I love you, Birdie | Teen Ink

I love you, Birdie

May 22, 2022
By Tatehorton_, Paradise Valley, Arizona
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Tatehorton_, Paradise Valley, Arizona
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Author's note:

My name is Tate Horton and I am a Junior in high school. I love to write and find joy in expressing my thoughts through different forms of writing. I love you, Birdie is an extremely important short story to me because of how funny, awkward, emotional, and raw it is. Although I incorporated my own sense of humor into Birdies personality, I still tried to show how death of a family member can take a toll on your emotional well being. I have such a close bond with my family which compelled and inspired me to write about family life. I hope you enjoy my short story as much as I do! 

Chapter I

Phoenix, Arizona. December 14, 2003. 7:30 pm. I am walking back home from babysitting tonight. The cold desert air keeps hitting my face, my cheeks and my nose which starts to become a light pink color. My hair is tied up in some sort of ponytail that will be a mess to finagle later that night. I was wearing my school clothes which become uncomfortable when you are wearing them all day. The grey skirt that hits the middle of my calf keeps swinging side to side and has itched my legs all day. The white polo with the initials SJS engraved on the upper left hand corner. My shirt is wrinkled at the bottom from slouching all day and mom not being able to iron it for me. Along with this plain school girl outfit that does not make me look like Britney Spears “Hit me baby one more time” music video, I have my favorite grey sweatshirt zip up that still left me having goosebumps up and down my arms. My tattered Mary Janes make a snapping noise on the bumpy sidewalk and I begin to notice that my socks have been different lengths all day. I stop and fix them so they both meet at what I think is the perfect height on my bony ankles. I have my MPMan 1997 in my right hand and my headphones overtop of my small light green beanie. The headphones were a rusted orange color that would chip away if you kept taking them on and off your head. The MPMan was yellow that had the metal peaking through from the hours of use. I finally approached my home. I walk a couple steps and turn to my house, standing and looking up at the dim colored windows. I exhale and look around me and finally make that first step to walk up to the dark green colored door. I take the headphones out and rip open my lavender colored jansport and place the one thing that doesn’t make me absolutely want to roll my eyes into the bag. I open the door and to my suprise, my mother is sitting in the “family room” which isn’t much of a family gathering place. It’s more of a place where we yell at our family members and then sit on the old couches and call it the “family room”. I try to make the door close very quietly so I can escape to the sanctuary of a room I have but instead I get the most welcoming greeting.

“Birdie!?” Her voice is surprised and she turns her head around from watching Two and a Half Men. I turn around and make a squished face in annoyance. 

“Yes mom it is me, the only daughter you have.”

 I could see how that was very sarcastic, but like who else would that be? Johnny? He’s sitting in the kitchen breakfast nook, “working” on his homework.  Dad? That’s for a different time.

“Oh well, looks like someone is already trying to start something with me. Do you know how much I do for you Birdie? Of course you don’t. You-…” 

I drowned it all out. Most of the time, it's all just noise coming out from her mouth. I am not sure why I choose to start these petty little arguments but I do. As I am staring at the commercials on the screen, not paying attention. I reply with,

“Babysitting was great mom, thank you so much for asking. I am going up to my room now.”

I give her a big smile, sarcastically of course, and she just says,

“Dinner is in the microwave for you, I didn’t want it to get cold in the fridge. I made spaghetti.”

I stop in my tracks and think “wow that was nice, I love spaghetti” but then I just slightly turn my head and walk into the kitchen. Then, there he is. Johnny. My little menace of a brother. He’s 13 and I am 17 so there’s a sort of weird age difference. I walk in and we both stare at each other for what feels like forever. I then walk over to open the microwave and press the 3 then the 0 and press the start button. It’s quiet, all I can hear is the microwave making the droning, slow sound and Charlie Sheen saying something and the audience laughing at his pathetic jokes. I am staring into space like I always do and then I am put back into reality by the beeping noise of the microwave. I look at it and press the open button and grab my warm bowl of spaghetti. I grab a fork and a spoon from the cabinet and walk over to the nook. I place my bowl down with a loud thump and pull out a chair and throw my body on to it. I begin to try and twirl my spaghetti onto my spoon with my fork. Johnny stops what he is doing and looks over to me,

“What are you doing?” He says,

I look over at him and glance at his homework then back into his hazel eyes.

“Eating?” I say with spaghetti falling out of my mouth.

“Why are you eating it like that?” He points to the bowl and waves his finger between the fork and spoon.

“Like what?!” I say, pissed off. The bowl makes a shaking noise on the table and from the other room my mom remarks,

“Birdie, stop that!” 

We both look over into “the family room” and pretend like she said nothing. 

“Like we are rich or something, only people with big houses eat their spaghetti like that.” He stares blankly at me. 

I roll my eyes, pick up the fork and put down the spoon.

Chapter 2

My alarm goes off. It’s 6:15 am and at this very moment in time, I do not want to get out of my bed. The cream colored comforter is wrinkled and bunched up around me like a cocoon and my head is squished in the big white colored pillow. I am laying on my side with my small baby blanket I got when I was born covering me underneath my comforter. “I could stay here for hours” I say to myself in my mind. I look at my small pink glossy alarm clock and realize I should have been up and into my bathroom minutes ago. Then, I see myself dozing off into a nice peaceful sleep wrapped in a luscious realm of endless comfort. I am almost completely back into Rem sleep but I am interrupted by my door swinging open and hitting my bedroom walls. My mother waddles into my room and steps onto my green rug that stretches out from under my bed and looks down on the ground to a pile of clothes. She then shakes her head, gazes around my room in disbelief and says, 

“Birdie?” She says quietly.

“Mmmm…”  I say in my sleepy and groggy voice, then I proceed to throw my stuffed bear in her general direction. 

“Wake up!” 


“Your alarm clock has been going off for 10 minutes. We talked about this, multiple times. You get up when your alarm tells you to. You are 17, I would expect for you to have some sort of self discipline but that is still on the To-Do list.” 

“Okay, I will get up.” I say still in bed, still half way asleep and knowing I will not be getting up anytime soon. 

“Alright, fine.” She exhales and stomps towards my bed and then proceeds to yank me out of comfort.

“Let’s go, come on, birdie.”

“Uhhh uhhhh..” I say as I am being yanked out from my dream. I stopped her.

“OKAY OKAY! I am up now, I am up now.” 

My mom exhales again and dusts herself off even though there is nothing to be dusted off of her pajamas. I look around and we stare at each other for a minute. I walk out of my room and dodge her from trying to give me a morning hug. I walk out of my room but stand outside in the hallway. I peer back into my room and see her just staring at all of my collectibles, clothes, posters, makeup and perfumes and see her start to fold all my messy clothes that have been piled for months. I walk back into my room and say,

“You don’t have to do that.”

She turns around, with a blank expression on her sun damaged face all the while folding my t-shirts,

“I know I don’t, but I am anyways. I know you won’t.” 

I keep looking at her until she turns away in discomfort. I nod to myself and walk into my bathroom to finally start my morning routine. 

