Chapter 1

Tonight was too warm and comforting; a soft, peaceful kind of atmosphere set over it. People were out and starting their weekends whether that began at the bar, a casino, a movie theater, or wherever people were willing to walk in their group of friends. Conversation was passed around here and there about terrible jobs, terrible children, anything terrible that gave them a reason to try to forget everything tonight.

    I looked around at the people walking down the street, headed toward a fun time, and the people hanging their heads out the car window as they sped down the street, going to the party that happened after the fun time. People in restaurants found it amazing that they actually liked the new food they tried while so many others in the world went without for another night. While some gambled with hundreds of dollars others struggled to find a job to provide for their loved ones. Mothers and fathers went out for the night, not together, but to their own separate affairs while their children felt alone at home with the babysitter. People can live however they want; it's their life so they can decide. But to completely forget about others who struggle and focus only on selfish needs is something I cannot bring myself to overlook.

    Since I was about twelve years old I have thought this way, continuously reminding myself of what the world was really like. For sixteen years I have been able to turn my head and stop these problems from convincing me that life and everything else was meaningless. But today I have been pushed to my limit, and since I am in control of my own life as anyone else is, I have decided to acknowledge the fact that I am tired and I cannot force myself to continue on. And that is okay. I am allowed to end things just as a man is allowed to start a war with any country he would like to fight with for the next few years. This was my decision and my decision alone. Maybe it wasn't the most original idea but what was anymore?

    There was nothing else I could see but what was wrong with the world. I knew it was wrong to live this way. I should have been thankful for this life I was given. But all I knew was the pain it brought and I could not find a reason to justify why I had to go through this. Everyone had good and bad in them but when given the opportunity to choose they decided to be bad. There was no such thing as good people. People only did good things to make themselves feel superior to everyone else or secure a spot for themselves in heaven. Nothing was done purely to be good.

    I wanted my last thought to be of the simple word goodbye. There was no need to think of parents who chose to live without a care for their children, or about a brother who overdosed on heroin, or a girlfriend who slept with other men and didn't think to stop when her boyfriend walked in on her. No one could love me. There were a lot of people in the world who no one could love. Those kinds of people weren't meant to be here and that was okay because we were the ones who were meant to see the afterlife and explore it before anyone else did. That was where we belonged.

    There was a bridge over a busy street in the middle of town. I'd jump there head first, die trying to make some kind of statement. Maybe it wouldn't be my own statement but it would contribute to a larger one, like the statistics of suicides per year. Hopefully I wouldn't land on the hood of a car with a kid inside. Or maybe scarring them for life like that was a good thing. Then they could learn the truth about life and the world sooner rather than later. Maybe find a way out of it somehow. Worst case scenario is that they end up like me, or go killing everyone else. Oh, well. Wouldn't be my problem anymore.

    The bridge was a common path to use to get from one hotel to another. I didn't want to die surrounded so closely by so many people, but I guess they were important to my statement. The railing was almost just below my waist. It wouldn't be too difficult getting over it. All I had with me were my clothes and my wallet with my ID. I kept saying to myself goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. I needed only that thought to be in my mind.

    I was faced toward the edge. I could lean over the railing and fall or I could jump and flip over to get my head to hit first. I'm really going to do it. I'm really going to do it. I needed to get my mind off of that and say my last word. But then my mind trailed off again and thought, What is going to stop me from doing this?

    "Hey, Arlo. Whatcha doing," Nick asked. How could I not have known that my friend Nick would be out with everyone else on a Friday night like he always was?

    "Tripping out," I answered.

    "Aw, cool. Where's the stuff?"

    "All gone," I turned to him while scheduling my suicide for Saturday night on my mental calendar. Nick would be at his girlfriend Liz's house then. I guess making Sunday morning news was better than Saturday morning when everyone's hungover.

    "Dammit. That sucks," he already knew I wouldn't save some for him anyways. "Well, listen. Everyone was just heading down to the buffet and Liz got her cousin to come out tonight. She's super young...like eighteen, and she's ridiculously shy. But she's sad and lonely and she made me think of you."

    "God, you are so thoughtful."

    "Damn straight. I knew you'd need a rebound after Beth."

    "It blows my mind how thoughtful you are – like where would the world be without you?"

    "Limbo. It wouldn't do great without me but it could survive."

    "Well at least we have a chance."

