Mel sat at the bar, in his usual hangout. The same faces he saw most days were filling out the stools. He looked across the bar and into the mirror behind it and grimaced. Less than seven months till he turned thirty. What do I have to show for myself? he thought. His grimace turning into a frown. “What’s wrong Mel?” called the bartender Brian. “Same shit, different day” Mel called back and tried to force a smile. The same forced smile he had been throwing out for so many years now, he’d lost count. “Now listen here” Brian started “We’ve known each other for how many years now?” Mel’s smile became a little more genuine, a wiry twist of the lips. “I don’t even know if I want to count the years,” Mel said his smile becoming more pronounced. “God only knows how long I’ve had to deal with your ugly face,” he said and laughed. The laughter didn’t last long, it rarely did these days. “Seriously Mel” Brian walked over to look him in the eye “You can’t fool me.” Mel looked away, “I’m fine, I swear,” he said even though he knew it was a lie. Brian gave him a sidelong look, which he held for several moments.
“I’m’s good’s, I’s tell’s ya,” Mel said a joking manner. Then he held up his hand, his first three fingers up the rest folded down in the boy scout salute “Scouts honor.” Brian stared at him for a moment “I don’t think I believe you, but you’re so stubborn about hiding how you feel” he responded. “I’ll let it slide this time, but I’s got’s me’s eyes on’s ya.” Brian’s smile seemed forced too, “I’m just worried” he continued, “It’s been four years since he’s been gone.” A pained expression passed over Mel’s face. “It’s ok!” Mel said, “I’m ok!” He tried to smile and calm himself. “As you said it’s been four years,” he said as he fought to hold back tears he didn’t want the other to see. “Time heals all wounds they say, why don’t you go and get me another beer?”
Brian looked at Mel again, concern on his face, but he shrugged and walk away to fetch the drink. God, I can barely keep myself in check, WHAT THE FUCK! Mel thought running his fingers through his hair. Has it really been four years? He was barely eating or sleeping. He couldn’t even take care of himself; his life was a mess. “On second thought, let me pay my tab Brian” he stood up “I’ve been here long enough.” Brian walked back “I’ve got your beers today,” he said still looking worried, “You’ve only had two, besides what are friends for.” Brian smiled and continued “You should come over tomorrow, it’s been way too long, and Jenny would love to see you” he smiled and looked Mel in the eyes.
Mel tried to force a smile “Um I dunno, I’m busy” he started and then looked away. He stood up and continued to make excuses “Maybe some other time,” he said as he tried to escape the scrutiny. Brian grabbed his arm across the bar before he could run away. “Seriously, Mel” he began “You have people who care, let us help you!” Mel’s face scrunched up in anger. “Let me go damn it!” He jerked his arm away. Realizing what he had just done, Mel tried to calm himself. “Listen, I’m sorry, but just not tomorrow” he sighed. “Maybe some other time, I Promise” he turned away and quickly said “I gotta go, later” and without another word he walked out of the bar.
The walk back to his place although short, was cold and the sun had just set. It was almost winter and in the small New England town where he lived, and as with the majority of Rhode Island, it was coastal. The almost constant sea breeze had enough of a bite to make him wish he had brought a jacket or hoodie. I’m so fucked up he thought to himself I, fucking hate myself, why do I even bother. These thoughts were not new, they had plagued him for more than the past four years. Why do I even try, I just don’t want… “GOD! Mel stop it!” He said aloud, trying to snap himself out of the downward spiral that happened more often these days. I just need to get back to my place and calm down He berated himself.
He had been lost in his thoughts and not really paying attention to where he was going. Looking around he realized he was well past his house. “Well fuck me,” he said, then he realized then where he was. Hell, I haven’t been up here since… He stopped mid-thought and his face contorted. He stood unmoving for a few moments, his hands clenching and unclenching, but then he took a deep breath and continued walking. “Fuck it, I might as well make my day complete.” He said to the wind. He continued walking up to the bluff he had refused to go anywhere near for the last four years. Why am I doing this? He wondered as he walked. It had gotten colder as he continued to walk. “Smells like it’s gonna snow,” he said, and once again realizing he was alone continued in his head I should go home, I’m gonna get sick if I stay out here. But, he never slowed down or hesitated. His steps were steadier than they had been in years as if he was driven forward by something unseen.
He was almost at the edge of the bluff when he saw her. He stopped and stared, she was standing on the edge of the bluff staring down its side, and she was crying. His problems forgotten for the moment, he approached her with caution and asked her “Are you ok?” He wasn’t sure if she had heard him, she just stood there crying, but then she slowly turned to look at him. Tears flowing freely down her face. It was then that he could see she was in high school maybe younger it was hard to tell in the dark. “It’s not fair!” She croaked her voice raw from all the crying. He fought to stay calm, “What’s not fair?” He said. “Everything!” she yelled “Why do they say those things about me? Why!” she pleaded as the tears continued to flow unchecked down her cheeks. “I hate my life! She cried “Why must I live like this” she continued so quietly he almost didn’t hear the last part.
