Miller Brickett, you were a beautiful boy. I loved you, so so much. I loved your gorgeous, brown hair you always spent so much time styling. I loved how tall you were, how my ears lined up with your heart, your sharp jaw-line, your warm eyes, I loved every part of you. Inside and out.
You were still beautiful even lying closed-eyed in your coffin.
I stood in the very back of the crowd, away from all the cruel, judging eyes. My heels were sinking in the grass and the breeze erected goose bumps all over my exposed arms and legs. I was wearing that black dress that you said made me look like a passenger of the Mayflower. I felt like it would be rude to look too nice at your funeral. The sky above was a pale grey, matching my mood perfectly.
Your mom floated from person to person and accepted their condolences. We locked eyes for a full three seconds before she turned and walked the other direction. It was funny, when you and I were dating she loved me too. Whenever I came over to your house we chatted for a long time, and it wasn’t just small talk either. She even drove me to some tennis competitions before when my parents were busy. Now she hasn’t spoken to me since you died eight days ago.
She wasn’t the only one icing me out. Your friends did too, even a couple of my friends. They all did so in different ways. Some glared daggers into the back of my head, some avoided me completely, and the braver, angrier ones came up to me and told me off to my face.
“It’s all your fault!” Hadley had screamed. It happened the very next day after the news broke out of your death. I met her through you, Miller. You guys were close friends since childhood and when we dated I befriended her too. I knew that friendship was over now though.
“You abandoned him, Memphis!” She screeched in hysteria, not caring who turned to watch. I hadn’t cared either. I was still numb, my throat was still hoarse from crying and screaming until sounds no longer came out. “It’s all your fault! You knew what was going on with him and you gave up. Miller wouldn’t have killed himself if you didn’t break up with him! You left him alone.”
She slapped me after that and I let her go. Hadley was here today too, at the funeral. She was as far away from me and as close to you as possible. It seemed that she let her anger at me out that day and didn’t feel like beating me up anymore. But she was a long way from talking to me again. They all were.
In their eyes, everyone who loved you, I was to blame for your suicide. I was the selfish one. I was the one who should’ve put everything I had into helping you. According to your friends and family, me breaking up with you was what sent you over the edge. Were they right, Miller? I think a lot about that.
I also think a lot about that transition, from when you were normal to when you were not. You had a smile that filled me with butterflies, but you started showing it less. You stayed quiet, posted depressing quotes on twitter and tumblr about wanting to die. I knew there was something wrong. I tried to get you to talk about it, but nothing I did seemed to get through to you. I knew enough, my boyfriend was severely depressed and suicidal. The day I first saw the scars on your arm is forever burned into my brain. My stomach knotted at the sight.
I soon learned your friends picked up on it too. But it was as if there was some unspoken law that we shouldn’t publicly talk about it. I’m sure, I hope, they all tried one-on-one to help, but together we never did more than subtly hint at it on social media. Looking back, I wondered if all of us tried to help you together, would it have made a difference?
I know I tried by myself. We always talked late at night on the phone but soon the calls became me trying to convince you not to kill yourself that night. Every time you called I answered, no matter what I was doing, no matter how tired, because I was terrified of what would happen if I didn’t. I would lie next to my phone on speaker while you cried, and sometimes we cried together. Then the next day we would meet at school and act as if it never happened. You have no idea how much the routine exhausted me mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Soon the funeral procession finally started and I felt that same exhaustion I had felt taking care of you. A pastor was up there giving the usual speech about life and life after death, then people began giving their eulogies one by one. Some were so incredibly cliché I knew if you were there you’d rolled your eyes. I moved up closer to see you, still on the outskirts of the crowd however. The coffin was intricately designed. You looked so serene and pale lying there in church clothes, hands folded. The lips that used to make everything okay were now a dead brown. Your eyes were closed, and even though it’d be disturbing to open them, I wish I could look into your eyes again. I haven’t seen a picture of you in eight days, but I still remember every detail about you.
No one asked me to present a eulogy. I was still bitter over that. I had the most to say. Not only could I talk about every beautiful part about you Miller, but I was also the one who stayed up with you all night and learned all your secrets. I didn’t deserve to be treated as if I didn’t care about you. I was the one who tried the hardest to save you, but you were the only one who knew that.
Many guests already had red eyes and puffy faces from crying. I had already cried myself out, it would probably take months to replenish my tear stock. Hadley took up the podium next to begin her eulogy. I spaced out during the other ones but I listened intently to what she had to say. Hadley was small, petite, but her voice was laced with fire. I had always admired her passion. You did too.
“All of these eulogies are missing one important detail,” she began. She was the loudest speaker yet. “A detail I feel it’s my job to bring up since no one else will. You all want to talk about how amazing a person Miller was, and he was a truly amazing person, I’m honored to be his childhood friend. But I refuse to go on without acknowledging that Miller Brickett committed suicide.”
Flinches rippled through the crowd as Hadley spoke but she continued. “I am so mad at him honestly. He left big wreckage behind. His death destroyed some of us. But that’s just karma. Miller killed himself because he was so deeply unhappy and none of us tried hard enough to help. We were blind, or selfish and we’re all to blame. Miller’s blood is on our hands.”
