16 year old Sophia Brooks has just lost her father. She's in therapy for depression and doesn't talk to her mom anymore since her dad's death. But when she leaves her notebook in class after having an emotional breakdown everything changes. Her boyfriend Derek distances himself from her and a mysterious boy dubbing himself "A.Q." writes back to her in her journal. Will Sophia get over her depression? Will she find out A.Q.'s true identity? Will love blossom between the two?


6. Entry Six


                I think I love you. No, I’m kidding. I can’t love you. So you work at McDonald’s and your therapist’s name is Marilyn. Your father passed away and I’m guessing you have or had an older sister. Don’t mind me I’m just trying to creepily backtrack through your life. Your mom doesn’t talk to you and work is becoming too hard for you because of the grief, in fact, I’d gather that everything is becoming too hard because of the grief. And see this is where I come in and rescue you from your metaphorical early demise because the death of family members can kill you too. It’s like fucking bleeding to death slowly from multiple gunshot wounds, shit hurts, shit really fucking hurts. Don’t ask how I know that. Just know that gunshots really hurt and then don’t get shot. Promise me you won’t get shot? Okay? Okay.

                Now you’re going to be evaluated by PESS. I’ve been there. Basically it’s where you get screened or evaluated by a mental health professional or what they call a screener. You’ll be in a room and they’ll ask you questions you’ll lie to yourself about the answers to. They’ll ask if you hear voices in your head or if you see things that aren’t there or if you have outbursts or if you’ve ever engaged in self harm. You’ll say yes to the last one because you do and I know that because I’ve seen the marks and I’ve done it before myself. But you knew that, I told you that last time. Anyway don’t be scared because they’re there to help you get better. They’ll probably get you admitted to an inpatient facility where you’ll stay for a few days where they can give you a cocktail of pills until they find a combo that stabilizes your mood. Listen to me sounding like a professional doctor right? I sound like I’m ready to give you a prescription for some good meds.

                Don’t be scared. Because who knows maybe I’ll be there with you, you never know. Anyway I’m going to go now. Shopping calls as does the duty of being a respectful and loyal worker. It’s a double sided role: consumer and employee. It’s weird being on both sides of that spectrum right? Doesn’t it weird you out when you order fast food and you like know the way fast food is made so you just stand there rattling off the ways they prepare the burgers and reheat the fries in old oil? Doesn’t that gross you out and turn you off cause it’s like you’ve been where the fryers are where the ovens are and you know that that apple pie for example isn’t REAL or authentic apple pie? Or like remember when they used to make those chicken nuggets out of nasty masticated looking pink goo?

                That’s got to be weird. So you met Amaya. She says you’re very nice but clearly very troubled. I correspond with her on a daily basis in case you’re wondering. She’s a good friend of mine. And no you’re never getting this old notebook back so I suppose it’s good you went about purchasing another one. I like to steal things on occasion. Boy I’m in a good mood today. Better than I’ve felt in months. So anyway we totally need to meet: get some ice cream, make out, get to know each other better, date, have sex, get married, have kids, grow old together. I don’t know you but I think I like you.


                I’m evaluated by PESS. Mom carries me after she finds me bleeding again. I’d carved words into my wrists and lain in the bathtub without the water running. I was tired of trying. I hardly turned in homework anymore and ignored Nick’s calls s he gave up on me. I hadn’t called my psych doc to refill my medication at the pharmacy for me. I was done with everything, done with life really.

                The kids have gotten more vicious. They’ve taken to shoving me into lockers. One time my nose felt like it had busted open and splattered blood down my front. Mom had to take me to the ER to get stitches and such. The bones in my nose would never reform the same way. I’d have to get it reset a few more times to get it to resemble the original.

                 I was sleeping on a cot with restraints attached to the bottom.

                Hours earlier, mom and I had a wordless drive. All you could hear was the quiet blaring of Nirvana from the FM station on the radio. Mom put it on for me. She honestly loved me and I knew she did but how did you access that in the absence from a parent’s death? How do you forgive someone for pulling the life support plug off of your father? You knew he was dying because he never talked anymore and only responded with bloody coughs. You knew he was dying because the radiation that had caused clumps of his hair to fall out in the shower couldn’t combat the metastasized cancer. It had spread too far and too fast they’d said.

                It wasn’t enough to lose you years before Edith. We had to lose dad too.

                In the wee hours of the morning I was finally evaluated by a screener. A halo of light spilled across my bedroom as the woman intruded what had become my odd personal space. I’d taken to watching Courage the Cowardly Dog reruns. She asked me if I’d been evaluated before and I said no just hospitalized for a suicide attempt. I told her I was a cutter and that I’d tried to slit my wrists but had failed, how I’d went across the street instead of down it. She said nothing to that but continued on. She said she would ask me a series of odd questions for the sake of evaluation and asked if I experienced symptoms of psychosis. I said no partly because I knew I didn’t hallucinate and hear voices and partly because even if I did I’d be too embarrassed to admit it to her.

