Ironically enough, when push came to shove, the decision to take his own life never brought the word suicide into his mind. All Aiden could think about was fixing the problem. The problem was himself. The solution had nothing to do with incorporating a tragic categorizing of the action. Aiden just wanted to be free.
Freedom, however, wasn’t so easily accomplished through his blogged experiences. More than ever people asked him why he felt the need to commit suicide, why he didn’t want to be a part of his friends’ and family’s lives anymore, why he didn’t want to continue living the one life he was given.
The fear that no one would clear their head and just listen to him swirled around his psyche as he walked through Echo Park’s 3rd Annual Walk to be Heard. Once his blog went viral, the publishing company Aiden worked for jumped at the chance to sponsor this year’s event, unfortunately culminating in an even bigger fear of his: speaking to a crowd. A mass of people that had already been touched by the fingertips of the depths he brought himself back from.
What if he couldn’t say what he had already committed to in writing?
A rush of green and burst of light-up Sketchers slammed into Aiden, resulting in a sudden loss of balance and personal acquaintance with the pavement. Aiden laughed as he hugged his rambunctious nephew and rolled on the ground.
“Aiden, ohmigosh – Chase, honey! You can’t do that to Uncle Aiddie!”
Aiden took his attention away from the fervor of the three year old to his approaching sister, who looked more worn down carrying a picnic basket than Aiden was being thrown to the ground.
The brother stood up to hug his sister. “Hey Fran. Good to see you, babe.”
“I regret naming him Chase every other day.”
Chase ran off to a nearby patch of grass to, well, chase a butterfly.
“You just have good foresight.”
Fran, a current brunette despite her ginger origins and a freckled face only a certain Easy A actress could outdo, slightly tilted her head and smiled with her eyes to acknowledge her assistance in helping him “fix the problem” in a more healthy way. Gifted since birth with foresight. Being the younger sister had its advantages.
She fixed one of the lame duck spikes in Aiden’s hair. “You ready?
Aiden looked at her. He didn’t know if he was supposed to be ready for this. He wasn’t ready for blogosphere fame, nor did he anticipate it when he posted his story.
“I was drunk when I hit the ‘submit’ button.”
“That was behind a computer screen. Anyone can do that. You’re about to speak honestly in front of a good chunk of people. You’re physically sticking to the words you wrote, and that’s the strongest thing a man can do.”
Air left Aiden’s lungs.
Not okay now.
“I’m so proud of you.”
But it will all be okay.
Aiden stared past his sister at her little child running as carefree as the butterfly he chased flew higher and higher into the obviously sunny skies above.
“Hey.” Fran clasped her hands softly around Aiden’s face to bring him back from his encroaching fears. “I’m here for you. Talk to them like you talk to me. They only want to know it’ll be okay, too.”
He nodded. “Are mom and dad coming?”
The sister refused to break eye contact. “I said that I was here for you. Don’t let them into your head now.”
“I know. I just…wish they were here for some reason.”
Fran pulled her older brother in for a hug. Comfort.
“What definitively matters is you are here, Aid, and you are here for these people.”
The two siblings held each other in silence for a few minutes. Recollecting on the strength they shared and the fresh lives they had ahead without their respective demons. A short, poignant familial moment only shattered when an eager event coordinator approached Aiden with at least twelve smiles on his face.
“Right this way, sir. We’re all very excited to hear your story.”
Once at the podium on stage, Aiden took a deep breath, surveying the beautiful day that encompassed him. Two months since that chilly night at Revolver had brought on the bright colors of late spring that he loved. Everyone around was naturally happy. That’s how humanity should be, he thought. Naturally happy, no strings attached.
The crowd stared back at him.
He glanced at his sister in the crowd. A gentle head nod of confidence given in return.
“Usually when someone says hello, you should greet them back. Didn’t your mothers teach you anything?”
Laughter. At me? With me?
“My mom didn’t teach me that, actually. She, uh, didn’t teach me too much at all.” The laughter swiftly silenced itself. “Sorry…that might have been too real too fast…” He swallowed. “Um…I mean…”
Aiden’s eyes flitted in every direction possible before landing on Chase, who surprisingly locked eyes with his uncle. His innocence was so powerful right now, forever shaping fresh existence until he was no longer hidden from the dangers of the world. Aiden’s nephew was lucky he had a parent who would always protect him from himself.
“Whatever,” he blurted. “My parents were always in my life…in their own way. I found myself, oddly, without safety in the arms of the two human beings who gave birth to me. To this day, I do not know why that is, and that uncertainty made me attempt to take my own life when I was twenty-four years old.”
An immediate and insane ringing zipped into Aiden’s ear when he realized how dead silent the world around him was. The crowd was staring intently at him, waiting for him to speak his truth. And it was in this moment of simultaneous silence and ringing that he realized he didn’t have a truth to share, or one that made sense to anyone else but him. They wouldn’t understand. No one ever understood him.
Fran mouthed: “Breathe.”
It won’t all be okay.
“I’m sorry. I can’t do this. Not yet.”
As if he was having an out of body experience, Aiden swiftly descended the stage steps while his heart stood still at the podium. The eager event coordinator was too ready for disaster and immediately blew a horn to signal all walkers to head to the starting line.
Confused and pitying murmurs could be heard from behind the stage where Aiden went to sink on the grassy surface of the earth. His vision wasn’t blurry, but he wasn’t trying to maintain any clarity on the world surrounding him. Head pounding, heart dripping into his mouth…Aiden felt disgusting for ditching what was supposed to be the most openly honest and freeing experience. He felt belittled by himself. Worthless.
Fucking fuck, what was wrong with him?