    "So you coming?"

    I nodded, knowing Nick was one of the more okay human beings. I didn't hate him at least. Plus why not pig out on my last meal? There was no sure thing that corn and steak would be in whatever afterlife I ended up in. I didn't care so much about the girl. I'd probably say hi to her, make small talk, find out something incredibly obnoxious about her personality, lose all faith in humanity once again and confirm my decision to commit suicide. But at least I was getting food out of this.

    We started walking down the bridge to get off on the left side, his group walking ahead of us and just getting off. In the back was a girl I hadn't seen before, short and very young looking. I figured it was her and still did not think I would do much with her tonight. But of course, my plans were always interrupted or changed in some way. So who knew? Maybe we'd drive off a cliff together tonight. I was open to anything because it would all end Saturday night.

 

The buffet was packed tonight, of course, because it was Friday and seafood night. Thankfully, this buffet would serve its usual stuff along with seafood, so I could still have my steak and corn. Maybe I'd go for the fried shrimp even though it usually made me sick. But who cared? It would all end Saturday! I could eat until I popped.

    In the light, I got a better look at Liz's cousin. She had lightly tanned skin, dark long hair with some of it held up in a ponytail with her bangs covering her eyes. Her hoop earrings stuck out the most. She was wearing a jean jacket, with black shorts, gray knee high socks, and Doc Martins. I pointed to her and asked Nick, "What's her name?"

    "Demri," he said. "You actually thinking of hooking up with her?"

    "I don't know. Just kind of curious right now."

    The waiters put together a table with all the other tables in a corner where not many people had been sitting. There were thirteen of us, six sitting on one side and seven on the other. Nick sat across from me with Liz on his right side and Demri on the end. It looked like she either preferred to be alone or was too shy to sit by anyone else. She looked around the area, her eyes following one person as they walked and then jumped to another, like she was looking for someone. That was probably what the extra seat was for. I didn't care that she was with someone else but it annoyed me that Nick would tell me to hook up with her.

    Another waiter showed up after the others finished giving out plates and silverware. She started on our side and asked for drink orders.

    "I'll have a Pepsi," I said.

    "Do you have strawberry milk," Demri asked in a sort of quiet voice. Nick looked at me and smiled, trying not to laugh at her.

    "Strawberry milk," the waiter asked to make sure that was what she actually ordered.

    "Yes please." I hadn't heard someone ask for a strawberry milk since middle school. Maybe fifth grade even. Around that time where everyone had to start ordering soda to act cool like their older sibling.

    They brought back Demri's strawberry milk with whipped cream and a cherry. She said thank you and immediately ate the cherry and tied the stem in a knot in her mouth. She took it out and set it nicely down on her napkin and smiled at it. Her bangs had moved to where I could see her eyes looking down at the stem. Her eyes were big and not exactly childish, but something along those lines. I'd say pure but I wasn't the type of person to use that word.

    ​Demri caught me looking at her and her smile disappeared. I expected her to look away and be embarrassed or laugh nervously, but she continued to stare at me for a painfully long moment. It felt like it could have been a whole minute. Her eyes glistened and I could see tears form. Finally she did look away, but slowly. She got up and rubbed her eyes, walking over to the start of the buffet. Nick watched her as she left and then glared at me.

    "Did you make fun of her strawberry milk," he asked.

    "No. I didn't even make fun of her cherry stem," I pointed at the little red knot on the napkin. Nick looked over at it and started laughing freely.

    "Oh, god," he giggled a little more. "She's cute right?"

    "Um, yeah, maybe too cute for you creeps," Liz said.

    "I'm not even after her! Arlo is," Nick defended himself.

    "When did I say that?!"

    "Whatever you guys, just don't weird her out. She's very socially awkward. She may be autistic. We don't know. But her parents asked me to bring her out and see how she acts so just be cool," Liz explained. She went back to talking to her other friends when Demri came back. Demri took off her jacket, showing her Red Hot Chili Peppers shirt underneath. This made me like her a little more and excuse our awkward eye contact.

    I looked at her plate to see what she could have gotten in the five seconds that she was gone and saw that she started out with ice cream and watermelon. I looked up at her again but she didn't look back this time.

 

I came back to the table with my steak and corn and hoped it would taste perfect for my last meal. I didn't have money to buy anymore food, so Saturday I would go completely without before killing myself. I was okay with that. I didn't need my body releasing anything more than piss once I died. I might also get ice cream like Demri and try to relive the good part of my childhood.

