The other side

Sydney Wargo

When I was first pulled out of math class by my guidance counselor, I thought I was in trouble. I went through every moment of the past week in my head, searching for a moment in which I had done something wrong. Was it because I forgot to bring the hall pass when I used the bathroom on Monday, or on Wednesday when the librarian scolded me and my friend for talking during study hall? Maybe it was because I kissed my boyfriend Flynn in the hallway, but my school had never been strict about PDA before. Looking back, I couldn’t think of one thing I did worthy of punishment.

I knew something was wrong when my mom was waiting for me in the principal’s office.

My mom couldn’t even tell me the news herself. She was is a state of absolute shock. She had the goddamn principal explain it for her.

I didn’t feel anything when Mr. Smith told me. I didn’t feel anything as my mom frantically drove to the hospital. I didn’t feel anything when I tripped on the stairs leading up to the ICU entrance, and hit my forehead on the cold concrete. I didn’t feel anything as the doctor explained to us my brother had overdosed on sleeping pills in an attempt to kill himself. I didn’t even feel anything as I sat down beside my brother, lying in a hospital bed, with an oxygen mask covering his face and a million tubes sticking out of him. It was as if my brain was put on pause; I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t feel. I was an empty shell of a human.

It hit me later that night, after my mom sent me back home and I was laying in my bed trying to fall asleep. My brother tried to commit suicide. My brother was in a coma and we didn’t know if or when he was going to wake up.

My mother told me in the hospital, “God has a plan for us. This has all happened for a reason, a way for us to become closer to God. He will guide us through our pain.”

In that moment, I knew God wasn’t real. No God would ever put my family through this. How could a nearly dead brother bring me closer to God? After 16 years of faith, I couldn’t have much faith anymore.

After a night of no sleep, I forced myself to get out of bed. I straightened my hair as usual, put in my contacts, covered the scratch on my face with makeup, and pulled together a sensible outfit. My mother was acting as if nothing had happened, and that everything was fine. She wore her rosary around her neck, and was constantly muttering to herself. Prayers, I assume. I knew that she was praying to nobody, but I didn’t say anything.

Meanwhile, my father was passed out in the living room on the couch. He was still wearing his clothes from the day before, suit and tie and all. An empty bottle of vodka sat beside him on the floor. I’ve never seen him like this before; my father was a businessman, and was always put together, clean, proper, firm, and emotionless. But his current state barely phased me. I couldn’t blame him for drinking the world away.

“Oh, come on Christopher. You know I hate it when you wear your shoes inside the house,” mom said to my unconscious father.

She took of his shoes for him, like a child who couldn’t untie his shoelaces. She continued to rant about all the sh*t his shoes had touched on the street, as if he was awake and listening to her. I walked out of the house without saying goodbye.

“Wait, Effy, you haven’t had any breakfast yet!” My mother shouted from the front porch.

I pretended I didn’t hear her.

First period, chemistry. I had this class with Flynn, which was excruciatingly painful. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone, but I couldn’t let him suspect that anything was wrong.

“Hey babe, where were you this morning?” Flynn asked as I sat down next to him. “We always meet before school when we have first period together.”

Mustering the remaining energy in my body, I turned to him and smiled.

“Oh my god Flynn, I’m so sorry, I totally overslept this morning. Next time, yeah?” I gave him a quick peck on the cheek. Before he could respond, Ms. Adams was suddenly hovering over me.

“Ms. Leitner, your homework?” Ms. Adams asked.

Sh*t. I hadn’t done any of my homework last night. I was at the hospital until 11:00 P.M.

“Oh, uh, I-”

I had never had to make an excuse for missing homework before.

“…just, forgot. To do it.”

Ms. Adams gave me a sympathetic smile. I think she knows about what’s happened, all my teachers probably do.

“Just turn it in when you can, okay?” She moved on to checking Flynn’s homework, then left our table.

“Woah, what was that about?” Flynn asked.

“What was what about?” I avoided his eyes and pretended to look through my backpack.

“Oh, I, just-” he mocked. “When have you ever missed an assignment? That was the worst excuse I’ve ever heard. And Ms. Adams totally just let it slide!”

“It wasn’t an excuse. I really did forget that we had chem homework, okay?” I said defensively.

