Angela Killed Herself

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She calls me right before to tell me not to worry too much. Her abusive boyfriend has left her and so now she's going to kill herself. She tells me how she's going to do it. Dramatically, in a voice cut off sporadically by sobs, she tells me that she's going to cut her wrists with a knife. Slicing downward this time, not fucking it up like she did when she was thirteen. Then she tells me that she loves me. I say that I'll be right over, but when I get there she's just lying there with her eyes open, looking at the ceiling. She's dead, but also peaceful. Still, I can't help feeling bad about her death. And when I think about it, clearly, logically, putting together the pieces of our fragmented lives, I know for sure that Angela's death was my fault.

On the surface it seems that simple: the abusive boyfriend; he leaves; and then she kills herself because she can't live without him. Or something like that. It's nice. It's simple. It's easy to sell. And it has the power to heal people. To make people feel better about her death. But, come on, let's face it, as far as morality tales go it's boring, a worn theme, a spent genre, a storyline so recycled Lifetime TV doesn't use it. It's Archie and Jughead fighting over Veronica—it's old, fetid, rank like last week's breakfast, and oh, the maggots have already started to collect. We need a more complicated telling, do we not?

Now that Angela's dead, I have more time to think. I did a lot of that before I met her. Life was less complicated then. I could steal an hour or two of silence anywhere and the world seemed better for it. After I met her, those same hours were gone. They were consumed by us and the thises and thats of our relationship. Now that Angela's gone I can have those same hours again. I can play with them as I like. But they're stale hours. Somehow, they've lost their flavor. And I don't know how to get the flavor back.

Sometimes confession begins for the most selfish of reasons. The flavor of my hours is my selfish reason. This is a confession, right? You are my priest, right? Help me, father. Help me gain the flavor of my hours back.

Sometimes it's hard for me to admit this to myself, but I'm a bad person. The tasteless hours of my life give me time to create a new genre, to put things together differently. It takes time before I can truly implicate myself in this whole affair. I have to think about it. The pieces seem stupid and inconsequential at first: the puking dog, car payments and the man upstairs, Angela's boyfriends. All these things had something to do with it, but how they come together to implicate me doesn't occur to me right away.

Before you really start to judge me though (and you should), there are some things you should know about me: where I come from, what kind of person I am, the guidelines I live my life by. All these things are important. Maybe it will help you and Angela understand.

I'm a college student. My mom and dad died in a car accident when I was in high school. My sister took care of me for a little while, but then she moved to California with one of her boyfriends. I forget which one. She calls me every once in a while and we talk. She'll cry about things that seem distant from me. She'll cry and talk, but I can't help not listening. I can't help thinking about other things in my life, like car payments and my math test coming up. I guess when it comes down to it a math test is more important than my sister. Angela never understood this. She was always a better person than I was, even if she was crazy.

Generally speaking, I'm a likable guy. I'm like a Richie Cunningham. Straight and narrow, no drugs, occasionally alcohol but rarely to excess, do my schoolwork every night, and if my parents were around, I'm sure I'd love them very much. I'm one of the guys. Always up for a good time, American fun and hijinks, as long as it doesn't include illegal activities such as drugs and gang violence. I'm responsible for my age. And for some reason the older Jewish ladies I serve at my coffee shop love me. I get good grades. I speak good English (well English?). And if pressed hard enough I'll generally acquiescence to arguments that what America really needs is more tax cuts to make rich people richer and poor people, well, like Angela. And though all of these things may make me likable, none of these things make me a good person. I'm a selfish person. I want my damn education, so I can get out of my crap apartment and crap job. Hell, likable person? You better believe it. I'm politicking my way out of poverty: handshakes, kissing Jewish grandmothers, and tax cuts for everyone.

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