to punctuate each word. “Ow!” I said. “Okay. Okay. You win. I’ll tell you a secret.” Then, before I knew it, I blurted out, “I fooled around with Rankin.” I couldn’t believe I’d said it. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t want to. I’d actually been thinking about telling her something about me and Allie. But that’s what came out. Afterward, I sat there wishing I could disappear. “You fooled around with Rankin?” she said. I almost told her I was kidding. I knew she would believe me if I laughed hard enough to prove it to her. But I didn’t. I just nodded. I couldn’t say anything. I mean, I’d just told her the worst thing I’d ever done in my entire life. And do you know what she did? She rolled her eyes. “You call that a secret?” she said. “Um, yeah,” I said. “Don’t you?” “Well, what do you mean you fooled around?” “We . . .” I said, then stopped. “We just . . .” I almost told her about sucking Rankin’s dick. But I couldn’t. So I moved my hand up and down like I was, well, like I was doing what Rankin and I did. The first time. “You guys jacked off together?” she guessed. I nodded. “Wow,” she said, and made her eyes really big. For a second I thought she was going to freak out on me, and I started to panic. Then she laughed. “Big news flash,” she said. “Guys whack off. Film at eleven.” I didn’t know what to say. I thought she would at least be a little surprised. I know she thought me seeing Rankin playing with himself was nothing exciting, but this was different. Totally different. This was me and Rankin playing with each other. Here I was totally freaking out about what happened, and she was treating it like it was nothing. I almost felt like I should apologize for being so boring. “I meant a secret about you,” Sadie said. “That was about me!” I said. “No,” said Sadie. “It was just something you did that you think people would be freaked out about if they knew. Trust me, everybody around here has done stuff way weirder than that.” “Like what?” I asked. “Remember Alice?” said Sadie. Like I could ever forget. I nodded. “She used to catch flies—and eat them. And last time I was here there was this guy named Benny. He liked to hide things up his butt. Trust me, what you and Rankin did was so not secret-worthy.” I looked at her while she waited for me to respond. “Sorry,” I said. “It’s all I’ve got.” Which wasn’t true, but for some reason I wanted to stop while I actually felt a little better. I was afraid if I told Sadie the rest, suddenly it wouldn’t be so “normal.” “How about what happened between you and Allie?” she said. “What do you mean?” “Come on,” Sadie said. “I know you did what you did because something happened between the two of you. So what was it? You can tell me. Since we’re sharing and everything.” “There’s nothing to tell,” I said. To tell the truth, in a weird way I was kind of pissed off that she didn’t think the thing with Rankin was a real secret. I mean, even if it wasn’t a big deal, and even if I did feel a little better about it now, it was still a secret. Sadie clearly wasn’t buying my cool act. “Yeah, there is,” she argued. “What? You slept with her and she freaked out? You and that Burke guy got into a fight over her? What was it?” “I told you, it had nothing to do with her,” I said. I thought she would push me some more, but she didn’t. She just looked at me for a long time. I looked right back at her. I’ve gotten pretty good at staring contests what with the doc and I having one practically every day. The trick is to sort of unfocus your eyes so that you’re looking at the person but not really seeing them. If you do it right, they can never tell. That’s how I won the staring contest with Sadie. After a minute she just turned away and turned the TV back on. The sound was still off, so we sat and watched the host talk. Now she was pitching some fake pearl necklace. Sadie was quiet for so long that I thought maybe she was pissed at me. I was just about to say something when she started talking again. “Remember that Saturday morning cartoon show with all the superheroes?” she asked. “Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Superman?” “Sure,” I said. “Super Friends. What about it?” Sadie stared at the television. “They all looked like normal people until they turned into these other things, right? But it always turned out that they originally turned into superheroes when they were running from something they didn’t like about themselves. Like Batman fought the dark part of his soul by battling bad guys and all that.” “I think Wonder Woman was just born Wonder Woman,” I argued. “And Superman was just Superman.” “Okay,” Sadie said. “Bad examples. But think about the really interesting superheroes. Most of them were normal until they turned into something freaky. Like Wolverine. He was part of some experiment. And the guy who turned into the Hulk hated to do it because it meant he was mad. Plus, it hurt.” “I guess so,” I admitted. Sadie went on. “When I was a kid, I used to watch that show, sitting on the couch in my pajamas and wishing more than anything that one day I’d just change into this other person,” she said. “I thought that would explain everything. You know, about why I felt so different. Then I’d find out that my mother was really an alien or that I’d been bitten by a radioactive spider as a baby, and it would all be okay because I’d be able to fly and see through walls.” She stopped talking and watched the TV some more. I thought that I should say something, but then she started talking again. “But it never happened,” she said. “I just went on being me my whole life, until one day I realized that all those superheroes were doing was fighting themselves, and that getting to breathe underwater or shoot fire from your fingers didn’t really make up for being screwed