The Story behind the Story: Screaming

Think of this entry as inside the Writers studio… much like Inside the Actors Studio on Bravo.

Except there’s no host 😉

Anyways I thought I’d would showcase one of my pieces of writings. I went onto my site and I realized that I don’t really feel confident enough to show any of my “early” work… so I’ll just cop out  and show my first piece from last semester.

There was an image in my head that early February that I couldn’t really get out of my head. It was more like a video.  A girl, a gun, and someone racing to the house was involved. Yes, cliched as it was, the girl would let someone know (maybe call 911 but hang up) that she was going to commit suicide. That someone would race into the house and startle the girl just as she had the gun to her head. The gun would go off but it wouldn’t hit the girl – her head was turned enough toward the person and the gun was slanted enough that it just missed her.

When I started jotting down the idea/mapping it out… I realized if I did that then it would probably be cliched to the umpteenth degree and I would have problems ending it. Knowing how those stories go usually, I didn’t feel justified ending it right there but I also didn’t want to extend it much further beyond that scene.

So I revised it. What if she didn’t reach out at all, I asked myself. What if she just suffers and suffers in silence? (I also decided that I didn’t need this extra person/ the EMT.)  What poured out of my mind was a character, Irene, who had had enough of life and wanted a vacation from it but was too scared to go over the edge. But one day at school she hears a comment from her old friend Eve and everything makes so much sense to her now. So she decides to go through it, thinking she’s worthless even to her friends.

The thing I’m most proud of is the style used: Basically Irene is taken out of the story in the middle but still narrates it, a la The Lovely  Bones because she can see everything around her still. I began the story in the past tense but used the present tense for when she’s dead. I had never done that before but it worked out pretty well if I say so myself.

So after giving the story behind the story, are you excited for the story at all?  You can find it on my Website but I’ll also post it here too. I called it “Screaming” 

Junior year had many demands. We were expected to handle Advance Placement classes, SAT prep, maintain excellent marks, and at the same time, lead a balanced, social life. The really successful students also found time to volunteer. I knew I had a problem. By November I knew things wern’t working out. I felt overwhelmed, rushed and worn down. Every day was the same. The routine was getting old and I had enough of the daily grind.

My classmates had no problem complaining to each other. It was always a competition to see who could handle the most and still be on top of everything. I never volunteered, knowing that I could barely handle what was expected of me.

My thoughts became a vicious cycle: I was upset that I couldn’t live up to others’ expectations, and because I was upset, I got further behind in my studies. I would sit down each night with a promise that I would try to catch up on my work, only to find myself procrastinating the night away.

Sometimes I wished I could leave it all behind. I found myself thinking of those childhood fantasies of running away again. I needed a vacation from the world. From life. But every time I had those thoughts, I realized that I couldn’t do anything. I had too many people depending on me. And I thought people would miss me if I left them.

So I walked around with a mask on. On the outside, I was my usual self, but on the inside, I was screaming. I would smile at my classmates and respond “Fine” if asked how I was, even if I knew it was a lie. I made sure to do just enough of my growing pile of schoolwork so my teachers wouldn’t get suspicious. I was effectively living a lie.

I even tried to become more involved in my friends’ lives. I would lend my ear to their problems, promising to be a sounding board for their vents. “Message me if you need anything” became my refrain.

I must have been a good actor because I seemed to fool almost everyone. There was one time, however,  right before Christmas break when my friend Eve stopped me on the way to class.

“Listen,” she said gently, “You haven’t been yourself lately. Is there anything wrong?”

I panicked. Did I really want to own up to my problems to Eve? Part of me was glad that she noticed. It wanted to yell yes and tell her what I had kept silent for months. But a bigger part of me felt like telling her about my ‘little’ problem would be complaining to her. That part of me rationalized that I was probably just blowing things out of proportion anyway.

“I’m fine.” I lied. “I’m just tired ‘s all.” I faked a smile. “Can’t wait for Christmas Break!”

Eve seemed convinced and as the bell rang we went our separate ways. I breathed a sigh of relief. When I saw her again, she didn’t say anything about our earlier conversation. I guess I had convinced her.