    Before I started eating, Demri looked at me again. This time she was even more awkward about it, looking from one thing to me and then to another thing and at me again. She rubbed her fingers together and couldn't stop nervously moving. I tried not to notice and focused on remembering the tastes of my last meal.

    "D-do you like Red Hot Chili Peppers," she asked out of nowhere. I looked up at her and saw she was looking at me and then my shirt. I had then realized I forgot to do my laundry and had my By the Way album shirt on which I had been wearing for at least three days. Nick and Liz tried to subtly observe her as she attempted to make conversation with me. I felt bad that this would lead to nowhere.

    "Uh, yeah."

    "Um...what's your favorite song?"

    "I don't know, uh, they have a lot of good songs," I looked over at Liz giving me crazy eyes, darting over at Demri and then widening at me. "But...I guess I'd have to go with Dosed."

    "Really?!" She stopped herself before she got too excited. "Me, too." I nodded and went back to my steak. "J-John Frusciante is really amazing...with the stuff he comes up with." I internally sighed and hoped she'd get that I didn't want to talk. I replied, "Mhm."

    "You know, one time, in this interview he did at his house – or someone else's house – he was talking about leaving the band and some of the things he was going through. He talked about how life was pretty bad for him at that time and how he couldn't find the good in it anymore. He said that he was even thinking about killing himself." It was crazy how much emphasis she put on killing himself. She said it so loud nearly everyone looked down the table at her.

    "Wouldn't that have been so sad? If he had killed himself," she continued. "He has so much talent, and for a while he thought he had no talent even though he did. He left the band again, but he's okay now and he's making his own music. Isn't that cool? He's still going on? I'm so glad he's still alive. If I had known him back then, I would have tried to help him through everything. I mean it's still his decision whether he wants to live or not, and you can't force someone to do something they don't want to do, but I still would have tried to help." She talked so fast I thought she would at least take a breath but she just held it in. She paused for a second, her eyes seemed worried. Her hands continued to move nervously. "I'm gonna get more food."

    Right as she walked out of view, Liz turned to me and whisper-yelled, "What the hell did you do? Why is she talking about John whatever killing himself?"

    "Frusciante."

    "I don't care! What happened? What'd you say?"

    "She just asked me what my favorite Red Hot Chili Peppers song was and I said Dosed."

    Liz glared at me like she was still going to blame me for whatever Demri was doing. I got up and went to get more food but really just needed an excuse to get away. I wanted to ask Demri why she was being so weird but I knew it would be useless to get into an argument with her. She was just a strange girl and probably had a thing for John Frusciante.

    I went over to the fruit section and saw Demri piling on more watermelon along with three different pastries. She noticed me and tried looking away but ended up looking back and forth from me to her plate. I went up to her and said, "Maybe he didn't want any help." She looked back at me with wide eyes and backed up a little.

    "In that case...I don't know what I would've done. If I had known him at the time..." she tried maintaining eye contact with me, which seemed very difficult for her, and paused and started her sentences in weird places.

    "You could've left him alone. Like you said, it was up to him."

    I began to walk away but she started up again. "I don't think I could do that. E-every life...has meaning. He probably has fans who love his music so much they decided not to kill themselves either."

    "What about bad people? Would you try to help them?"

    "I don't know. Maybe they just need someone to listen to them and show them what it's like to be good. Then they could be good, too."

    "Bad means bad. They can't be changed."

    "But...d-do you really know? There's gotta be at least a little good in everyone. You don't know unless you try."

    "Whatever."

    I began walking towards the steak and decided not to try talking sense into her. It wasn't my responsibility and she was going to think however she wanted to think no matter what I had to say about it. I was only wasting my last bit of energy on something useless. But of course, I couldn't be done with it when I wanted to be done with it. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see Demri following after me.

    "What would I do in a situation where the person doesn't want help and wants to kill themselves," she asked.

    "You leave them alone. You let them do what they want because it's their life and they can do what they want with it. If they want to end it without listening to anyone else's input, then respect their decision and allow them their freedom," I explained.

    "But what if I'm not okay with that?"

    "It's not up to you to be okay with that. You're not in charge. You don't control them."

