Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and I decided to write a short story with a hopeful message.
It doesn't have to be bleak and hopeless. There are people who care. All you have to do is reach out to others and give life a chance.
From the rooftop of our apartment building, I look at the cars below me, tiny dots of red and white light streaming along in the darkness. The cool autumn wind rustles through my shaggy brown hair and I hear a plane coming in for a landing overhead.
“Aren’t you going to get your hair cut, Josh?” my father asked just last night in complete exasperation. “You look like a bum. How will you ever get a job looking like that?”
I take another swig of the bottle of vodka I stole out of my parents’ liquor cabinet. Usually it makes me numb. It’s not working tonight.
It would be so easy to end it all right now.
“Josh, you’re hopeless. You’re on a one way road to nowhere,” my mother said last week when I announced I had quit school.
She’s right. I am going nowhere. I’m useless. Looking over the edge of the building, nausea overtakes me. It would be so easy and would be over in no time. The world would be so much better off without me.
“Don’t do it,” a soft voice says nearby. “Please don’t.”
“Who said that?”
“It’s me, Fred. I’m the night security guard.”I squint to see a stooped grey-haired man in a blue uniform smiling kindly at me.
“Come to arrest me for trespassing?”
Fred comes touches my shoulder. “What’s your name? Do you want to tell me about it?”
“Why should you care?” I ask. “My name’s Josh.”
“Josh, whatever pain you’re going through, you can tell me.”
“What do you know about it anyhow?” I say.
“Hey, I was young once just like you. I know how overwhelming it can be sometimes,” he says in a kindly way.
“You don’t know what it’s like to be me,” I say, blinking back tears.
“Don’t give up just yet. Give life a chance,” Fred urges. “Things can change in an instant.”
“I don’t want to live anymore,” I sob. “My parents hate me. I’ve made such a mess of my life.”
“Everyone messes up now and then. I’m sure they don’t hate you,” Fred says, patting my arm.
“They do. I know they do,” I say in defiance.
“Please. Can you do me a favour?” Fred says.
“Give life a chance for me. I’m an old guy near the end of my life and your life has just started. I don’t want you to throw that away.”
“Why do you care so much?”
“I care, more than you know. I had a son about your age once.”
“Pete shot himself with a rifle when he was 21 years old,” Fred says, his voice breaking.
“Oh no, that’s awful.”
“He got so depressed after he lost his job and his girlfriend broke up with him.”
“I’m sorry,” I say, not knowing what else to say.
“He was my only son,” Fred says, wiping away a tear.
“That’s really tough.” I put down the vodka bottle and move away from the barrier.
“You remind me of him,” Fred says. “Say, can I buy you some dinner? Glenda’s Diner is still open. I’d love it if you’d keep an old guy company.”
“Sure, that sounds good.” I say. Heaviness lifts from my shoulders and I can breathe more easily. “Thanks, Fred. I'm lucky you were here."
“I’m the lucky one,” Fred says. He puts his arm around my shoulder and guides me towards the elevator.