I think my mom was cool once. I am not sure how she would be given that everything I do pushes her over the edge which makes me think she isn’t or wasn’t cool. She is a native to Arizona. Born and raised in a small part of Arizona called Strawberry. All the houses look the same, the people, I hear, are sort of weird and it is very rural. Deserts and cacti line the mountains and plains and there wasn’t much to do except tend to their families farm. They grew broccoli that was then transported and shipped to Yuma, another part of Arizona. She grew up with her younger brother, her dad and herself. Her mom died when she was very little and so she never had the true experience of having a motherly figure in her life. Long story short, when she left Arizona, she moved to California to fulfill her dream of becoming an actress. She met my dad there when he was becoming a psychologist and eventually became a school counselor. She never really became a well known actress and couldn’t get many jobs so she decided to move back home with my dad. She became a stay at home mom when she got pregnant with me and eventually my little brother. My mom has always kept things the same about her look. From looking at old family photos she saved, she has never once cut her hair shorter than where her shoulder blades end. She has long and thick hair that is usually tied up with a clip or hair tie. She has a round face and is short. She definitely had more of a mom bod but that's more from Johnny and I. She always wears this one necklace around her neck that looks somewhat like a dream catcher. It’s silver and encrusted with little mint diamonds and the chain is thin and wraps around her boney neck. She smells fresh, like a sanctuary of wild roses and like you have just been bathed for the first time in a while. She always wears turquoise jewelry that used to be her mothers and keeps her nails short and neat. I have always asked her, how did you know dad was the one? Her answer always is along the lines of this,

“He was so soft spoken, he knew how to talk to people without even talking, ya know? He could just stare at you and you would feel like he knew everything about you without even saying a word. He had this way of making everyone feel loved.”

I always cry when she tells me that. My dad was named Topher. My dad had red hair that was always messy on the top. He was tall and skinny and wore thick black glasses. He always walked very proudly but had terrible posture during our family dinners. But then, when I was at the peak years of my life, getting my license, turning 16, he passed away. He was driving through the Grand Ave intersection and a car came and crashed into the side of his. He was dead on the scene. I miss him a lot and his death has been so hard on my family. We do not talk about it. 

Chapter 3

“Stop running!” My mom says as she is washing the dishes that we did not clean up after our Sunday night family dinners. 

“Birdie stop, birdie stop, birdie staawwwwppppaaaaa!” Johnny says as I yank the secret love note he wrote to a girl out of his grubby, sweaty, little boy hands. He accidentally dropped it out of his backpack that was sitting on one of the chairs in the kitchen. I tried to pick it up but he grabbed it from me before I could reach his mysterious piece of paper. I then look at him intently and look him up and down, especially at the spilled mash potatoes on his blue dinosaur shirt. 

“What’s that?” 

“What’s what? I don’t know what you're talking about..”

“Gimme it.”

“What? No, this is mine”

“Dude give me the paper”


“Why can’t I see it?”


I grab the note and begin to run. 

We are speeding around the house. Up the stairs. Down the stairs. Through the kitchen. Down the hall to the laundry room. Out the back door to the backyard. We finally stop in between the couch, him on one side, me on the other. The light blue Lawson sofa separates us from running. If I go one way, he will follow and grab the note. If he goes one way, I run. The Sofa is like a large rectangle that acts as a mediator between us two. Eventually we both stop, look at each other and I look at my hands. I see the crinkled up note in my palm and open it, breathing hard and letting out a slight cough. 

“No, stop B-…” Johnny says in a frustrated tone.

I stick my hand in front of his face and cut him off without even saying a word. I open the note and see the words “hey, do you like me?” with two small boxes, one says “yes” one says “no”. I take a second and re-read what is in my dry, cracked hands. I look back at him and look back down at the paper. I let out a faint giggle and covered my mouth with my other hand, still peering at the note.

“This is not how you get a girl.”

“How do you know that? You have never gotten one of these.”

“I have, too!”

“Nah awh.”

I continue to stare at him and eventually he walks around the couch and is now facing me. I stare at him another second longer, I tend to stare a lot. I bring my head down to his and now our brains are touching. I slyly hand him the note and he snatches it from me. He then walks back into the kitchen, the farther entrance that is closer to the stairs. I walk into the kitchen from the entrance right next to the blue sofa. I walk in and see my mom still cleaning and I lean up against the kitchen sink. I whisper to my mom and say “Johnny has a crush on a girl” and to her surprise she looks at me and opens her mouth wide, not saying anything. She looks over to Johnny that is staring at the both of us and goes,


We both replied, “Nothing!”

Big J man, or Johnny, is honestly one of my favorite people. I would never tell him that to his small chubby face but maybe one day I will tell him he means the world to me. He is a lot shorter than me and has bleach blonde hair that sticks straight up from the copious amounts of gel my mom puts in his hair.

“Girls love the wet look, J.”

“Do they?”

“Yes! Your dad had hair like yours when we first met.” She sighs, looking into the mirror to see his face.

“Oh, he did?”

Hell yeah, he looked b*tchin

“I wanna look b*tchin..” he says staring into the mirror, smoothing the sides of his slicked hair. 

Sitting on the ledge of the bathtub, painting my nails with a lilac purple color, I sat up and said, “You do, you look b*tchin Big J man.”

Johnny wears big baggy jeans and big t-shirts we find at the Goodwill near my house. He wears chunky Adidas sneakers and has a black backpack that he carries around, EVERYWHERE. He is really just your typical 13 year old boy who has no idea what life has in store for him. 

Then, all of the sudden, the front door automatically slams and I peek my head out of the kitchen. It’s Louise. My best friend.

Chapter 4

“Hey!” Louise says in her calming and quiet voice.

“Sup.” I say mid bite of my cereal, milk dripping down on to my sweatshirt that I slept in last night. She walks to the kitchen, binder and books in her hand. Knowing Louise, she is already ready, looking clean and proper, hair slicked back into a tight bun, one small hair behind her ear that she forgot to pull into her light orange scrunchie. She is perfect to all, to herself not too much, but to me, I try not to compare. 

“Let’s go.” I say, walking over to the sink, putting the bowl on the wrong side.

“Oh, okay! Is your mom around?” Louise says, looking around.

“Uh..I don’t know, probably? Why?” I say, confused as to why she would want to see my mother.

“I’d love to say hi, haven’t seen her for a while, it’s nice to be polite.”

“Louise, no.” I say with a light chuckle and open the door, backpack on one shoulder. 

“Yeah, that's so weird…saying hi to parents is like so weird, duh Louise.”

“Well, you know, why would you want to say hi to the wicked witch herself, she’s not that cool.”

“No one's parents are cool, I just want to be kind.”

“You are kind, Louise. You are too kind. And I am too harsh. We are a perfect mix. I yell at people, you apologize. I stand up for what I want, you just kinda sit there.

“Yeah, I know.”

“I think we need to put one another into each other.”

“That’s what she said.”


“You know that was perfect timing, don’t lie to me.”

“It was, but I always crack those jokes.” 

I swing my hand around her, giving her a nice squeeze. We both giggle.

The bus pulls up to my house and stops with a loud squeak, the doors open and you can hear the decompression of the air from inside the big yellow unit that sits on the dark street. We both stare at each other, rolling our eyes as we step into what smells and feels like a teenager's brain. The seats are oddly more grayish than normal and filled more with hooligans than ever before. 

“I loathe the bus.” I say.

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself, it’s bad for your complexion.” Louise says in the same tone as me.

“Like you enjoy being in here, it smells like feet.”

“When did I say I enjoy it?”

The bus driver snaps us out of our dreadful state of minds and says,

“Sit down, we are going to be late.”

