Corrin Michaelson was debating. He wasn’t quite sure which bus he should take. He could board bus number 4, and end up at his father’s house in Manhattan, or take bus number 7, and meet his destination at his mother’s house in the Bronx. ‘7’, he thought, ‘Everybody chooses the number 7’. With a frustrated sigh, Corrin moodily forced his cold right foot onto the dirty step of the number 4 bus. Underneath the hood of his brother’s old sweatshirt, his head drooped as he looked down at his big toe. Poking through the hole in his hand-me-down snow-boots, it was covered only by his white sock, which was soaked all the way through with slush from the street.
Corrin sighed again, trudged up the rest of the steps, and plopped himself clumsily into the hard seat of the bus. His skinny arm supported his head as he lowered his shoulders and let his eyes stare at the empty space between himself and the floor. Nobody ever seems to realize that it is there, but Corrin saw that vacant gap every time he looked down. People would yell at him, “Corrin! Stop staring at the floor you emo freak!”. The more educated and thoughtful of his critics would tell him “Corrin, you can’t find light in darkness, you know,” and they would all only glare when he didn’t reply. What they didn’t realize, was that there was peace there. There was something else there too. Corrin’s whole entire world lay in that expressionless room, hovering uncertainly just above the ground.
People walked over it and didn’t seem to care, and people spat through it and didn’t think twice. It hurt Corrin to watch everyone destroy his favorite space, but it only added to his point, that even if something seems invisible, you can still damage it. Corrin knew his life was a black hole. Corrin knew that nothing good could ever come out of the pain he lived in. But somewhere, deep inside of him, he hoped that he could find a way out. A way to leave his life, but still remain alive.
This is what he wrote about in his journal every night. He wrote about how he never wanted to see the New York sky again. With every line that he scratched into the crisp paper with his favorite pen he told the stories of why he hated his life. He explained the reasons why he could never smile. He described what he would do if he was gone, if he never had to fake a grin again.
A loud noise collided with the rumbling hum of the city as Corrin pounded his fist on the door of his dad’s apartment. Corrin forced a smile onto his shaded face as he heard the rusty creak of the ancient handle squeal through the door like the noise of a car that’s been sitting in the cold. A bit overweight yet clearly cheerful, Corrin’s dad was a very calming person to be around.
“Hey there my boy!” he exclaimed in a booming voice. Corrin’s murmur of ‘Hello’ was less enthusiastic, but he grinned and gave his dad a high-five. Corrin stepped clumsily across the doorstep and made his way into his dad’s tiny residence.
“I’ll be downstairs working if you need me,” his dad reassured. Corrin nodded as he dumped his heavy backpack onto the messy floor and pulled out his leather-bound journal. He hadn’t opened it since 3 days ago; 3 pitiful, bothersome days.
It was painful to think about, but a flashback instantly started in his mind…
Corrin had been in his room with his older brother when his brother had lowered his voice down to a whisper. In his hushed tones, he had asked Corrin if he knew that his mother had been reading through his journal. Naturally, Corrin had freaked out. He had run straight across the hallway and into his mother’s room where she was laying down with the television turned on loudly. Corrin had grabbed for the remote, shut it off forcefully, and looked his mother dead in the eye.
“So I hear you’ve been reading through my journal” he had stated bluntly. “Isn’t that a little bit low?” he had spat. “That journal is where I write when I’m angry. That journal is how I vent when I’m sad. That journal is where I write poems to people who should never read them.” ‘She read all of them,’ he had thought, ‘every single one.’ Corrin
“Mom, if I had wanted you to see those I would have shown them to you. If I had thought you needed to read them I would have read them to you. If I was going to kill myself, like I wrote in those poems, then I would already be dead. We live in the same house, but that doesn’t entitle you to my belongings. You may be my mother, but that doesn’t mean you can search through my private stuff. I know that to you, privacy is just another seven-letter word, but then again, so is asshole. Trust, that’s 5 letters, but it’s worth more than life, and it means more than death. I trusted you, but that was then. I don’t know if you thought it was right, or if you knew it was wrong, but now I’m left broken, and now I am gone.”