    I started walking again and only got two feet away when she pulled on my arm. I turned around to see her crying, her cheeks already red. She held onto my arm and looked down at the ground. I pulled my arm away slowly but stood there with her.

    ​Demri looked up at me and spoke with a cracked voice, "Please don't kill yourself." My eyes widened, my head went dizzy, I backed away from her as she continued to cry. "I know I shouldn't be involved...It's your decision. But I don't want you to die."

    "You don't even know me."

    "I know but..."

    "It's my decision."

    "Please...I couldn't live with myself if I let you. That's probably selfish-" she almost started choking on her own tears. "I'm sorry. But please."

    "Why should I," I asked. Tears started welling up in me, too. I had never cried about this before. Why was I now? "There's nothing to live for."

    "There are some things..."

    "No there's not. Everyone is terrible. People are capable of being good and bad, but they always choose to be bad. They lie to each other and steal from each other. Relationships now are about who can cheat with the most people. I couldn't even live on my own in the middle of nowhere because all of nature is going to be destroyed eventually. By people. There's nothing and no one to live for. Everything that could have been good has been taken away."

    Now I was crying with Demri in the middle of a buffet. People passing by stared at us and wondered why we weren't moving out of the way. Our friends were most likely wondering where we were too. All this, and she decided to hug me. She put her head against my chest and cried into my shirt. I couldn't hug her, only cry more.

    "I'm sorry," her voice was muffled. "I'm sorry."

    "Why do you care? You don't even know me, so why do you care?"

    "I just keep thinking, what kind of life were you put through to hate it so much that you can't keep living anymore? It's not fair. Some people never know what that's like, and all just because they got lucky."

    "It's not fair."

    She looked up at me and said, "I know it's not my place, but I don't want you to die." She put her head back down and hugged me tighter. How did she know I was going to kill myself? Did she actually care? Was this even real? A girl I just met, young and childish, our first conversation about John Frusciante, who somehow figured out I was going to kill myself, was now asking me not to while we both cried in the middle of a crowd. I had to ask myself, How did I get here?

    I bent down and rested my head on the top of hers. She hugged me even tighter and I hugged her back. Even though I was breaking down all over again, like the sixteen years of hate I had for the world was hitting me all at once, I felt loved. I didn't want to have sex with this girl or even ask her out on a date. I only wanted to be around her, ask her how she found out I was going to commit suicide, listen to music with her, swim in the ocean in the middle of the night with her, anything that I could do with her as long as I could be near her. She was the first person to ever make me feel this way. In my previous relationship I had only loved and chased after what I thought was love but I was never the one who was loved. Not in any relationship I had with anyone.

    ​Demri was a new type of person I had not yet met. I didn't know what she was but I wanted to find out. I wanted to know what made her laugh, what made her sad, and what made her feel loved. I wanted to learn more about why she cried for me and why she cared when no one else had. The guy I had been friends with since high school couldn't see that I had problems but this girl could.

    "Do you want to go to this ice cream place with me," I asked. I figured it would be more appropriate than coffee, considering the plate she left on the counter in front of the fruit. "It doesn't have to be a date."

    "Yes," she said into my shirt. She looked up at me to say the next thing. "Let's meet there every day, even if we don't buy anything."

    "Okay. That's actually good because I just remembered I don't have any money." She laughed and put her head into my shirt again. I could feel she was still crying.

2: Chapter 2
Chapter 2

Demri and I had to take a moment to wipe our tears away before we set out to find an ice cream place. She worried if it would be rude to leave in the middle of having dinner with everyone but then decided she didn’t care. Neither of us had any money, Demri relying on Liz and me relying on Nick to pay for dinner. We went back to the table and finished the rest of our food first, knowing we’d still have room for ice cream after. This was the lightest I had ever felt. Was there ever a time I felt like this? I wasn’t sure there was another time to compare it to. Maybe early childhood but that’s the same for everyone. I’m talking about a lightness you feel even after you’ve learned what the world is truly like.

            It was all over Liz’s face that she was seeing a completely changed Demri. Her eyes weren’t darting around from person to person, bags slowly weighing heavier underneath her eyelids. She was talking a little and not stuttering or pausing awkwardly in the middle of her sentences. Who knew a talk about death and suicide could be so freeing?

            “What other bands do you like,” she asked me.

            “Pretty much anything rock and grunge, just a lot of alternative stuff. I love Alice in Chains.”

