Wrapping up the YA MS. The ending is hard to write. I love these kids so much. They're all pieces of me, they're all places I've been and things I've learned that I've had to unlearn and relearn and do over and fix.
But what is pain for if you can't turn it into art later? What good is the experience of living through hell if you can't use what you know to shine a light on the path and help someone else through?
I fear it goes too far, and I fear it doesn't go far enough. I fear I'm not far enough through it now to shine the light. The pain writes itself. The light, I have to think hard about. I have to concentrate on the light. It's like therapy. You can bitch and moan all you want, but if you're not motivated to solve your own problems, it's useless.
Writing is therapy. Writing is hard work. Writing is real and worth it and one of the main reasons I get out of bed in the morning. Writing is a giant welcome basket to throw a huge wadded-up ball of hypomania into. It's like working out, it's like puking, it's a bloodletting that tethers me back to the real world by letting me out of it to breathe for a while.
Around 8 p.m. on a sweltering Tuesday in June, Jerome climbed out of the back seat of a rusty yellow hatchback with party plates, said goodbye to Randy and Joe, and walked up the driveway to his house. The car pulled away. Its muffler failed to muffle the engine noise.
His dad was the only one home, dozing in front of the TV with a half-empty bottle of vodka. Jerome went upstairs to his room and opened his laptop to check his email for the first time in a week.
The only people who ever sent him anything were his mom, his twin sister Angie, and his grandma in Florida forwarding chains of junk, so it was odd that there were two messages from an address he didn’t recognize, sent six days ago. He clicked the first one. The body of the email said, “I wonder if you ever think about me.” No signature. He clicked delete. The second one, sent five minutes later, said, “I’m thinking about you right now. I’ll be in town soon for an assignment back at the main office. I want to see you.” A picture was pasted under the words.
Jerome stared at the screen for a few seconds. Then he deleted the second email, cleaned out the trash folder, and deleted his email account. He logged on to Facebook and untagged every photo of himself, then deleted his profile. He shut down the laptop. The black, empty screen reflected his face. He slammed the screen closed and shoved the laptop off the back of the desk. It hit a few of the tacked-up drawings on the bulletin board and took them down with it before getting jammed between the desk and the wall.
He lay on the bed and folded his hands over his stomach, staring at the fading daylight on the ceiling until the bluish hues of dusk turned over to the ugly orange glow of the streetlight.
Sometime around midnight, he sucked in his breath and lurched out of bed. One foot caught on the other on his way out of the room, but it was too late to stop his forward momentum. His face hit the doorframe with all his weight behind it. He pressed his palm into the gash on his cheek and stumbled into the bathroom and threw up everything he’d eaten at the movie theater with his friends earlier.
Six hours later, when gray daylight began to seep into the window, he opened the bathroom door. He glanced down the hallway at Angie’s bedroom door. It was closed. He crossed the hall to his room and stuffed some clothes, his phone, and his sketchbook and pencils into a backpack, grabbed his skateboard, and left the house.
No one in his family heard from him for two weeks.