When I am seventeen I live in the suicide state. More people kill themselves here than anywhere else- or so I’ve heard. It may be a rumor, but there’s substantial evidence to reinforce and validate the claim. The hallways of my high school are lined with yearbook pictures of the kids who have killed themselves. The girls’ soccer team goes on permanent hiatus after three of its varsity players kill themselves in as many weeks. It’s so common that they’ve stopped announcing the tragedies over the intercom. A first period teacher will sigh and say, “So-and-so has died.” And we’ll all murmur quietly.
One girl is always especially dramatic. She freezes, her eyes widen, she lets her jaw fall open and then (oh, the shock of it all) she loses her grip on her pen, lets it go. It clatters to the desk, loud and obnoxious. Suddenly the attention is hers alone. I hate this girl. She is a master at making other people’s pain her own. Nobody likes her, but she performs her carefully choreographed charade at seven in the morning, as if she had been the bosom friend of our now-deceased classmate. She’s the girl you’d expect to kill herself, by appearance. She’s as Tortured Artist as they come, with a colorless wardrobe and stringy hair she boasts about filling with lowlights. None of the kids who have killed themselves are anything like her. They come from good families and beam their perfect-toothed smiles from the hallway where they are memorialized. They never knew the girl obsessed with their deaths, but she’ll twist the stories of their lives in their absence. A once borrowed pen morphs into a tragically lost best friendship. The other half isn’t around to contradict her.
Some days, I am certain the only reason I don’t kill myself is because the thought of becoming another dead best friend to Suicide Girl is even worse than being alive in this miserable place. When I am seventeen, and living in Suicide City, I consider killing myself on a daily basis. There simply isn’t much else to consider. Everything is dead in this town. September through June is permafrost. July and August are dry and hot. Everything is perpetually dead. There is no spring. No blooming flowers or changing seasons. There is wind. The wind never stops. It shakes the sturdiest houses until windows break; it blows feet fully off the ground, pushes cars off roadways. The wind is the worst. Specks of dust lift on a gust, burrowing into eyes which tear and stream. The wind is what drives people mad here. That’s my theory, anyway.
My best friend, sixteen and extremely drunk, is caught in a compromising position. She calls to tell me she is considering faking a suicide attempt so her parents will forget to punish her for having sex with a thirty year old.
I have to leave this town.
I fly across the country, away from the military base that ties my family to this dysfunctional place. I arrive in New England in time to see Spring morph into Summer. There is an occasional breeze, but the wind does not perpetually howl. Life goes on with its various ups and downs. Given the intersection of circumstances and irrational teenage emotions, things are often unnecessarily dramatic. But not once do I consider adding my picture to those hanging in the quickly forgotten hallway.