Trigger warning: suicide
As Beth climbed the thirteen flights of stairs to the fourteenth floor, she rehearsed in her mind what she was going to say to Devon when she broke the news to him that she was leaving him.
With each step, her resolve to finally follow through on this, now 8-month endeavor of ceasing her six-year relationship with Devon, a failed and failed again writer who was never quite able to write that breakthrough novel he always talked about.
Over the course of the six years, escalating fiercely to new extremes in just the past few months, Devon had grown even more entrenched in his dream of becoming a writer, even more than what Beth had grown accustomed to calling “normal behavior”.
She was actually going to do it this time.
No cold feet.
No backing down, giving in, and sinking into the same depression she had been dealing with for much too long.
I deserve better, she told herself.
Beth reached the final step on her journey upward. She opened the stairwell door into the hallway she was all too familiar with. She walked down, door after door until she reached her destination.
She pulled her key ring out, began to undo his key from her ring. She would give it back to him after she had broken up with him.
Beth took a deep breath in, held it. Doubt arose in her gut. She blew it out along with the lungful of air.
Beth knew she was doing the right thing, but as with most cases, the most right thing never really means the easiest thing to do.
Sure their relationship was strained, and he never seemed to have time for just the two of them - at least not without resorting to mentioning or redirecting the topic of conversation back to his writing.
She really did love him. it just. . . wasn’t the same anymore. He wasn’t in it and Beth could clearly see that now.
She inserted the key, turned it, and pushed through the door.
The scene she stumbled into startled her. She stood in the doorframe, unaware of her inability to move while she gazed at the open window across the room.
The curtains moved about as the wind blew them and the position Devon was currently in, half in half out, made it almost looked as if the curtains were some sort of cape.
“What the hell are you doing?” Beth finally managed to say, unsure of how long she was actually standing there before speaking.
Devon stumbled back out of the window. He held something under his right arm.
“Jesus! You scared me!” he said, holding his free hand over his chest.
“I scared you?” Beth said, moving further into the room. “You scared me! What are you doing hanging out of the window?”
Devon held up a finger to Beth, appearing to try to catch his breath after the scare Beth had supposedly given him.
Beth crossed her arms, felt the keyring in one hand, the unclipped apartment key in the other, and suddenly was reminded of her original intent in coming over in the first place.
She resolved again to follow through, no matter what.
“So, are you going to tell me what you were doing hanging outside of the window on the fourteenth floor of an apartment building?”
“Whatever, answer me.”
“Well, you know how I’ve been trying to write my novel?”
The question was laughable to Beth as if that had not been the topic of discussion for the majority of their relationship.
“Yes.” She kept it short, realizing that being too blunt was just going to make the inevitable breakup all the harder.
“I figured out what I need to do to make it actually work. I know how I’m going to be able to finish it,” Devon said with a smile that made Beth’s heat race.
Ignore it, Beth told herself.
“Ok, what does that have to do with you out on a ledge? And what’s that under your arm?” Beth craned her neck to try to see it better. “That’s not your typewriter, is it? Were you going to throw it out?”
“Yes, and yes,” Devon said looking down at the typewriter under his arm, patting it like it was a pet.
“But you love your old typewriter.”
Don’t get emotionally sucked in Beth.
“I know,” Devon said, as he finally stopped petting the inanimate object. “Let me explain.”
“I realized that all this time I was doing it all wrong. I wasn’t being the type of writer that I needed to be to make my work...” he stopped to search for the word. “Pop!” He exploded the fingers of his hand as he said the last word.
Beth squinted her eyes at Devon, cocked her head to the side.
“I need to become a ghost writer.”
“Ghost Rider? Like, that crappy Nicholas Cage movie? I thought you hated it?”
Devon stood there, silent. A few seconds passed and his face didn’t change a bit, he just stared at Beth with a blank stare on his face.
Then, he finally answered her, “No.”
“No, you don’t like those movies or no -”
“No, not a ghost rider,”: Devon interrupted, “a ghost wri-t-er.” He pronounced the ‘t’ in writer harshly, like the clap of a snare drum.
“A ghost writer?”
“Yes, a ghost writer. That’s what’s going to set me apart from the rest. It’s what will release all of my pent up creativity.”
“Ok, sure. You’re going to get someone else's idea, get paid by them for you to write it and then you both benefit from it. I still don’t get what you hanging out of your apartment window has anything to do with it. And why would that require you to toss your typewriter out on the street fourteen floors below?”
“Thirteen . . .” He shook off his train of thought with a frustrated grunt. “No, that’s not what being a ghost writer means.”
Beth was confused, it showed in her face. “Ummm, I’m pretty sure that is in fact what it means.”
This conversation felt all too familiar. She didn’t want to get sucked even further into it. She couldn’t help it.
“Well, that’s not the kind I’m talking about then.” He heaved a sigh, an echo of many of their past conversations, mirrored in this one.
Beth rubbed the apartment ket back and forth between her index and pointer finger.
Devon shifted the clunky typewriter to under his other arm, “I’m talking about becoming a ghost so that I can write my stories that way.”
“You mean . . . like a ghost, ghost?” Beth lifted her hands up to the side of her head, “Oooooooooh. . .”
Devon shook his head, let out another sigh of annoyance, “When you put it that way, it sounds stupid. How do you do that? You always somehow manage to make whatever I say sound stupid?”
Beth felt the rumblings of an argument coming on.
“You can’t be serious right now? I mean, come on.” Beth said, lowering her hands that she didn’t even realize she had kept up. “You don’t honestly think that that’s a thing, right?”
“Of course it’s a thing. I’ve done a lot of research on the topic. This is going to work.”
Then it hit Beth. She knew why he was in the window when she first arrived. He planned to jump out of the window to kill himself. To become ‘a ghost’ so that he could ghost write.
“I knew you wouldn’t understand,” Devon said, turning back towards the window. He raised his foot and put it through. “You never did. But soon you will. I’ll show you. I’ll show everyone.”
Beth froze. She didn’t know what to do at this moment. In the few minutes they talked together, she realized she didn’t have the guts to break-up with him, but she also knew that if she stopped him from climbing through the window, she would be stuck in a relationship she hated and despised.
She grappled with a thought that no one should ever even have to possibly entertain.
What if she let him die?
Could she actually sit by and watch idly as someone else ended their life right before her very eyes?
Devon swung his other leg out of the window so that he was now sitting on the ledge, both feet dangling over the empty air just outside of his window.
He’s got to be joking...right? Beth thought to herself. This can’t be happening. . .
She was wrong.
Before she could even react, Devon took a sideways look at her, said, “see you on the other side.” and fell from the window., typewriter underarm.
Since that fateful day in Devon’s apartment, Devon went on to become a national bestseller with critics and fans alike praising his work as, quote, “pure genius!”, “an honest to god piece of art” and “Simply ethereal”.
He wrote such works as “When the Clock Strikes Six”, “Two Tiny Chairs”, “Green Umbrellas”, and “The Snowman with a Gun” as well as such instant classics as his poem, “American Bird” and his memoir “One Flew over One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” where he got super meta about how he stumbled upon his ingenious idea of becoming a ghostwriter.
He collected as many accolades and awards a writer could ever dream of, winning them hands down, left and right outselling the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and all of Stephen King’s books - combined.
He was dubbed a pioneer in the arts of ghostwriting. A true innovator, willing to go to any length for the love and pursuit of his craft.
Beth was glad that she hadn’t gone through with the break-up and knew she would have grown to regret it for the rest of her life.