My rent was due yesterday; I am totally and utterly broke. Tomorrow if I don't have my rent in they will kick me out. I have already packed my stuff. Nobody will miss me. I open the door and walk into the warm spring breeze.
I wake up to a knock at the door. I open my eyes for a second before sitting up in my blow up mattress. It is the landlord.
“That was your last chance,” he says.
“I know” I reply glumly, “I'll be gone by three.”
“I thought you were going to make it. I really did,” he says wistfully.
“I did too... I did too.”
I found a job as a waitress at a diner. It pays just enough to feed me. I am walking around looking for a new place to stay when I get a phone call. I look at the phone, the picture and name of my boyfriend, Stephen. It continues ringing in my hand, I ignore it and slip it pack into my old leather jacket’s pocket. I sit on a nearby bench staring at my black phone waiting for him to call again. When phone starts to ring, I tense and hit the little green button nervously, and slowly bring to my ear. I can already hear his yells. I put it to my ear. He keeps yelling and I start to cry.
“WHERE ARE YOU?” He demands, “YOUR APARTMENT IS EMPTY AND YOU ARE NOWHERE TO BE FOUND!”
“I’m at the park. I got kicked out. I'm so sorry,” I start to sob.
“Jacki, meet me at my apartment,” he says in a dangerously quiet voice.
I walk glumly across the park. My mascara is running down my cheeks. I'm running now. The wind is hitting my face. I don’t stop when I reach the street. I run across it, car horns echo in my eardrum. I reach his apartment, out of breath. I walk up the three flights of stairs, and knock hesitantly on his wooden door. He opens it almost immediately. He looks at my mascara stained face and shakes his head. He blinks slowly. He steps away from the door to let me in. I walk into his apartment. It is a mess, empty liquor bottles are strewn across the counters and his trash is full. Then the yelling starts.
I don't remember what we said, I don't even remember what happened but I know he slapped me and I left him. He stomped on my phone and tossed me out of his building. I am homeless, single and utterly alone. I walk to the park and sit on a bench. After a few hours of crying, I put myself together enough to walk to the diner that I work at.
“You missed your shift, I'm sorry but you’re fired.”
“Please I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to. I-I just lost my boyfriend,” I sniffle between sobs. He points to the door, and I shuffle out. I'm all out of tears. The sunset is pretty but I hate it, I can't stand it. I walk to the same bench and collapse onto it. My silent sobs lull me to a restless night of sleep.
By morning I give up, I use a quarter I find in my pocket to call my Mom. She’s picking me up in a few hours.
My mom’s car drives up. It’s dirty to the point of not being able to see what color it was painted originally. She honks to get my attention, not seeing me a few feet next to the car. She looks at me and smiles with all of her teeth, I smile half heartedly back. I hop in back seat because the front seat is home to piles of my mom's trash from driving all night. Reluctantly I talk to my mom about what happened. She is polite while I talk, nodding at the right moments shaking her head when I tell her something sad. It is still light out but I sleep the rest of the way home. I awake when we get off the highway. We turn into the driveway and I unbuckle my seatbelt. My room is exactly the same, same color, same bed, same dresser, and same memories.
Enough time has passed that breaking up with my boyfriend was more a statement than a chunk of my heart. The pain has subsided and now my life was simple, too simple, boring. My divorced Dad wanted me to go to some psychiatrist. My mom thought it was a waste of time and that they would do nothing good for me. So I didn't go.
The next day I walk across town to the other neighborhood to knock on the door of Lucas, my childhood best friend. His house is squat and yellow, the paint is peeling and cracked, the same color from 15 years ago, when we would play in the yard, and chase his cat Benji. I press the button for the doorbell but there is no sound so I grab the knocker and tap it against the door three times. Around the side of the house is a cat. It runs towards me. It looks like a ghost, its fur is in patches and after closer inspection I realize it is Benji. I smile and he sits next to me. After a while I leave and Benji follows me. Looking back at the house, it is obviously abandoned.
I have been moping for the past week so my mom decides I need boyfriend, so she set me up with her best friend's son. On Thursday night my Mom drops me off in front Applebee's. I walk into the restaurant to see man my age waiting at the door.
“You Jacki?” he asks.
“Yeah, you David?” I imitate in his voice. David is one of those guys that are perfect, his life is put together and he definitely doesn't want a girl like me dragging him down. His smile is golden.
