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Tell Me

By Rebecca Higgins From Issue No. 8

“Standing in front of a train to kill yourself is selfish,” my dad tells me. His friend, a train conductor, was going sixty miles per hour when he saw someone standing on the tracks. Pulling the brakes, the wheel screeched beneath him. It would take a mile to stop. Too far. “All you can do is lay on the horn and close your eyes.”

“When you were a baby, you’d cry louder if I held you,” my dad tells me. Later, my mom tells me that he had to wait until I was asleep to hold me.

“If someone is attacking you and you get them on the ground, stomp on their neck and run away,” my dad tells me. “They aren’t going to get up, but you don’t want to hear the sounds they’ll make after you crush their windpipe.”

“Be more careful,” my dad tells me. He saw the parallel lines on my arm. I tell him about a board with staples cutting me. I lied.

“Mass shooters that shoot themselves afterward should’ve just shot themselves,” my dad tells me. “Save the ammunition.”

“Give me your arm,” my dad tells me. I pull up my sleeve and reach my arm out. He cradles my arm, looking at the cuts. He holds me and cries.

“If someone is ever bothering you at a store, yell, ‘Dad,’” my dad tells me. “Even if I’m not there, another dad will come and help you.”

“You can see the union’s therapist for free,” my dad tells me. “I can take you.”

“Get whatever you want,” my dad tells me. I smile and fill up the cart at Trader Joe’s. “As long as you eat it.”

“Here is my work email,” my dad tells me. “If there’s something you don’t want to tell me in person, you can say it there. I won’t tell anyone.”

“You don’t have to be nice,” my dad tells me. “If someone is bothering you, you can stand up for yourself.”

“I will drive you to the therapy appointment,” my dad tells me. “But we have to go an hour early to drop off aluminum. Then I don’t have to lie to your mother and sister about where we were.”

“You might as well live under a bridge,” my dad tells me. I just told him about my plan to study creative writing. “Save your money.”

“I can be here in eight hours if you need me,” my dad tells me. We used command hooks to hang Christmas lights and now it’s time for him to leave me at college. “I just need an hour to tell work that I won’t be there and get a bag at home. If you don’t want mom to know, I’ll just tell her I’ll be out of town for a couple days and that I’m not cheating on her.”

“If someone’s following you, go to a house with toys in the yard,” my dad tells me. “That means they have kids. You should be safe there.”

“Your mother told me that you are taking antidepressants,” my dad tells me. “She needed to tell someone. Don’t be mad at her.”

“Killing yourself isn’t an option,” my dad tells me. Two of his coworkers’ kids committed suicide within a month of each other. He looks at me with drying tears. “You know that, right?”

“There are more side effects to your medication than just dry mouth,” my dad tells me. He says three weeks after the Parkland shooting. After he discovered that the shooter also took Zoloft.

“How are you doing?” my dad asks whenever it is just the two of us.

“I am still going,” I tell him. “Like a train.”

About Rebecca Higgins More From Issue No. 8