Mel was silent for a moment, then he sighed and said, “We all hate our lives, there are certain points in almost everyone’s life that they want to give up or give in.” He stayed calm and looked at her. “What can I say to them to make them stop?” she pleaded, her tears starting to slow. He looked at her wanting to make it better. “Nothing” he admitted “There is nothing you can, or have to say.” She stared at him “Nothing” she whispered in confusion. He continued “The best weapon I’ve found is to kill them kindness, rise above their petty behavior, show them you’re better than them. Not with words but with actions.” As he said all of that wondering where it was all coming from. “Try at least in public to make it look like their words mean nothing, that they mean nothing to you” her tears were slowly stopping as she looked at him “Does that actually work?” she asked. “It takes time, and patience” he responded, and smiled “They will throw worse and worse at you, but you must try to remember the horrible things they say reflect who they are, not who you are.”
A small fragile smile appeared on her face. She suddenly rushed Mel and gave him a fierce hug. He was startled at first, but returned the hug “Sometimes you just need to talk, or listen to feel better, and trust me it gets better.” He said and patted her head. “Thank you!” She said, “Thank you so very much!” She let go, looked him in the eyes for a long moment, and wiped away her tears. She hugged him once more and then started to walk back towards town. He watched her walk until her silhouette was lost in the darkness. To be young again, when simple explanations are enough. He thought, his smile lasting for a moment. It disappeared, he turned around and walked up to the edge of the bluff to face his own demons.
He stood there for a long moment listening to the siren’s call of the waves pounding the bluff. All his thoughts of his interaction with the girl left his mind, he was staring down into his own personal abyss and the demons that haunted his life. Why am I here? He wondered. What does it matter? Nothing matters! “Did you stand here just like this?” he said, trying to see through the dark. At that moment, it started to snow. It was rare for snow to start this early in the season, but a few flakes started to fall at first and then a full-blown downfall. I love the sound of snow on a quiet night he thought, and his mind wandered as he remembered the past. As he stood on the edge of his existence, he listened to and enjoyed the hushed hiss of falling snowflakes that seemed to supplant the sound of the waves. Why am I here? He questioned himself again. Why am I so sad? Yes, he’s is gone… He looked upright as the moon peaked through the clouds with tears in his eyes.
For a few moments, the world was awash in moonlight, he could see the waves and a slight rainbow around the moon. The clouds closed over the moon, the moment was lost, and his gaze returned downward, and inward. What would mom and dad think if they saw me standing here like this? What about Brian and Jenny? His thoughts then returned to the girl. All those things I said, it’s just you’re you’re supposed to say, but what would she think of it? After I talked her down if I stepped off?… He stopped at this, That’s why I’m here, but can I? Should I? Am I really at this point? These were thoughts he had refused to even acknowledge until this moment. What if I try and fail? Can I live with that shame? He sat there, staring down, facing an inner turmoil that he had not been fully aware of how strong it had become. Maybe, I’ve just refused to believe that it’s gotten this bad. “Is this why Brian was so worried?” At the sound of his own voice, it was as if a cloud surrounding him suddenly thinned, and an understanding blossomed. A profound thought occurred to him, I can’t do this! Not now, not ever. Especially not in the same manner. His conviction got stronger. I don’t want to make the people in my life feel the way I feel. At last, he realized and said aloud, “No one deserves to feel like this!” He continued to look down into the sea I’ll never let it get this bad again, no matter what! He swore to himself.
At that thought, he turned around and started walking back to town with purpose. He walked past his house and down the road, right into the bar. Brian looked up from the bar “God damn it, man! Where have you been? Your moms called six times! No one knew where you were.” Mel smiled “I went for a walk, I’m good, I’m fine.” Brian looked at him and said, “A walk, it’s been hours!” Then he noticed, “Dear Lord! You’re turning blue! Went for a walk he says. Hell, let me get you a shot of Jameson.” Mel tried to wave him off but gave up, he looked Brian in the eyes and said “Can I still come over tomorrow? I’d like to spend time with you and Jenny.” When the dumbfounded expression faded from Brian’s face, he started to smile, and he said “That would be great! She’d love to see you.” After a moment, he asked, “Where have you been, and what made you change your mind?” Mel simply said, “Just give me that shot and a beer, and we’ll talk about it tomorrow. It’s a long story.”
National Suicide Helpline