We stare at his face, sweat dripping down his forehead and lining his upper lip. It is awfully cold for someone to be sweating at 7:30 in the morning. He whips his head, signaling to us to go sit down and venture off to the dark and scary place we call school. I feel his eyes watching me as I walk to a seat, I turn around to see if I was right, unfortunately I was. We get more stares as we walk down the isle of the bus, our Mary Janes squeaking on the gray rubber ground. 

“Forgot to wear a bra today, Birdie?”

Kyle McPherson. My least favorite person. He is someone I loathe more than this bus. 

“Yeah I did, I must have forgotten it at your dad's house…oops.”

The seats around him yell out a slow ‘oooh’. He turns to his friends in slight embarrassment. Louise and I keep walking. 

“Yeah well, at least my dad isn’t six feet under.”

The bus goes silent. I go silent. We all go silent and for the first time, in a long time, I have nothing to say. I keep on walking to the back of the bus. The chattering and gossiping continues.

“Looking good Louis.” He speaks.

She stops dead in her tracks, turns slightly, takes a deep breath, and keeps on walking. 

We finally arrive at the place we all hate the most. A place that fills or gives us large amounts of anxiety, depression, unplanned pregnancies, broken hearts, love, friendships, being bullied, note passing, cigarettes in the girls bathroom trash can, rumors, principles offices, dress coding and so much more. We get off the bus and a gush of cold wind hits our faces and shins. We enter the school doors and are overwhelmed with the sound of students rushing to classes and lockers slamming into our faces. The halls feel warm and inviting but at the same time exhausting and overbearing. I am automatically placed into a drowning pit of debilitating sleepiness and want to drown in a never ending trance of sleep, blankets and pillows. I want to hide and never show my face ever again. I am now known as the girl who “lost her dad”, who “is healing from traumatic events”, but what if I am the girl who wants to be her dad sometimes. Who wants to disappear from these halls and stop breathing in the asbestos. I want to be able to just lay down and let myself rejuvenate from the recent events, but no. My anger and resentment to this school is something that is unspeakable and will never touch the light of day, sourly for the purpose that I just don’t care enough. I don’t want to put any more energy into this place than I already have. I don’t understand why I have to be locked in a large structure for 7 hours, graffitiing killed trees and nodding my head like I truly understand what’s going on. After he died, my life changed and my brain changed. I feel as if my brain chemistry is off and I don’t work like I used to. I feel like a junkyard, old pieces of a whole that are thrown around and rotting. I used to get straight A’s. I used to talk to teachers. I used to pack my own lunch. I used to do my homework. I used to, I used to, I used to. But then, my drive, my determination, my spite, all failed me. It was placed into a filing cabinet in the back of my brain and locked. 

Chapter 5 

Memory.  An ashtray on the window sill. It sits. Smoking. A hand grabs the cigarette and brings the thin tube of death to their lips. Suck in. Blow out. Deep breath. Set’s cigarette down. Keep talking. He always would smoke. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I watch him in the chair in the corner of the room, looking out into the sunlight and smiling at the backyard. The yard he just finished tending to. The garden he just picked from. The dirt on his chin. I watch and smile. He looks at me and gives me a slight turn of the head and makes a face that both cracks me and him up. He continues to stare at me while I am deep into a sketch book. He gets up and sets his cigarette butt down into the green ashtray. He walks over to the console in the middle of the room. It’s wicker. He opens the sliding cabinet door to reveal a bunch of records. He turns to me and lets out a ‘hmmmm…” I look at him and say “play our song”. He picks out the album “Loaded” by The Velvet Underground. He takes it out of the vinyl covering and places it on Side A. It starts to play. Rock and Roll starts to play. He stares at the vinyl going round and round and round again. He walks back over to his cig, takes a quick hit, and starts lip syncing to the lyrics. I look at him in total embarrassment and I start singing to him too. The lyrics sing,

“She starting shakin’ to that fine, fine music”

“You know her life was saved by rock and roll”

“Despite all the amputations”

“You know you could just go out and dance to the rock n’ roll station”

“It was alright”

“It was alright”

And it was. Not to sound corny, it was all alright. We continue to dance around the living room. My mom chimes in, so does Johnny. My dad does his signature guitar solo. We all laugh. Johnny is on my shoulders. We continue to be consumed by the music and jump around like nothing in the world mattered. At this time, nothing did. We were alright. The record fades. The laughing trails off and the heavy breathing continues. He walks over to the record and stops it. 

“I love that song” I say

“You mean our song?” He says

I look at him and give him the biggest hug. We all hugged. We are all swallowed into one big ball of love. We are all together. No arguments. No laundry to do. No lunches to pack for school tomorrow. We are all just in one moment, all together. After the long hug, my mom starts to cry. We all kind of giggle and wipe the tears off of her eyes. She also starts to laugh with us.

“Why are you crying?” I say

“I just love you all, so much.” She stares at my dad.

“We love you,  I love you, I love everyone here.’ He says 

We all walk into the kitchen and sit down. We eat dinner. Conversation arises and we talk about our days. How we are. How life is going. We enjoy each other’s company. There’s no one missing. No one left out. Nowhere to go, but here. Home feels even more home than ever. It feels cozy and warm and all the feelings you get when you feel loved and cared for. I am happy. I feel happy. 

I wake up and sit straight up. I am breathing hard. My alarm is going off. I turn it off and stare straight at the wall in front of me. I am breathing pretty heavily and begin to cry. I am weeping. I am sobbing. I am unable to form words. I am unable to think. I am unable to breathe. It’s scary, losing someone. I feel totally over dramatic and shouldn’t be crying at 6:15 in the morning. I finally catch my breath. I get up and wipe the tears off of my face. I slug over my hair to the other side of my head. I open the door. I see my mom walking down the hall. I think to myself, “keep your head down and do not make eye contact.” Instead, she stops me. She raises my chin. She looks me in the eyes. She really looks into my soul. We all know that look. That mom look. The look that tells you life is going to be okay and that she understands. I feel that. I feel her look in my soul. She wipes one last tear and keeps staring. We hugged. I let out a loud deep breath and looked around me in slight discomfort. My mom and I have never had a time like this. We have never shared similar emotions in a space like this. This sadness and this embrace hasn’t really happened before. On the day everything happened, which was a year ago, it felt similar to this moment. Other than that, we never really had time to shut the fuck up and feel something.

“Bad dream?”

“Yeah, you think?”

We both let out a slight laugh and took another deep breath. She continues to look at me as I am, again, avoiding eye contact and tears starting to form once more. I dig my head into her shoulder and begin to walk to the bathroom. She walks the other way, down into the kitchen. I open the bathroom door and sit on the toilet cover. I look up into the lights and scrunch my eyes as I turn away. I sniffle once more and walk over to the sink. I turn on the tap. Cold water gushes out. I wash my face and let the cold water seep into my skin and keep my eyes cold. Then, I wipe the water off my face and stare into the mirror. I set the towel down and walk back into my room to get changed for school. Every day feels the same. One bad dream, crying, washes face, stares, walks back to room, puts on clothes, barely eats, and leaves for school. That’s how my mornings have been since he passed. Are those dreams good? Are those memories good? Why do they make me sob and crawl into a ball. At least they are making me feel something. But when I do cry, I feel sad but also I feel nothing at all. At this point, I feel nothing sometimes. I feel almost numb? I can’t explain it. Is this what the five stages of grief are? What the hell

Chapter 6

I am sitting in one of my classes on a Tuesday. It’s the middle of the afternoon and I am slumped into my seat in the back of the classroom. I am almost asleep when I feel Louise tap me on the shoulder and give me a small smile that says ‘sorry’ without even saying a word. I look at her and clear my throat as I sit up in my chair and stare at the papers on my desk. 

