FICTION: Suicide 101 by Randy Zuniga

It all started in a court room I was sort of involved with… I was dreading it… It was unfortunate and I was supposed to be “dead”…

My wife Rita was on the stand. She was very composed and showed no signs of nervousness. She even looked at me expressionless and cold.

How do you prove murder in a case with someone who overdosed and was already suicidal? It’s almost impossible.

Over a year prior I was in a support group. A small group, in a classroom, in a high school, in some shitty part of town. The words branded in my brain…

“A true suicidal will not put on the production of a Broadway play. Sitting on a bridge, backing drive home traffic up for hours and hours. Cops and firefighters calling their wives and husbands to tell them they’ll be home late. No.”

He pulls his sleeve up and shows us some scars from horizontal cuts across his wrist.

“1983. High school bathroom five minutes before the bell rang. I knew the room would be flooded with people, then ten minutes after that an ambulance hauling me off, and everyone asking, ‘Why???’ Oh how loved I felt. Cards. Flowers. All of the fuss!”

He shows his other arm. A vertical scarred gash up and down his wrist.

“1995. My apartment. This one was for real. Everyone thought I was out of town. My girlfriend sneaks in to cook dinner for me upon my homecoming and finds me passed out in the tub. Damn EMTs revived me.”

That was our group leader…slash…counselor. A heavy set bearded man who wore Dockers and worn sockless slip-ons that he slid across the linoleum floor. His name was Jared. Now I’ve been coming to this class for six months.

“Life is worth living for.”

Is how he ended this session. I was the only one to take notes. I think it made me stick out amongst the sheep, which I hated, but I had no choice in the matter.

My life wasn’t in the shits. I was just bored. I was in for overdosing. I just simply sat there on a Sunday staring at my wife, Rita’s Ambien pills. I finished cleaning the house and sat down in front of the television for the Celtics game. I saw them sitting on the coffee table. She was a light sleeper so she used them occasionally. Did I mention I was bored? So, I took one right after the other. Maybe more out of curiosity than an ejection seat out of life. My wife told the doctors it was out of depression. She’s drama! One after another… pill after pill slid down the backside of my tongue like kids waiting in line for a waterslide. I would shake the bottle after each swallow like a maraca. Eventually there was no more maraca and they were all gone. All in my stomach swimming around. Well, That’s the story I’m telling this group.

“Even my life?” I asked Jared after everyone had left.

He shrugged his shoulders. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

I got up from my desk.

“Death is your last great adventure. Something romantic about that. Imagine being able to choose it? That’s the thought of a man suffering from boredom,” he said.

Most of our support group meetings were weird. Jared really liked talking about things that crossed his mind thinking it cleansed him to discuss it with us. It “got him over the hump.” Who the fuck is counseling who? I got to eventually like going to the meetings and even became friends with a couple of the guys. Nothing too complex. We all liked beer.

One on ones on the phone weren’t so outlandish. I liked to crack open a beer during our talks and have some jazz music with the volume barely hovering in the background. Jared was actually a good guy at times. He was telling me I should take up hiking. He thought I’d enjoy nature and the solitude of it all. I think he was right. I even made plans to go that very next weekend.

Then we would meet that next Wednesday with the group and things got weird again…

“You know what’s been an ideal for me. I mean if I were still going to do it. It’s funny how you get older your style changes just like in cars, food, alcohol, and even views on society. As you taste changes so does your thoughts of how you would deliver yourself to our maker. My latest one would be hiking deep into the Catskills. A rifle muzzle to the back of my throat. The mess it makes sucks for the hikers coming through after. Half the time they’re not even sure what they are looking at. It’s a body with a distorted alien looking head.”

Jared locked eyes with me after he made that statement. I couldn’t help but think he was referring to our conversation we had on the phone. It sent chills up my spine.

There was a case like this. The guy’s name was Simon, thirty two years old and from a very well-to-do family. His sister wanted to double her inheritance by eliminating her only sibling. He struggled with depression and had made several attempts on his own life. The rumor has it, he was on his road to recovery while attending Jared’s support group, then he hit a low point and she struck. Simon jumped from the roof of his four story co-op.

Sometimes Rita would go see him and meet one on one. She made some sort of an arrangement with him. She wanted him to encourage me to let my “feelings” eventually get the best of me. I don’t think they were having an affair, but that would be up to Dateline to eventually unravel on a Friday night sometime in the future. But, nonetheless, she convinced Jared to go along with it.

During one of our one on one phone calls, I told Jared that Rita has more and more Ambien laying around the house. At first, he said maybe she was hinting at something then laughed it off. He poured himself some whiskey during out call. In fact, he went through an entire bottle during our call and at some point during the conversation, he challenged me to take the pills. I recorded that conversation…

After enough cat and mouse I had enough in my notes I had been taking. My wife and I walked shoulder to shoulder to Jared’s office. A few of our city’s finest in uniform behind us. When Jared opened the door — Rita and I drew our badges. She was actually my partner.

This sting operation was done on behalf of Simon. Simon’s sister had paid Jared off and now we could prove it.

In court, I sat there sickened by this case. I glanced over at Jared and Simon’s sister on the defense sitting with their attorneys as my partner “Rita” discussed the details of our undercover operation. I was next to go on the stand. I was dreading it. Jared was a disturbed as Simon and they’re both victims.

Rita was still my partner out in the field. On days she got the best of me, I still liked to call her, “Rita.” She hated it which made me love it all the more.

I am happily married and my wife doesn’t use Ambien… Maybe a bottle of wine every now and then…

Jared was ironically on suicide watch in maximum security. I figured eventually he’ll be amongst the regular prison population where he’ll be free to hang himself with his bed sheets or tear back open those wrist scars with a mattress spring and finally get to live out that “last great adventure.”

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Randy Zuniga is a trail runner, mountaineer, and outdoor writer from Southern California. He’s also written a few short stories. His story, “Goodbye” is a coming of age tale dedicated to the late Marcelene Mansour and her daughter Sheryl.

If you enjoyed Suicide 101, leave a comment and let Randy know.

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You can read Randy’s Previously published Short story below:

GOODBYE

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