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My Funny Valentine

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Turns out if you try to kill yourself because life is a constant stream of excruciating pain and just pure shit people will freak out. You’d think so at least, in your own selfish way we all hope after we die the people and the world around us will go awol and grieve, wishing they could turn back time and save you. The truth is rather underwhelming and it turns out only your doctors and maybe two teachers care for approximately one day. At least that’s Connor’s case. His parents were irritated at best for having to pay for his stay in the hospital and the ambulance in which they had to pump his stomach to get rid of the outstanding amount of sleeping pills Connor took. His parents still thought he was faking all of his issues to get attention and his sister barely looked at him.

After waking up in the hospital the first thing Connor felt was anger. Not gratitude that he was still alive like most people would but anger and frustration at the fact that he was once again unsuccessful. He’ll have to jump off a bridge next time, that will be instant death and won’t leave anyone time to call for help. The last thing Connor remembers was chugging down an entire bottle of sleeping pills his mother took, (undoubtedly a sign of healthy and happy All-American suburban mom, right?) and leaning his back against a tree to look up at the sky as darkness started to take over. Everything was spinning and it felt like he was falling further and further down, away from reality. Bliss . But no, of course, Connor can’t even fucking kill himself properly.

He was met with Larry’s clearly pissed off face and his mom’s concerned eyes. The thing is, whenever Connor does something exceptionally violent of stupid, Cynthia gets this look where her eyebrows are slightly pinched and her eyes are all pathetic and sad and it just drives Connor insane with irritation. Zoe wasn’t even there, of fucking course, she was probably too busy texting in the hallway or at jazz band practice or whatever the hell she does with her life. Larry starts drilling him with the usual “What were you thinking, you almost gave your mother a heart attack!” nonsense that Connor decided to drown out immediately until a nurse barged in, telling Larry to shut up and that Connor needed rest. Connor smirked slightly, feeling his eyes get heavy with exhaustion, because that nurse deserves a high five for telling Larry off, what a woman. He rolled his stiff shoulders back and passively listened, hoping sleep would grant him an escape soon, to the conversation a doctor that appeared out of nowhere was having with his parents. The doctor insisted on keeping Connor hospitalised for at least another day and when Larry tried to argue she sternly told him there was nothing to argue about and Connor had to stay, then she suggested, quietly that Connor should stay at their mental health department for a week at which Larry got visibly red and vehemently insisted that there was nothing wrong with his son and he was just being a problematic teenager and at that point Connor heard enough and seriously wished his mother would stop throwing worried looks his way or that the bed could swallow him whole.

“Would you like to introduce yourself to the rest of the group?” a therapist’s voice woke Connor up from reliving the memory of the reason why he was forced to sit in a room full of pathetic broken teens and share his internal turmoil or some bullshit. He looked up from his knees where he kept fixated his unfocused gaze since he sat down, his face staying the emotionless mask he no longer took off.

“Go ahead,” the therapist (What was her name? Mindy? Millie? M-something. Connor couldn’t remember.) encouraged him with practised calm and warmth that seemed fake to him. He could hear a faint buzzing in his ears coming from nowhere in particular and the sun coming through the window made him too warm. The plastic chair underneath him, coated in unnecessarily bright and happy colour, grew more uncomfortable the more he thought about it and the teens sitting in a circle around him kept staring at Connor, making him want to scratch his forearm. He breathed in, squeezed his eyes shut and opened them as he breathed out.

“I’m Connor, and I’m here because I took a bunch of pills and didn’t die.” I also fucking hate myself. He added in his head upon hearing his voice out loud. He should have kept quiet, who cares he’d look like a freak who can’t talk?

Mumbles of, “Hi, Connor,” echoed around the room as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He wasn’t interested in anyone in the room and averted his glance back to his knees. Connor tuned out the sound of the kid next to him introducing themselves, something about anxiety, fucking welcome to the club.

He was in the middle of peeling off the black nail polish on his left thumb, trying to tune out the buzzing and the feeling of being observed, when a familiar voice sounded in his ears.

“H-hi, I’m Evan and I have… I can’t talk to people like a normal person?” said a boy in a polo shirt and a hoodie, who was sitting hunched on a chair four seats away from Connor, and laughed awkwardly. Before realising why he knew the voice, Connor let out a quiet chuckle against his own will, because same . When he looked up at the boy and glared as realisation came to him. Half of Hansen’s face was illuminated by the sun coming through cracks in the blinds and his nervous smile scrunched in discomfort. How did he manage to look so nerdy and yet like a fucking angel? Evan’s eyes flicked through the room and met Connor’s briefly in what could only be described as terror. Connor immediately looked down again. Fuck. What the fuck was he doing here? At least he had the hoodie on which hit the cast on his arm that undoubtedly still had ‘CONNOR’ written on it, reminding Connor how much of an asshole he truly was, shooting spikes of something through his brain. The guy was obviously a nervous wreck, but Connor would never guess he had enough issues to be here. He wasn’t going to talk during these group sessions anyway, but looking at Evan, Connor felt guilt for what feels like the first time in years.

