Trigger Warning: suicide, gun violence, abuse
Eddie finds Maria standing on the opposite end of their school’s fluorescent-lit hall. Her orange-blossom bohemian dress lusters against the steel lockers lining the bone-white walls. She lifts her trembling hand and forms a peace sign with her manicured fingers, an invitation to cease. His breath catches. For a moment, he yearns to fall into the void of her black-pearl stare—pretend they’re the only people left in the world, pretend she loves him even if he’s a monster.
Only yesterday Eddie sat next to her in the school’s library as she read The Catcher in the Rye, smelling of freesia and cotton, a slight smile on her glossed lips. When he asked if she had finished her essay for history class, she smiled wide and nodded yes twirling her pen between her fingers, the nails painted bubble gum pink. When he asked her out to the homecoming dance, her smile faded and she clutched the pen in her grip. Eddie walked away before she could voice her answer, his chest pounding like the fire alarm now blaring through the school walls.
A thick bead of perspiration traces Eddie’s face, dips into the curve of his neck. He wipes sweat from his brow with the back of his hand, keeping his other hand on the old pistol he took from his father’s vault along with the shotgun hanging from his shoulder. He aims the pistol at Maria, thinking of his father’s white hooded robe hanging inside the vault, the blood drop cross. Maria’s round eyes remind him of a small animal, sweet fleshed, like the wild rabbits his father taught him to shoot and skin in the woods by their house—the dense tree shade hiding every sin.
Eddie advances one foot in front of the other, stepping around the bodies scattered in the hall. Among the dead, he recognizes the Phys Ed teacher who reported him for bringing a knife to school last year. The bottle-blonde girl who refused to be his partner in biology, complaining of his stutter. The jock who held Eddie down in the locker room after gym class while his buddies stuffed Eddie’s clothes in the toilet, laughing, calling him a fairy.
Eddie stops by Maria within point-blank range. Smells freesia and cotton laced with her sweat. Notices her red-rimmed eyes and chapped lips, no hint of her usual smile. Her body convulses and she mouths why—no audible sound escaping her lips. He considers touching the soft brown curls framing her face but it’s too late. The police will soon arrive.
He squeezes the pistol’s grip. Maria closes her eyes and clasps her hands to pray as Eddie did before collecting the dead rabbits left bleeding in the shadows of the pines—knowing his father waited for him deep in the woods, pants rolled down to his ankles, belt hanging from his unforgiving hands.
Eddie takes a sharp breath, lifts the gun, opens his mouth. He inserts the muzzle through his lips, just like he killed his father hours earlier, shooting off his face.
Maria, he says with a mumble, tasting the sour metal of the barrel against his tongue. She opens her eyes—relief and terror flit across her face.
Eddie pulls the trigger. A loud click. He blinks, alive.
Maria sprints past him, her shrieks blending with the roar of the fire alarm.
Eddie extracts the jammed gun from his lips. Closes his mouth, his tongue settling dry and heavy inside. Police appear like phantom shadows and surround him. Eddie has dreaded their arrival since that morning when he found his father on the toilet, cackling as he read Eddie’s private journal, the leather-bound one Mama gave him before the car accident took her life. When Eddie asked him to stop reading, his father spit, calling it crappy sap piss—promised to flush the journal and fuck him into a man after finishing his shit.
An officer shouts orders. Eddie breathes in the metallic stench of loss. He bites his tongue to keep himself from gagging and sets the gun on the floor. He slides the shotgun off his shoulder and places it next to the gun. He straightens up and raises his hands. The cool air of the air conditioner breezes through his damp fingers, dries his sweat.
The officers near, guns pointed. Eddie thinks of the journal, blood-soaked under his father’s body, crumpled on the bathroom floor. Thinks of how the man’s blue stare turned piss white at the sight of Eddie returning to the bathroom with the gun. Thinks of Maria’s dimpled smile and brown curls so similar to Mama’s. Thinks of Mama’s twitching hand as she lay dying in the hospital ten days after Eddie’s tenth birthday.
I’m sorry, the nurse whispered pulling Eddie and his father away from the emergency room as nurses scrambled with the defibrillator, the heart monitor beeping incessantly. When they reached the waiting room, Eddie sat next to his father on the vinyl sofa. After the nurse walked away, Eddie’s father tapped his knee and said, Looks like it’s just you and me.
Eddie shuts his eyes, grimaces as the officers twist his arms around and handcuff him. Mama often told him he was a sweet boy. Told him not to listen to his father—he was a sweet boy. A hot tear escapes his closed lids, tracks down his cheek. He exhales.
At least his father won’t be around for whatever comes next.
Eneida’s stories, poems, and hybrid pieces have recently appeared in literary outlets such as Palabritas, Two Hawks Quarterly, and Magma Poetry. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing & Literature from Harvard University’s Extension School and is the Managing Editor for Oyster River Pages. A Macondista, Eneida’s stories draw inspiration from her Chilean-Puerto Rican background as well as from the places she has lived—from Chile and the United States to Bolivia, Abu Dhabi, and Singapore. Learn more about her at www.eneidaescribe.com.