Content Warning: suicide
I wind my way through the labyrinth of sweaty people who cheer as if their lives depend on it. All that useless shouting will only reward them with sore throats and a weakened immune system. I huff at their ignorance and lengthen my steps through the packed French Quarter.
My arms swing by my sides and hit my legs in pairs of three at an even tempo. Three, my favorite number. Each step is fueled with anger, remorse, guilt, despair, and helplessness. I never thought it possible for all five (another perfect number) emotions to attack all at once on a single being.
I tilt my head up at the night sky and see dozens of people on the infamous parade floats dressed up in all sorts of crazy costumes. I can’t see a thing upon the floats, but I’m sure there’s a fairy with glittery wings, another person wearing a goofy fish hat, and someone else with an excessive amount of glow in the dark bracelets.
The moon’s spotlight is stolen by the people on the floats and the savage-like crowd below who illuminate the night with their plastic light-up toys and outfits. I’m not a party person by nature, but New Orleans had found a way to bring out my extroverted self, especially during carnival season. That was then, but this is now. Now, I’m too focused on my plan that the fun is sucked out of the festivities.
I shove my way past a man wearing a bunny onesie. I wasn’t here to sight-see the parade as I had with him every year since we moved down to the Bayou State. That tradition was soon broken when he became ill with lung cancer. There could be no fun where he went, doctors orders. No parades, same reason. No excitement, I knew why. Take your pick of the three; it doesn’t matter which one you choose since they all come to the same conclusion.
I watch as a group of four feisty looking teenagers attempt to jump over the metal barricades that separate the parade route from the overenthusiastic crowd. Internally, I cringe at the number. Of course, the police stand right by the barricades and push everyone back. I look away and continue moving forward.
If only I could find one recognizable landmark, then I’d be back on track. How different things looked when the city was under the influence of chaos, liquor and colorful streamers.
My face is damp and moist from the swampy air which constricts my lungs. Occasionally, I step in small puddles of putrid water and spilled alcoholic drinks.
Life had dealt me a bad set of cards that I was more than ready to part with. I was prepared to give the die a roll and test my wretched luck once more. The thing is, I already had an idea how that roll would end.
It had rained all week; perfect to fit the grim mood I’d been in for the past months since my brother was first diagnosed with the disease. He smoked -- a lot, just like our addict dad. I never smoked. I hated it. Despised it. Loathed it. Take your pick. I didn’t enjoy the feeling of the smoky heat trapped inside my mouth. It made me feel anxious rather than calm.
Right now, a good sprint would calm my fluttering nerves. I wasn’t claustrophobic, but I didn’t enjoy being pushed side by side against strangers without a familiar face in sight. My brother always came with me so I had nothing to fear. Things were different now.
I peer through the gaps of people and spot my first landmark in the distance. I was only a few blocks away from my destination. If only I could stretch out my legs and run, maybe that would ease my anxiety. I’d been aching to do that for ages...
Running was how I calmed my nerves and let off steam. I used to be the best runner on my track team at school before my brother developed cancer. I dropped out of the local community college and worked at Starbucks to earn enough money to pay the doctor’s bills and help with the rent. Juggling between schoolwork, my track team, a sick brother, and a job would be too much.
The bands trail behind the vibrant parade floats, performing a jazzy tune. Even though I can’t see the musicians, I can hear them well. The upbeat music couldn’t possibly cut through my dark mood or cease my thoughts from wandering. Curse this delightful music.
Music used to heal my broken heart, but I guess it became too sick and tired of mending the same shattered person. I remember teaching my brother how to play the piano when we were in high school. I was always great at playing, but he -- he was something else.
My eyes sting at the joyful memory and the celebrated Mardi Gras purple, gold, and green colors fade into a washed out watercolour picture. I’m proud to admit a tear never dropped that day but if it did, it would be out of anger and not sadness.
I needed to do more than escape that artificial hospital room that contained my brother, much more. I’m sure I’d regret the decision I made months ago, but I had made a promise and didn't plan on betraying myself. That choice I made was all I could do to quench my overflowing pain.
My cheap ripped-off designer suede boots land in a large puddle. Where I was heading, shoes wouldn't be necessary. At least, I hoped so.