With those final words, Corrin had grabbed his journal and walked out the front door. He had dialed up his dad’s number, and before he knew it, the light on the roof of his dad’s warm car was shining on his dark hood.
Three days later, he was still reading his journal. Sitting on the kitchen floor, Corrin reached over to the switch so that he could better see, but he frowned instead. ‘I’m not looking for the light right now.’ Corrin again picked up his journal and read through every poem he had ever written in there. He laughed as he thought of his mother reading those same lines.
Falling into folded arms
I’d rather sink than swim
I’ll watch from burning gates of Hell
As they laugh the mourning hymn
I miss the love, I miss the joy
But I’d rather drown in sorrow
I’d sleep for once without a cry
If there was no tomorrow
He could almost see the look on her face when she had read that. He grimaced as he recalled the last memory he had of his mother. He had watched the single tear that had staggered down her pained face. Corrin turned another page and muttered the words to himself.
Taking a risk
Is it easy to win?
I ball up my fist
No reason to grin
My parents, they bicker
Much more than my friends
The candles, they flicker
And come to their ends
I long for the day
My light will go out
My worries at bay
My face in a pout
‘Did she really read that?’ Corrin asked himself. ‘Yes, she did’ He sighed. The heavy tears gathering in his eyes pulled down his head and Corrin resumed his eternal stare at his occupied void. He sat there on his floor, tears rolling off his pleasant face as he gazed meaningfully at his life. ‘You did this to me’ he thought. ‘Mom, this is all your fault. You say you love me but love means nothing if you continuously cause me pain’. Corrin ignored the salty clots on his cheeks and pulled himself up off the floor.
With an air of annoyance he pulled open his cabinet doors and reached for his fish-food. He dumped an unknown amount in on top of his ancient goldfish. Corrin had had her for almost three years and she never seemed to die. All she did was swim around in circles and run into the dirty glass walls. ‘Does she like her life?’ Corrin wondered. He thought about how she had no family. She had no friends. She had no life. A pang of jealousy rushed through Corrin as he imagined his life with no family. He wished he had no life. How easy life would be if it was over.
Corrin picked up his journal again. He read the lines over once more. ‘NO!’ he thought. ‘My mom read these. She read poems about her kid killing himself. I do deserve to die. I do deserve to wallow in pain. What have I done?’ Corrin’s sad face was overcome with a rash expression. He put the fish-food back in the drawer, and as his hand brushed over the cool wood of the cabinet, Corrin’s dark brown eyes darted to the glint of the steak knife on the counter.
‘I deserve it’ he thought, as his steady fingers clutched onto the cracked wooden handle. ‘I deserve it,’ he repeated, ‘and so does she.’ And with that final thought, Corrin raised the blade to his pale wrist. In one swift motion he brought it across his arm like a boat gliding through the ocean. For one second it was clean, all he saw was a single white line resting beneath his skin. But the blood rose up in an instant, like ants pouring out of an anthill, and it brimmed over slowly as if for theatrical effect. In the absence of the pain on his flushed cheeks there stood a crooked smile, almost a smirk.
With the reflection of his scarlet blood swirling in his eyes, Corrin could feel the weight lifting off of his drooping shoulders. For the first time in three and a half days, Corrin was smiling. Everything bad in the world seemed to fade away until all that was left was the knife and his laughter. Corrin sliced himself again, more violently this time. It was relief in it’s finest that he felt. He felt like nothing in the world could stop him. He knew that nothing would. Not hungry for his own pain, but loving the freedom, Corrin drew the red blade slowly underneath the blood that was already dripping down his battered arm. The sharp jolt that flashed up his veins and into his shoulder startled Corrin, but he only smiled again. With all of the hate he had left, Corrin carefully made a fourth cut. Deeper than all of the others, this diagonal gash crossed each of the first three tears in his red wrist.