“First you overslept, now you’re forgetting to do your homework, next thing I know, you’ll be skipping class. What is up with you babe?”

“Nothing is up with me, Flynn, it’s just one of those days,” I paused for a moment. “And I would never skip class.”

Flynn laughed. I forced a smile.

The morning passed in a blur. I felt as if my body was awake, but my brain wasn’t. My legs took me to my classes, my hands jotted down notes, my mouth formed words when needed, but my head was somewhere else. I kept replaying yesterday in my mind; Mr. Whitaker telling me what happened, my body going numb as the meaningless words spilled out of his mouth. Sitting in the backseat of my mom’s car, not being able to hear her praying, but being able to see her lips move as she clutched her rosary. Not feeling the skin on my forehead split as my head smashed into the stairs. Not being able to recognize my brother’s lifeless body. Not being able to do anything. I could feel nothing that day. I wish I could feel nothing again. I don’t want to feel, I don’t want to think, I don’t want to speak, I just want everything to disappear.

“Earth to Effy!” I felt someone’s hand collide with my cheek, their fingers grazing the fresh scar on my temple, bringing me back to reality.

“Yeah?” I jolted my head towards my friend Tazsha, who I was apparently sitting next to. I suddenly became aware of my surroundings. When did I end up in the cafeteria?

“Girl, are you good? You haven’t said a word. You weren’t even blinking. Are you possessed or something?”

Why does her voice sound so loud?

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Just thinking.”


“About… homework. I have a lot to get done.”

“Little goody-two-shoes forgot to do her chem homework.”

My body flinched at the sound of Flynn’s voice, who I had just realized was also sitting next to me. I jerked my waist as Flynn attempted to wrap his arm around it. He pulled back at my reaction.

“Jesus, what the hell is wrong with you today? First this morning, now this?”

“You just startled me, that’s all,” I said.

“What happened this morning?” Tazsha jumped in.

“Effy ‘forgot’ to meet me before class, and she was acting all weird in chem. She didn’t even do her homework.”

“Wait, she didn’t do her homework? Who are you and what have you done with Effy Leitner?”

“Maybe you’re right, about her being possessed. She’s sure acting like it.”

I stood up, accidently knocking over an empty soda can on the table.

“I’m going to the bathroom,” I announced.

Without giving Tazsha or Flynn the chance to say anything, I grabbed my backpack and walked off.

The only thing I could do was run. I ran through the hallway, down the staircase, and out the front entrance. I had no idea where I was going, or why I was running. I had no control over my body. My legs were moving on their own. My mind wouldn’t let itself think. If I wanted to stop, I knew I wouldn’t be able to. I was like a plane on autopilot that was going to crash, and the pilots couldn’t do anything about it. All they could do was wait for their inevitable death.

After running down the road for some time, and then into the woods, my body gave up. I collapsed onto the ground. The wind was completely knocked out of me. I kept trying to catch my breath, but no air could enter my body. I lifted myself up on all fours and dry heaved, but couldn’t vomit because I hadn’t eaten for over a day. The pain from running for what must have been miles caught up to me; my feet were sore, my legs were shaking, a sharp pain stabbed me in my ribcage, and my heart felt as if it was going to explode out of my chest. I forced myself to sit up, with my back being supported by a tree. I had somehow managed to keep my backpack the whole time, so I took it off and rummaged through it for a water bottle. The cold water soothed my dry throat, and I drank the whole thing in under ten seconds. I closed my eyes and leaned back against the tree. I could finally breathe. I let the darkness consume me. It filled up my mind, taking up all the space that was once used by my thoughts. I didn’t have to think or feel anymore. It was just what I wanted.

When I opened my eyes, I could see the stars.

Sh*t. I must have fallen asleep. I thrusted myself forward and stood up. How long was I out? My parents are going to kill me. I felt for my phone, and found it in my back pocket. When I turned on my phone, I instantly started to panic. It was 10:15 P.M. I must’ve been asleep for at least nine hours. How was I going to get home from here? I would call someone, but there was no signal. I attempted to retrace my steps, and about 30 minutes later, I found myself on the edge of a road. I pulled out my phone and dialled 911.