up in the first place. It was just the consolation prize—you got the great costume and the invisible jet for being a loser in everything else.” She stared at the silent TV. Her expression was completely blank, as if her soul had just flown out of her body. It was actually kind of scary. “I guess I just want my invisible jet,” she said. Day 29 I honestly can’t tell you much about how things went with my parents this morning. It was fine, I guess. We basically talked about how much we all love each other and how they’re looking forward to having me come home in a couple of weeks. I didn’t say much, and for once Cat Poop didn’t push me. Maybe he could see how tired I was. I’m sure I’ll get grilled about it in our session tomorrow. Anyway, the point is, I’m sort of preoccupied. For obvious reasons, I tried to avoid Rankin, but I ran into him this morning in the bathroom. I seriously have to talk to somebody about getting my own bathroom. This togetherness thing is becoming a problem. I wasn’t even going to take a shower. That’s how much I didn’t want to see Rankin. But around here if you don’t take a shower, someone will accuse you of being depressed again and you’ll have to go through the whole “Is anything troubling you today, Jeff?” bullshit. Who needs it? Also, I didn’t want to meet my parents smelling like Rankin’s dick. So of course I walked in and there he was. He had his towel wrapped around his waist, and he was standing outside the shower waiting for the water to get hot. The water here takes forever to warm up. I swear they have, like, three old women in the basement boiling water over actual fires. Then the water takes so long to get up here, it’s only warmish when it comes out. “Hey,” Rankin said, like nothing weird had happened. “Hey,” I said back, then stood there feeling like an idiot. But what was I supposed to say? “Thanks for coming over last night? Sorry I didn’t have clean sheets on the bed?” I mean, what? I was going to turn around and leave, but right then Rankin dropped his towel. Then he looked at me, nodded toward the shower, and stepped in. I swear I don’t know why I did it, but I followed him. It was like someone else had taken control of my body. Rankin had left the curtain open, and before I knew what I was doing, I stepped inside and pulled it closed behind me. We just stood there for a while under the water. The stalls aren’t that big, so we were basically pressed against each other. I was staring at his chest, noticing how hairy he is and trying not to think about anything. Then Rankin kissed me. His lips pressed against mine. He had some beard stubble, and it felt scratchy on my cheek. Rankin pushed me against the wall. The tiles were cold, and I tried to move away from them, but Rankin was kind of leaning against me. I put my hands on his chest to try and push him back, but as soon as I touched him it was like someone had glued us together. He put his hands on my butt and pulled me closer. He kept kissing me while he pumped himself against me. He was hard, and I reached down and wrapped my fingers around it. “Suck it,” Rankin said. I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right, so I didn’t do anything. Then he put his hands on my shoulders and kind of pushed me down so that I was on my knees. The water splashed on my head and ran down my face. I was staring at his dick and his balls and thinking how big they looked close up. I don’t know why I didn’t just get up and leave. I could have. It wasn’t like he was holding me prisoner. But I couldn’t stop staring at his dick. It was just so weird to be kneeling there in the shower in front of another guy. And for some reason I kept thinking, I wonder what it tastes like? I opened my mouth and put it on the tip of his dick. The skin tasted salty and a little sticky. Rankin put his hands on my head and pushed inside me a little, and I started to choke. He pulled back and I breathed in until I felt more relaxed. Then I tried again. We didn’t do it for very long before I heard him moan. My mouth filled with something warm and salty and I realized Rankin was coming. I didn’t want to swallow it, so I held it in my mouth until he pulled out. Then I turned and spit it out. “I have a buddy I do that with sometimes,” Rankin said. He had started to soap himself up, and was washing under his arms. I didn’t say anything. I stood up. I kind of thought he might blow me next, but all he said was, “You should probably get in another shower, in case they come in on rounds.” “Right,” I said. I opened the curtain and stepped out. The air was cold, and I shivered as I went to the shower beside Rankin’s and turned on the water. I didn’t even wait for it to warm up. I got in and then tried to stand close to the wall so that the cold water wouldn’t hit me. But it did, and it felt like I was trapped in one of those freak summer storms where you’re riding along on your bike and then the sky opens up and dumps rain on you, so that you have to wait it out under a tree. Then your T-shirt is soaking wet and all you can think about is getting home and into something dry. Rankin was humming. I could hear it through the shower wall. It wasn’t really a song, more like this weird out-of-tune melody. I listened to him while the water warmed up or maybe just until I got used to it being cold. Something about the song was familiar. Then I realized he was humming “London Bridge,” only not quite right. He sounded like a little kid trying to sing something he’d just learned in school. I soaped up and tried to ignore him. I could still taste him in my mouth. I wished I had some mouthwash, but I didn’t, so I just opened my mouth and let the water fill it up. I swished it around and spit, but I could still taste Rankin’s dick. It was like when you eat peppers or something and no