“Birdie?” Says my teacher at the front of the classroom.

I freeze and say,


“Did you get the answer to this question? I can see you working….tirelessly on this problem.”

The whole class lets out a quick laugh and makes piercing eye contact at me. 

“Uh…no, I didn’t.”

“Well, what do you think it is?”

“I don’t know, can you just ask someone else, I don’t understand.”

“What do you think is the first step?”

“I don’t know, I’m sorry.”

“Well, make a guess, we are all learning.”

I whisper under my breath,

“Eat my shorts.”

“Sorry, I missed that, what did you say?”

The Breakfast Club is my favorite movie so I used this opportunity to act like John Bender one last time before I stormed out of this classroom. I am annoyed. I am embarrassed, furious, humiliated, and tired. So, I repeat myself,

“Eat. My. Shorts.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Was that not what you were looking for?”

“No, it certainly was not.”

“Okay, great. It’s probably best if you call on someone else, then.”

I get up and grab my backpack. I don’t even grab my books on my desk. I just stormed out. It’s silent as I am speed walking to the door. All that is heard is the door slamming behind me. Even though I am the narrator of this coming of age novel, this is what I think happened after I left:

Louise looks around, then stares at the ground. Everyone is making quiet conversations with the people around them and my teacher goes over to her desk to take a moment for herself. Louise gets up and says,

“Can I go..” she gets interrupted 

“Yes, Louise, just go” my teacher says annoyed 

“Okay, thank you” Louise says as she starts to walk over to the door.

I am running to the bathroom. It almost feels like I am running in slow motion, you know in movies and such. This feels like a movie. It doesn’t feel like real life. This is not me. I would never say that. Well, I wouldn’t say it out loud. I push open the door of the girls bathroom, breathing very hard. I go to the last stall, the big stall. I shut it and hit my back against the wall and slither down onto the floor. I look up to the ceiling and all around me in utter disbelief. My head is in my palms. The door squeaks open,


No answer. 


I let out a slight breathe and start to pick at my fingers,


“It’s me..”

“Louise, I know it's you.”

“Okay, sorry.”

She walks over to the stall. I open the door and wave her in to accompany me in my self loathing and pitying pow wow. I walk back over to my side of the latrine and she sits on the other side, directly across from me. I stare at her. She stares at me. 

“Eat my shorts?” She says after a couple moments of pure silence 

“It’s from a movie, okay?”

She laughs.

“What? What could you possibly be laughing about right now?”

“Nothing, nothing…eat my shorts?” She says again

“You know what, I am over this. Thanks for all your help.”

I open the bathroom door and start to walk out.

“Wait, Birdie. I didn’t mean to laugh at you.” She is following me out of the bathroom stall. She grabs me by the shoulders and turns me around.

“I am sorry.”

“It’s fine.”

“I didn’t mean to laugh.”

“I know…it's kinda funny.”

We both start to kind of laugh. She gives me a hug and I give her one too. 

“Ugh, I hate this. Why am I like this? Why do I care so much? Why do I act so quickly? Why don’t I think?”

“Because you're hurting.”

I don’t say anything and just look around the bathroom. I shed a couple tears and she wipes them off my face. People start to walk into the bathroom and we cling to the walls so we aren’t in their way. I sniffle and we both walk out. 

“I should go grab my stuff from her room, right?”

“Yeah sure, do you want me to go with you?”

“No, it's fine. Gotta fight my own battles sometimes.”

“Okay, just find me after, I will be on the stairs by Shepard Hall.”

I nod my head. I am walking through the halls and can feel everyone stare at me. Again, it's like I am walking in slow motion. Everything feels like slow motion nowadays. I stand in front of her classroom and look at the number on the window that's beside the door. I almost turn around but step into the classroom. I keep my head down and go right to my desk.


I stop dead in my tracks. 

“Yeah, just me…just grabbing my books!” I am nervously laughing at this point.

“Can you come over to my desk?” 

I look up at her and wipe my sweaty hands on my denim jacket. I clear my throat and start to walk slowly over to her desk. I stop right in front of it.

“Sit.” She points to a chair right beside me. 

I look at her, then the desk, then back at her. It’s very quiet. Almost like the silence was louder than anything I have heard before. I pull back the chair and sit in it. I stare at her. It’s so quiet.

“Do you like cookies?”

I am confused.


“I love them, I baked them last night.”

She keeps staring at me. I am still confused. She gestures to me with the brown bag with the cookies in it. I grab the bag and look inside. A chocolate chip cookie, my favorite. I break off a piece and start to chew. I swallow.

“Thanks.” I say.

“Mhmm.” She says 

We both eat our cookies, the silence isn’t as grueling. 

“My dad used to make these all the time.”

“Is he the baker in your family?”

Is. That word is spelt out in my head.

“Um..yeah he was, he used to bake all the time.”

“And where is he now?”

“He died in a car crash last May.” I say somewhat confidently. 

She stops and I am looking around, eating my cookie. She takes a break from her treat.

“My husband was the baker in my family.”

“And where is he now?”

“He died of cancer last June.”

We both, I think, were too stunned to speak. We looked at eachother. 

“Death is hard, Birdie. I know.”

“What can you do, haha?” I say this nervously

“Nothing, except for feeling. You are a great student and a great person. But this…” She points at me.

“This isn’t you.”

“How do you know? You only have had me this semester…”

“Because I was the same way. I acted out, I said things I didn’t mean, I felt reckless. Everything turned against me and my personality flipped. It was up and down and up and down and eventually, it went up.”

“I feel like right now I am down and down and down and down again.”

“It’s called grief.”

I nod my head and finish the last part of my cookie. I swallow the cookie and wipe my hands on my jacket. The bell rings and it startled the both of us. 

“I should..uh..get to my next class now.” 

“Good idea.”

I start to walk away, my backpack on one shoulder, and stop once I get to the door.

“Thanks again for the cookie.”

“Your welcome, Birdie.”

“And..uh.., you know, thanks for putting up with the whole dead dad thing.”

“Thanks for putting up with a widow.” She says with a smile.

I nod and smile while walking out the door. I enter the hallway and see people rushing to their classes but I take my time. I am in no rush for some reason. I am in no rush to walk into my Algebra II class at this time. I am in no rush to sit in an uncomfortable chair or to raise my hand like a “good student”. I am in no rush to do anything. I think as I walk down the halls, I even smile. I feel like I haven’t smiled in a while. I walk up the stairs and see a few people run into the classrooms. I finally get to my class and swing open the door. Everyone is dead silent and in their chairs. Everyone turns to look at me and I let out an awkward smile. I walk over to my seat, which is in the front, which means it's quite the walk. I look down at the desks to see a small packet with numbers and words written all over it. I then realize that it is Tuesday. Then I realized last week my teacher said,

“So, there will be a test next Tuesday on the newest unit. Uh..make sure to be prepared and look at your notes.”

At least that's what I heard. I get to my desk and slump into the seat and to my suprise, that silly little packet is on my desk, too! My teacher walks over to my desk,

“Uh..we have a test today?”

“Yes, Birdie, I said that last Tuesday.”

“Right, you did say that.”