“You’re the fucking freak!” Connor could hear his own voice from two weeks ago as he yelled at Hansen before pushing him to the ground. “Now we can both pretend that we have friends” “Fuck you” He really was the shittiest person alive, wasn’t he? Well, maybe besides like actual serial killers, pedophiles, rapists, and conservative politicians, but you know, close enough. Connor sighed. He remembered that day vividly because it was that evening he finally stopped being a coward and decided to take the stolen sleeping pills. When he found Hansen in the computer room, he was approaching him to apologise but it turned out he’s pathetic at communication and started with “So, what happened to your arm?” instead of “Sorry I pushed you to the ground,” like he wanted. Now Connor couldn’t stop looking at the cast on Hansen’s arm, hidden underneath his hoodie. He could have been dead right now and all that would be left of him would be that signature on Hansen’s cast. Some other screwed up kid would be sitting in his place and no one would notice. He rolled his head from side to side, hearing his neck crack and breathed in. He should be dead.

***

Evan stood outside a room at their local mental health hospital. It had a piece of paper taped to the door not very neatly, with Group Therapy - 16-19 year-olds printed on it in Comic Sans. Evan still had 3 minutes before the session started and with each passing second he spent staring at the closed door, he was considering just not going more and more. His palms were sweaty and his heart was beating fast, but he couldn’t tell if he was having an anxiety attack or if this was just his normal state of being at this point. Why would his mom and Nina, his therapist, suggest a group therapy with his peers out of everything? He really, really didn’t wanna do this but if he didn’t go he could get in trouble. He can just sit and be quiet. No one will make him talk, right? At least that’s what Nina said. Evan tugged at the sleeves of his hoodie and counted to three. He will survive this.

He reluctantly pushed the door open and made a beeline for one of the remaining free seats. At least he didn’t trip. Good. He looked around, surveying the room. There were badly done drawings of flowers on the pinboards and the walls were painted in soft yellow and green. It was clearly a room meant for younger people and the group of late-teens looked comically out of place in it. Evan moved to scanning the people who were sitting on the plastic chairs of different colours. No one seemed familiar until his eyes stopped on Connor Murphy. Oh, shit, Connor Murphy was here. He was sitting a few places away, frowning at his legs like they were the reason he was miserable, under eye bags bigger than Texas and more purple than Barney the dinosaur (really Evan, that’s the only purple thing you can think of?), and his hair still long and pretty (that’s gay , Evan). Oh, fuck. Evan suddenly found his own sneakers very interesting. He did notice Connor wasn’t in school since That Day and while it was obvious that he had issues he really didn’t think it was because of anything serious. What if he thinks Evan is stalking him once he recognizes him? What if he realises Evan is actually a giant freak and hate him forever? Evan wouldn’t blame him, to be honest. Was it getting really hot in there all of a sudden? The afternoon sun was shining on Evan’s right cheek, hot and bright. He moved back a bit to escape the rays but only ended up more blinded. His cheek was getting hot and his palms were sweaty and before he had time to brace himself if was Connor’s turn to introduce himself.

The therapist who was in charge of coordinating the group called to him twice and Connor kept staring at her with no interest, looking vaguely pissed off and bored. He blinked slowly and said, “I’m Connor, and I’m here because I took a bunch of pills and didn’t die.” It always surprised Evan how soft Connor’s voice was. A funny contrast to Connor’s exterior and what he usually said. Just like then when Evan heard him confess he tried to kill himself. If that’s what he meant. Thinking Evan hoped so seemed too fucked up. It’s more that Evan hoped he understood what Connor meant right. Oh god, he’s a disaster. Evan mentally smacked himself. Oh god, that’s why Connor wasn’t in school since the day he signed his cast. Evan suddenly felt very guilty for not running after Connor and trying to explain to him he wasn’t some creep who wrote letters about people who pushed them to the ground. He could have talked to him, told him it was for therapy and maybe if he saw that Evan was fucked up too they could be friends? Not that someone like Connor would want to be Evan’s friend. Scratch all of that, that was stupid. Anyway, Evan could have done something. At least Connor was still alive, that meant Evan could try again.

Evan spent so much time trying to figure out why Connor tried to die and how it could all go differently he didn’t notice it was his turn to speak and completely forgot to prepare what he was going to say and in a panic just blurted out the first thing he thought of.

“H-hi, I’m Evan and I have… I can’t talk to people like a normal person?” He laughed nervously to try and make it obvious he was joking but wished the ground would swallow him whole immediately after. Why did his brain decide to try to be funny now of all times? Jesus fucking Christ. Then he heard a quiet chuckle. It was unmistakably Connor’s. Even his laugh was soft, what the fuck? Was he laughing at Evan or was he laughing because he found what Evan said funny? It sounded like he just found it funny. Does he remember Evan?

He looked up and met Connor’s eyes for a brief second before Connor looked away and he swore he knew . Evan swallowed nervously, even though his mouth was drier than Sahara. He vowed he wouldn’t talk until the session was over.

Today Connor Murphy pushed you because you’re a mess and shouldn’t be allowed in public. But that’s okay. Why did he have to write that in his letter? Why wasn’t he quicker in getting to the printer? Connor came there to apologise and maybe talk to him and Evan clearly ruined it that day with his stupid letter. “Now we can both pretend that we have friends” Evan still heard Connor’s voice in his head and he subconsciously tugged on the sleeve of his hoodie to cover his cast further. Maybe they could actually become friends after this.