Home > Girl on the Line(11)

Girl on the Line(11)
Author: Faith Gardner

Twenty-seven texts from Marisol beginning with her asking if I saw the latest episode of a reality show about people with weird obsessions that we are obsessed with. The last one, apparently, is about a guy who is in love with a finger puppet. Then there are texts asking why I am not answering. THIS IS THE GREATEST TELEVISION THAT HAS EVER TELEVISIONED, she writes. Have I lost interest in the show, how could I, it’s OUR THING!

Then she asks me if I’m okay, what kind of food poisoning did I have, the puke kind or the poop kind? Was it salmonella? Botulism? Did I want soup?

I have a lot of Sometimes Friends: folks I know through shows I go to now and then or who I’ve known throughout years of being corralled together in public school. Their numbers are in my phone, we text and talk online, maybe eat lunch together or hang out after school. But Marisol’s a Forever Friend. An adopted sister. Two hearts, one heartbeat.

Me: Who told you I have food poisoning?

Her: She lives!!!

Me: “Lives” is being generous.

I snap a picture of my tired-as-hell face and send it.

Her: Poor bb

Me: Have you talked to Jonah?

Her: No, y?

Me: I tried to off myself. Was at a psychiatric hospital. Good times. Oh yeah, also he dumped me.

Shit. I probably shouldn’t have broken the news to her like that. If only there were an unsend button. The text sits there for about a nanosecond before my phone starts ringing. My ringtone is a cat meowing.

“Is this just your way of getting me on the phone?” she asks.

Because it takes an emergency to get Marisol on the phone. She is strictly a texter.

“Not a joke,” I tell her.

“On my way right now.”

Before I can respond, she hangs up. Less than ten minutes later, my doorbell rings.

I can tell she’s already been crying as she leans over and hugs me, kind of lying on me, more like. I inhale an aromatic burst of cinnamon gum and fruity shampoo. Marisol has the thickest mop of shiny, curly hair she dyes red over the dark brown. She calls her fashion sense Pajama Couture, as she somehow manages to live in Ugg boots, yoga pants, and long sweater things and still seem fashionable. She’s also a brilliant writer and speaks three languages fluently. Her mother is French, her father is Puerto Rican, she has dual citizenship to the EU and the US. Not that I’m bragging or anything.

It’s just that I have the best friend in the world.

Sometimes I think I don’t deserve her.

We sit up and I tell her the whole damn story while her hand pets my arm. I tell it all out of order. It may or may not make any sense at all. Marisol knows it’s been rough since my parents split up, and then the accident happened. She gave me many long hugs when I had tears and helped me breathe when I almost had panic attacks. But since school started in late August almost two months ago, I haven’t told her much beyond the diagnosis and that I’m medicated. She was deep in SAT and college prep world. I was busy losing my mind. When we hung out, we let silences expand between us—we shopped, or we saw movies, and I apparently hid my struggles well. So I have a lot to explain right now, starting with the ugly thoughts that have taken residence in Casa Journey’s Brain since the school year started and ending with trying to die. As I yammer on, every once in a while she says, “Stop.” Or “You did not.” Or just “Journey?!”

It’s the first time I’ve told the whole story out loud and it’s served with a heaping side of shame. Even though I know it’s true, I can’t believe I tried to kill myself just days ago.

What’s that word I’m looking for? For something you know is true but you still can’t believe?

“Oh man,” Marisol says, rubbing her eyes behind her ruby plastic frames. “I am the worst friend in the universe.”

“What? No.”

Seeing her cry physically pains me. I should have kept this a secret. This is why I never told her my stupid suicidal thoughts in the first place.

“It has nothing to do with you,” I tell her.

“I should have seen this coming,” Marisol says. “I’ve just been so busy—and since the accident, you’ve been so . . .”

“Insane.”

“I was going to say volatile. I’ve been worried, JoJo, not going to lie. But then you went to a psychiatrist and got your diagnosis and I . . . I don’t know. I thought things were going to get better. And I’ve been so in my own world, researching colleges and studying for SATs.” She wipes her eyes behind her glasses. “I feel so selfish.”

“It wasn’t up to you to save me.”

“I didn’t need to save you—but I should have been a better friend.”

“You’ve been working so hard for school—I was not about to come and distract you with my ridiculousness.”

“I could tell something was wrong with you. I’m used to you being dramatic. But you’ve been so dark and so quiet. I don’t know. I dismissed it. Selfishly. I didn’t think you’d . . .” She lets out a sob and grabs my wrist for a second like I’m a balloon about to float away.

“I didn’t think I would, either, at first.” I hug my knees, lay my head on them, breathe deeply to quiet the stabbing feeling in my chest. “It was almost like . . . like I dared myself to. I dared myself to die.”

Marisol just shakes her head.

“Believe me, I know I sound crazy. I guess I am crazy. I came home with a fresh batch of crazy pills.” I watch her, waiting for a response. Waiting for her to agree or disagree. Because I honestly don’t know if I’m crazy or not anymore.

I never feel crazy inside myself—someone else has to come along and see it, name it. Crazy is always something someone else defines.

Marisol gets up, blows her nose loud as a trumpet. She sits next to me on the bed again, watching me like I’m something astonishing. Not the good kind of astonishing, either.

“Hon, you scare the living crap out of me.”

“Why?” I ask, a crack in my heart.

“Just . . . you oscillate so wildly,” she says. “Maybe that’s why I’ve backed off since the year started and our conversations mostly revolve around reality TV. I’m sorry. I’m just . . . exhausted sometimes.”

“Explain.”

“Like that time last year you showed up at my house joyriding your dad’s car. You told me to get in, like it was nothing. I mean, yeah, it was one of the funnest nights of my life. But you don’t have a license. And, like, I was terrified.”

“He showed me how to drive it. He was out of town. I’d never do that anymore, anyway, after the accident.”

“Or like that time last spring you called me and said you thought maybe there was a guy with a knife outside your house. My mom and I showed up and looked around your yard. Do you remember? We were freaking out. I still don’t know if you really saw a guy with a knife or not. That truly scared the crap out of us.”

“There was a shadow, and I’d been watching that true crime show—”

“Or Jonah. Like he was your whole world. Your whole. World. You barely talked about anything else the past year. You kind of pushed me to the wayside and girl, you know I love you, but what the hell is this?”

Marisol points to the corner of my room, where a small pile of three infant-sized sundresses sit in a corner.

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