Everywhere I look reminds me of my brother. How he liked to play in the rain. He loved it. Relished it. Delighted in it. Take your pick. That was before he transformed into an earthly ghost overnight.
Compared to my brother, I was the luckiest child ever born. The only issue I had was my OCD. It was never serious, I just felt compelled to organize my room three times a day. It was habitually three, no more no less. I also liked cleaning, but only my things. I spent 45% sanitizing, 35% organizing, and the rest was dedicated to the hospital where he was.
Another thing with my OCD was I loved numbers. Three was my favorite, but I liked all numbers in general except the even ones. Two made me feel sick to my stomach but five was a flawless number. This year, I was even years old. I detested the number that represented my age this year. I disliked the number. Abhorred it. Despised it. Take your pick.
A massive plastic bead necklace whacks me in my forehead, almost knocking me out. I see stars but, despite the interference, I continue pushing my way forward. I press my sweaty hand to the hit area. It was warm and sore but where I was going, pain and suffering would be nonexistent. At least, I hoped so. I had a 50% chance of that outcome happening which was better than nothing.
I’m tired of mulling over my thoughts. I’d delayed my business for too long, and it was about time I asked for help.
I make my way through the packed crowd quicker than before. The longer I wait, the more time I have to back myself out of my plan. Suddenly, ice-cold liquid pours down my back. I hope against hope that it’s my own cold sweat or water. It’s probably not.
After more shoving, I manage to squeeze myself into the deserted Louis Armstrong Park. My brother and I used to hang out here all the time. I hope I’ll have more courage to execute my plan now that I’ll be surrounded by memories of him.
I had confidence in my plan. After all, I’d spent more than a few months arranging it. The details won’t be necessary, but it was a lot of work. Funny; most people would think that planning your demise would be easy. Well, it’s not. I’d spent the last bit of my life doing what I liked best: organizing and planning.
I never took into consideration how different things would look like during carnival season, though. That was my moment of hamartia. I never thought twice about how lost I might end up with utter chaos reigning. My plan was picture perfect until that little detail decided to step in.
Once in the middle of the park, I take my last few deep breaths and spread my arms wide to take in as much space as possible. I spin in circles and feel my fingers slice through the little amount of wind I create. Sirens blare on the street, and I take out a gun from my jean jacket. My brother gifted me that jacket when I was odd years old. It was the year before the cancer struck when the even numbers started to overpower my life.
Police officers step out of their cars. The inky charcoal sky is pitch black except for the red and blue lights issuing from the sirens. Oh, and the moon which reflects across the algae contaminated lake nearby. It was a tranquil scene that any painter would be proud to paint. The moon and lake, that is.
The officers slowly close in on me with their malicious guns pointed straight at me. It’s like I’m some dangerous and out of control wild animal.
“Hands up!” They call.
My lip trembles. I’m scared, really scared. On all that I’d researched, no one told me how difficult this would be. The only thing that keeps me standing on my two feet, is the thought that where I’m heading fear won’t be a problem or emotion I’ll have to deal with. At least, I hope so.
A lone streetlamp close-by illuminates my long shadow. The only other source of light besides the moon and red and blue sirens. I raise my unloaded gun. They didn’t know that, however.
This was all just an act. An act to ask for help. I’d been lost for too long and was ready to receive help.
The officers wait a few seconds for me to surrender. Of course I won’t, but they don’t know that little detail either. While the officers wait for my decision, I whisper a few words with my eyes closed shut. I didn’t want to see how things turned out. I had a phobia of blood.
“Let it be three. I only ask for it to be three,” I utter. No one would know I made one last plea but myself and God.
A shot fires … and makes contact with my ribs. I stagger. The gun falls from my hand as the pain consumes me. That was one, I think weakly. Another one is a direct hit to my stomach. I won’t make it to hear three, I think desperately. I hope with all my heart that my wish will be fulfilled as I descend into an eternal sleep. But before I do so, I crave for one more thing. I hope that where I’m going, it’ll be a peaceful sleep.
A third gunshot fires and hits the already dead corpse. It isn’t necessary to fire another one, but a young police officer wants to make sure the young woman’s truly deceased. He also wants to show off, of course. A fourth goes off. It is one too many.