He could hear Fran’s distant calls to him as she ran over with her son. When Aiden finally turned his head to find guidance in his sister, he not-so-subtly mumbled, “Holy shit.”
Behind Fran, his parents were walking away from him towards the parking lot.
Also behind Fran but walking towards Aiden was a familiar man who once wore flannel.
With nowhere to physically hide as everyone would witness him doing it, Aiden forced himself to focus on his breathing and not look at anything but what was right in front of him. Of fucking course Lawrence and Julia and Mystery Man would appear at the same time at one of the most currently vulnerable moments in his life. Why the fuck did his parents actually show up? Why weren’t they saying hello? I fucking disappointed them again, that’s why, he thought.
Aiden quickly gave Fran a reciprocated “what the hell” stare while simultaneously eyeing Rylan in the background to halt him in his tracks.
As his sister threw him into a tight embrace, “Did our parents really listen to me trash them in front of a crowd and then not mention to my face I trashed them to a crowd? And subsequently watch me burn faster than the meteor that wiped every fucking dinosaur on the planet?”
“I think they’ve done more shocking things than acknowledge the truth about the situation. Aiden, forget this. You tried your best. No one thinks less of you.”
Aiden opened his mouth to speak, then reconsidered. A long painful moment in his heart passed before asking, “Do you think I disappointed them again?”
The two of them sat against the stage without realizing a pile of dirt was beneath them instead of grass. The two watched Chase in the distance, showing no signs of tiring out. Fran lay her head on Aiden’s shoulder and sighed. “I don’t have an answer for you.”
“I sense a theme emerging.”
Fran noticed Aiden accidentally, almost distractedly, making eye contact with Rylan.
“You know him?”
“I think so.”
“What’s to think about – you know or you don’t.”
“Go talk to him. He’s a cute one.”
“Oh please, Francesca, don’t go there now. I’m a mess.”
The sister shoved her brother Flannel’s way just as the walk marshall shouted for everyone to gather on the trail to begin the mile. Fran watched as Aiden numbly walked over to Rylan, using his fake-smiling skills to thank those who congratulated him on his speech.
The two men stood in front of each other. Rylan pulled him into a hug almost immediately.
“Long time no see,” he said.
“Yeah…for sure. Did you, um, know I would be…here?”
“I was actually just taking myself for a walk. You know, enjoy the weather.”
“LA never has weather like this.”
Rylan smiled. “And I happened upon the crowd. Thought I’d see what the commotion was. Didn’t realize you were such a fire-starter.”
Aiden self-consciously grinned. “I don’t know what to say.”
The event marshall sounded a horn again, commencing all the walkers to begin their walk of solidarity. Rylan gestured to them.
“I think you’ve spoken enough today. In a good way. Shall we?”
Aiden raised an eyebrow. “You want to walk?”
“That’s what I came for. I didn’t say I had to do it alone.”
The two slowly meshed into the line of walkers. Intrigue and confusion clouded Aiden’s attention, forcing him to miss Rylan silence his own incoming phone call from Fiona.
“I’m sorry if that was hard. Being up there.”
“I’m used to fucking up. I’ll get over it.”
A soft silence.
“Was that your family? With you by the stage?”
“That it was.” A grimace. “That it was.”
“I sense a story.”
“You sense my life.”
Four and a half seconds.
“So…you’ve heard enough about me. What’s your story?
“Not much to tell, I’m afraid. Born in Fresno. Survived. Moved here six years ago.”
“Not all of us have a near-death experience to anchor the drama of our own lives.” Two seconds. “Sorry, that was harsh.”
“A bit. But yeah I almost died.” A moment. “Doesn’t that make me more macho than you?”
“Have you seen these arms?”
“Are you really showing off your clearly exercised arms to me while questioning my masculinity?”
“Am I required to ask another question in response?”
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
Chuckles. Then too long of a pause.
“What brought you solo to Revolver that night?”
Another laugh. “I want to say ‘I don’t know,” but I know you won’t be satisfied with that answer.”
“You don’t need to satisfy me, just tell me the truth.”
“Felt like riding solo. That’s all.”
“Do it often?”
Three seconds. “Depends on the day I’ve had.”
“What type of day would that be?”
“Dunno. Sometimes you just want a change of pace, you know?”
“I can understand that. Go solo, on the prowl for bottoms. Go with friends, on the prowl for an orgy. Being gay is so easy.”
Almost immediately: “I’m not gay. I mean, I am, just –”
“Should I be concerned?”
“What do you mean?”
“Because you showed up alone at a gay bar, and you showed up alone here, both times running into me, both times being cagey, both times looking really fucking cute. That’s why I’m asking if I should be concerned. For my life.”
“You think I’m cute?”
“We’re not talking about that right now.”
Passerby: “We’re all proud of you, sir. Thank you for being here and doing what you do.”
“Thank you. That means a lot to me. Truly. Enjoy the walk.”
“That was nice of her.”
A shrug, then a head tilt.
“Do you want to know why people commit suicide?”
“I’m being serious. Do you want to know?”
“Because we feel not only quintessentially alone, but actually bereft of seeing the future. Of seeing what we meant to anyone else, including ourselves. Because no matter what nothing seems honest. There’s no point to live if honesty isn’t tangible.”
“I’m sorry, Aiden.”
“I’m not asking you to be. I’m asking you to tell me the truth, because this is weird.”
“I should go.”
“You do you.”
Aiden didn’t bother to watch Rylan exit through the park behind him. He kept walking forward. One look back, and he’d end up back where he was three years ago – living in a world of dishonesty.
That’s not to say it wasn’t tempting, though.