My brother shut the door of our apartment with a long, exaggerated sigh. He walked right to the fridge to grab two tall Bud Lights from the fridge: one for him and one for me.
“Tough day at work?” I said.
“Same as every day.” He drank half of his beer in a few quick gulps.
“Finish that beer and you’ll forget all about it.”
“Maybe after three I’ll forget. Or maybe I’ll just be too drunk to care.” Drinking helped us let go of our worries, but sometimes it ended up fueling our frustration instead. Tonight was one of those nights: fueled completely by frustration. We split a six-pack of tall boys and a pint of rum. We could have kept going but we knew we would regret it. Our lives had gone like that for a few years now: go to work, come home, drink, repeat. For a while life was fine that way. At least we always had something to look forward to at the end of the day. Lately it was beginning to wear us thin. The sleepless nights, being hungover and nauseated all day, it didn’t feel worth it anymore. Unfortunately that little bit of fun at the end of the day was all we had. Without it I wasn’t sure if we’d have anything in life to look forward to.
“I’m tired,” my brother said.
“You want to lie down?”
“No, of everything,” he scowled, “I don’t know if I can stomach work tomorrow.” Tomorrow was a Friday and the weekends were always the worst.
“Call in sick.”
“I’ll just have to go in the day after that. Hardly feels worth it.”
“Get some sleep. Things’ll be better tomorrow.” He nodded and made his way to bed. It was the only advice I had to give, and I’d been telling it to myself for as long as I could remember. Life had been crummy for years, but I kept pushing through hoping that tomorrow would be better. I decided to make my way to bed too.
Suicide isn’t something you talk about with others, but my brother didn’t have that luxury. We lived together, paid rent together, and had no secrets from each other. I believe that’s why he felt he had to bring it up with me. Leaving me in the dark probably didn’t feel like an option. When he told me he wanted to end things I should have been mad. I should have told him he was being stupid and that there were other options. The truth is I felt the same way he did. I can’t explain it in a way that makes sense. Suicide never makes sense. All I can say is that my life felt incredibly difficult. Getting out of bed, taking care of myself, cleaning and laundry, the list went on: work, rent, bills, the stress of it all. Sometimes I felt like I had been alive for one hundred miserable years. I was barely finishing my twenties. I know it probably wasn’t the best decision to make, but it felt right. So we decided to go through with it. We would do it together just like we did everything.
The day finally came on a night we chose with no significant value. I brought a twelve pack and he brought a gun, a little six shooter. I have no idea where he managed to get a gun. I would say he borrowed it from a friend, but we didn’t have any. Maybe someone from work loaned it to him for the night without asking too many questions.
“Left or right,” my brother asked after putting both of his arms behind his back.
“Left,” I said, and he opened his hand to reveal two bullets.
“You picked the bullets so you shoot,” he said. We decided that it would be best if one of us shot the other and then themselves. It would save one of us from having to pry a gun from the other’s limp hand. This kept things simple.
Our apartment building had thin walls so someone was bound to hear the gunshots. Hopefully they would call the cops. I’d hate to think of our bodies rotting here until the stink caused someone to investigate. We decided to leave a note for whoever would find us. We could only come up with two sentences: “Things are finally quiet now. Sorry about the mess.”
That would get the message across.
When the beer was gone we both went to our bathroom and climbed in the tub, which we determined would allow for the easiest cleanup. We sat facing each other for only a moment. “I’m ready,” he said softly. Now’s the part where the second thoughts come rushing in, but we promised that we would see this through to the end. “I’m ready,” he repeated. I raised the gun and pulled the trigger.
I had never shot a gun before. The blood sprayed everywhere covering the walls and me. I was stunned. It took me a moment to focus only to realize that my brother was still sitting there staring back at me in shock. I was so prepared to just get it over with that I didn’t aim well. The bullet went through his neck and blew out the side of his head nearly tearing his jaw clean off. It was barely holding on by a stretched piece of flesh. He wasn’t dead. He was dying, gasping for air and choking on blood, but he wasn’t dead.