                She seemed “grandmother nice,” like she’d invite me to her house to bake cookies and she’d stuff me full of snicker doodles and she seemed like she knew what she was doing. She wasn’t my stupid school counselor who was vapid and boring. She went through the series of questions almost robotically and I picked at my nails and thought about school and the friends I didn’t have and how the friends I did have could only be counted on one hand. I thought about how sad and dismal my life was since you and dad left. I thought of you taking your last smoke of crack. I thought of you guzzling down alcohol like water. I thought of crying at your funeral.

                And then I was sleeping and the screener had told me hours before that she needed me to sign some documentations and waivers and I did. I signed on those dotted lines like my life depended on it. I did it for you and a semblance of me did it for dad because he wouldn’t want to live knowing he’d lose me too. He wouldn’t want to lose another daughter too. I tossed and turned on the cot and slept restlessly. I thought of Amaya and wondered if I’d see her and A.Q. there—at the place they’d send me to with their magical pens and markers where they’d color me better. I thought of that and then drifted off to sleep.

                You were the first face I saw: glimmering auburn hair in streams and bright haloes of light. You were treading water and then you were diving. You were immersed in cool liquid, water pooling around your lithely form and you were fucking beautiful. You were swimming out to sea and I was calling you “Edith!” “Edith!” until my voice rang across the expanse of blue, blue water. But you never turned around. You never heard me and I kept calling. Until I lost the sound of my own pining voice and until you became a mere speck in the blueness of the sea. I watched you swim to that bottle green land covered in moss and foliage. You were the only face I saw. Dad didn’t come until later, pulling me back from you, pulling me back from the endless pool of water. It was infinite and stretched on forever and kissed and greeted the horizon.

                When I woke up my fingers were bleeding.

                I rummaged around in my sheets but came up empty-handed. My journal was gone. I wanted to scribble on the walls like other mental patients had before me. But there was nothing but my quick-bitten nails and I wasn’t eager to lose more blood and gain more cuts. So I sat and I reflected on your funeral, the lowering of your maple wood casket, the pallor of your skin, the mole near your lip. And I was crying when the nurse came in with my tray of food and she asked what was wrong and I started screaming that I didn’t know repeatedly. That I wanted you and dad back and I kept crying and that crying turned into sobs that racked my whole body and I swear I felt that pain clench heavily at my heart Edith I swear. I couldn’t eat so I didn’t. I just stared at the plain white walls and glanced down at the blood dried on my nails. I knew Nick had blown up my phone and called a myriad of times and I knew Devin had asked about me because Devin adored me but he didn’t know how broken I saw. How fractured and splintered I was and how I was like kindling being fed into the fire. Only you knew and you were gone and I’d never get to sit cross legged on your bed and tell you that. 

{A.Q.} September 27, 2013

“My voice is made of paper, my lungs made of ash, my bones made of wood, my heart made of glass.” Have you ever heard of it? It’s by one of my favorite poets. It really speaks to the fragility of mental illness. Which I think you definitely have. And that’s okay I won’t judge you because it’s something I suffer from. I’ve went through the same thing. I’ve went through the bullying. I’ve been teased relentlessly. I used to be fat you know, over 250 lb. I used to shovel food into my mouth. I used to eat more than three meals a day, gargantuan proportions. I used to eat foods like mashed potatoes with ketchup (don’t judge me, it was delicious at the time OK?) and green beans and fried chicken and ice cream and popsicles and every other unhealthy food you could think of.

Shortly after dad died it all went to shit.

My mom is a nurse. She had to work doubles. She used to work just nights before dad died. When dad was a paper pusher in a tiny 10x10 looking cubicle in an office on Wall Street. When dad was crunching numbers and hollering curses at people for fucking up their tax returns. Okay, not really my dad was a very even-tempered guy, very even-keeled. I’m the one you worry about because I’m not him. I don’t have an even temper. I’m not even-keeled. I’m not calm. I will blow up bombastically and throw a fit and have a torrential tantrum and punch holes into the wall until my fists are bloody and I have. I definitely have, after the 5am binges and the SpongeBob marathons and the drunken texts to ex-girlfriends and the—you’re not following me are you? Have I lost you? I tend to ramble, sorry.

I digress.

I hate seeing mom have to go honestly but I had to step up and be the man of the house. In a lot of respects I still am. I still string up the Christmas lights around Thanksgiving because mom likes it that way. I still run out and do her grocery shopping even if my fingers are numb from the brisk fucking cold weather in the frigidity of December. I still make sure she gets to her doctor’s appointments and drive her to work when she’s nervous about ice on the roads. Or when she’s nervous about the slippery risk of hydroplaning due to torrential downpours. I still care and love her and that’s a hard pill to swallow because on the same token sometimes I hate her and it’s something I’ve expressed to Amaya plenty of times.