She gives me a passive aggressive nod and I smile at her. I look at the test and start to write some stuff down, knowing it isn’t right. I keep shaking my head at this god forsaken packet and even smile and laugh, again! Dude, I swear, these teachers have to chill, like can I get some sort of dead dad pass? I need to stop making jokes, sorry readers. Okay, Birdie, focus.

I take up almost all of the class to finish the test. I look it over, erase some stuff, add some stuff, then turn it in to my teacher. As I hand it to her, she looks at me and says,

“How did it go?”

“Great, truly wonderful honestly.”

“Mmm, well we should see if that stands true once I grade it.” She looks at her desk and I can see her eyes turn to me. I stare at her and let out a slight giggle and bite my tongue so I don’t say anything stupid. 

“Can I go now?”

She nods and barely rolls her eyes. I pick up my bag and walk over to the door, like I always do. I slam the door and walk back down the stairs, through the hallway, and get to the main exit of the school. I open the door and start to walk home. It’s cloudy and very dark outside. The trees are swinging back and forth and the air is so cold. I walk around a corner, this corner is the start of my walk home, and feel a raindrop hit my face. Then, it begins to pour. I put up my hood, which isn’t even sheltering me from the weather, and begin to run. It feels freeing. Again, I feel like I am in a movie. I am panting and running so fast I feel like my legs are going to snap in half. I feel exhausted but continue to sprint. I run around another corner and keep running. Running. Running. Faster. Running. Quicker. I see a puddle ahead and keep going. I step into what feels like the ocean on my shoes and slip. My legs kick up and I fall backwards, landing on my back. 

F*ck, f*ck, f*ck, that hurt.”

I sit up and my hands are pretty busted from the sidewalk and my tights are ripped, not really sure how. My sweatshirt is soaked. I am soaked. My hair is damp and frizzy. My kilt is wet and has small leaves covering the back of it. My backpack is still on my back and acted as a safety blanket from my embarrassing incident. I stand up and wipe the water off of my face. I picked up the wet and soggy scarf I was carrying out of the puddle I drowned in. Funny enough, my mom pulls up in her car. She sees me standing in the rain.

“Birdie?” She yells out 

I am standing there. I turn around and look at her.

“Why are you so wet?”

I point to the sky in a sarcastic manner. 

“Did you fall?”

“Maybe..” I cry out and begin to shed a tear. Not in the way where I am actually sad, in the way that I am just fussy and a bit of a cry baby. I slowly walk over to her car and she puts her arms over me and walks me into the house. She is also soaked. We get inside and I drop my bag on the ground. Thump. We walk over to the kitchen table and I rip off my sweatshirt. 

“There we go.” She says.

She bundles the hoodie into a ball and tosses it down the laundry shoot. I sit and stare at the kitchen wall and slide my hair over to the other side. 

“Just sit there and get warm.”

“Where are you going?”

“Getting the groceries.”

“Wait, let me help.”

“No, just stay inside, I don’t want you to get even more wet.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes!” She smiles. 

I get warm. 

Chapter 7

Memory. Number 2. 

I woke up. It’s like any other day. The weather is a bit overcast and gloomy, I don’t mind it. I get dressed for school and start to walk down the hallway towards the stairs and peek into my parents room. It’s dark, the sheets and covers are scattered all around the bed. My dad is asleep on his side and my mom is sleeping on her back, it looks like one of her arms is underneath the pillow. I slowly close the door and continue through the hallway. I walk down the carpeted stairs and head into the kitchen. I am the only one awake, it’s so peaceful at 7 in the morning. I walk over to the fridge and grab the cold milk. I set it on the counter and grab a bowl and cereal from two different cupboards. I make the cereal and sit down in our kitchen nook and start to chow down on my Frosted Flakes. I am doing a crossword puzzle with an extremely dull pencil and notice Johnny walking down the stairs. 



He also helps himself to some cereal and a cup of orange juice. We both finish up our breakfast and leave the cups, bowls and utensils in the sink. I wipe my mouth onto my sweatshirt sleeve and head over to the door. My shoes are at the front door, I sit and put them on. My mom walks down the stairs, yawning.

“Hi.” She whispers

“Why are you so quiet?”

“I don't want to wake up dad, he was so exhausted last night.”

“Oh, okay.”

We see the bus pull up and Johnny opens the door. My mom gives me a kiss on my head and Johnny a hug.

“Have a great day, I love you guys!”

“Ehhh love you.” We both say quietly and like our mom is the weirdest person ever. 

It’s the middle of the day now. I am sitting in my Spanish classroom. I am totally dozing off, I can’t keep hearing,

“Okay, muchachos.”

I might need to get out of this classroom before my head explodes. We are in the middle of a lecture and then we hear the phone beeping in the back right corner by the teacher's desk. 

“One moment, muchachos.”

Oh lord. 

She picks up the phone,

“Uh huh, yeah, mhmm, yes she is in here, uh huh, great, okay, okay, okay, thank you, Gaby.”

Probably some kid has a doctor's appointment or a family emergency. I don’t blink an eye and continue to doze off.

“Birdie.” She sets the phone down.


“Your father is here to bring you to a “special appointment.”

A what? I look around me and everyone is staring at me, eager to know what I have going on in my special and amazing life. 

“Oh, okay, thank you.”

I pack up my things and head out. I tap Louise on the shoulder and she smiles at me and words,

“Call me later.”

I mouth,


I walk down the halls and start to pick up the pace, I get nervous. I am walking faster and then I see Johnny walk down the hall. What is going on? 

“What are you doing?”

“What are you doing?”

“I am going to the office for a..”

“Special appointment?”

“Uh yeah, how’d you know?”

“I got a call, too.”

We both look at each other, extremely puzzled and we rush to the office. We open the door of the office and see our dad's car in the roundabout outside of the office. I sign both of us out and walk out the exit door. We see my dad in the car. He is moving a lot. He is cracking his knuckles. Touching the steering wheel more times then he should. Adjusting himself. Sniffling. Coughing. Looking around him. We get in the car,

“Oh, great, yes, finally.”

“Uh, dad?”


“What are we doing?”

We are putting our backpacks in the backseat. I sit in the passenger's seat and Johnny sits in the back middle seat.

“We are going to a Carnival.”

“What?” We both say, extremely confused.

“Yep! A carnival, your mother doesn’t know, haha, shhhh.”

“Wait, you pulled us out of school to go to a carnival?”

Hell yes!”

“Birdie, don’t complain, he might send us back to class.”

I look at Johnny and roll my eyes. I look at my dad and he has the biggest smile on his face. He is wearing a corduroy blazer and a green striped button up. He is wearing skinny pants and his torn up black converse. 

“Nice outfit.” I say as we are driving out of the school.

“Okay, the carnival is 30 minutes away, let's hit it.” He says, avoiding my compliment.

We get to the carnival, find a parking spot and begin to walk. We get to the brightly colored arena and are greeted with clowns, games, food, and rides. I am stunned. I am not sure why. I have been to one of these before, but somehow it feels so different.

“We have to go on all the rides, look at that clown! Oh and this game! Birdie, you gotta go on this ride. Johnny, wanna get on my shoulders?” He says, extremely heightened.

