The World Sucks a Little Less Now

Submitted into Contest #98 in response to: Set your story on (or in) a winding river.... view prompt

4 comments

Teens & Young Adult

Content Warning: Suicide attempt

Water on all sides.

Pushing me, pulling me every which way.

It grabs me in rough, liquid arms, trying to submerge my head.

Wild, it twists and churns.

Icy cold, I feel almost numb.

Losing my will to fight against it, losing my strength.

I thought it would be warmer. I thought it would embrace me with knowing arms. I thought it would take me away, right away. And I guess it was, just not where I wanted. I felt trapped, beaten. My body was too frozen to feel anything but I felt enough on the inside.

Lips blue, darker than my eyes. Hair sticking to the curves of my face and then spreading everywhere when I was dunked under like the tentacles of an octopus escaping a shark. Except this octopus would get caught, eaten. This octopus wouldn’t be so lucky.

I don’t want to die.

Not anymore.

***

Before above events

The world sucks.

Sucks like half-full bags of chips. Sucks like finding a pretty flower to only watch it wither and die later. Sucks to find out it was you who accidentally killed it because you broke its stem. Sucks like when no one on this planet remembers your birthday. 

The world has death. It has pain and regret and mistakes. It has sickness and heartbreak and conflict. It has a lot of things. Most of which I found to be sucky. 

I know that I am one of the things that suck. 

I have to go home with a report card of c’s and d’s and explain to my mother why I’m not as good or vigilant as my sister with her straight a’s and maybe just that one b that was fairly rare. Why don’t you add how I’m just not as pretty or popular too? Expectations, no one has any for me. Well, maybe other than to not have what could be considered an “ideal life”. I want to be an artist, it’s my passion. Before you laugh, hear me out. With each paint stroke, I can forget all the reasons I’m not good enough, all the reasons why I feel so tired all the time. Each new color on each new canvas is a way for me to...I don’t know...paint over my real life? Kind of like white-out. Thank God for that too because you don’t know how many times I’ve caught myself doodling in pen on pages I wasn’t supposed to, how many times I’ve spelled my professor’s names wrong. I mean, if you have last names that sound of the ancient origin or some shit like that, you can’t expect me to remember how to spell it correctly the first time. 

I paint by the rocks. I like the view of the river down below, though my mom gets worried I’ll fall in. Let me just say, if I do, it won’t be by accident. She acts like I’m sitting off the ledge, feet dangling with my head tipped forward for good measure. I guess I can’t blame her because when you become a mom, new responsibilities and purpose for life step into play. 

I was so transfixed by the way the water moved like it was alive. As if it was running, as if it had a clear destination it had to get to and pronto. All shades of blue and white and green. It’s not just one color, but dozens. The water, of course, is really clear, but the way the sky reflects on it gives it fragments of each color. How it shines like a diamond wherever the sun hits it. How it roars and rages whenever it rains. Is it possible to incorporate sound in art? I think so. When you look at it, the image comes to life. And with that image, sometimes, if you really see it, you can hear the sounds as well. 

But no one could ever see it. Could ever see me. They say I’ll snap out of it, this childish stage. But I’m not a child and this is what I want to do and I don’t understand why no one can accept that, why no one will accept me as who I am and who I want to become. My mom pretends she does, but I know that isn’t true. With my sister, however, she doesn’t need to pretend. My sister wants to be a doctor. That’s all a parent really wants. For their kid to be a doctor, a lawyer, a surgeon. I feel judged and humiliated half the time. When my cousins come over, all they seem to want to do is tease me. Hey Ms. Picasso, how’s that artist thing going for you, have you finally come to your senses? I can’t stand it. I have to be two people at once. Me and the person everyone else wants me to be. It’s hard to do and the couple of times when the me slips out, I feel rejected. 

My application to my dream art school was my last chance. My chance to be me and not lose that person to the person I’m supposed to be, the person society wishes me to be. My chance to find others who understand.

And the answer to that application was supposed to come today.

I get into my small car and drive the speed limit, maybe a little over at the points where I got too excited. I finally got to the house and parked my car in the driveway. I jumped out, not stepped, but literally jumped out, and raced to the mailbox. My bun nearly came out of its hold in doing so. When I open the mailbox, though, it’s empty. I shook my head and ran inside. Mom probably had it. I raced inside and found the envelope on the table.

It was thin. That was never a good sign.

No longer as confident, I dropped my Kavu bag to the floor and walked slowly to the counter, to the devastatingly flat letter. My mom must have heard me come in because she was suddenly in the room. Oh, I hope I got in so she wouldn’t have to be disappointed. For the millionth time.