Suddenly there was a pounding at the door and shouting that I couldn’t quite make out. The police couldn’t be here already; maybe a neighbor had heard. I didn’t have time to think. My brother went for the gun. Was he trying to shoot me? Finish himself off? I instinctively tried to pull the gun away from him but only managed to pull his whole body on top of mine. He kept wrestling for the gun while dripping blood and spit down onto me. Before I could stop him, before I could say anything, his eyes glazed over and his body went limp. I was pinned down in the tub with nowhere to turn. I knew then that I couldn’t go through with this. I dropped the gun, used all my strength to roll him off me, and left the bathroom as quick as I could.
The cops did eventually come, but to them it just looked like a botched suicide. They had no reason to believe otherwise. Some of them even felt sorry that I had to be here while he did it. I decided that the only way I could move on was if I pretended that he did commit suicide by himself. I would lie to myself until I forgot what really happened that night. I really wanted to forget it all. Maybe I would have too, but then the dripping began.
One night, a year after my brother’s death, I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep when something dripped down on my face. At first I thought I imagined it, but then it happened again and continued to happen as I laid in the dark. I tried ignoring it, but every time I began to nod off I was met with another drip. It woke me right up.
I got out of bed, walked across my room, and turned on the lights. Everything seemed normal. I looked over every inch of the ceiling trying to find a hole, anything that a leak might be seeping through, but found nothing. Everything in my room was dry. There was no moisture or condensation of any kind. I turned off the lights and got back in bed. Drip, drip.
Something was definitely leaking on me. I pulled the covers over my head and decided to find out what the issue was after a full night’s sleep.
Night after night I was met by the dripping, and I was completely unable to determine it’s source. I knocked on my upstairs neighbor’s door to look in for puddles that might be draining through to my apartment: nothing. I called a plumber to see if he could check for broken pipes in the walls: nothing. I was losing sleep and began to get more desperate as the days turned into weeks. I tried moving my bed around the apartment, and when that didn’t work I became alarmed. A leaky ceiling would have been one thing, but how could the drip be following me? I slept in the kitchen, the living room, even my closet for one night, but everywhere that I went the drip followed.
After a month of not being able to sleep I became a groggy mess, unable to complete the simplest tasks. Most of the day I walked around in a fog, nodding off the minute I let my guard down. I was having a tough time at work. At home I was too tired to do anything. I even stopped driving after almost passing out at a stop light. The only way to move past this was to stop the drip once and for all, which is why I decided to sleep with the lights on. Maybe if I woke up with the lights on I could see where the drip was coming from and finally put this to rest.
I went to sleep just like any other night, only this time leaving the lights on. I figured this was my best shot. Falling asleep was not hard with how exhausted I had been.
I awoke and noticed my cheek was wet. There it was: that damned drip. I opened my eyes and froze. As I looked up to find where the drip was coming from I saw someone standing over me. They vanished the moment I came to my senses, but I know what I saw. My brother was standing over me, watching me while I slept. His skin was grey and his eyes turned yellow, but I knew it was him. He was wearing the same outfit from the night he died. He still had a hole in his head. His jaw was hanging on by a thread of skin now, and his tongue hung out the side of his head like a dog panting in the hot sun. Spit and blood rolled down the tongue and was dripping onto me while I slept.
From that night moving forward there was no escaping him. In fact, the more I tried to ignore him the more present he became. He started following me during the day, watching me from a distance but always in sight. Standing, watching, drooling, I know he wasn’t going to let me forget him or the promise I made. I ignored him for a couple weeks, but I finally had enough. When I began to fear being awake as much as I did going to sleep… that was when I finally broke.
On a night of no significant value I came home with a six pack of beer. I finished them quickly and wrote a note that simply said, “Sorry.” You’d think this would be easier the second time around.
I went to my room and went to the top drawer of my dresser. Underneath all my underwear and socks was the six shooter. The police let me keep it after a very short investigation. I couldn’t just throw it away, so I hid the gun hoping that if I just ignored it long enough I would eventually forget about it. I knew now that wasn’t possible.
I climbed into the tub with the gun and started to cry. I wiped away the tears in my eyes and saw my brother sitting in the tub across from me. No turning back now. At least this way I’ll have finally kept my promise. I raised the gun to my head.
At least this way I’ll finally get some sleep.
Credit : Chris Wilkins
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