If, neuropsychopharm, you could PM me your suggestion for the next contest ASAP we can get this show on the road. Sorry this is late everyone, I forgot, you have JJ_Maxx to thank, he reminded me, and I think I owe him a drink - Lemex neuropsychopharm Memories Worth Protecting (You're Too Wonderful to Die) (2,472 words) I've recently become aware of the fact that I no longer hate the number nine. That is sort of weird to think about, because I can't really remember having a problem with any number until I discovered that you did. Odd numbers. You hated all odd numbers, nine especially. You wouldn't even call me at nine, which is when I get home from work almost every night. It would've been nice to come home from dealing with angry hungry people who didn't like their chicken strips to a phone call from you. Not that I hate you for it or anything. Your friend Chris calls me at nine every night. The consistency is nice. And he's so easy to talk to. It's like the complete opposite of phone conversations with you (the random moments you decided to call me, never at nine). You were so weird on the phone. A completely different level of weird than you were in person. All those poems you used to read to me. Your sentences would break like it hurt you to read them, which, if it did, I can see why, because your poetry was really terrible. I can't really remember, but there were like eight things you hated about Mrs. O'Brien, our guidance counselor. Eight things that make her an annoying and useless individual, or probably more. I can't remember them all, but sitting here in front of her I have a suspicion the way she's always licking her lips is one of them. That would probably drive me crazy too, if I spent as much time with her as you did. "How are you coping?" she asks, truly concerned I'm sure. Just like everyone else who has already asked me like, four billion times. Four billion and nine, just out of spite for you, because I completely blame you for this. "I'm, you know…coping," I say, because really it's not her business. Counselors are here to fix your schedule, and little else. "I cannot help you," she says, "unless you help me to help you. Things will be easier if you open up and talk to someone." And that would be easier if I knew what to say. What to feel. I always have the hardest time in English class responding to questions like, "How did this passage make you feel?" There are hundreds of thousands of pages and pages of words in the English language and I cannot even think of one to help capture my feelings. That sounds like something you would say. "I'm like, you know, sad or whatever," I tell her. I watch the clock tick eight seconds. "And I guess this doesn't matter or anything, but what kind of boyfriend doesn't mention his girlfriend in his suicide note anyway?" I mean, I deserved at least that much. For our school staff, according to a handy little flipbook of procedures I happened to view, there are seven steps to follow in case of a student death. I personally find it admirable they can just wrap up something so horrid into a concise seven step process. A short thirty minute staff meeting where everything that will be whispered about among teachers is told to be kept from the students. But the students all already know and can probably speak volumes more on the subject than any teacher. In my case, I could probably even say what song was playing at the exact second of death. Your death. "You all know this by now, I'm sure," Ms. Davis said The Day After, standing in front of our Chemistry class. "But here is what the administration has allowed me to tell you." She picked up a bright orange piece of paper (in keeping with the somber tone of the message, obviously) from her desk and read. It was a general statement about your death. They didn't mention your name. They didn't mention your suicide. They didn't talk about how you put a bullet in your own head. About how it took maybe a second for you to die. But it's okay, because I already knew. Your funeral marks the sixth one I've ever been to. It was, by far, the most unpleasant. The other funerals were for distant relatives that I'd met maybe three times when I was, like, two. So it's pretty safe to say I had the most emotional attachment to you. I tried not to focus on the fact that your dead body was in a stupid box a few feet away from me, and instead observed the people around me. Your mother and your twin sister were in front of me. Your mother's eyes were closed and she was sort of leaning on your sister, who looked really bored. That isn't a big deal though, Amy always looks like that. I watched them for awhile, but eventually had to stop because Amy's resemblance to you was reminding me of the thing I was trying to ignore (Which was you. And your state of being…not there.) So I, like your mom, closed my eyes. There were considerably less things to observe then, smells and sounds only. Listening to someone old crunch something in their mouth is the most unsettling noise ever, and it was just my luck I was seated next to your great aunt whoever, who has a hardcore Tic-Tac habit. After the funeral there was the obligatory whatever-it's-called gathering, with all the food and laughter even though someone just got put into the ground to stay forever. Your sister and I were sitting together away from the others, but we weren't speaking. She was scribbling something on some napkins and I was listening to your family and everyone else who has ever known you talk about how shocked they were. Everyone was saying how happy you'd been, and what a nice boy you were, and how they couldn't believe you would take your own life. Which I find a little funny, and also extremely depressing, because I could totally see it coming. It wasn't like you were constantly threatening suicide or anything, but it was apparent you felt like you had no business being alive anymore. It was almost like you were offended by your own existence and determined to do something about it. It was never other people who upset you, always yourself. And I couldn't have been the only person to notice this, unless it was my fault you were that way or something. Was it? It's completely unfair you had to go and kill yourself, without even giving me a clue as to my involvement in your mental state. You probably did that on purpose, so it could drive me insane forever and ever. Maybe, if you had stuck around long enough, they would've found the cure to whatever was wrong