“How?” he whispered harshly, rocking back and forth, hugging his knees to his chest. Tears streamed down his face. He screamed, gave voice to all of the anger, pain, and guilt raging inside him.
“How could you do this?”
He wanted to get up and punch something, yet it felt as though he couldn’t possibly move. His fists pounded his fists against the floor, hating the helplessness that swept through him with every thought of her. He felt a wetness on his fingertips and looked down. His anguish stared blankly at the blood smeared on his hands and the concrete floor. Tears washed down his face. He hammered his bloody hands against the concrete over and over again, relishing the distraction of the searing pain. He cradled his head in his hands. I’m so sorry, he cried gently, energy spent. I’m so sorry.
He looked around the room, his eyes bloodshot. This had been their place. The place where they had gone just to be alone; the place where they had gone when they needed to vent, to rage. There was nothing around for miles, nothing but this abandoned house with its concrete walls filled with holes from those times when words just weren’t enough. Every gaping wound in the walls had a story. Some good, most bad. But every single one belonged to them, was solely theirs. The only thing they had ever truly owned.
The emotions burst out of his mouth in a roar, “You promised me! You promised me!” He beat the pockmarked wall. His voice faded to a miserable whisper. “You said you wouldn’t quit.” The thought made him pound his fists against the floor again, numbing them with the cold concrete. It was all his fault. He should have seen it. He had been so wrapped up in his own problems, his own struggles, that he had simply discarded the idea that she might need more help than he could provide.
He leaned his head against the wall and stared up at the ceiling. His mind floated back to that fateful day everything changed. When the only thing in his life he thought was going right shattered into a million pieces. He should have seen it, should have stopped her, should have done something.
School seemed as pointless as it had always been. The same guys staring at him when they thought he wasn’t looking. The same kids openly mocking him for being a foster kid, pitying him for the same reason. He did what he always did when the stares and whispers became too much—he hunched over in his back-row seat, hood pulled low over his eyes. Halfway through his English Language teacher’s lecture, his phone buzzed, startling him. He glanced around, relieved to see that no one had noticed. Careful not to let the teacher see, he slid it out of his pocket, and a brief smile crossed his face when he saw her name. He opened the text, expecting a short message, maybe commenting on how much she hated school or her teachers. Instead, he opened it to reveal a note with at least a dozen lines.
“Jesus,” he muttered. “Did you write me a novel?” His laugh died in his throat as he scanned the first few lines. He stood up so fast his chair tipped over with a crash, drawing the attention of the class and stopping Mr Akpan mid-sentence. He left the hall at a dead sprint, praying it was just some sick joke. No, no, no. The word rebounded around his skull, pulsing with every panicked breath. He burst out into the cool air, opened the keypad on his phone. He dialled the three numbers, feet pounding out a rhythm on the asphalt as he waited for dispatch to pick up the phone. After what seemed like an eternity, a calm voice on the other end of the line spoke, “9-1-1 what is your emergency?”
“I…uh…I.” He paused, sucking in a breath, “I think my friend might have done something really stupid. Like really stupid.” His breath caught as he tried to hold back panicked tears. “I think she might have, might have…” He couldn’t force the words out. It was overpowering, how tears threatened to spill down his face.
“Sir? Sir, just calm down.” Her voice was filled with pity and thinly veiled alarm. “Where are you? Give me a specific address please.”
He rattled out Sola’s address adding “Please hurry!” He dropped the phone in his pocket and continued running, anger and fear warring within him. You said you’d never leave me. You said you’d never give up on life. He could still see the expression on her face when she had promised him that she would never hurt herself again. No matter how bad it got.
He crashed through the door of her house, not bothering to knock. “Sola! Where are you?”
He pounded up the stairs to her bedroom, at once hoping she was there and afraid of the same. A dreadful premonition drew him towards the open door of the washroom. He walked slowly now, his breathing harsh, his throat raw from screaming. “Sola?” He whispered, and he stepped into the room. His knees buckled; they threatened to pitch him to the ground. He stopped breathing as he stared in horror and grief at what he saw.
There was so much blood. He followed the trail of blood from the sink with his eyes and paused for a moment at the sight of the bloody razor. No tears fell, his gaze still following the scarlet path. She lay in the bathtub, her beautiful face turned towards the sky, a blank expression frozen on her face. He fell to his knees, fumbled about, longing for his fingers to close around anything, a rag, a towel, anything to staunch the flow of blood from the jagged mutilations on her wrists. The tears did come now as he realized that there was no more blood leaking from her arms. She was gone.
Her phone lay in her hand, bloody fingerprints on the screen testifying to her final action. Texting him. Anger and guilt clashed inside his chest, slashing at his insides, ripping apart his heart. They found him leaning against the wall, eyes closed, tears streaking his face. His hands were covered in blood. Her blood.
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A violent throbbing in his hands slowly brought him back to the present, waking him with every pulse. He raised his hands to his face to wipe away yet another round of tears, leaving a crimson streak that quickly began to dry. He reached into his pocket and opened the message, needing to see something that remained of her, even if it was simply words on a screen.
*Whatever happens, just know that I love you.
You were the only person who was ever there for me.
I’m sorry I broke my promise. And I wasn’t planning on it.
I just couldn’t stop myself. I can’t live with this pain anymore.
I’m lost and I don’t know how to get found. That makes sense, doesn’t it? I have to go, because I know that it’s the only way to save you. I’ve been falling for a while now and I can’t drag you down with me. You could go anywhere in life and I can’t be the reason you don’t. I would hate myself even more than I already do. I’m sorry I couldn’t say goodbye in person but I know you would have tried to stop me, and I would have let you.
I always knew, deep inside that it would end this way.
Cancer is fucked up on its own, but to now add chronic anxiety?
Sorry that I had to ruin your life. I hope one day you will finally be free of this crappy town, finally be free of me.
I love you. Forever and always,
His head met the cool concrete wall, tears and blood dried on his face, and his mourning began.
-AKINSANYA ADENIYI AYOSOJUMI