Authors: Ned Vizzini
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Media Tie-In, #Humorous Stories, #Social Issues, #Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, #Suicide, #b_mobi
To my mom
You knew you’d get one sooner or later, and seeing as they’re so hard to do, I figured we’d better make it sooner. I love you.
If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped” book.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Text copyright © 2006 by Ned Vizzini
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Hyperion Books for Children, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10011-5690.
Printed in the United States of America
First Hyperion Paperbacks edition with film art, 2010
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data on file.
eISBN 13: 978-1-4231-4108-2
ISBN 10: 0-7868-5197-X
Table of Contents
It’s so hard to
when you want to kill yourself. That’s above and beyond everything else, and it’s not a mental complaint—it’s a physical thing, like it’s physically hard to open your mouth and make the words come out. They don’t come out smooth and in conjunction with your brain the way normal people’s words do; they come out in chunks as if from a crushed-ice dispenser; you stumble on them as they gather behind your lower lip. So you just keep quiet.
“Have you ever noticed how on all the ads on TV, people are
TV?” my friend is like.
“Pass it, son,” my other friend is like.
“No, yo, that’s true,” my other other friend is like. “There’s always somebody on a couch, unless it’s an allergy ad and they’re in a field—”
“Or on a horse on the beach.”
“Those ads are always for herpes.”
“How do you even tell someone you have that?” That’s Aaron. It’s his house. “That must be such a weird conversation: ‘Hey, before we do this, you should know …’”
“Your moms didn’t mind last night.”
Aaron lobs a punch at Ronny, the antagonist. Ronny is small and wears jewelry; he once told me, Craig,
when a man puts on his first piece of jewelry, there’s no turning back.
He punches back with his hand with the big limp gold bracelet on it; it hits Aaron’s watch, clanging.
“Son, what you tryin’to do with my gold, yo?” Ronny shakes his wrist and turns his attention to the pot.
There’s always pot at Aaron’s house; he has a room with an entirely separate ventilation system and lockable door that his parents could rent out as another apartment. Resin streaks outline his light switch, and his bedsheet is pockmarked with black circles. There are stains on there, too, shimmery stains which indicate certain activities that take place between Aaron and his girlfriend. I look at them (the stains, then the couple). I’m jealous. But then again, I’m beyond jealous.
“Craig? You want?”
It’s passed to me, wrapped up in a concise delivery system, but I pass it on. I’m doing an experiment with my brain. I’m seeing if maybe pot is the problem; maybe that’s what has come in and robbed me. I do this every so often, for a few weeks, and then I smoke a
of pot, just to test if maybe the
of it is what has robbed me.
“You all right, man?”
This should be my name. I could be like a superhero: You All Right Man.
“Ah…” I stumble.
“Don’t bug Craig,” Ronny is like. “He’s in the Craig zone. He’s Craig-ing out.”
“Yeah.” I move the muscles that make me smile. “I’m just. . . kinda . . . you know .. .”
You see how the words work? They betray your mouth and walk away.
“Are you okay?” Nia asks. Nia is Aaron’s girlfriend. She’s in physical contact with Aaron at all times. Right now she’s on the floor next to his leg. She has big eyes.
“I’m fine,” I tell her. The blue glow of the flat-screen TV in front of us ricochets off her eyes as she turns back to it. We’re watching a nature special on the deep ocean.
“Holy shit, look at that, son!” Ronny is like, blowing smoke—I don’t know how it got back to him already. There’s an octopus on the screen with giant ears, translucent, flapping through the water in the cold light of a submersible.
“Scientists have playfully named this specimen Dumbo,” the TV narrator says.
I smile to myself. I have a secret: I wish I was Dumbo the Octopus. Adapted to freezing deep-ocean temperatures, I’d flop around down there at peace. The big concerns of my life would be what sort of bottom-coating slime to feed off of—that’s not so different from now—plus I wouldn’t have any natural predators; then again, I don’t have any now, and that hasn’t done me a whole lot of good. But it suddenly makes sense: I’d like to be under the sea, as an octopus.
“I’ll be back,” I say, getting up from my spot on the couch, which Scruggs, a friend who was relegated to the floor, immediately claims, slinking up in one fluid motion.
“You didn’t call one-five,” he’s like.
“One-five?” I try.
I shrug and climb over clothes and people’s legs to the beige, apartment-front-door-style door; I move through that, to the right: Aaron’s warm bathroom.
I have a system with bathrooms. I spend a lot of time in them. They are sanctuaries, public places of peace spaced throughout the world for people like me. When I pop into Aaron’s, I continue my normal routine of wasting time. I turn the light off first. Then I sigh. Then I turn around, face the door I just closed, pull down my pants, and fall on the toilet— I don’t sit; I fall like a carcass, feeling my butt accommodate the rim. Then I put my head in my hands and breathe out as I, well, y’know, piss. I always try to enjoy it, to feel it come out and realize that it’s my body doing something it has to do, like eating, although I’m not too good at that. I bury my face in my hands and wish that it could go on forever because it feels good. You do it and it’s done. It doesn’t take any effort or any planning. You don’t put it off. That would be really screwed up, I think. If you had such problems that you didn’t pee. Like being anorexic, except with urine. If you held it in as self-punishment. I wonder if anyone does that?
I finish up and flush, reaching behind me, my head still down. Then I get up and turn on the light. (Did anyone notice I was in here in the dark? Did they see the lack of light under the crack and notice it like a roach? Did Nia see?) Then I look in the mirror.
I look so normal. I look like I’ve always looked, like I did before the fall of last year. Dark hair and dark eyes and one snaggled tooth. Big eyebrows that meet in the middle. A long nose, sort of twisted. Pupils that are naturally large—it’s not the pot— which blend into the dark brown to make two big saucer eyes, holes in me. Wisps of hair above my upper lip. This is Craig.
And I always look like I’m about to cry.
I put on the hot water and splash it at my face to feel something. In a few seconds I’m going to have to go back and face the crowd. But I can sit in the dark on the toilet a little more, can’t I? I always manage to make a trip to the bathroom take five minutes.