            “I was named after Layne Staley’s girlfriend!”

            “Oh my god! I thought your name sounded familiar.”

            “My mom thought it sounded so pretty and heard Demri was such a cool person. I love that she named me after her.”

            It was as if we had been friends our entire lives. It was so easy to talk to each other now. All of a sudden suicide seemed like the stupidest decision I could make. I would have missed out on getting know Demri. And there are probably other like her. I felt bad for everyone else who had ended their own lives. Why didn’t we think about some of the good things there were in the world? It was so strange, in the back of my mind I knew there were some good things, but I couldn’t focus on it for the life of me. Literally! I had to experience it to really understand. Why couldn’t this have happened sooner? I wanted to cry all over again thinking about how I almost did it. I almost jumped. I wanted to so bad. It seemed like the only way to feel light like this.

            Demri looked up from her fruit and pastries and stared at me again. Her eyes welled up with tears and in that moment, I understood she knew what I was feeling. I didn’t know how but she could sense it. It was all over her face. I laughed wryly and wiped the tears away before they could fall. Thankfully, no one saw. God, would it be a mess if we had to explain to everyone here what just happened. People I work with, acquaintances who were barely even that. I wanted to get out of there already.

            “I’m gonna go ask Nick for ice cream money,” I whispered to Demri.

            “Oh no, don’t. Liz owes me money. I can get it from her,” Demri smiled. She got up and walked over to where Liz was sitting. I could see Liz was taken aback when Demri explained to her what she wanted to do with the money. She glanced over at me, gave me a dirty look, and turned back to Demri.

            Liz took a moment and then grabbed her purse. She took out about $15 and handed it to Demri. Demri smiled and hugged her, again shocking Liz to where she couldn’t even hug back. I could tell she figured I was up to something and stared at me harshly. She whispered in Nick’s ear and after the initial shock he gave me a thumbs-up, not helping my situation.

            Liz got up out of her seat and walked over to me. I hoped I could explain part of the situation to her to ease her mind. She made me turn away from Demri so she couldn’t hear us but used her whisper-yell voice again. “What are you doing?”

            “Sitting,” I answered smart-alecky.

            “You know what I fucking mean.”

            “God, I’m not doing anything. I don’t even plan on sleeping with her.”

            “You know she’s 18? You’re a 27 year-old man and she is an 18 year-old girl. She’s barely legal. Basically illegal, if you count social standards as law.”

            “I don’t.”

            “Well, I do sometimes. This looks really weird. And I don’t want you to mess up this friendship we have. At least for Nick’s sake.”

            “I’m not up to anything I promise.”

            “What happened when you both left to get food?”

            “We talked.”

            “About what?”

            “Suicide.”

            “Really?”

            “Really.”

            Liz stared at me for a long moment. I tried to think of how I could explain to her how much Demri’s actions meant to me in the few minutes we interacted with each other, in the few minutes we had know each other. I didn’t want to tell her what Demri figured out but I had to say something.

            “I’ve been feeling really shitty lately. With my brother overdosing…and the break-up…it was just really nice to meet a cool person tonight. My intentions are to go to concerts with her. I won’t even pressure her to drink. We can buy her a strawberry milk before the show,” I smiled.

            She smiled back. I knew the my-brother-overdosed card would work. And I mean, shit, it was the truth. What else could have gotten me down to such a low point? I think everyone here, even the acquaintances I barely talked to, knew I was having some issues lately. They could see it on my face when I didn’t smile when I was supposed to. They could smell it in my pits when I went without showering for a few days. I think Liz and all of them discreetly watched as I became a little better after meeting Demri. I need to have ice cream with her.

            “Liz, I really like her. Not even in a sexual way, just as a person. In the few moments we spent in the buffet line, she made me feel 1000 times better. I just want to hang out and get to know her.”

            Liz looked at me again with suspicious eyes, but said, “Okay. You have my blessing. I think you made her happier to. That was the first time she hugged me since we were kids. She’s been uncomfortable with talking and touching for so long now. I think you made her feel better, too. You can see her if you keep doing that.”

            “Thanks.” I didn’t really need her blessing, but it was nice to have it anyways.

            Finally, Demri and I could go have that life-saving ice cream, the ice cream that would give me meaning each day from now on. We were gonna get so fat. But I’d like to with her.