In The End

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A brief snapshot of an individual wrestling with suicide in the wake of the loved one's passing.

Submitted: August 31, 2019

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 31, 2019



I had had the thought of jumping off the Cooper River Bridge earlier that day, but my friend Alyssa and her boyfriend were coming over for dinner and that would’ve been rude. I read about that jump in a Pat Conroy novel and thought it was an epic way to go, but everyone would eventually realize I did it because Pat Conroy wrote about it, and I didn’t want him to take the blame. So instead of jumping, I made an unfortunate batch of low country boil and sat around drinking my cheap beer with my friend and her boyfriend talking about everything under the sun. 

“I thought you liked living with Bubba?” Alyssa asked.

“Fuck, Bubba,” the boyfriend drunkenly responded. “That sumbitch ain’t worth shit. He’s batshit too.”

“Well that was a little aggressive,” Alyssa responded. “I guess he was a little weird.”

The room was decent enough for a college man living alone for the summer. I tried my best to tidy up the place before they came over. 

“Didn’t you have weird roommates?” 

“For sure,” I said, sitting up a little. “There was Dewan who used to listen to Journey any time I made him upset.” 

“Journey kinda slaps though,” my friend provided.

“No, they really don’t. It got old pretty quick because he’d be upset all the time.” 

“Well it’s better than Bubba puttin’ a damn loaded pistol to my chest. Talkin’ ‘bout it bein’ a joke.”

I raised both my eyebrows to show my surprise. I liked them both. Alyssa I had known for the past three years but really only grew close to in the past six months. I had never met her boyfriend though. He was a good time. He reminded me of my dad’s side of the family. That’s what I told him.

“What? Dumb? Redneck?” he asked defensively.

“No, no, not at all.” I put down my beer and threw up my hands. “It’s refreshing actually. It’s just the good ole country boy style. Carefree, gentle in its own way. Nothing wrong with it. I miss it is all. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

JJ, the boyfriend, laughed and ran his hand through his shaved hair. “It’s all good, brother. That muscadine wine done fucked me up.” 

“I told you to slow down,” Alyssa chimed in. She was a self-proclaimed wine connoisseur. She knew that we knew that it was all bullshit, but she kept it going for kicks. “You gotta let it sit and settle.”

“But if you pound it fast, you get drunker quicker.”

Alyssa sipped a little wine in her own classy style before saying, “You’re not wrong.”

“Y’all ever picked muscadines?” I asked. Part of me knew I was baiting myself to talk about him, but my filters were slipping away because of the beer and because I didn’t really care too much anymore. 

Alyssa said no. She grew up in Ohio before coming to South Carolina in the 8th grade. JJ said he did it every summer when Gramps was alive. 

“I used to do it with my dad a lot. We’d get up early, so it wouldn’t be so hot. It was still a bitch to do it though because the wasps and yellow jackets would always swarm the vines. You’d reach your hand in there to grab a few muscadines, and you’d come back with a wasp just staring up at you. It’d be terrified; you’d be terrified. It was kill or be killed. Or more like kill or be stung. You know what I’m talking about JJ?

“Hell yeah, man. Them yella jackets are somethin’ else.”

“Yeah, they’d scare the hell out of me, but you’d get used to it eventually. Anyway, I did it a lot with my dad. It was a good time.

They were uncomfortable, so we all sat and drank for a moment. 

“Listen, man,” JJ said, sitting forward and putting his elbows on his knees, “I’m real sorry about your dad. I can’t imagine what it’s like, and I’m glad you asked us over today.”

Alyssa patted me on the back. “I hate my dad so it’s not like I was doing anything tonight,” she said. We all laughed at that because it broke the tension and because it was brutally true.

She continued. “He texted me actually today. He always texts me randomly. I think he was trying to bate me into wishing him a happy Father’s Day.”

“What’d you respond?” I asked.

“I didn’t,” answered Alyssa, giving a smug smile on her face.

“He can go suck a dick,” JJ added.

“Amen, brother!” and the couple gave each other a high five.