The pain was gone. The hate was gone. The pressure was gone. Corrin crashed to the floor, splattering the tile with crimson droplets of his sanity. Corrin pushed his shoulders back and leaned against the wall with his head tilted towards the ceiling. ‘That’s not right’ he thought with a grimace, and forced his head closer to his space above the floor. Closed, his eyes searched the back of his head for a sign that he was still alive.
Corrin’s confused thoughts suddenly tumbled to his dad. Corrin knew he was downstairs working, but that didn’t stop him from panicking and rushing to clean up the mess he had made. Desperate to better his vision, Corrin was forced to turn on the light. He grabbed a massive handful of paper towels and wiped them quickly over the stained countertop. The effect was minimal, and so, disappointed, Corrin picked up the sponge out of the sink and scrubbed off every last mark of blood. He then moved onto the floor and washed that as well. Too lazy to clean the sponge, Corrin chucked it into the tiny trash bin and covered it up with unused napkins, which he had gathered from beside the sink.
With the blood drying on his shredded wrist, Corrin reached for the tap and let the searing hot water splash over his open wounds. Rushing to erase the glum remains of his sorrow, Corrin scratched his short fingernails up and down his arm. The steam rose out of the sink and clotted under the overhead spotlights as the mixture of hot water and thick blood filed into the drain. As the spectacular shades of red swirled and washed around, Corrin’s head was suddenly cloudy and he was overcome with dizziness. He wiped the last stain off his arm, turned off the water, and staggered loudly up to his bed.
Corrin woke up feeling like there were two baseballs behind each of his eyes, squeezing his brain matter into tight knots all about his skull. Numbers never lie, and as Corrin stared down his alarm clock, a weak groan escaped his colorless lips. His dad knocked on his bedroom door, and Corrin slammed his eyelids shut.
“You up?” came his dad’s hoarse voice from behind his door. Another groan escaped Corrin’s tired mouth as he busied his ears with the sound of the creaking hinges. His mattress drooped beneath him, the light suddenly burned through his eyelids, and he felt a cold hand on his shoulder.
“You up?” he heard again. Corrin lazily forced open his eyes. He looked up at his dad with a sad expression. ‘Am I up?’ he thought to himself. ‘Am I dreaming? Was it all a dream?’ Is it all a dream?’
“Almost…” Corrin managed to say. The words he uttered were overshadowed by the sick pang in his voice. Underneath the sheets Corrin touched his fingers to his tattered wrist. As he felt the rough scabs that had formed overnight, his face was instantly more pallid. His dad noticed his change in color and sighed aloud. Corrin closed his eyes again as he felt his father’s hand on his warm forehead. The pressure left the bed, the door closed, and Corrin fell asleep once more.
The second time he woke up, Corrin was done hoping it was a dream. The gory happenings of the previous night crashed down upon him more clearly once he had rid himself of all of his sleepiness. Corrin leaned his head off the side of his bed and looked down at his void. ‘It’s still there.’ He thought to himself. ‘The last smile has been wiped off my face. The last laugh has slipped through my lips. The last glimmer of hope has been washed down the drain along with my guilty blood, but it’s still there.’
That space floating just above the floor was everything. It was where Corrin looked every time he was sad. It was his comfort. It was his hideaway from the glares of happy children. It was his entire world. It was nothing, yet at the same time it was everything. It was nowhere, but when Corrin looked around, it was everywhere. Nobody saw it except him, so that made it his. The one thing he could claim. The one thing he could relate to. Nobody cared about his void. Nobody wanted to look at it. But as Corrin dropped his head lower towards the cold floor, he could still feel it’s alarming presence.