Over the past three weeks I went on exactly two dates with him and I still don't like him, but he likes me so I am polite enough to say yes when he officially asks me out on our third “date”. David is the guy that everyone falls in love with, but he is oblivious to this fact and doesn't realize it. He isn't particularly handsome, but he has that quality that makes you hang off every word he says, and makes you want him want to like you.
After our fourth date I declare myself crazy, jokingly at first, but as time goes on I am sure I am insane. How can I not like him, his smile alone should have had me head over heels. When I look at him I see a person not a prince. Something is wrong with me.
I’m feeling lonely and have no one else to talk to so I walk over to David’s apartment. I press the button for apartment 23 with the last name of Johnson. I didn't know his name is David Johnson. I can imagine his voice and his smile when I walk into his apartment and cuddle in the beanbag, but I never hear his voice and the door never unlocks so I sulk back to my Mom’s house.
I am on my computer when the doorbell rings, my mom sings out “I’ll get it,” so I continue typing. Thirty seconds later my mom bursts in my room and says in a singsong voice, “It’s for you.”
I bound down the stairs two at a time in excitement. I rush to open the front door and I see a bouquet of roses with a note attached. I read it and fake a smile and a laugh for my mom who watches me from the kitchen. I take the flowers and look under the sink for a vase. I set the roses into a pretty vase and fill it up in the sink. I walk it up to my room with the vase. My mom smiles as I open the door. When the door closes I toss the roses in the trash.
Over the next few days he would call, but I would never pick up, making excuses for letting the phone going to voicemail. There are 15 unread messages from him on my phone and I can't bring myself to tap his face, to read the texts. Later that day he comes to the house. When I open the door he is holding a single rose. I am wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt from my high school. I don't know what he sees in me but whatever he sees I don't, because when he says, “I love you” I bolt.
I run down the street my jaw aching from crying. I run to the park. It has an old metal swing set and benches scattered around the trees. I slow to a jog and then finally a walk. I sit on the swing and propel myself with my feet. The squeaks and groans of the swing send the squirrels and birds away from the scattered trees. The swing finally slows to a stop and my feet started to hurt from cuts made by running away from David. Perfect David. David who loves me, David I am not capable of loving back. Something is wrong. When the streetlights go on at exactly 8:30, I leave the swing set with my mind made. I find an old receipt and a pen in my jean pocket I scrawl three words,I love you.
It takes me 15 minutes to walk back to my neighborhood and it would take me ten more to walk to David's apartment.
After a few minutes of doubting myself I stick the old receipt in the mailbox. I leave three minutes later.
It is dark but I am determined. It takes me two minutes to get from the park to the bridge. It is an old suspension bridge crossing over the river that separates Eastwood from Hancock. I take my time admiring the lights of the town and the sounds of the flowing river as I walk to the center of the bridge. There is one bench on the bridge I know that because, I would sit there as a child looking out on the river and daydream. I can’t see it now, because it is pitch black but I know it is there. There is a nip in the late summer air. Goosebumps appear on my skin. I feel my heartbeat in my chest, on my wrists, surging through my neck, pinching my fingertips. I breathe in rhythm with my heartbeat as I step up onto the ledge. I feel my heart speed up, but I'm not afraid. The wind whips my brown hair. The city lights twinkle in the distance. I am not afraid. The water surges below me. I am not afraid. I am not afraid. I take a deep breath in preparation. I look down. I am not afraid.
I hear a small voice behind me, “Please don’t.” Just two words. I turn around. He looks at me intently. I look back at the dark river. I look at the man. I am not afraid. I step off of the ledge and collapse at the man's feet.
He is wearing a leather jacket, and dark jeans. He is incredibly short and after looking at him for a while I notice the wrinkles on his face.
“Why?” my voice is venerable.
“Because people care, I care.”
“Who are you?” I ask my voice shaking.
“The man who just saved your life,” he responds humbly. He sighs, “I have been sitting on this bench for years, I have stopped eleven attempted suicides. I have been able to save everyone except one. His name was Lucas.”
I look at him. He meets my gaze. “Thank you,” I say. He nods his head slightly as I stand up and walk back across the bridge, through the park to my house. I open the mailbox take the crumpled receipt out and tear it up into a million pieces. I watch as the wind carries the bits of torn paper from my open palm and takes them away. I slip through the unlocked front door and climb the steps to my Mom’s room.
“I love you,” I whisper as I kiss her forehead. She is still asleep when I slip into my room and quietly lie down on my bed and stare up at the blank ceiling. I am not afraid.