This story is by Sal Castro and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Tina Wooldridge gripped the sheets of her bed and covered her head. She tried to hide in the comfort of the partial darkness, but the solace was not as calm as she thought it would be. Her head was racing with thoughts – negative bullets that would not stop coming – and she tried to ignore them. But the more she tried, the worse it got. Frustrated, she pulled down the sheets.
“Dammit! Go away!” she screamed at nothing in the room. Her mind already knew what she would say, so it made no difference.
Tina angrily flipped the bedcovers back and scrambled out of bed. Coffee would help. As she was making the pot of coffee, she thought it would be a splendid idea to scald herself with the coffee. Maybe it would jar her, erasing the hostile ruminations, like electroshock therapy.
The world was a mess, and Tina was a part of that mess. Her mother had passed away just two months ago. The funeral was depressing enough, but the fight she had had with her sister, Mary, at the wake was worse. Tina had protested Mary’s eulogy. Mary had said their mother was a cold and difficult woman, but she loved her daughters. Tina didn’t agree with Mary, and had pulled her into mother’s old room at Mary’s house to argue about it. The argument had grown into shouting, and when Robert, Mary’s son, opened the door and inquired what was going on, Tina walked out, caught a cab to the airport and went home. That’s when she found out her cat, Mookie, was sick of a urinary tract infection. Visits to the vet had all but wiped out her bank account. She was terrified of getting evicted from her apartment, as her landlord had already threated to do if she was late one more time. She wasn’t sure where the money would come from. Maybe she could go live with her sister in Georgia, but then she would lose her job. She didn’t think Mary would take her in, anyway. She loved being a librarian, but it didn’t pay much. Living in New York was expensive. Still, it provided a living. She wasn’t sure if her sister’s town had a library or if there were jobs there.
And then there was Derrick, her ex-boyfriend. He called every day, begging her to take him back, professing his love for her. He asked for forgiveness and said he was stupid, an idiot, and he would never kiss Annalise Morgan again. Tina thought about his words, but she couldn’t get over the shock of walking into Graber’s Bar and seeing him sucking on Annalise’s face with a passion he had never displayed with her. Not even when they made love. He would rip her clothes off, get inside her, kiss her a few times (digging his tongue deep into her mouth, almost making her gag) and a few pumps later, he would roll over and sigh in contentment, as if it was the best sex ever. Tina never enjoyed it and after a few of those sessions she thought the relationship wasn’t going anywhere. Derrick was a good-looking guy, and he was gorgeous when he was naked and hard – his huge member scared the hell out of her the first time she saw it – and it hurt the first time, too. But she started practicing with a zucchini afterward and that seemed to help.
Then again, she was hurt by the betrayal not only from Derrick but Annalise, whom she thought was her very best friend in New York. They had met 3 years prior when Tina was hired at the library. Annalise was a library assistant, so she reported to all the librarians. She and Tina would gossip and giggle quietly about some of the librarians, who were weird in distinct ways. And then there was the pandemic. Everybody was getting sick and dying, and she was terrified of dying alone. So she stayed inside her apartment and only ventured out with a mask and gloves and a head covering, and only to the store for an item or two, which she promptly cleaned with alcohol after getting home. Then she washed her hands for at least an entire rendition of Happy Birthday. That song always made her sad. Her childhood was not a happy one.
The coffeemaker was done brewing. Tina went to get her coffee and again thought about scalding herself. But what if it got infected? Then she would have to go to the hospital! Heaven forbid! It was full of sick people and she would likely die of an infection there.
She turned on the TV. The old Phillips tube came on bright white, then dissolved to black, and she waited impatiently for it to come alive. First, the sound came on. She heard Desi talking to Lucy, and then, finally, with a garbled protest, the tube came alive. She watched I Love Lucy for the rest of the episode which ended 20 minutes later. She didn’t laugh at any of the jokes, but it seemed to have comforted her. But she was sad it was over. She turned off the TV when Leave It To Beaver came on. Stupid show.
She finished her coffee, then got up, undressed and went into the shower. She sighed as the hot water reassured her she was alive and healthy. She stood in the water until she felt the heat starting to go, and she grumbled as she turned the knob to make it hotter. The tiny water heater was one of the worst features of her apartment.
The phone rang as she got out of the shower. She let it ring, expecting it to stop after a few rings. But it kept ringing, and she knew it was Derrick. He would let it ring forever if she didn’t answer it. She picked up the receiver and said, “Derrick.”
Derrick, as usual, gave the same old speech about how much he loved her and was sorry and please take him back and–surprise!–he even mentioned how wonderful their sex life was, and doesn’t she miss it? Wouldn’t she like to feel his warm body against hers, his hard cock inside her, his lips on hers?
He finally paused, waiting for a response. Tina grimaced, then hung up.
The phone rung again. She decided not to answer. After about 12 rings, it stopped.
Tina put on a nightgown and strolled onto the tiny overhang that her apartment afforded. She looked down into the alley from her third story location and counted the pigeons. She watched one of them trying to copulate with another, and a fight ensued. She wondered if pigeons were capable of homosexuality? As she leaned on the rickety rail of the patio, she considered falling from it. Why not end it all? It would be quick. She would strike her head onto the pavement covered with pigeon droppings and be at peace. Tina knew few people would grieve for her. She had few friends and little family. She supposed Derrick would miss her most. Good! Mary would probably say good riddance, and her aunt Mabel probably wouldn’t even remember who she was. The dementia was becoming obvious. So why not jump? She was sick of this world.
She decided to write a suicide note, first. She wasn’t sure why, but she felt it was necessary. She sat down at the tiny round metal kitchen table–a relic from the 60’s she had found at a garage sale–and started writing.
“To whom it may concern…”
She couldn’t find the words. Tina tapped her fingers furiously on the table and twirled the pen nervously. She tried to relax her jaw, which had clenched shut. She thought, I should just run from here and jump over the damned rail now! But she picked up the pen again…
“I don’t think I’m very useful in this world. Nobody really cares if I’m here or not. Just cremate me. I really don’t care, and since I’m dead, why should you? Just don’t bury me in the ground so worms can eat me. I don’t need a funeral. I would appreciate any prayers, but only if you truly feel the need to do so. To Mary: I’m sorry for the spat we had. You were probably right about Mom, but I didn’t see it that way. To Derrick, screw you, asshole. You broke my heart. I never want to see you again! Annalise, screw you, too, so-called BFF! And to the people of New York: I am grateful that you offered me a job at your library and that I could get my own apartment. To whoever reads this: it is really nobody’s fault that I took my life. I’m just so tired and lonely and I don’t feel the need to live anymore Goodbye, cruel world!”
Tina chuckled as she wrote the last three words. Then she ran to the patio and jumped.