“I probably should text my pops, shouldn’t I?” JJ asked Alyssa.

“Your dad sucks, but do whatever you want.”

“I want to grab some more of this muscadine wine,” he said, standing up and walking like a drunk man walks when he’s trying not to seem drunk: slowly and rigidly. 

“Fun, fun,” Alyssa whispered to me. They were a cute couple. He was what most people would label a redneck. She was a yankee. They were a Civil War love story two hundred years too late. JJ brought me another Ultra on his way back. I didn’t even have to ask for one, he just knew. 

“I don’t know what makes it so hard for some men to be a decent dad,” I said. 

“I feel like all you gotta do is love your kids and not beat your wife. Don’t seem too hard to me.”

“I think our parents’ generation just grew up in a real weird time and so they don’t get it.”

“I mean, love is love, righ’? It can’t have changed much, can it?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know. I don’t think they really understood what kinda trauma they were giving their kids.”

“Shit man,” JJ burped. “My daddy knew exactly what shit he was doin’. That asshole used to beat my ass if I even looked at him the wrong way. I mean, I could walk into the livin’ room and get slapped upside the head for walkin' too fast.”

“My dad is bipolar, so he’s kinda got an excuse. But at the same time,” and she left it at that.

“But at the same time, it doesn’t excuse some of the shit he’s pulled,” I added. I didn’t like when people left sentences unfinished. I liked completeness. I liked closure. I liked to sit back and know when something was done. My dad was a decent dad. He never slapped me. 

“Were you and your dad close?” 

“JJ,” Alyssa said sharply, slapping his arm.

I laughed and cracked open my beer. “Yeah,” I said. I had to slurp the rising foam out of it. “Yeah, we got pretty close there at the end. I’m okay to talk about it. It’s not like it didn’t happen, and there’s no point in avoiding it.”

“Yeah, but I don’t wanna like force you to talk about it if you don’t want to, you know what I mean?” Alyssa never wanted to make me uncomfortable and that was something truly beautiful about our relationship.

“I appreciate that, I really do.”

“Listen, buddy,” JJ said and then he backtracked. “I feel like we can call each other buddy now, righ’?”

I nodded.

“I know today must be tough, so that’s why we were glad to come over and have a good time with you. If you need anyt—-.” He broke off to burp. “If you need anythin’ at all, you let us know.”

“Cheers to y’all,” I said dryly, lifting my beer to the air. 

“Cheers, brother,” Alyssa said with her classy wine that cost less than my hourly wage. 

“How did it all go down?” 

“JJ, come on.”

“He said he was good to talk about it. I figured he might wanna talk about it, today ‘specially.”

I drank from my beer again. I could still walk to the Bridge after they left. It was maybe a mile away. If I just focused in on my steps and didn’t think about what I was going to do, then I could probably do it. But knowing my luck, I’d jump and feel like I’m flying and I’d remember the good things in this world like flying but by the time I could start to regret, I’d hit the water.

“Well it happened in two waves,” I said, looking at the wall ahead of me that held a cheap print of Starry Night in an even cheaper frame. “The first was the slow one where none of us could notice it. Then the second was the fast one where none of us had time to realize it.”

“Whatchu mean?”

“He got sick sick my senior year in high school, and then it was a slow digression from there. Then back in January of this year, it got real bad real fast.

Alyssa was uncomfortable mostly because she was worried for me, but JJ either was a supremely curious man or he wanted to know more to better know me. I figured either motive was not sinister, so I didn’t mind. 

“Was it a bad endin’?”

“Nah, not really. It was just fast. And it wasn’t like I thought it’d be. I called about three days before, and we talked briefly about Ecclesiastes because that’s what he had just finished reading. He told me I should read it. Said it helped him make sense of everything. Then three days later his heart crashed.

“I got a phone call in class from my cousin which I ignored initially, but she then called twice more. She told me to come home, and I knew what was happening. I packed up and headed home. The drive up 26 wasn’t bad. I flew up the road, but he died about twenty minutes after my cousin called me. They didn’t tell me because they thought it’d be best for me to make the drive and then find out. I didn’t even see him until the funeral actually. And he didn’t even look like him. It was someone else in that box.