We are like kids in a candy store. Well, I guess, Johnny and I are children but now we have a plus one. We ride every ride there is, almost throwing up. We win the big stuffed animals and eat small donuts, everything feels so great. My dad is running all over, talking to people he doesn’t know, kicking things in his way, yelling at the clowns and then laughing after. He is acting crazy. I brush it off,  like most things he does. We get back into the car and drive away from the bright colored unit that we call a carnival. That place feels like what I think my dad's brain is like, big, bright, loud and one big colossal of just stuff. 

We turn the corner into my neighborhood, we are all laughing and giggling. I turn over to look at my dad and he isn’t smiling. He has a mundane look on his olive shaped head and is just staring into the road. I continue to let out a slight giggle and turn to look at Johnny, who is completely unaware of my dad’s behavior. I look back at him and am so confused. I continue to look at the road and at this point, my smile has disappeared. I take a small deep breath and look straight at him.

“Hey, you okay?”


Johnny finally looks at me, then my dad, then back at me. I look at him and put my finger to my lips, making sure he knows not to say a word. He nods and looks back out the window. I don’t understand what’s really going on but I know the way he is acting isn’t totally unusual. 

“Did um..did you have fun at the carnival?” I say

“I guess.”

I guess? it keeps playing over and over again like a broken record inside my head.

“What’s wrong?”

“Birdie, stop.”

“Are you mad? Like I don’t get it.”

I start to get angry.

“Birdie please just stop..”

“No, dad, I want to know why all of a sudden you just—..”

“I just what?” He says forcefully.

I didn’t expect that tone. 

“You just got so sad.” 

“Do you really want to know why I got so sad? Why I melt into this fucking car seat and why my mind is playing with my emotions like goddamn puppet strings? Hmm? Do you really want to know?”

I just look at him. I can see Johnny in the back, he starts to cry. He is absolutely quiet but his emotions are so thick the air is hard to breathe in. He looks back at Johnny and says, 

“Oh grow up, Johnny.”

He looks back at me, looks me up and down and says,

“I CAN’T FUCKING STAND YOU.” He lets out a small laugh and continues to look at me. He sees me start to sob and just continues to stare. He again does that strange laugh and turns to look at the road. We are parked in front of the house and just sit there. I am looking down at my hands and bringing them up to my face. I wipe off all the tears, snot, and hair out of my face. I hear the car door slam which wakes me up from my moment of self care. Johnny and I both jump. We get out of the car and walk up the stairs to the house. We open the door and it's dark. There are no lights on and the room feels abandoned. We carry ourselves up the stairs to our rooms. Johnny goes his way and I go mine. My room is right next to my parents room. I see my dad lying on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. I look at him and shake my head profusely. I close his door and-

I woke up and let out a loud breath in fear. Sweating. Breathing hard. The usual. I can’t f*cking stand you. I can’t f*cking stand you. I can’t. F*cking. Stand. You. It’s scary when someone you love so much yells at you. It’s scary when someone tells you they can’t stand to be around you. It’s scary when your own father looks you up and down, analyzing every part of your body and tells you that they can’t f*cking stand you. This happened a lot. Too many times. Sometimes more violent than others. Sometimes to Johnny, sometimes to my mom, but mostly me. I carried that weight of being a burden to my own father on my shoulders everyday. I still do. 

Chapter 8

You know those mornings where you are awake, in your bed, but you can’t move? You are just staring at the wall in front of you or overhead and you have no thoughts in your head. Yeah. That's me, right now. I am so comfortable and so warm that if I move the slightest bit,  I might shiver and become uncomfortable. I am looking over at the wall in front of me. I am turned to my side, for context. My walls are a light wash of pink and you can see a little bit of stucco that is ingrained into the memories that these walls hold. I am blinking and blinking and blinking and then I feel a singular tear fall down my face. I yawn and then another tear falls down my face. I sniffle and wipe my nose and roll over to my back. Now, I am staring at the ceiling where there is even more stucco protruding out of the walls. It looks like the ceiling is going through a huge hormonal change and their “face” is a battlefield of sweat and bacteria that is mixed together to make small pimples that eche the “skin”. I am just laying and am feeling so peaceful, I almost feel happy? This can’t be real. For once in this hectic one and a half years, I feel at peace with my emotions. Then, I hear a loud thump and look over to the door. My head is curled up but my body is still flat against the bed. I don’t hear another thump so I lay back down again. Thump. There it is again. Thump. A third time. What is going on? I brush the covers back and walk over to my door and swing it open. I look out into the hall and see cardboard boxes. Why are there boxes sitting in the hallway? I am staring at the boxes and see my mom have a pile of clothes in her arms, dumping them into the boxes. I am still not saying anything and am just watching her dump the clothes over and over again. After a while she sees me,

“Oh hi, you're up.”

I look at her and then the boxes with my mouth partly open.


“Are those dad’s clothes?” I finally say.

She just stares at me and dumps the clothes into the boxes.


She is standing there, nothing in her arms, wiping off her hands on her sweatpants. 


I can feel the anger in my voice because I know whose clothes those are. 

I walk into her room that she keeps disappearing into. I am at the doorway just staring at her. She is folding things, taking things off of hooks, setting hats down on the bed. She isn’t acknowledging my presence and is walking by me, not saying anything. I walk over to the box of clothes and grab one of his shirts. I walk over to the closet and start hanging them back up. One after another, after another, I am putting them on hangers. Some fall off but I keep pacing back to the bin, back to the closet and back into the emotional state of feeling empty and broken hearted.

“Birdie. Stop.”

I shake my head. 


“Birdie, stop.”

I don’t answer and keep walking back and forth. She is just standing there staring at me as I tiredly put the clothes back. As I tiredly put the scarves back. As I tiredly put myself back into the space I was once happy. The space where I wasn’t living with a single mom and the space where I had a male role model in my life. As I am walking back with one of the shirts, she grabs me. She grabs the shirt and we tug.

“Let go.”

I am fussing.

“Birdie, stop it, right now.”

“Mom, let go of the fucking shirt.”

We are tugging and tugging and tugging and finally I tug so hard, she falls to the ground. We hear a rip. The shirt ripped. We both stare at each other. I blow the hair out of my face and she just stares. 

“Who are you? I don’t even know you anymore.”

I just stare at her and look at the shirt. It’s ripped. I keep ripping it. I rip it so hard and I am yelling. I am stomping my feet and yelling. I am hitting myself. I am kicking the walls around me. I am screaming. The shirt is ripped to shreds and laying on the carpet. She just watches me. She finally stands up. I am yelling,


She grabs me and just hugs me. I try and push away. I end up punching her and kicking her legs. She keeps her arms around me and finally I give in. Silence. I am silently sobbing. I hugged her back and we just stayed there. We finally stopped hugging and she just looks at me and wipes the tears off of my face. 

“You need to know.”

I look at her, confused.


She waves her head up and down and just hugs me. She walks out of the room and walks down stairs. I just go back to my room and put on a sweatshirt. I walk back out of my room and hear her on the phone. I walk half way down the stairs and am sitting on the steps. I am still crying. My face is puffy. I am watching her pace back and forth. I hear her whispering,

“Yeah, she needs to know. Do you want to bring it over? Okay, Tony. Thanks. See you soon.”

She puts the phone down and walks over to the stairs and stares at me.

“Who was that?”

“Uncle Tony.”

I nod and wipe my tears off of my face. I don’t question it and just sit there. My mom joins me and puts her arm around me.

