Michael sat in the deep tub, his entire body completely submerged in the soothingly hot water, feeling the tingling sensation of every muscle in his body relaxing, his eyes
open to the dim light of the candles he had lit on the counter next to the sink. He lifted his right hand out of the bath, watching as little rivulets of water cascaded down his arm and back into
the tub, and looked at the thin razor pinched between his thumb and middle finger, examining its flexibility and admiring its impeccable sharpness. He turned the razor back and forth, watching as
the light reflected off its edges, and seeing bits and pieces of his past in those flashes, memories of a life that was once his but now seemed to have belonged to somebody else entirely.
Once, long ago, back when he was a small child, life had actually been happy, enjoyable, worth living. He remembered how he and his older brothers used to play on the
thirty-nine acres of land that their grandparents had owned, had saved their entire lives for. He remembered how they would play hide and seek in the woods, and how they would sometimes have to
search for hours just to find everybody, how they never stayed in the same spot during a game, how they would always keep moving around to different hiding spots to confuse the person who was it.
He remembered how, when he was especially little, he would hide inside of the old, rotted out oak tree next to the pond, and how he would eventually have to come out in order to be found.
He remembered fishing with his father and older brothers, how he was the last to learn how to set a worm to his hook because he was the youngest, and how he would always
whip the worm off the hook when he cast his line out because he never set it to his hook properly. And he remembered catching his first fish. He remembered how great his excitement was when he
had caught that little baby crappie and how the fish was far too small to keep but yet his father had kept it anyway. He remembered how happy he was when his father taught him how to fillet it,
and oh, he remembered how good that little baby crappie had tasted, how it was the best thing he had ever tasted in his entire life—or so he had said at the time.
He remembered his first day of school, and how excited he had been getting on that bus with all of the other kids, and how he had nervously sat next to a little brown-haired
girl with beautiful dark brown eyes and a smile that made him completely tongue-tied. And Michael remembered the very first thing he had said to that girl, remembered extending his hand to her
and saying, “Hi, I’m Michael. Is it okay if I sit here?” Oh, he remembered how nervous he had been when he had said that. After all, he had never spoken to a girl in his entire life before that
day. He remembered how she had smiled at him with that cute little smile, and how she had shook his hand and said, “I’m Erica, and yes, you can sit here with me.” Michael and Erica had become
friends right from the start and had wound up being best friends all the way up and through high school.
Then Michael remembered the day—he was fourteen at the time, as was Erica—when he had gotten on the bus and sat next to Erica, just as he had done every day since his very
first day of school when he was little, but yet that particular day was different from every other day, as was every day after that. He remembered walking down the aisle to their seat and how he
had seen her sitting there, staring blankly out the window with tears in her eyes. He remembered how he had sat to next her and asked what was wrong, and how she had just shook her head, still
staring out the window. He remembered hugging her and telling her that she knew that she could tell him anything, anything at all. And he remembered how she had turned her head and looked him in
the eyes, and how he had looked back into her tear-glazed eyes, how she looked to be right on the edge of bawling, and how she said to him those four words that had changed their lives forever.
She had said to him, quietly so nobody else could hear, “My dad touched me.”
He remembered how utterly speechless he was when he had heard that, and how he had just hugged her, and how he held her all the way to school. They had skipped every class
that day, and just sat out in the courtyard. He remembered listening to her tell him everything, and how she had explained it all in such fine detail that he was imagining that he was actually
there, watching it happen to her. And he remembered how he had held her close, just holding her for hours and hours as she wept for the whole day.
Michael lifted his left hand out of the bath as well, watching once again as the little rivulets of water cascaded down his arm and back into the tub. Tears began to well up
in his eyes as he held his arm palm-up in the air and looked from his left wrist to the razor in his right hand and back again. Part of him was saying No. Don’t do it. It isn’t worth it.
But the overwhelmingly vast majority of him was saying, DO IT. YOU KNOW YOU HAVE TO. YOU KNOW THAT THERE IS NO OTHER WAY OF ESCAPING ALL THAT HAS HAPPENED. Michael sat there in the tub,
his hands held up out of the water, and wept silently as his mind raced to make a decision.
He remembered how Erica had never been the same after that, how she had never been happy again. She had never smiled that cute, warm smile ever again. Instead, she always
looked like she was about to cry, and it tore his heart to pieces every time she would come to him and tell him of how her father had just touched her again the night before. He remembered losing
count of the number of days they had skipped school, and how he would just hold her as she would cry for hours and hours on end.
Michael had loved Erica, so great was their friendship. He would have happily laid down his life just to see her smile that beautiful, warm smile once more. But of course he
was never able to see that smile again, and he had begun to wonder if she even remembered how to smile that smile anymore, or if she had remembered how to smile at all.