“I need help. I’m lost and I need to get home.”

The police were able to track me, and a police officer eventually came to pick me up. I had never been in a cop car before. My mom was waiting for me on the front porch when I got home.

“Elizabeth Adeline Leitner! You had me worried sick! When you didn’t come home from school, I assumed you were with Flynn. When I called him, he told me you had left to go to the bathroom during lunch, and never came back! I was even more shocked to find out you hadn’t told him about your brother!”

“Wait, you told him about Simon? Why would you do that?”

“Why wouldn’t you do that?”

“I… I don’t know. I just couldn’t.”

“Well, that’s not the point. The point is is that you skipped school and ran off to God knows where!”

I’ve never heard her use God’s name in vain before.

“I thought that you had ran away, or been kidnapped, or…” she didn’t have to say it. I knew what she was thinking. Killed myself.

“I would never do that, Mom,” I whispered.

“I’ve already lost your brother, your father hasn’t done anything but sleep and drink all day, meanwhile I’ve been talking to doctors and filling out paperwork, and you…” she paused. “I can’t lose you, too.”

“You haven’t lost me, you haven’t lost anyone! Everything is going to be fine! Simon is going to be fine. He’s going to be fine, okay? He’s going to wake up, and when he does dad will get over drinking, and everything will go back to normal. Okay?”

“It’s not that simple, sweetie.”

“Well, it’s going to be! It has to be.”

My mom and I stared at each other. We were both crying. My mother was always so put together. She was always perfect and pretty and clean, the epitome of a housewife. Now, she was disheveled and tired. I could see the tiredness in her eyes. How did things get so f*cked up?

“Mommy…” I said softly.

I ran into my mother’s arms and wrapped myself around her. I cried into her shoulder, letting her shirt soak up my tears.

“I need to see Simon,” I whispered.

“It’s past midnight, sweetie.”

“I have to see him.”

“You can see him first thing tomorrow.”

“I have to see him now.”


“Mommy, please,” I squeezed my eyes shut.

“Get your jacket on.”

After a silent 30 minute drive, we arrived at the hospital. We went into the ICU, which was still busy at one o’clock in the morning. The doctor explained to us there were still no changes in his condition, but I didn’t bother listening to all the medical terms he was throwing at us. I just wanted to see my brother.

“I’m gonna go down to the cafeteria to get some coffee,” my mom told me once we settled down in my brothers room. “I won’t be gone long.” I nodded and she left the room.

I pulled up a chair next to my brother’s bed. I took his limp hand that had an I.V. sticking out of it in mine.

“You won’t believe the day I had, Simon,” I chuckled nervously. I wonder if he could hear me.

“Dad is totally out of it, drinking and sh*t. I doubt he’s gotten off the couch all day. Mom’s gone a bit crazy, and has been acting like everything is normal. But it’s not, obviously. Everything is f*cked up. School was sh*t. I didn’t tell anyone about you. How do I tell my friends that? ‘Oh, hey, by the way my brother tried to kill himself and now he’s in a coma and we don’t know if he’ll wake up’? I don’t know. Maybe I should’ve told them. I mean, they know now, but only because Mom told Flynn, and I assume he’s told everyone. About that, during lunch I left school. I know, right? I didn’t expect that from me either.”

I was talking as if he was responding to me. Maybe he was, in his head.

“I couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t handle being there. It was just too much. Long story short, I kind of ended up running away, falling asleep in the woods, waking up 9 hours later, and calling the police because I was lost. I’ll explain it to you more when you wake up.”

I gulped.

“Because, well, you have to wake up, Simon. You need to wake up. We need you, more than you’ll ever know. You’ve been gone for a day, and things have never been more messed up. We’re all messed up without you.”

I closed my eyes.

“Please, Simon. I know you might not want to right now, but I promise you’ll regret it if you don’t. I know you can hear me. I mean, I don’t actually know, but I have faith that you do. More faith than I’ve ever had for anything.”

I’m not sure why I was whispering. Maybe because I only want him to hear what I’m saying.

“I love you so much, Simon. Please.”

I’m not sure what I was expecting. For him to magically wake up, just because I told him to? I opened my eyes and let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding.

When I loosened my grip on his hand, his tightened.