We are now sitting in the kitchen. Uncle Tony is in front of me. My dad's brother. He's bald, smells like cigarettes, and is wearing a leather jacket, like always. He's a sweetheart but on the outside is hard as a rock. Right now, he's quiet and reserved. He is the Uncle that is at every family function and gives the best gifts. I love him, but don’t see him all the time. We are all just sitting at the table, it's so silent. 

“What’s going on?” I say.

No one answers.

“It’s time for you to understand what happened to your dad.” My mom says. 

I look at Uncle Tony. He slides a white piece of paper across the table that was hidden in his jacket pocket.

“This is for you.” He says, quietly.

I look at my mom, then Tony and then the letter. I reach for it and turn it around. 

To: Birdie 

Love: Dad

I open up the letter and hear the paper crinkle in my hands. I sniff and wipe my eyes to see a letter on the page. I am confused but I digest my confusion and begin to read. 


    I don’t know how to start this. This is my 14th letter to you and still can’t form my thoughts and what I want to say to you. I don’t even know who I am. What kind of dad I am. What person I am and what I contribute to the world. My thoughts of being on earth are non-existent and I feel as though I am letting everyone in my life down. I am drowning in the air I breathe in. I have tried every day to be better, to get out of bed, to bond with you, with Johnny, with mom and with myself. I have acted out and have shown you a side of myself that I wish could never be shown to anyone. I have suffered with mental illnesses my whole life. Some days are better than others and I can, sometimes, see the purpose of waking up. Other days, I don’t want to move, I want to stay in bed and stay wrapped up in my own selfish and pathetic thoughts. I know this sounds absolutely cliche and I am over-dramatizing my emotions and mental strength, but you need to know what goes on in my brain and why I act the way that I do. I have come to a point in my life where I feel that I have no options anymore and the pills I take seem like they are just placebos. When you read this, I want you to know that I tried to keep my life together. I want you to know that this isn’t your fault. My job hasn’t been stable for a long time and our family has not been doing well financially. I tried to keep those worries under wraps so you and Johnny did not worry. Life has been a weight on my shoulders for so long that I finally can’t proceed. I always wanted to see you flourish. I want to see you become an artist, a 70’s rock band lead guitarist, a music producer, a director of films and entertainment, I want to see you flap your own wings, Birdie. But I know if I stay, I will be putting myself and everyone around me in pain. I am not myself anymore and don’t think I can find a way.

I am sorry. I love you. 


I finish reading it and set it back on the table in front of me. In front of us. In front of a bunch of eyes that are trying not to stare me down and are waiting for my emotions to be unleashed. I don’t feel anything. All I feel is an aching pain in my heart. It’s indescribable. I went a year without knowing the true reason as to why my father died so suddenly. I am piecing it all together. The carnival. The carnival. Us listening to our favorite song. Happiness then pure despair. Laughing then telling your own daughter you cannot stand her. The sleepless nights and the days where he wouldn’t get out of bed. The pills in the bathroom cupboard. Prozac. Lithium. My head has never been so full, yet so empty. I am crying but I am not weeping. I just have tears racing down my face and feel completely numb. I look over to my mom and tony,

Fuck you.”

I get up and walk out of the kitchen. I have a blanket wrapped around me and am walking up to my bedroom when I am stopped. 

“We can see why you are upset.” Says Uncle Tony 

I stop in my tracks and slightly turn my head but turn it back towards the hallway. 

“You can see how upset I am?”

“Yes.” He says.

“We understand.” My mom says.

I turn around and just stare at the two of them. I wipe my eyes and say,

“Honestly, I don’t think you do. I don’t think this is the time where you can fully understand my emotions. This time, you can’t relate. You didn’t get a f*cking suicide note addressed to you at 17 years old from your own dad and are expected to carry on with your life. Your own father didn’t die in a “tragic car accident on Grand Ave” last May. My dad, your husband, mom, killed himself and left us here. And now, you..”

I am pointing at my mom.

“You decide to give me the note, now?”

“I couldn’t find the right time. I didn’t know when to give it to you or if I should have just told you. You are right, I have no idea how you are feeling. But, you don’t know how I am feeling. I also lost someone. We both did. It’s just different because we lost the same person who played different roles in our lives.”

“But, why now? Why am I now finding this out.”

“I don’t know.”

I am Jack’s broken heart. There it is again. Silence. That f*cking loud noise that isn’t suppose to be loud. I am weeping now. I can’t control it. How do you even move past this situation? She is crying. She’s really crying. 

Everything after that day is a blur. I don’t remember much from the following days. Really, I don’t remember the following years. It’s a big blur with vivid memories here and there. There’s bits of me trying to cope that are scattered throughout those years right after ‘it’ happened. I feel as though my teenage years were destroyed from that singular letter. A piece of paper wrecked me. It felt like there was a battle going on in my head and I was trying to be the mediator to stop it. But I was trampled by thoughts and overbearing grief that left me feeling stuck. 

Chapter 9

Today sucked. I layed in bed all day. I slept all day. I stared out the window at the rain. I read a couple pages of a book and then cried in disappointment. I couldn’t get up and out of this rut. I felt completely helpless. This was a week after I read the letter. My mom and I have barely spoken but we exchange small dialogue. We need our time. Johnny knows about the note, too. He read it. He doesn’t really understand it, but has a fair idea. He didn’t get as emotional as me or my mom. I cried, and cried, and cried, then cried some more. Then I cried on the floor. Then I cried in the kitchen. Then I cried on the sofa. On the toilet. In the bath. At school. Everywhere. I would have screaming fits most days. That happened for about a couple weeks after I read it. I want to disappear. I want to know why. I want to know why he is so goddamn selfish but yet I know exactly how he felt.

I talked to my mom today. I don’t remember much of what was said but I know we fully understood each other. It took me a lot of time to realize I am not the only one who is grieving and that sucked. My mom is my primary caregiver and I need her in my life.

“Did you get a note?”


That was tough to hear. She knew it was coming, she told me. He would have these episodes all throughout their marriage. She did get his life insurance money with a small note that read,

I love you. Take care of Johnny and Birdie. You were my one true love and I will always be with you. 

Until ghosts, 


Chapter 10

I am walking through my neighborhood. It's dark and so cold. There’s a house party down the street from mine and I decide to go. Parties aren’t usually my scene but I need a distraction from my current life situation. It's a Halloween party, might I add. The logic of high schoolers is so strange, why have a Halloween party three weekends before the actual night of Halloween? I am saying this over and over again but somehow I am still walking to that house. I dressed up as Patrick Bateman from American Physco. Classic costume. I made it more sexier than I usually would or else I would have crippling insecurities rushing through my head because I, in fact, didn’t go as a sexy mouse, sexy cat, or sexy doctor. I approach the house. By myself. And stare at it. There’s smoke illuminating from the house and music blasting. Cars all in the driveway, some rocking back and forth. I try to not think about it. But like, in a car? Really? There are so many people. So many costumes. So many people pretend to be someone they aren’t for one night. People run past me, into the house and disappear into another realm that sits in front of me. I finally walk into the door and I, too, get swallowed by this black hole. I don’t really know anyone. I see some girls from my physics class and some other people who are in English class. No Louise. Kinda wish she was here, right now. We haven’t spoken in a while. I finally find the table with soggy chips, red solo cups, multiple coolers filled with ice and alcoholic beverages and people making their own cocktails with god knows what. I approach the table and don’t quite know where to start. I try to pretend like I know what I am doing. 

“Patrick Bateman, right?”