And then he remembered the day that stood out. It had been a day just like all the other days that they had skipped school together to walk and talk things out. He
remembered holding her close while she cried, and how he had gently stroked her hair, trying desperately to soothe her. And he remembered how she had looked him in the eyes, how she had stared
deep into his eyes, and how she had kissed him then, and how he was utterly dumbfounded as to what to say or do. He remembered how he had kissed her back, and how they had just sat there and
kissed, long and slow, for hours and hours that day. And he remembered the words, those three words that had brought great joy to his heart but yet great pain at the same time. He remembered how
she had pulled away from a kiss, looked deep into his eyes, and how she had said, “I love you.” And he remembered how he had looked back into her eyes and said, “I love you too.” And then, as
well, things between them had changed forever.
Crying bitter tears, Michael cut into his arm to distract himself from the memories. He felt the burning, tingling sensation as the blade cut deep into his flesh, and he
watched as the blood began to ooze forth from the wound he had just inflicted, and as it began to run across his arm and drip into the water. He had not cut any veins though, because he still
wasn’t sure if he should die or stay alive.
He remembered how they had skipped easily four out of five school days from then on out. Her father had begun beating her, and Michael would see the bruises on her face, on
her body, and they would both weep bitter tears together. And then Michael remembered the day when they had done something that had made them closer than ever before.
Michael and Erica are walking down the road toward her house, holding hands and staying in perfect step with each other without even thinking about it. They do not
exchange words, they do not look at each other, and they do not even look up. They simply walk together, finding solace in each other’s presence. When they get to her house, they go inside, just
as they have done every other day for the past year or so, and they are alone, because both of her parents are at work. They go to her bedroom, just as they have done every other day, and sit on
her bed, still holding hands, just staring into each others eyes, pleadingly, as if hoping for some sort of miracle to spring forth from nothing.
“I love you,” Erica says to him.
“I love you too,” Michael replies. “So damn much.” And then Erica leans forward and they kiss, long and slow. And they release hands and hold each other tight and kiss
for the better part of an hour. Then Erica does something she has never done before, but she trusts Michael and she wants this. She wants him. She loves him.
Erica takes Michael’s hands in her own, moves them around in front of her, and places his hands on her breasts. Michael begins to open his mouth, to speak, to ask her if
this is really what she wants, but the passionate fire in her eyes gives him his answer so that he does not even need to ask. He squeezes her breasts gently, and they kiss again, only this time
it is a passionate kiss, and a fire ignites between them, and they both know what is going to happen, and they are both okay with it, they both want it to happen.
Erica begins to lift Michael’s shirt, and he lifts his arms as she takes his shirt off him and tosses it aside. Then she lifts her own arms as Michael takes off her
shirt and tosses it aside as well….
They are naked now, and Erica is laying on the bed, and Michael is on top of her. He lowers himself into her…
The ecstasy is so utterly immense, for it is something that neither of them have ever experienced before…
Afterward, they lay together, breathing heavily, their bodies coated in sweat.
“I love you,” Erica says to him.
“I love you too,” Michael replies. “So damn much.”
And they fall asleep there, laying together in her bed….
Michael cut again, deeper this time, drawing even more blood, in another attempt to distract him from the excruciatingly painful memories. He watched again as the blood ran
down his arm and dripped into the water, turning if even closer to a shade of red-orange. He winced as he made the cut, because yeah, it did hurt. But yet it also felt great at the same time. He
didn’t really understand how something that hurts could feel good at the same time, but he knew that it felt great and that was all that he really cared about at the moment. Perhaps it was the
tingling sensation of his left hand beginning to get cold because it wasn’t getting as much blood as it was before, or perhaps it was the burning sensation of the blade passing through his skin.
Or better yet, perhaps it was the feeling of the blood leaving his body, becoming one with the water. He didn’t know for sure, but he liked it.
The worst part, Michael thought, was what happened two months ago and the series of devastatingly horrific events that followed. He remembered skipping school with Erica one
day, and they went to her house just as they always did, but instead of doing what they usually did at her house, she looked at him and said the most horrible words he had ever heard in his
“My dad raped me last night,” she had said, looking deep into his eyes, or at least trying to look into his eyes through all of her tears.
He remembered being utterly speechless, and after what seemed to be an hour of silence he had finally managed to say, “Oh my god.” Thinking back to that day, Michael felt
like an idiot for only saying that, because there was so much more that he now wished he had said, like, “Your dad is a monster and I’m going to rip his fucking balls off and shove them down his
throat.” But of course he never said that to her. He had never really thought of it until only recently.