with you. Maybe it already exists, and is hidden in those cheddar and sour cream chips you always made fun of me for eating. There are only five pictures in existence of us together. They are probably the only pictures you've ever voluntarily taken, yearbook and baby pictures not included. You're only smiling in two of them, me in four, but even your sullen angry teenager pout manages to look better than my uneasy camera shy smile. In all of the pictures my hair is in evil mode, parted oddly, or frizzy, or whatever else it can do to just ruin everything for me. My hair thinks it controls me or something. Like I am some human tumor sprouting from beneath it. We fight a lot, my hair and I, and the hair usually wins. That doesn't really give me a positive outlook on my future, because, like, how can I ever amount to anything if I can't even tame some stupid strands of hair? Your hair, in contrast, was absolutely perfect. Always. You had beautiful soft dark brown hair that curled at the ends. I was a little obsessed with your hair, but you didn't mind me playing with it (except that time I put a bow in it and you wouldn't let me touch it for like a week). That was what I first noticed about you when we met, besides the little "I have to pee" dance you were doing. You were at your front door, struggling to unlock it as I walked to the mailbox. "Why do you always have to pee right before you get in the house?" you asked. Not that I was going to answer or anything, but before I could you finally triumphed over the lock and ran inside the house. It was the first of many very philosophical questions you would ask me. It was four months before you died that you decided you were a kleptomaniac. You highlighted passages in some old psychology book you'd found, eagerly showing them to me. "That's great and all," I said, "but have you ever even stolen anything." You had, you said. A pack of gum when you were eight and your mom wouldn't buy it for you. You pointed out specific traits of a kleptomaniac you felt were within you, but hadn't been fully realized yet. I remember you were mad when I laughed. You decided to prove it to me by driving down to a drugstore to have a fit of kleptomania I guess. You drummed your fingers on the steering wheel and ignored me as I messed with the radio and told you how stupid you were being. You snorted and pointed to the car in front of us. "Look at the license plate." It read "Jenneric." Why, you wanted to know, would someone call themselves generic? "We're all special, after all," you said, in a tone that obviously meant you didn't agree with the statement. I suggested that her name was Jenn Eric, or something. You were disgusted by the proposition. In the drugstore you paced around the aisles for what felt like four years. "This is an art," you said, when I begged you to hurry up. I was missing this thing on TV I had been looking forward too. I demanded then, that you at least take something that I would find useful, to make up for wasting my time. You argued that went against your compulsive nature. Fifteen minutes and countless excuses later, I ended up just shoving something off the nearest shelf into your pocket. It was purple nail polish. We both had purple nails every day until the polish ran out. I think, the next time I break the law, I'm really going to make it count. I feel like I haven't moved from this couch in three days, but in reality it's more like three hours. I've found myself watching a lot more TV lately, what with you not being around to make fun of me and rant about how media controls us and the country's obsession with celebrity and blah blah. I can hear you in my head now, and I turn up the TV to block you out. Take that. I'm watching some inane countdown on VH1, and the host is "TV's George Lopez." Like, he really says this. "I'm TV's George Lopez." The use of the possessive makes me wonder if the TV owns him. If it's taken control of his life and soul, and forced him to help VH1 countdown the 232 worst dance songs of 1985 or something. I'm reminded of you again and I have to wonder if insanity is contagious. If so, I guess it's good you're dead because you'd probably only resent me for it. You hated being similar to other people, especially your twin sister. It was like you were identical aside from the whole XY/XX chromosome thing. "I hate feeling like my personality has been stolen by someone who wears it better," you said. This stream of thought is not what I had in mind when I plopped down in front of the TV, so I change the channel to once again immerse myself in someone else's fictional reality. The Princess Bride is on and I'm completely prepared to ignore my thoughts again when Prince Humperdinck says to Buttercup, "Please consider me an alternative to suicide." I cut the television off. It has let me down. Two days ago I was in your room. It was the first time since you died. I stood at the door, uncomfortable, while Amy sat on your bed sorting through your CDs. "He's got two copies of this one," she said, holding one up for me to see. I had bought that CD for your birthday. You didn't say you already owned a copy, and seemed genuinely happy to receive it. "What are you over there for?" she asked, motioning for me to sit on the bed. I walk over to the bed and my shoes slap loudly against the wooden floor. They stripped the carpet because of you. "I never wanted to be a twin," she said. "And I mean, I still don't. But I don't want him dead either." If Amy were anyone else she would have probably been crying as she said this. "And now I have to deal with counselors talking to me about not having any male influence with my dad and my brother being dead and all, and treating me like I'm going to shoot myself just because he did." "Yeah," I offered. I reached out to take the two CDs. I couldn't tell which one I gave you so I slipped both into my purse. "Doesn't it suck though?" Amy asked. "Knowing we weren't enough for him to stay alive?" "One more thing," Amy said when I left that day. She handed me an envelope with my name on it. "I didn't know whether to give it to you or not." The envelope is still sealed, sitting on my desk. This must be the suicide note, version two. It could answer every question I want to and can't ask you, or it could just be something stupid and typical of you. Like a poem. I think knowing would make it worse, but I can't bring myself to destroy it. Maybe I'll read it one day, when I've almost forgotten about you.