I look up from the table that gives you a sense of lust,


“You’re dressed as Patrick Bateman, right? American Psycho?”

At this point, he's yelling over the blaring music and so am I.

“What-yeah..sorry I can’t hear you!” 

He waves to me and we walk away from the speakers and go out the sliding glass door. We are in the backyard now. String lights hang above us and the yard has an orange hue to it. The music isn’t as loud, all we hear is people yelling and screaming from the pool beside us. Cups and cans line the deck of the pool. Bodies in skimpy bikinis and arms around girls’ shoulders as they sit in the scorching hot tub. I turn back towards this boy and he is holding two red solo cups and hands me one. We touch the cups together and take a sip. I wince at the taste, he doesn’t notice, I hope.

“Uh…sorry what were you saying?”

“Oh yea…uh..you’re dressed as Patrick Bateman, right?” 

What did he just say?


I look down at my costume to make sure I am not a sexy lawyer. I am obviously dressed as Christine Bale’s psychotic character Patrick Bateman.

“I am…yes, sorry…took me a second to..uh.”

He just stares and smiles. Why am I feeling flustered? What is going on? Why is he smiling at me? 

“It’s really cool, I love that movie.”

What. The. F*ck

“Wait, really? Yeah, me too. It’s a great film. Movie. It’s a great movie.”

He laughs. I laugh. Birdie, what are you doing? You never get nervous.

“And..you're dressed as someone from Eyes Wide Shut?”

“You know that movie?”

“What? Yeah, it's definitely like one of Stanley Kubrick's best films.” I trail off at the end of my sentence because I didn’t want to get too political with my views on films and make him disagree with me. 

“I totally agree, yes.”

We both kinda laugh. His mask is not on his face but has pulled it up onto his head.

“I couldn’t find something to wear so I already had the black…cloak thing, I just needed a weird looking mask.”

We both stop talking and look at what’s surrounding us. I look at him and say,

“I’m Birdie..by the way.”


We shake hands and for some reason I am happy. I haven’t felt happy or a sense of joy since I read my dad’s letter. I shouldn’t be happy right now. I shouldn’t be able to feel happy, my dad killed himself. Why are these thoughts going through my head? I can’t keep thinking about it. Especially right now.

“Do you wanna go back inside?” He says.

I flash back into reality and wait a couple seconds to respond. I nod my head,

“Yeah, sure.”

We walk back to the sliding door and open it to be hit with someone blowing smoke into our faces. We keep walking and are pushing people to get out of our way. We make our way back to the drink table and I see him pour some liquid into a shot glass. He pours two. Just like the solo cups. He hands me one and I just stare at it. I haven’t really done this before, I mean like once or twice, but for some reason it seems different. I look at Tucker and he runs his fingers through his hair and picks up the shot glass. Everything starts to go in slow motion. I look around me and see people jumping up and down. I see people kissing, hugging, breathing in smoke, breathing out smoke, people taking shots, people sitting in chairs, people rushing to the bathroom, and then I look at him. He is talking to me but I can’t hear him. I don’t hear anything, I am just seeing everything in slow motion. I keep looking around me and I feel totally euphoric. I haven’t had much to drink but I feel free. I look back at him and back at the shot. I pour him another, all in slow motion. I hand him the shot and stare into his eyes as I take it. He is staring at me, too. Everything goes back to normal after I gulp down what, I think, tastes like nail polish remover. I set the glass down onto the table and grab his hand. I just met this kid. I don’t know him but I feel like I know everything about him. I drag him into the middle of where everyone is dancing. We start to go along with everyone else. We are jumping and smiling and laughing. I feel so good. Why can’t I escape like this all the time? I wish life felt like this more. I push my now long hair out of my face. I don’t know why I am having such a great time. I am allowing myself to have fun and not thinking about the events that clouded my mind for about two years. It still puts me in utter brain fog but that fog cleared, for a split second at least. My dad’s death was like a constant state of rain over my mental and physical health. I am trying to grow and learn from the sh*tty mistakes I make but when I am constantly depriving myself of serotonin and dopamine, I lose sight of who I am. I need time to be a teenager and escape from my junk yard state of mind. 

The night ends at around 2:30, I think. I wasn’t too out of it from the liquids I consumed, same with Tucker. From what I remember, we walked back to my house in the freezing cold. He drove his car to the party so he ended up just staying at my house and picking up his car in the morning. We got to my house and tried to stay as quiet as possible. We walked up the stairs, both yawning and finally got to my room. We stood in the doorway and looked into my bedroom. There was one bed. I was looking at him but as soon as he turned towards me, I looked away. I grabbed his blankets from the cupboard next to my room and set them on the floor. I was so exhausted and smelt like peppermint, tropical fruit, and cleaning products. I laid the blankets on the floor and gave him the pillow I usually sleep on. He kicks off his torn up converse, just like my dads. I fall onto the bed and close my eyes. My costume is still on. My makeup is rubbed all over my face and my hair is frizzy and knotted. I pretend to fall asleep and can sense a pair of eyeballs following me up and down. I ignore it. I hear him hop down onto the floor and there is an awkward silence. Should he be on my bed with me, should I be on the floor, should he go home? I open my eyes and take a deep breath. I take off my transparent coat that was part of my Patrick Bateman costume and fling it onto the floor. I take off my shoes and toss them to the side. I open the covers of my bed and we stare at each other. The staring is so intense for some reason. Who would think eye contact at 3:00 in the morning would pull your heart strings so tight, you feel like you are suffocating. Why do I feel such a deep compassion for a boy I just met a couple hours ago? Why does a brown floppy haired, skinny boy leave me feeling absolutely lost but found at the same time? There are so many questions, too many that can’t be answered at 3:05 in the morning. I hop into my bed and pull the covers up to my nose. My eyes are open. I think his eyes were, too. 

Chapter 11

Life, officially, moved on. I graduated high school and moved to California for my next four years. That was an exciting time. I lived in crappy dorms, had 4 room mates who all kinda sucked, I lived by myself, lived with a cat, moved a few times, then finally found an apartment in downtown LA in the Arts District. I graduated with a major in psychology and a minor in sociology. College was the time I figured myself out and started to grow out of the rut that I was in because of my father. Tucker and I had a falling out when we both moved to separate coasts. Same with Louise, she got into Harvard and now lives in New York as a lawyer. One day, I got a text from Tucker. I was confused but also happy to rekindle an old friendship. He said he moved to California for a job opportunity and wanted to catch up. I said yes, obviously. We met up that night and a year later, we moved in together. I know highschool sweethearts can be kinda off putting, but at least we both have a cool apartment and drink expensive coffee. He moved into my apartment and we decorated it with vintage furniture and old movie posters that hang on the walls. After a while of figuring out each other, I found out Tucker also has one parent and his mother died when he was just entering highschool. He knows about my dad, too. Both of our parents still live in Arizona so we take a road trip every other weekend to go check in with them. Johnny is in the middle of his highschool career and my mom is still in full time parenting mode. I have such a bigger appreciation for my mom. After all that happened, we have been through so much and she continued to be a mom to Johnny and me. She never gave up and I love her for that. So, it all worked out. Some days are better than others but that's how life goes. I know my dad is proud of me. I know, wherever he is, he can see that my wings are flapping harder and harder each day. He lost his own personal battle, but I am still battling for myself, for my mom, for Tucker, for Johnny, and, of course, for him. I still don’t know what kind of girl I am, but my heart is full of love. 

I love you,


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