Michael remembered how everything that they had known had been flipped upside-down after that. He remembered how every other day Erica would tell him how her father had just
raped her again the night before. He remembered how he had cried himself to sleep every night after that because while he was laying in bed he knew what was happening to Erica at the same moment,
and he wept for her. He had wept bitterly for her.
He remembered how he had begun to see cuts on her arms whenever he was with her, and how, when he had first asked her what was going on, if she was going to be okay, she
shook her head and told him that everything was fine. He remembered how when she said that, he had put his hands on her shoulders, looked deep into her eyes, and asked her again if she was going
to be okay. He remembered how she had practically collapsed into his arms then, and how bitterly she had wept, and how he had just sat there on the ground with her and held her and rocked her and
begged her not to cry, while his own tears were dripping to the sidewalk.
Michael stopped cutting, dropped the razor, buried his face in his hands, and wept most bitterly. Because he knew what had happened after that, and he didn’t want to
remember, didn’t want to think about it. But yet he did remember it, and it came back to him, as clear as day. And as it came back he could not help but to weep for his love.
Michael had been sitting at home seven nights ago, knowing what was probably happening to Erica while he sat safe in his bed, and so he had called her house. But nobody had
answered the call, and Michael knew instantly that something was terribly wrong. But then he tried to rationalize, to tell himself that she had told him that her dad was going to be out
bar hopping and her mom was going to be out somewhere else, probably getting drunk off her ass. Which would have meant that Erica was home alone, which meant that she would have been able to
answer the phone.
Worried, he had thrown his shoes on and walked over to her house. He saw that the light was on in her bedroom, so he had rung the doorbell. And then he waited, and waited,
and waited some more. By that time he had become extremely scared for her, and he had used their spare key to enter the house. He remembered calling out for her, remembered yelling, “Erica!
Erica! It’s Michael! Erica! Erica?” But yet he had heard no reply, no creaking floors to signal that she had walked out of her bedroom to come downstairs, no voice, nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Michael remembered going upstairs, and going into her bedroom, and not seeing her there, and he remembered leaving her bedroom and going to the upstairs bathroom. He remembered knocking on the
door saying, “Erica? Hello? Babe? You in there? Erica? Please answer me, Erica. Please.” And he had known she was probably in there because the door was shut and the light was on, but yet he
remembered getting no response.
And he remembered knocking once more and saying, “Erica, I’m scared, so I’m gonna come in, okay?” And he remembered opening the door, and he remembered seeing…..
Michael tried to force the thought from his mind by cutting himself rapidly on the forearm, no longer feeling the burning pain of the blade passing slicing through his
fascia tissue, and watching the blood flow into the bath, but yet he could not escape the memory. He could not keep it from his mind.
Michael walks into the bathroom and stops dead in his tracks, completely horrified by what he sees. Erica is laying in the tub, her eyes closed, the bath water red. His
eyes are drawn to the razor blade that is sitting on the ledge of the tub, and to the blood that is on it. His jaw drops and he crumbles to his knees next to the tub. He leans over the tub and
draws Erica close to him, embracing her tightly, praying that she is still alive. But her body is limp and he already knows that she is dead. He reaches down into the tub and pulls her hand out
of the water, and looks at the gash on her wrist. But the wound only confirms that she is dead because it is no longer bleeding. There is no blood coming from it at all, for there is no blood
left in her body. It is all in the tub. Michael embraces his dead love and weeps the most bitter tears he had ever wept in his life…
Michael lost control of himself and decided that there was only one way to make it stop, and he slashed his wrist over and over and over again, watching as the blood came
pouring out into the bath water. He knew that he had just cut all the veins and tendons in his arm because he felt the razor collide with the bones of his forearm. He set the razor on the ledge
of the tub and lowered his bleeding arm into the water. And he wept, because in his mind he was still embracing Erica’s limp, naked, wet, dead form and screaming at her to wake up, that she
couldn’t be dead. And he was hearing the sirens as the police and the ambulance arrived, for his screaming had been so loud that the neighbors had become worried and had dialed 911. And he was
being dragged, screaming, out of the bathroom by the police as the paramedics came rushing in, pulling Erica’s dead body out of the tub and laying it on the stretcher. And he was watching as one
of the paramedics felt for a pulse and shook his head, pointing to the gaping hole in her wrist which was no longer bleeding.
Michael closed his eyes and waited while the memory continued to play out, but it was becoming fuzzy, blurry. He opened his eyes but everything was going dark, and he knew
that finally, finally this was the end. Finally he would not have to shed any more tears. Finally he was going to be free of his anguish. Finally, finally, the nightmare was over. And just before
he slipped into the black, he managed to speak four words. He said, “I’m coming, my love.”