His bare feet pounded along the carpeted stairway and suddenly the words started running through his head. Corrin dashed down the remaining stairs and grabbed his journal off of the clean counter. The cheap pen in his thin hand was a reminder that you can carve a masterpiece with just a rusty knife. Corrin quickly opened his journal and struggled to jot down the lines that were already forming in his mind.
The story I’d like to write today
Is a tale of deep depression
Of a child who didn’t have a soul
To hear his heart’s confession
A story of a lonesome boy
Whose life was just a trial
He lived and breathed but as he wept
He never left denial
A child who had no friends to care
No parents to help out
No person close enough to hear
His worthless screams and shouts
This boy whose life I tell you now
Poor Jamie was his name
He lived in hate and lived in fear
He wallowed in his shame
And so Corrin continued to write of Poor Jamie, whose mother had betrayed his trust. Of Poor Jamie, whose father was always too nice to step in. With every line Corrin saw the parallels from Jamie’s life to his own. What haunted Corrin was how frighteningly apparent it was that the worst parts of Poor Jamie’s life were things in Corrin’s life that he had already accepted as unchangeable. If Corrin had once had a friend to care about him, they had left. The image in his mind of Poor Jamie crying, Poor Jamie screaming, Poor Jamie wallowing in his constant sorrow, it was so vivid to Corrin because he was living it. Corrin knew the only way to sort out his life would be to write it from a different perspective and see where it ended.
Hour after hour Corrin etched the words swirling in his head into the flat sheets of his journal.
Poor Jamie slit his perfect wrists
He laughed at splattered pain
Poor Jamie smiled to the void
They said he was insane
But Jamie knew inside his heart
That he was only mad
And one day soon they’d drive his hearse
And no one would be sad
Corrin looked down at his wrist, his brown eyes welling with fluid crystals of salt. He stared down into the void, pelting himself with constant questions. ‘Am I crazy? Am I mad? Who is there to be sad if I leave?’ As he fell faster towards the deepening pit that was denial, more questions swum through his busy head. ‘Who is there to shed a single tear?’ he asked, but he got no answer.
Poor Jamie wrote his life in words
He put it all in song
And at the end he saw the light
He’d known it all along
‘But what did he know?’ yelled Corrin’s inner voice. ‘What happens next? I wrote down my life, got to where I am now, and now I’m still stuck’ he groaned. ‘How come Poor Jamie has the answer but I don’t?’ Once those words escaped his desperate lips Corrin realized how true they were. ‘Poor Jamie get’s it!’ he shouted in his mind. A headache started to pulse in his confused brain. ‘Poor Jamie’s life isn’t like mine, it’s better than mine. Poor Jamie has the answer! How unfair is that? I wrote him up, I created his life with the ink from the pen that I own, but Poor Jamie knows the way to better his life when I don’t.’
Everything was so complicated in Corrin’s head. Everything was so confusing. As Corrin ran all through all of the possibilities, only one seemed simple. Only one seemed easy. Only one seemed like it would work. “That’s the answer!” he gasped. Corrin saw only one way out. There was no doubt any longer. He knew exactly what had to happen. He knew exactly how Poor Jamie’s story had to finish.
Poor Jamie walked to his garage
He found a length of rope
He tied a very perfect noose
It was his only hope
“I want to leave,” he said with haste
“It’s either life of death”
So with those dreadful final words
He took away his breath
Poor Jamie dangled from his noose
His crazy eyes were calm
The only signs he left behind
Were the scars above his palm
A loud sigh hung in the air above Corrin Michaelson’s slouched shoulders. ‘I just killed myself,’ he thought, ‘I wrote myself up and killed myself.’ Four deep breaths later, Corrin’s mind started to work again. ‘What happens next?’ he asked, himself, for only he had the answer.