Vacation came and went. The holidays flew by. I found myself at school at the beginning of January hoping the New Year would bring a new beginning,

But every day got a little bit harder. The endless cycle of thoughts was becoming more and more relentless. I started to get scared. More and more I was thinking of  a way to get those thoughts out of my head. I just needed a means of escape

I found it on my way to school. I was trudging through the snow covered field that I used as a short cut when I misstepped and almost tripped. It startled me out of my reverie. I looked down to see that I had stepped on it. Without thinking I reached down and  picked it up. The black metal felt cold from being buried in the snow. Carefully I placed it in my backpack and hurried to school.

All day at school my find lay at the bottom of my bag. I knew I should turn it in, but somehow knowing it was there was a comfort to me. Finally I found a way out, if I ever decided to use it.

In the hallway in between classes I accidentally bumped into Eve. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled, my eyes still trained on the ground.

“For existing?,” came the reply. She was gone before I could say anything but her comment stopped me in my tracks. Did she mean what she said? She might have been joking but I didn’t see her face when she said it.

The bell rang; my feet resumed carrying me to my next class. I spent the rest of the school day in a daze. I couldn’t stop replaying the comment over and over in my mind. If she didn’t mean what she said then it was a cruel joke. But what if she did mean it? That my existence really was that worthless to those around me? Was I living this life under the delusion that people would miss me if I wasn’t around anymore? Was worth all this energy to put up my mask if no one cared one way or another?

By the end of the long school day I had reached a decision. I quietly left school and headed home. I headed back the way I came, through the fields that surrounded our school. I liked this way the best because it was quiet and I was usually the only one walking this way.

The house was empty and silent when I came home. I was pretty tired. The last thing on my mind was the mounting pile of homework that I carried on my back every day to and from school.

I went into the kitchen and got out a piece of paper. I began to write:

I don’t know what went wrong this year. I got into this hole that I didn’t realize I was in until it was too late to get myself out. There’s an emotional pain inside me that I can’t get rid of. It sits, constricting my chest and choking me. I feel the pressure weighing me down.

For months, I have walked around like a zombie. I feel invisible, like a ghost. I can’t tell you how many times I considered this already but I had decided that I was no longer living for myself but for the people around me. Some how I thought that my friends and family would miss me if I was gone.Then today at school I was proven wrong when my old friend told me I was better of dead. That’s why I’m doing this. I just can’t go on anymore. I know everyone will be better off without me.

I’m sorry.

I tried.

I sat at the kitchen table staring at the note in front of me and inhaled deeply. I couldn’t think of anything else to write. Did I say what I meant? Was it good enough? Well I didn’t want to spend all day perfecting it. I pushed my chair out from the table and stood up, barely noticing the scraping noise the chair legs made against the tile floor.  I went to get my find from my bag.

During lunch I had gone into the bathroom and opened my backpack to examine what I had found more closely. I discovered that not only did the gun appear to be in working order, but it also had some bullets in the magazine. I had no idea if the safety was on or not so I gingerly wrapped it up in toilet paper and put it back in my bag. Now I carefully unwrapped it and checked how many bullets were in the magazine again. It felt heavier than when I first was looking at it. I put it on the table next to my note.

I stared at them both for a long time. Everything that I had gone through this school year would be over in a single instant. The note pulled back the mask that I had to wear all this time. I didn’t have to keep swallowing and suppressing my emotions. I was living a lie and now it was time to end it.

There was nothing left for me to do except put the gun under my chin. There was no turning back. “Nothing to live for, nothing to die for,” I said to myself as took a deep breath and prepared to pull the trigger. My hand started shaking. I had to put the gun back on the table and shake my arm out. I didn’t want to miss.

I took a few more steadying deep breaths as I put the gun back under my chin. I closed my eyes really tight. I pulled the trigger. There was a deafening crack as the gun went off.

***

I open my eyes. I am still standing in our kitchen but I am looking at myself lying on the kitchen floor. The eyes flash an emotion: fear, anger, relief all fused together,  before suddenly going blank. There is gapping red hole under my chin and on the top of my skull. My hair, what is left of it, is matted with blood. I can see all the different layers of skin, muscle and bone.

My feet are suddenly wet and I look down. My own blood has already reached where I am standing \

Time passes but I feel rooted to the spot. My eyes do not leave what is left of my face. I hear the front door open. My mom has come home. My stomach drops and I feel weak in the knees. She comes into the kitchen.

