Read an Excerpt
The third time I tried to kill myself I used a rope. I picked the clothesline from the basement. I f gured the cord didn't have to be real strong because I wasn't going to drop off a bridge or from a tree. I needed it just strong enough to kill me.
I've tried to kill myself six times; seven if you count walking down the median strip near the trucks and thinking of jumping in front of them. I suppose that doesn't really count. I didn't do anything that time except walk and practice falling off the curb into traffi c. Everyone (mostly my mom, the psychiatrists, my two counselors) says that if I wanted to die, I would pick more lethal methods. Rope, I think, is pretty lethal.
The car slows. Frank turns off the expressway.
The third try was my angriest, my most dangerous. I put that thin white cord around my neck and tied a slipknot. Then I pulled it so tight that I pinched the skin on my neck and made myself pass out but not die. I did end up with a bruise from rope burn that I couldn't explain away. I was in the psych hospital for ten days that time.
The car turns again onto a smaller road.
"How long until we can stop for the bathroom?" Jin-Ae moans from the front seat. Her voice squeaks.
"One minute," replies Frank.
I don't speak. I'm thinking about the rope and my third try, because this time I think I may use a rope again.
We turn into the parking lot. I spot Audrey inside Dunkin' Donuts. She bolts up from the table. I wondered if we would know her right away since she never posted her picture, but her crew cut, the buzz, is unmistakable. She knows us. I watch her grab her pack from the floor and zoom past the counter. Audrey slams out the door toward us.
"Bathroom?" Jin-Ae asks.
Frank nods. He turns off the engine. Jin-Ae opens her door, starts to step out but stops to watch Audrey. I like being in the backseat where I can watch them both. Outside, Audrey heaves her cup at the trash can. It misses. She doesn't stop, just keeps bounding toward the car.
"She's in a rush," Frank comments.
"Nothing like a four-way suicide pact to get you going in the morning," Jin-Ae says. She's always a bit loud, angry, abrasive, something.
Audrey is at Frank's window. "Let's go," she says.
"Down, girl," replies Jin-Ae, finally stepping outside the car. "Gotta pee."
"Can't we get going? I hate this town," Audrey whines. She leans in to look at me. "A pleasure to meet you, Your Highness. You all look different in person."
"She's in a hurry," Jin-Ae says to Frank, mocking Audrey.
"Come on," Audrey replies. "Mush, dogs."
Frank seems to smile at that comment. "Couple minutes. We need to stretch a little," he says to Audrey. "Been driving for hours already."
Jin-Ae points to the purple scar across Audrey's forehead. "So that's what a frying pan can do."
Audrey grunts but doesn't answer.
Frank gets out, takes Audrey's bag, and walks to the trunk. Audrey climbs into the backseat, near me, without saying another word.
I scramble out. We use the toilets, and then load up on doughnuts, and head north. None of us talk. We know where we're going, and what's in store.
Maybe I shouldn't have come on this trip. I don't even want to talk to them. It's so much easier to talk to people on the computer. You don't have to look at their faces. You can walk away. You can write whatever you want and then turn the computer off. I like it that way. Farther away from people.
"I'm officially a runaway now," Audrey says, once we're on the road again.
"What?" says Jin-Ae, turning from the front seat to look at her. "No wonder you're in such a hurry. Are we going to have the cops after us? Amber Alert and all that crap?"
"Just kidding." Audrey shakes her head. "I left a note."
"No. I told my mom that I needed time to get my head together, and that I was staying at a friend's house for a while. She'll call my cell phone and yell, but she won't call the cops."
Frank turns the music up loud. "She better not," he yells.
"Won't matter in two weeks anyway," I mutter. No one hears me.
"Then how'd you get away from the folks, Frank?" Audrey hollers. "You tell 'em you're going on the celebrity suicide road trip?"
"No need to shout." He smirks, turning the music down. "And I don't know what you mean. I'm home. Like I told you, my parents are in Germany for a month. My brother is supposed to be watching me. Told him to cover for me or I'd narc him out for his weed."
"Really?" says Jin-Ae, excited. She grabs his arm. "Extortion?"
"Nice," says Audrey. She rearranges herself in the backseat, turning sideways with her feet resting against my legs, which makes me a little nervous. I'm not used to being touched. "All right you two, how about it?"
Jin-Ae says, "Hang on." She bends down, shuffling through her pocketbook.
Audrey, in the meantime, opens a small bag and pulls out a CD. She taps Frank on the shoulder with the case. "Nirvana."
He shakes his head. "Not yet. You have plenty of time."
"Two weeks," I say. Again, it doesn't seem like anyone hears me.
Audrey mumbles something I don't understand, and drops the disc onto the front seat between him and Jin-Ae. Frank turns right, following the turnpike signs.
"Here," Jin-Ae says, handing Audrey a piece of paper. "Our itinerary." She smirks. I spot our high school letterhead. I lean over, rereading with Audrey the list of fifteen colleges and universities that she and I are supposedly visiting.
"Nice fake. Federal offense, but nice forgery anyway."
"Works because we're from the same town," Jin-Ae explains. Audrey hands the paper to me, stares at me as if I should talk. Finally I do.
"Jin-Ae talked my mom into the phony college tour," I say. "My dad is in California, but they don't talk to each other, anyway."
"I even convinced them that there was a fee," Jin-Ae says, "so we both have some money."
I thought Audrey would be impressed by that comment, but she doesn't seem to care. "How long until Boston?" she asks. We're back on the highway now. Jin-Ae adjusts the mirror on her visor. For a second, I can see her face. Then nothing but dark hair. Audrey pulls out a pack of cigarettes.
"Five hours," says Frank. Audrey leans forward, offering Jin-Ae and Frank a cigarette. Frank shakes his head. "Don't smoke in the car, okay?" Audrey snaps the pack closed and sits back, hard.
According to MapQuest, Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, now part of Boston, Massachusetts, is 294 miles from the Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey. Pictures on Google show a massive castlelike exterior and gate. If we're lucky, we'll arrive before rush hour and before the cemetery closes for the evening. I'd hate for our first stop to include jumping fences, especially in the dark.
Audrey keeps talking. "So, Jin-Ae, why do you get to pick first? You say 'head north' and we just have to follow?"
I find myself answering before Jin-Ae can speak. "Audrey, it's best to start on the East Coast. Everybody gets one suicide."
"Oh," says Audrey, "that's a cute pun there, Fact Boy. Nobody kills themselves more than once, right?"
"We share any extras," says Frank, taking her attention away from me. No one seems to see me shrink.
"I should have picked two," Audrey says, sitting back, folding her arms across her chest. "Three, even."
"E. E. Cummings and Eugene O'Neill are also buried there," Jin-Ae offers.
"Good research," Audrey says sarcastically. "Who were they?"
"Poet and playwright."
"No." Jin-Ae taps her nails on the window, obviously irritated.
"Then why are we going to see them?"
"We're not," Jin-Ae rebuffs. "First stop is Anne Sexton."
Audrey looks at me, ignoring Jin-Ae. "Bring any of their poetry?"
I shake my head, then look away.
"Hell, Audrey," says Jin-Ae. "None of us probably ever read anything by them. Anyone?" Jin-Ae's nail points to each of us. No answers. "See."
"They're famous," Frank states.
"They're dead," says Audrey.
"Amen," replies Jin-Ae.
Copyright © 2009 by Albert Borris