His father shrugged, his brother sighed
They slowly brushed it off
Life was just a sickness, and
Poor Jamie was the cough
Glad he died, glad he left
No tears to shine their cheeks
But on his mother’s flawless face
The tears rolled down for weeks
Her woven cares had fallen short
She wallowed in regret
And with Poor Jamie finally gone
She never would forget
‘She cares,’ spoke the soft voice that had eased it’s way through Corrin’s mouth. ‘She cares and he’s dead,’ he whispered internally. ‘I’m dead,’ he corrected himself. The thoughts scrambling franticly around kept Corrin’s eyes wide and aware. Poor Jamie had seen the light, but it wasn’t Corrin’s light. Poor Jamie’s light was the darkness. His answer to life was death. Poor Jamie was wrong. His light was a trap. Poor Jamie saw the misleading light. Poor Jamie put out his light. Poor Jamie had achieved nothing except making his mother cry. Poor Jamie left before she had a chance to tell him she loved him.
‘Did it help?’ Corrin asked himself, ‘How does it feel to die? That felt… awful.’ He admitted to himself. Shaken by the thought of his own death, Corrin shuddered in his seat. The image of dead Poor Jamie was hanging in the back of his brain, dangling lifelessly, haunting him. Corrin blinked and then closed his eyes. ‘Poor Jamie isn’t me,’ Corrin stated without words, ‘and most of all, I’m not Poor Jamie, and I didn’t die’.
As Corrin retired uncertainly to his void he was questioning everything. Unsure of what it even meant to see the light, Corrin slouched down. The dust floating in the air above his creaky floor hovered in the shadows under his wooden chair. To Corrin, that void meant everything. It gave him the answers. It told him what he already knew but couldn’t understand. ‘I can’t see the light in all of this darkness,’ Corrin thought. But did he want to see the light? Did it matter if he could see it but couldn’t interpret it? No. No, it did not. If it means everything to him does it have to be light? ‘That’s it!’ Corrin realized, a smile pushing at the corners of his stable frown. ‘I don’t need to see the light, I can live with this darkness, I will live with this darkness,’ the thoughts came through his mind like a rush of blood to a bewildered head.
A second shudder slipped through his shoulders as Corrin realized what his mom had read. His mom had read his journal. His mom had seen the earlier poems. He died in those too. Whether or not it was graphic, Corrin had put the same image of a lifeless corpse into her head. ‘Oh no,’ was all he could manage to think, ‘Oh, no’. A more frightening concept appeared in front of Corrin; ‘She cares, that’s why she cried’. He recalled her tears. He recalled the perfect red circles around her gray eyes. He saw clearly the pain that he had caused the only person who loved him enough to cry over him.
Corrin shoved his journal into his fraying backpack and pulled a sticky note off of the fridge. With shaking hands, Corrin scratched a note to his dad telling where he was going and if he would return. With those very same shaking fingers, Corrin unlocked his door and turned the cold knob.
She was quiet, She was strong
She had loved him all along
Her timid heart concealed affection
She saw the world in his reflection
He was caught between two homes
He was gone, he left his poems
She had read them, she had sobbed
Of her joy she had been robbed
The thief himself was unaware
An unknown cross he soon would bear
She heard him calling out for help
But he was silencing the yelp
He would never leave his life
All too friendly with his knife
When he heard of what she’d done
He left her aching for her son
Yelling in her open ears
He shut down her greatest fears
But when she looked him in the eye
She finally had the strength to cry
Refusing to believe she cared
He trampled on the love they shared
He thrust away her helpless hopes
He walked away and cut the ropes
He knew she cried but paid no mind
He only cared when she was kind
He never stopped to turn around
He would have fallen to the ground
And as he hid for far too long
He finally realized he was wrong
As Corrin walked down the street to make his tardy amends, he stubbed his clumsy foot on the rough sidewalk. When Corrin took off his old snow-boot to examine his wounds, he saw his big toe, and underneath his toe, he saw his void. A wet drop broke through his empty space. At the sight of the cherry blood soaking through his gray sock, Corrin breathed in and suddenly realized, that he was still alive.