matter what you drink, you can’t get it off your tongue. After a few minutes he stopped humming and got out. I heard him drying off. Then he left without saying anything, as if nothing weird had happened. Again. I stood under that water for a long time. For some reason, I couldn’t get that stupid “London Bridge” song out of my head. “London Bridge is falling down,” I kept hearing. “Falling down. Falling down. London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady.” When I was little, I had a record of that song. I used to play it over and over. Standing in the shower, I started singing the next words. “Take a key and lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up. Take a key and lock her up, my fair lady.” For some reason, that made me start crying. I just slid down the wall and sat there in that goddamn shower, crying and singing that stupid song, over and over. Day 01 I read somewhere that when astronauts come back to Earth after floating around in space they get sick to their stomachs because the air here smells like rotting meat to them. The rest of us don’t notice the stink because we breathe it every day and to us it smells normal, but really the air is filled with all kinds of pollutants and chemicals and junk that we put into it. Then we spray other crap around to try and make it smell better, like the whole planet is someone’s old car and we’ve hung this big pine-scented air freshener from the rearview mirror. I feel like those astronauts right now. For a while I was floating around in space breathing crystal-pure oxygen and talking to the Man in the Moon. Then suddenly everything changed and I was falling through the stars. I used to wonder what it would be like to be a meteor. Now I know. You fall and fall and fall, and then you’re surrounded by clouds and your whole body tingles as it starts to burn up from the entry into the atmosphere. But you’re falling so fast that it burns only for a second, and then the ocean comes rushing up at you and you laugh and laugh, until the water closes over your head and you’re sinking. Then you know you’re safe—you’ve survived the fall—and as you come back to the surface you blow millions of bubbles into the blue-green water. Only then your head breaks through the waves and you suck in great breaths of stinking air and you want to die, like babies when they come out of their mothers and find out that they should have stayed inside where they were safe. That’s where I am now, floating in the ocean like a piece of space junk and trying not to throw up every time I breathe. I’m not really in the ocean, though. I’m in the hospital. They say they brought me here last night, but I was totally out of it and don’t remember anything. Actually, what I heard someone say was that I was kind of dead. Pretty close to dead, anyway. I really do think I was flying around in space, though. At least for a little while. I remember thinking that I’d finally find out whether anyone lives on Mars or not. Then it was like someone grabbed me by the foot and yanked me down, back toward Earth. I remember screaming that I didn’t want to go, but since you can’t make noise in space, my voice was just kind of eaten up. Now that I know where I am, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t be better off just being dead. And maybe I am dead. I mean, it does kind of feel like Hell around here. I’m in this room with people checking in on me every five seconds. And by people I mean nurses, and in particular Nurse Goody. Can you believe that? Her name is actually Nurse Goody. And she is, too. Good, I mean. She’s always smiling and asking me if she can get me anything. It’s really annoying, because all I want is to be left alone, and that’s the last thing they seem to do here. So many people run in and out of this room, I feel like a tourist attraction. I bet Nurse Goody is standing outside the door selling tickets, like those guys at carnivals who try to get people to pay to see the freak show. Barkers, I think they’re called. That’s what Nurse Goody is, a barker. She stands outside my door and barks. But it’s not like there’s anything interesting in here. No television. No roommate (which actually, now that I think about it, is probably a good thing). Not even any magazines or books. Just me in bed looking out the window, which is the kind with wire running through the glass so you can’t break it and jump out. The paint around the windows is all chipped, like maybe someone who was in here before me tried to break the window, then decided to claw their way out instead. Now that I look at it, the whole room is kind of old-looking. The walls are this dirty white color, and there are some cracks in the plaster, and a weird brown spot on the ceiling that looks like a face. The Devil’s face, maybe. Because, like I said, I think I might be in Hell. It would make sense that he would be watching me. Him and Nurse Goody are watching me. Good and Evil. That’s funny. Good and Evil. Maybe I’m not in Hell. Maybe I’m in that in-between place. What do they call it? Limbo. Where all the dead people go who don’t have a “go directly to Heaven or Hell” card. Dead babies go there, too, I think. People no one knows what to do with, and dead babies. My kind of people. Maybe I’m in Limbo, and the Devil and Goody are fighting over me. Or waiting for me to make up my mind where I want to go. What would I pick, Heaven or Hell? That’s a good question. Seriously, I think I would pick Hell. The people there would probably be more interesting. Come to think of it, it really is hot as Hell in here. There’s a radiator under the window, the big old metal kind that shakes whenever water goes through it. I guess it’s been working overtime. I swear, this place must be eleventy years old. It’s like any minute now the