Amaya and I are close. We even dated once before she found it she was gay and I was okay with that and I remember kissing her on the cheek and getting her eyelash on my mouth and I remember not feeling anything at all but everything at once. Does that make sense? Like I loved her like a brother loves a sister, I loved her in that deep, powerful platonic, familial way. I loved her in that blood-is-thicker-than-water, cut-my-heart-out-if-she-dies kind of way. We’re close like we smoke weed together, get high, and philosophically bullshit and do PowerPoint presentations until 5 am in the morning close. Like she’s seen me skateboard off of railings, break my nose, and get up like it was nothing because I was high off of cocaine close. Like one time in fourth grade I came home with a busted lip and broken nose and fractured ribs splintered like firewood and she was the first one to call the ER to get me all tidied up and clean-like close.

Amaya is my best friend so I don’t want you fucking judging her. Last person who judged her almost got put into a coma by me. I suppose you should know that I’m not someone to fuck around with. I can be witty and sarcastic and generally affable but the moment someone fucks with Amaya it’s like they wrench out my soul and they twist my limbs and they pop out and dislocate joints and addle my brain and everything goes left field and right field all at once and nothing makes sense. It’s like they play with my emotions and toy with me and that gets me angry. People judging my mother also gets me angry but that’s for another time. What’s your mother like? What was she like before your father died? You know, I haven’t seen you come to class for a few days now and I’m getting worried. Are you OK? Did something happen? Amaya should’ve given you her number. Did she? If she didn’t I’m going to suggest that she does.

Did you know that I’m in therapy? Yeah, I’m in therapy. Anyway I hope you get better. I don’t know you that well but I want to get to know you more. I’m going to leave this notebook in the library and I hope you find it. I hope you write back. I hope you tell me about your mom and your extended family and your father and I’ll tell you about mine and we can reminisce about what it was like before the cavernous loss and the emptiness, before everything went to shit, before we woke up and the world ate us whole and spat us out. People don’t get us. People don’t understand what it’s like to lose and lose and to be the one lost and to not have a metaphorical Hansel and Gretel trail to follow, no breadcrumbs to guide you back home. But sometimes you don’t even want to go back home because mom just reminds you of the fucking bills that need to be paid. Water and electricity and internet and phone bills and the mortgage needing to be paid and the debt needing to be paid off and the credit score needing to be righted because she over drafted again because she couldn’t contain her grief.

My mom overspends sometimes so another thing I have to do is budget: budget meals, budget clothes shopping, sometimes I go shopping with her to ensure she doesn’t purchase out of grief. Because sometimes she’ll buy the same thing twice. And one time we had a room full of crock pots and silverware and Tupperware and they were covered in films of dust because they hadn’t been used and some of them were in boxes and some of them were unopened. And Amaya and Mikhail whose another friend of mine that I’m really close to in that familial brotherly sort of way, went to my house and we cleared all the shit out. Mom was screaming at me and there were old photos of dad and me in the room and they were in boxes and she had countless photo albums and still does and she’s screaming to not fucking throw away the photo albums because those are piece of him and us and our family. And there are photos of me and him and my deceased grandfather who was a chain-smoking Italian. Mom’s cursing in partial Korean because she’s Korean and now you know I’m half-Korean and I’m screaming back at her in English and to speak English because she never taught me Korean even though she was born in Seoul.

Amaya and Mikhail are staring at us and then Amaya goes into a panic attack because these are the sort of fights her mother had with her dad. Except there was a lot of pots and pans being thrown and holes in the wall from that and there was a lot of “fuck you” and “your life has gone to shit” and “you need to prioritize your life for our daughter” and there was a whole cyclic theme of that “your life is destructive right now and I don’t appreciate it” kind of talk. With my mom is was cyclic in that “we’ve lose your grandfather and my mother and your father to cancer and you’re throwing our shit away” and you have to understand because some of the shit we were throwing out were gifts from my mom’s wedding—gifts she’d received from when she’d married my dad. From when my dad was in the military and he had been station in Korea in the 90s and he’d met her and fallen for her and knocked back beers with her and chain smoked with her and consummated his love for her and kept his yellowed Kodak photos in his wallet until they became yellower.

I think it’s important to state that so that you get to know me. For days after that I stayed up and smoked weed and contemplated what it was like before Dad died. Before they said he’d gotten the cancer in his stomach before he vomited everything, before he became sickly, before he got rail thin, before he lost almost 40 lb. before the cancer spread to his lungs, before he coughed up blood. Before that life was different. Shit we even had a dog—a Labrador mix named Cocoa. Anyway I hope it gets better for you. I’m on the outside looking in. Not many people in our school care because they’re too busy, too fixated on their iPhones and iPads, too fixated on Tumblr, too fixated on their own suffering to care about ours. I hope it gets better for you. I can’t stress that enough. Maybe it will. Anyway I have to go to therapy.

P.S. Text me or write me back. I’m leaving your notebook in the library—well this notebook.


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