“I brought it in for you if that was OK?” she asked. I nodded and took a deep breath. She sat on one of the stools and waited for me to open it with a false smile. She was trying to be supportive but I knew she could never understand. That’s why I had to get in. I needed to be in the place of the people who really know. 

I closed my eyes and ripped the seal. I pulled the page out with dread as I read the first few words. I only got that far before I ran out of the house. Before I could see my mother’s disappointed and pitied face. Before I could hear my mother’s answer to my sister’s question regarding what had happened. I left before I broke. Or maybe I was already broken and this was the last straw. 

Dear Hazel B. Woods,

We regret to inform you…

I ran to the only place I ever felt accepted. The only place I ever felt at peace. 

The winding river. 

Accept this time, I didn’t stay far from the edge, I ran right off it. I remember, in that moment of being suspended in midair, of falling, of feeling that sucky regret. I landed hard, thinking I must have broken several bones. I couldn’t tell if there was water on my face, or if it was just my own tears. Maybe I should let the water take me in. Maybe I should give up. The water isn’t as gentle as I painted it to be.

Water on all sides. 

Pushing me, pulling me every which way.

It grabs me in rough, liquid arms, trying to submerge my head.

Wild, it twists and churns.

Icy cold, I feel almost numb.

Losing my will to fight against it, losing my strength.

I thought it would be warmer. I thought it would embrace me with knowing arms. I thought it would take me away, right away. And I guess it was, just not where I wanted. I felt trapped, beaten. My body was too frozen to feel anything but I felt enough on the inside.

Lips blue, darker than my eyes. Hair sticking to the curves of my face and then spreading everywhere when I was dunked under like the tentacles of an octopus escaping a shark. Except this octopus would get caught, eaten. This octopus wouldn’t be so lucky.

I don’t want to die.

Not anymore.

I gather all the strength I can muster and swim. I swim so hard, I bet I'll end up dying of exhaustion. But most of all, I gather mental strength.

I want to live, one side of my brain repeats. Why? asked the other.

Why?

They were right. When you’re about to die it feels as if your whole life flashes by. And even though there were bad memories, there were also good ones too. Christmas when I was thirteen when I got my first set of oil paints. My prom when my sister made sure I picked out the prettiest dress. Sunday family dinner when mom and I almost burned the whole house down and laughed about it after.

I wanted to add more memories to that. More good ones. The ones of tomorrow, the ones of next week, of next year. Hell, I didn't want to die today, not like this. 

I swam and swam and swam as hard as I partied on my sweet sixteen. 

And I made it to land, out of breath and with a smile on my face.

***

After above events 

“Say cheese!” my uncle shouted.

“CHEESE FIZZ,” said my sister and me. My mom gave us a playful glare. We had to do another one because he, of course, happened to take the picture at the exact moment we said fizz so we weren't exactly smiling. 

Later that day I went back out to the rocks. I looked down at the winding river below and whispered a thank you.

Now, you may be wondering why I was giving thanks to the one thing that almost killed me. Well, it showed me all the reasons I shouldn’t cut my life short. Really, it saved me. Maybe people will see that in my paintings. My feelings of rescue and restorement. I applied to another art school and, even though it wasn’t my dream school, was exuberant to find that I was accepted. My sister and mom were too. 

Happy ending I guess, right?

The world may still suck. But it doesn’t suck all the time. 

It doesn’t suck like chocolate pancakes. Doesn’t suck like when you find a four-leaf clover. Doesn’t suck when good luck really does come. Doesn’t suck like family pictures on the wall.

The world has life. It has love and happiness and unbreakable bonds. It has songs and art and creativity. It has a lot of things. And I look forward to all the good ones I will experience.

I think the world sucks a little less now.

June 13, 2021 00:20

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4 comments

Karmissa Ariadne
00:59 Jun 24, 2021

I loved the way you described the river/water and the concept of sound being in art, so beautiful. I could really feel the pressure of her needing to be accepted too in the letter scene. Very well captured with the swimming and remembering good memories and wanting to make more before the end. And so beautifully ended, brought tears to my eyes, I think I may have been there before sadly/happily. Thanks for sharing this.

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Chloe :)
18:54 Jun 25, 2021

Thank you so much! I'm very happy you were able to connect with this character and her emotions and how you liked my description of the elements in my story! :)

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Tricia Shulist
17:53 Jun 19, 2021

What a lovely story. The journey was powerful, how to find the strength to carry on. Thank you.

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Chloe :)
17:00 Jun 20, 2021

Thank you for the feedback! I'm glad you liked my story and its message :)

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