It was a terribly morbid thing to say at a funeral. I know you wouldn’t have wanted this at all. It further proved how little Hadley really knew about you. The Miller I knew. I shook my head and turned to leave. I didn’t want to hear any more of this. Forcing everyone to beat themselves up over a loved one’s death wasn’t a good idea and it wasn’t going to end well.
“Are you kidding me, Memphis?” Hadley screamed into the microphone. I stopped but didn’t turn to face everyone. I could hear the shuffle and turn of heads. “You’re abandoning him again? And you say you loved him.” She spat profanities into the microphone and I could hear people pulling her away. I continued to walk away, my heart frantically racing. Step after step after step, I kept my head down. Walking required a bit more effort than usual because I had to pull my heels up from the ground. They were the heels you got me two months ago, Miller. This would be the last time I wore them, for more reasons than one.
I didn’t stop until I left the graveyard. There was a park across the street so I went there and sat on a swing. My pulse was hammering in my throat. I wasn’t mad at Hadley. Truthfully, I felt nothing but sorry for her. This was her way of grieving. I wanted to help her, I used to be dangerously close to that mindset as well.
I also didn’t blame everyone for believing it’s my fault that you committed suicide. I mean, I broke up with you and then five days later you’re dead. You probably laid in bed with no one to call anymore and thought since everyone finally left, why not right?
The only thing I so desperately wanted was to explain. Did Hadley really believe I didn’t beat myself up over your death? Nothing tore me apart more. I was a mess for days from breaking up with you, your death was a million times worse. I was a mental case. I felt like a giant was stepping on my chest, crushing my ribcage and making my heart explode. I hated that people thought I didn’t love you. I loved you so much I tried to stand by you through all of your troubles.
I loved you so much I cut myself because of you.
I swung a little on the swing while I ran my thumb over the scar on my left wrist. It happened only three weeks ago. It was a horrible night. We were out talking late on the phone again. My throat had felt tight with the urge to break out a sob but I held it in. I held it in for you. When you hung up I ran to my bathroom and let the sob rack through my body. I had no idea why I was crying, all I knew was I was in pain. I had too much empathy in me. Hearing you in pain made my stomach drop and my chest heavy. Knowing I was barely helping made it worse. I hated the fact I was not enough.
Through blurred eyes I had noticed one of your razors I confiscated in the trash can. I didn’t know what had come over me but I took it and ran it across my wrist, drawing blood. Catastrophic sobs escaped, my tears and blood mixing together over the bathtub. Red. Red. Red. All I could see was red. I remember wondering if this was how you felt. A loss of control, an unbearable, unnamable pain, it was the worse feeling I ever experienced.
One week later we saw each other. It was seventy degrees outside but I was wearing long sleeves to cover up the scar. It didn’t take you long to notice something was off and push my sleeve up. The look on your face broke my heart. I remember breaking down when you asked me why. I told you it was the same reason you did, because you were hurting. We used to be so honest with each other, Miller. But I didn’t tell you everything that day.
That was the day I broke up with you. It was awful. I realized after so long, I was spiraling down with you. I was torn for a while, whether or not it was selfish of me to put my own sanity before yours. Miller, you have no idea how much that ruined me. But I couldn’t ignore it anymore: to stay with you would be to self-destruct with you. We would both be teetering on the edge holding on to each other.
I looked up from my wrist and saw that people were filing out of the cemetery. The funeral was over. I got up from the swing and slowly made my way back. Now that everyone was gone, I could finally mourn alone, without anyone to judge.
I waited until it was completely cleared to go see your tombstone. Your epitaph read “Miller Brickett 1997-2015, shining soul in the dark”. It was too short, too impersonal. The ground was still fresh dirt and layers of flowers were over it. It smelled like sage, like you used to smell.
I gently caressed the stone. I sat down criss-crossed on the ground. If only you were here, at least just for a minute. I would tell you I’m sorry, I didn’t want to give up on you. I realized that what I wanted wasn’t just to explain to others about my actions, but I wanted to explain to you. I had so much I needed to say. Maybe I’m just trying to convince myself that I’m not that horrible a person. People say that you should leave those that are toxic and make you feel horrible, but others also say you should never abandon a suicidal friend just because it got hard. Who knows? Maybe I made the wrong choice. Maybe you would’ve gotten better if I kept trying.
But I had to choose myself first. No one understands, being with you, trying to help you, it was like being in the ocean with a giant, priceless treasure chest. The heavy weight is dragging you under the water and you’re drowning and you have to ask yourself, die trying to save the treasure? Or save yourself? I know my blood is on your hands, and I have to live with that. Yet, knowing I would destroy myself trying to help you, it proved I had to do it. I had to break up with you. I had to take care of myself first. Sometimes it didn’t even feel like you appreciated my effort, so why put myself through that?
I will forever think about the ‘what-ifs’. I will spend my life bearing the weight of my selfishness. I will always wonder if you would’ve understood my reasoning, if you would’ve forgiven me. But I will also try my hardest to piece myself back together. Otherwise, breaking up with you was pointless.
I slowly stood up, my legs coated in a fine layer of dirt. I dusted off my skirt, and then bent down to kiss the cool stone. I left the cemetery and never went back to talk to your grave again.
There were no more words left to say.