I left it at that because there was no point in telling them more, and I stopped caring to tell more. 

We all drank quietly for a while. That’s why I didn’t talk about it with my friends because they never knew what to say, and that was usually fine with me because they usually said the wrong things when they said something. 

Alyssa got it though. She always let it be silent when I talked about it. This time though she put her hand on my leg. She didn’t look at me; I didn’t look at her. JJ stared at the floor.

“It’s funny because I think the actual last thing he told me was to go read Ecclesiastes, and I haven’t picked up my Bible since. You’d think I’d want to read it, but I just can’t.

“It’s only been three months,” Alyssa said. “Give it time. You need to heal. And you need to start leaning on your friends and talking, dude. You can’t let all that shit stay inside your head. You’ll go crazy.”

“She’s right, bud. You gotta find that balance between processin’ and movin’ on. Well, not movin’ on. Copin’, that’s a better word for it. You gotta keep movin’ forward. And I’m just so sorry, brother.

I knew the polite thing would’ve been to say something back to them, but I just was tired of talking. I was tired of everything, and I just wanted closure. 

“I’m sorry to bum everything out,” I finally said. “I meant for this to be a good time.”

“Hey,” Alyssa said, raising her glass, “I’ve had a good time and am glad you invited us over.”

“Yeah, man,” JJ chimed in. “I fuckin’ hate meetin’ her friends ‘cause they’re a bunch of freaks and hippies, but you’re awright.”

We drank some more. They helped me clean up everything, and they went on their way. I sat in my empty living room and cracked open one more. I knew that JJ and Alyssa would feel awfully guilty if I went and jumped off the Bridge. They would’ve wondered if they could’ve done anything different. I also wondered if they could’ve done anything different, if they could’ve say something different. In the end, I wouldn’t have to worry about it too much. 

I also knew that I was being dramatic and that it wouldn’t do anyone any good if I jumped. I would feel the wind as I fell, and I would feel my heart pump again from the adrenaline. I wondered if I would feel the impact or if it would all go black. Or would I just wake up in heaven? That’s what the pastor said at the funeral. Anyway, I would feel something just before I would never feel anything again. So jumping seemed to be a stupid choice on my part. Yet it kept calling me like a beach calls to the sea. I stood up and walked to my front door.

With the door open, I stared straight ahead to the porch where I sit in the mornings and read. Or rather where I used to sit in the mornings and read. I knew if I stepped past the doorway, my stubbornness wouldn’t let me turn around. I would go up the Bridge and jump off just like Pat Conroy wrote it. And I would feel silly the whole way down.

The hot and humid Charleston heat beat against my face while my air conditioned apartment shot chills all up and down my backside. I couldn’t move. I’m not sure I could think. The only thing I could recall was my conversation with my father. I couldn’t remember any of the important parts. Only the mundane things.

“How you feeling today?”

“Oh,” he said, stalling so he could find the reassuring words. “You know I think I’ll be okay in the end. Just gotta stay positive and keep plugging along. In the end, we all be okay.”

That was the only distinct words I could remember from him, and they rushed through my mind like an avalanche, fast and overwhelming and blinding. 

I closed my front door and turned off the lights in my living room. The electricity bill was already going to be high. The Bridge would be there tomorrow.

I was pretty buzzed, so I swayed up my stairs. I half-closed my door before slipping off my shoes. I took off my shirt and dropped my shorts. I sat on the end on my bed with my head held up by my hands. I tried to pray, but I couldn’t focus enough, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to pray about. I didn’t know if I should’ve prayed for myself, for Alyssa or JJ, for Bubba, for starving kids in Africa, or for him and his soul wherever it was. Instead, I decided to put my faith in what he father said. In the end, I’d be okay. 

I laid down crookedly in bed and closed my drunken eyes. I told myself I’d read Ecclesiastes in the morning.

© Copyright 2020 John Sterling Poole. All rights reserved.

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