“Mom!” “Irene!” we yell at the same time. She clutches one the kitchen chairs and just wails. I can see the pain on her face. I haven’t seen her break down like this before. I try to get her to see my note. That will make it all better. That will explain everything, I think. But Mom doesn’t see me. She doesn’t see the note on the table. She just kneels right next to my body and holds my hand for a long time. I stand next to her, hand on her shoulder, feeling nothing.

The first call Mom makes must be to Dad because he barrels in a little while later. They share their pain again. The mess I made has dried, staining our floor. He hugs my body while tears stream down his face. Again I try to get him to see my note but he is so dazed he doesn’t notice it.

They call the cops together. Neither could have called by themselves. A team comes over to take care of my body. They also send over a counselor. She is the one who finds the note and shows it to my parents. When they read it, they break down again and collapse into each other.

The cops who responded to my parents call are against the opposite wall, trying to give my parents as much space as possible. One of them whispers to the other “What a waste.”  Even though they are on the other side of the room, I can hear them talking about me. I spin around to face them. They shouldn’t judge me.  What do they know about my life? Did they spend any time with me? If they are just seeing my body sprawled on the kitchen floor, then they couldn’t hear the silent screams that I heard every day for months.

The next few days are a blur for both me and my parents. Every time I look at my parents, I see the pain that I caused them. I can’t leave my parents. Maybe my presence will be comforting to them though as they have to pick out what casket I want and other funeral arrangements.

My parents have an argument with the Funeral director of whether to use an open casket. The embalmers can only do so much with my body. The funeral director doesn’t recommend an open casket, but Mom doesn’t know if I would have wanted one.

“I couldn’t even tell when she was hurting the most, how am I supposed to know what she wants for her own funeral arrangements?” She asks bitterly. “What kind of mother am I? How could I let this happen?” She is on the verge of tears.

I want so much to comfort my mom. Again, I find myself reaching for her shoulder. There is no response from either of us, but I keep my hand there for a while anyways.     At the wake, everyone from my high school comes. It seems everyone was shocked by my death and they wanted to come to pay their respects. I some of my fellow classmates conversing with Eve in a corner. The pain is evident in their faces as most of their eyes are lined with tears. Eve looks like she hasn’t slept in days, just like my parents.

“Why did she do it?” one asks.

“She was in pain.” Eve. She looks haunted.

“Why didn’t she come to us?”

The last question goes unsaid and even I don’t have an answer.

The next day is the funeral at my church. The whole community comes together and the church is packed. Father Duffy says a beautiful mass. He comforts my parents and the congregation saying that I am at peace now and in a better place. Although my parents find solace in his words, I can see the permanent lines of pain already etched into both of their faces. My actions have caused them to age at least 5 years in less than a week.

I don’t take comfort in Fr. Duffy’s words though. I do not feel at peace at all. Looking at my family and friends makes me realize that if I could go back and undo what I did to them I would. This just causes all of us pain. What was I thinking that we would all be better off? I can’t believe that I thought this was the selfless thing to do. It is actually quite selfish! I feel ashamed of myself.

I want to go back. But in order to move forward, I know I need to come to terms with what I did. But I also know I am not ready to do that. Until then I have to stay here in my personal hell. I want to go back.

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2 Comments

Filed under Writing

2 responses to “The Story behind the Story: Screaming

  1. Nom de Plume

    I like the story and the message it sends to anyone who is involved in a similar situation (whether they relate to the main character, the suspecting friend, the parents, etc). I also agree with your shift in perspective halfway through. It’s ironic that Irene would have a present tense after death, considering it was an end in many ways for her. The storytelling method shifts in time with the plot, further emphasizing that a major change just occurred in this narrative. Other than a few missing words or added commas, it seemed structurally sound. I was left wondering if Eve ever heard about what the message said and put two and two together. I also wondered where the main character would end up, but I like that you left that question unanswered. If you ever decide to write this story from another character’s perspective, such as Eve’s, I think it would be really interesting. Keep up the good work!

    And be sure to share more of your writing in the future.

    • Thank you!

      I workshopped this last semester and no one in my Prose class suggested rewriting it in Eve’s POV. I won’t rewrite this but if I have time I might write a supplement piece in Eve’s POV. Just to make it interesting.

      And don’t worry there is more writing coming!

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