Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Dark Side of Life

*Names have been changed for privacy protection

"*Sam? What's wrong?"
"I-I can't...I'm g-gonna be f-fire-ired! And he does-doesn't w-want me! Oh god. Manda? I did something bad..."
"It's ok hun, take a breath and calm down. You're ok. What happened?"
"I'm stupid 'manda. Oh god. Shit. There's blood everywhere! Oh god..."

It figures the middle of a drug store is where my heart would stop. I snap my fingers to get *Jack's attention and mouth the words "First Aid Kit", handing him a twenty. I stride away and out the doors, my phone pressed tightly to my ear. The air is cold but I don't notice until I'm leaning against my car.

"Sam keep talking to me ok? Where did you cut yourself?"
"Oh god, Amanda? I have to go to work! I have to get ready...But it won't stop bleeding!"
"It's ok Sam, don't worry about work right now ok? Now where did you cut yourself?"
"M-my leg..."

I feel relief spreading through my blood. It's that lukewarm feeling of nerves calming down just enough to let your mind wander to other possible calamities.

So now I'm dodging through traffic in my little Chevy, trying to keep Sam calm and on the line until I get an address out of her, and Jack is fiddling with his first aid kit and mumbling to himself. Sam decides to hang up on me to call her not-quite-boyfriend and Jack looks at me as I close my phone, laying it in my lap.

"Is this normal for you?"
"What do you mean?" I ask, gunning the accelerator up a hill.
"Saving the world? You seem ridiculously calm about all of this."
I smirk and glance at him, cutting through an intersection, "You're nervous."
"I am..."
"See, you've had the benefit of living a sheltered life, Jack. How many of your friends have killed themselves?"
He can't answer me.
"That's what I thought..."

I pull in behind a white ford pick up truck. Sam is standing on the steps of her front porch.
Jack and I follow her inside and sit her on the couch. I play my role - the best friend - and let her vent and sob and incoherently choke out everything that happened tonight. Jack is dressing the cuts and trying to pretend he isn't listening. The blood is all over the floor and dripping down her leg as he tries to clean the open wounds.
I excuse myself while Jack bandages her, following the trail of blood to the bathroom. I find a bloodied facecloth and broken razors on the floor. I look at the blood streaked down the sides of the tub and sigh, pushing memories out of my mind.
I come back to the living room and Sam starts getting ready for work. There's no arguing with her about going. I take the spare key I find on the table and tell her I'm keeping it. She doesn't argue; she knows better.
Before I know it, we're standing outside next to her car and I'm leaning down in the window to talk to her.

"Call me when you get there ok? I'll come see you in a bit to make sure you're doing ok."
"Ok...Thank you...for saving me...I love you."
"I love you too, hun."

Jack and I walk towards my car and get in, watching as Sam drives down the street.


Her car turns the corner and both Jack and I bolt for the front door.
Jack goes to the kitchen and I go to the bathroom. I gather all the razor blades, both broken and unused and shove them in a bag. I start cleaning the floor and tub with papertowel and disinfectant. I am running the tap over the bloodied facecloth when Jack comes in.

"I cleaned up the blood in the kitchen..." He stops and watches me. "Do I wanna know why you're so good at this whole cover up thing?"
I smirk and laugh softly just once, "Lot's of practice..."


  1. Great read Amanda. Obviously the subject matter is fairly grizzy to put it lightly, but it was nontheless an enjoyable read. You manage to capture the various emotions-- nervousness, fear, sadness, illogic and calm really well in each of the characters. Perhaps it's because I know you somewhat and can somewhat sort of -hear- the inflection in your parts of the dialogue... but I think it's just the dialogue itself. Really naturally. Really believable.

    And I said "illogic" early ... or, lack of logic, because your friend... she wants to go to work beyond all reason, but you know better to argue and to me, that lack of logic and sense was captured well-- I've expirienced that in different contexts...where friends seek to do things and can't be wrestled with no matter how illogical those things are.

    Other things I enjoyed: This bit: "I feel relief spreading through my blood. It's that lukewarm feeling of nerves calming down just enough to let your mind wander to other possible calamities"

    Great word use there, and a real interesting description, turning in on yourself and your own blood and feelings-- it links well with rest of the blood that flows outwardly throughout the blog... But it's a great bit on it's own.

    I enjoyed the last line as a nice tie to "the bigger picture"-- the sort of strange and fragile state of humanity, of emotion, of friends... of the frequency of pain and poor decisions. It worked well to bring all those things to my mind simply.

    Love the hilarity in this line:"It figures the middle of a drug store is where my heart would stop." -- clever, made me snicker.

    Great post. Quite simply enganging and, oddly charming (given the subject matter) with the natural dialogue, and relatability.

  2. Alex I adore your thoroughness in analyzing my pain ahahahaha.

    Just jokes, but seriously, thank you. I love reading your critiques.

  3. I personally find it difficult to insert dialogue into a short piece like this without making it seem awkward. You do a really good job of using dialogue in this piece. You use description, pauses, and elements other than just speech, which makes it very effective.
    I like how you managed to portray Sam. You gradually give us bits of information about her and her situation, which works well because it keeps the reader guessing. I makes us want to read on, and it also makes us draw connections in order to determine what’s happening.
    I liked how you used description in this piece. You describe the blood and the razorblades, which makes the reader believe that you are sharing something painful, and something honest (in other words, you aren’t making the story “pleasant” or covering it up to protect us). You also mention “pushing memories out of my mind.” This sentence works well because it hints at other painful situations like this that the reader is unfamiliar with. It is open to interpretation, it makes us guess, and it reveals just enough.
    The only criticism I have to make is that the “So now I’m…” doesn’t transition well. It changes the piece from flowing properly as a story, to more of a conversation you’re having with us.
    This story had me on the edge of my seat. I read it really fast the first time through just because I was eager to find out what would happen. Although you covered a painful subject matter, I think you did it with enough distance where you separated yourself from the “I” we talked about in class. This is a well written post. Great job.