whole building is going to fall apart. At least then I wouldn’t be here. It’s raining, and the only thing I can see out the window is part of a forest. Since it’s winter, though, it looks less like a forest and more like a bunch of skeletons holding their hands up to the sky. The rain is running down the glass, making it look like the skeletons are under water. Drowning. Although if they’re skeletons, wouldn’t they already be dead? So maybe they’re just swimming. Anyway, the skeleton trees are kind of freaking me out. It’s looking more and more like this really is Hell. Maybe I should tell Goody she’s in the wrong place. I’m really tired. The radiator is rattling, it’s hot in here, and my head hurts. I keep looking up at the Devil’s face, and I think he’s laughing at me. I sort of wish Goody would come in and make him shut up. Maybe she’s given up on me. I know they’re hoping I’ll say something about why I did what I did. So for the record: I just felt like it. Day 33 Now I know for sure that all of this is a dream, because what happened tonight can’t possibly be real. It just can’t. I don’t even know where to start. Rankin came into my room last night. I guess technically it was earlier today, since it must have been about one or two in the morning. I was sleeping, and then I felt something pressing against my back. Rankin had pulled my shorts down, and he was pushing himself against me. I was still only half awake, so I didn’t realize what he was doing at first. He put his arms around me and pulled me closer. I could hear him breathing in my ear. Believe it or not, that’s not even the bad thing. If that was all, I could probably handle it. Probably. But that was just the beginning. Like I said, Rankin was holding on to me and trying to . . . I don’t think I can even say it right now. But he was getting close. As soon as I realized what he was doing, I woke up fast. I even opened my mouth to tell him to stop. And that’s when the screaming started. At first I thought it was me screaming. Then I realized it was a girl’s voice. I don’t know what Rankin thought was going on, but he pulled me closer to him and put his hand on my mouth. Maybe he thought I was the one screaming too. It was so weird. I was trying to figure out who was screaming and I was trying to get Rankin off me all at the same time. Everything was happening at once, but I felt like I couldn’t even move because I didn’t know what was more important, getting away from Rankin or helping whoever was making the awful noise. That’s when the light came on. It snapped on like fireworks exploding over our heads. I couldn’t see. Rankin rolled off of me and sat on the edge of the bed, covering himself with his hands. I looked up and saw Carl and Nurse Moon standing in the doorway. The screaming had stopped, like the light switch controlled that too. “Pull your shorts up, Jeff,” Moonie said. She wasn’t yelling or anything. She said it really calmly. I pulled up my underwear. Rankin had picked his up from the floor and was pulling them on. I glanced over at Nurse Moon and saw that she was looking down to give him some privacy. Carl, though, was staring at us. Staring at us and shaking his head, like we were his grandkids and we’d just disappointed him big time. “Rankin, back to your room,” Nurse Moon said when he was dressed. Rankin didn’t look at me as he walked out of the room. He didn’t look at Moonie or Carl either. He rushed by them and down the hall. I looked at Nurse Moon, my heart pounding in my chest. “What’s going on?” I asked. “Who was screaming?” “It’s Martha,” Moonie told me. That scared me. “Is she all right?” I asked. “What happened? Is she hurt?” I started to go toward the door. “Don’t you worry about her,” said Nurse Moon, holding up her hand so that I stopped. “She had a bad dream. That’s all.” I nodded. I know all about dreams that make you want to scream. Then I remembered why Carl and Nurse Moon were in my room in the first place. “We were just . . .” I began. Moonie interrupted me. “Dr. Katzrupus will talk to you in the morning,” she said. “Good night.” That was it. Good night. Like she was tucking me in. No yelling. No “I’m very disappointed in you.” No nothing. And you know what? That was worse. If she’d yelled, or seemed disgusted, or even at all upset, I would have felt better. But she treated it like she didn’t care. Like it didn’t matter. Maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know anymore. Maybe Sadie is right and it’s just something guys do. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything. I’d really rather not talk about it with Cat Poop, though. It’s exactly the kind of thing he writes about on his stupid pad. When I finally fell asleep after Moonie left, I had the weirdest dream. First we were in group—all of us, even the people who are gone now. Cat Poop asked us to go around the circle and say what we were most afraid of. Alice said she was afraid of being alone. Bone said he was afraid of cars, which seemed weird until I remembered the whole gas station thing. Juliet said she was afraid of teeth, which because she’s Juliet didn’t seem strange at all. Rankin said he was afraid of losing. Martha didn’t say anything. Sadie said she wasn’t afraid of anything, and I believed her. In my dream it was like she had this force field around her that protected her from everything the rest of us have to watch out for. Then she looked at me and said, “Once you realize there’s nothing to be afraid of when you die, there’s nothing else to worry about.” When it was my turn, I couldn’t think of anything to say. I looked around at the rest of the group and thought how messed up they all were. Then I looked at my wrists and realized that they were bleeding again. I pulled my sleeves down to cover them, but I could feel the blood soa