The Last Way Out

This fictional narrative is based on the real-life story of Jeremy Delle.

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By Jeremy Styron

… By the time you get this letter I will have blown my head off, aka suicide, better known as (last way out). … I was just writing to see if you wanted to go to the funeral. … At least you didn’t have to hear the boom. — Jeremy Delle

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They resembled specters swirling and then fading into the howling winter air. Tufts from her labored breaths followed behind as she carried her frame deep into the heart of the Rocky Oaks Cemetery just west of town.

Rainwater pushed through her plastic frames, darted her eyelashes and blurred her vision. She blinked, pulled at her coat, and then peered up the grassy knoll to the resting place of hundreds of once-living, laughing souls lying in wait for friends and relatives to visit. Entire lives here were reduced to fragments, a few words here and there, or at most, a sentence, in long-forgotten epitaphs.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. — Revelation 21:4,” was etched into one stone.

Sarah quickly made her way toward another.

Armies of drops exploded against the cold stone of another: “Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death! — Virginia Woolf.”

And on his, only this: “O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.- Thomas Wolfe”

She cast her own round, petal bright eyes across the heavy air of the cemetery, the streetlights creating orange halos in the translucence, and then down to his now 12-month home. She crouched and ran her fingers over his soaked name and sounded out the letters.

She stayed with him 15 minutes before finally whispering:

“Silly Boy,” addressing Jeffrey by a school nickname, her tears mixed with those from above. “Where are you now, Jeff? You know how it goes, right? Remember? We used to sing this by the lake together.”

She would never forget the lyrics:

Pussy willow that smiled on this leaf. When I was alone, you promised the stone from your heart. My head kissed the ground. I was half the way down …

She paused, barely able to sound out the rest.

Won’t you miss me? Wouldn’t you miss me at all?

“Well, wherever you are, I hope you are happier than you were here. I’m sorry for all they didn’t do … for all we didn’t … for all I … But we had some good times, didn’t we, you and I?”

Her tiny mouth formed a half smile.

“Don’t you remember how we would ditch school and go down to the 7-Eleven on Campbell Street and get slushies? Anyway, I just wanted to come here tonight, one year after … well, you know … to wish you happy Valentine’s. It’s today, ya know? If you would have stuck around, I was planning to bring you a card after school. Did ya know that, Jeff? I just needed more … time. Bobby and I didn’t stay together long. But it’s over now. If you can hear this, just know that not everyone hated you. They maybe thought you were quiet or strange or whatever, but as for me, I wasn’t afraid to call you my friend, and I’ve prayed and thought about you ever since.

“I will always remember our time together. I’ve still got your journal, too. It sits by my bed stand. But I’ve gotta go. My parents are probably wondering where I am.

“Write back, OK. … someday?”

Her thin, pale legs rose against the night. She breathed slowly and hid her hands in her pockets. Looking out among in the field covered in iron, grass, and granite, she thought of that Tuesday morning and shut her eyes. The precipitation had now turned to ice on that rare, frosty day in Richardson, a rural town just north of Dallas, Texas. She listened and tried to empty her mind of everything but of that moment, there with him, far removed from that day, exactly one year ago, when darkness gushed down his spine.

“Write back,” she said again, turning back down the hill toward the halos that burned through the fog and mist.

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Trevor and Blair

By Jeremy Styron

Vapors rose, stinging his palm as he grasped the lip of the coffee mug with his left hand and slowly spun it in fourth-turn increments. His right hand hovered over a notepad. She, with her small hands and sharp, blue eyes hung there in his mind, weightless, her straight, dark hair falling over a black trench coat. White flakes trickled down from the ether and rested in contrast on her shoulders.

“My dear Blair,” he scribbled in a type that would have been readable only to himself.

He shook his head, while the sound of ripped and crumpled paper crackled through Mama Green’s, a tiny, grease spot, family-owned diner on the corner of Main and Pine in that suburban desert of Glennville.

A fresh sheet soon revealed these words: “Red wine and sleeping pills help me get back to your arms.” He dried the steam from his hand and cupped his head there, remembering the rest of the Radiohead song that dragged him through many scattershot nights.

He choked his pen and continued: “Stop sending letters. Letters always get …”

“Can I top that off for you, sir?” interrupted a waitress as she was making the rounds with a full pot of the sobering, gut-warming goo. He glanced up at her name tag, giving him pause.

“Sure, thank you, Angel,” he said. “I’m ready for the check too, just whenever you get a second. No hurry.”

“Yes, sir. Right back.”

He continued, searching his memory for something … anything. He lifted his pen, turned the pad sideways, and in quick movements, pressed down on the yellow surface, his hand tremoring across the page. “All that’s sacred comes from youth,” he wrote perpendicularly to the computer-rendered, blue lines of the pad as memories returned of a girl dancing in front of him on a cold, snow-lit day.

Trevor took a sip of the sugarless, creamless drink. He always imagined it had been mixed by equal parts water, coffee grounds, and cigarette ash, for it tasted more like a product of Marlboro Country than of Brazil or Colombia. He scanned the restaurant from the upper tip of his round, wire frames. The wood-paneled walls led up to a water-damaged ceiling and down to a cold, white-tiled floor. Scents of breakfast hung in the air, as the lunchtime crowd numbered about 20, mostly hobbled seniors and construction workers seeking the breakfast they missed five hours ago. Four 50-something men were seated on benches at the bar, watching two cooks crank out meals as if on some Detroit assembly line.

“Tammy, you’re up!” Trevor heard from one of them, as he put the once full plate of pattied sausage, fried eggs, and hash browns to the side.

Despite the decayed environs, Trevor felt as if this was the warm center to which he could daily come. This was home. Not his wall-papered, carpeted, dirty-clothes strewn apartment on the north side of town, but in this place. It was here, at the center, where he could listen to songs that made him fall away from this seemingly mindless glob of planets, stars, and people without distraction. He didn’t need the help of an MP3 player; the songs in full would come roaring whenever he summoned them from the ever-present tape deck of his soul.

“Here’s your check, sir,” Angel told him.

“Thanks.”

As he grabbed his brown, corduroy jacket and scooted out of the booth, Ravel’s “Bolero” pushed through his cell phone speaker into the restaurant.

Pausing a few seconds to listen to the soaring march, Trevor finally answered. The voice on the other end said, “Hey, man. We need you to cover something. We’ve got a bus wreck on Sprucewood near the mall. Apparently, a class of middle schoolers were on their way back from a field trip to the courthouse, and a TrailBlazer pulled out in front of them. The driver of the SUV was intoxicated, according to the report.”

“Alright, I’ve got the camera in the car, so I’ll head over there,” Trevor replied.

“Sounds good,” answered Stephen Lambert, managing editor of The Glenville Post.

It was a chilling, overcast, and windless Monday afternoon.

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