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Help, I Need Somebody (Not Just Anybody)

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-- 31-03-2015 Tues --

4.02PM
Ray-Ray Reyes
C, you’re the on-call for the
10-1 shift tonight, right?

 

5.13PM
Princess Griffin
Yup.  

5.18PM
Princess Griffin
Are you bailing on your shift?? 

6.23PM
Ray-Ray Reyes

6.23PM
Ray-Ray Reyes
I hate to do this to you

6.23PM
Ray-Ray Reyes
You already take so many
other people’s shifts

6.24PM
Ray-Ray Reyes
I wouldn’t be doing this if I
wasn’t dying of a viral plague

 

6.27PM
Princess Griffin
Calm down there, drama queen. 

6.27PM
Princess Griffin
It’s all good. This is exactly
why we have on-calls. 

6.28PM
Princess Griffin
Are you feeling okay?

 

6.30PM
Ray-Ray Reyes
I’ll live… probably

6.31PM
Princess Griffin
That’s good to hear.

 

6.36PM
Ray-Ray Reyes
Do you have any shifts later in
the month that I can take off your hands?

 

6.42PM
Princess Griffin
Well, if you insist, you can take
my 10-1 next Saturday.

 

6.42PM
Ray-Ray Reyes
Done!

6.44PM
Ray-Ray Reyes
I have the Online shift tonight btw

6.44PM
Princess Griffin
Oh okay, coolio. 

6.44PM
Ray-Ray Reyes
You’re the bestest

 

6.45PM
Princess Griffin
Damn right I am! 

6.45PM
Princess Griffin
Feel better <3

  

Octavia is still at her part-time job when Clarke is messaged to come in for the shift, and she won’t be back home until 11PM. Clarke goes about making herself some dinner before she has to leave. She knows that Octavia will need to eat when she gets back from work, but the girl has a tendency to be too lazy to take care of herself, so Clarke makes some extra food and leaves it in the fridge. She scribbles out a quick message on a sticky note and sticks it to Octavia’s bedroom door.

Got called in for a shift. Will be back around 1.30. There’s some chicken for you in the fridge. Eat something, even if you’re not feeling chicken tonight. Good luck with the essay xx

Both girls had pulled an all-nighter the night before to finish off essays for their shared anthropology class, and Clarke had gone to hand in both of their essays at 10.30 that morning as Octavia slept. Clarke had agreed to let Octavia stay at home in bed because the poor girl had yet another essay due the next morning at 9.30 and would need to pull another late night. Plus she was working from 6 – 11 so she needed all the rest she could get. They both hated themselves a little bit for leaving so much work to the last minute, but it had been a rough week for the pair. This was not the first time they had done this, and it would most definitely not be the last.

After a pause, Clarke smiles to herself and scribbles out another note, sticking it on the door below the first one.

I was experimenting with the chicken so it’s a bit different. Let me know what you think!

It had been Clarke’s first real all-nighter, and she is beginning to feel the effects of it now. She hadn’t even been able to nap during the day because of her group meetings and classes. Still, she and Octavia have planned to pull another all-nighter tonight because of Octavia’s second essay (this one a whopping 12 pages long), while Clarke has to prepare for her final presentation. Clarke doesn’t strictly need to stay up to prepare for it, because she has been working on it with her group all term and isn’t too concerned (though she feels like she should be), but she does not want to leave Octavia alone.

With a tired sigh, Clarke picks up her stuff and heads out of the house. It's only 9.35, and campus is just a 10-minute walk away, but Clarke likes to take her time. Unless she is running late, or maybe if it's particularly cold out, she likes to walk at a slow, leisurely pace. It drives both Octavia and Raven mad. Clarke laughs at how frustrated they both get with her, but she rarely adjusts her pace for them. She enjoys looking up at the stars or the trees as she walks. 

She arrives early for her shift. There are two girls already in the small room that serves as the hub for the Line, ready to leave after their 7-10 shift. Clarke chats with them pleasantly as they begin packing up their things, happy to be relieved. They tell her that it has been a quiet shift, with no calls or chats. As they leave, Clarke takes a seat at the desk with the computer that is used for the Online chats. This is Clarke’s first online shift, because the online feature is so new to the line, and in all honesty, she is slightly nervous. Not that she has much experience with calls yet either. But with a phone call, there seems to be more to work with. You can listen to the tone of voice to gauge how the caller was feeling. It is easier to understand what was being said. But with just a chat…

Clarke shrugs it off. She cracks her back and settles herself into her semi-comfortable swiveling chair. Honestly, Ark U could have provided them with a better room, and better seating, but it's better than nothing. Her laptop sits on the desk in front of her, open on the cell bio slides that she has to memorize for her final presentation at 4PM the next day. She glances at the time on the screen. 9.57PM.

At 10PM on the dot, her co-listener walks into the hub. Clarke isn’t sure, but she thinks her name might be Harper. There are still a lot of people on the line who she has yet to properly talk to, or even meet.

“Hey, how’s it going?” Clarke asks as Harper puts her stuff down on the other desk.

“It’s okay. Pretty busy, lots of assignments.”

“Ah, right. Well, ‘tis the season,” Clarke says with a slight smile.

“Yeah. I have a midterm this week, as well.”

“What? This late in the term?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s nowhere near the middle of the term. This is the end of term,” Clarke says indignantly.

“I seriously can’t wait ‘til summer.”

“I feel you on that one.”

“I can’t believe it’s almost the end of the year though! That’s crazy.”

“Yeah… I’m still in denial about that,” Clark says with a shudder. She really has no idea how the year slipped away, but it’s suddenly the end of March and exams are only a week and a half away.

“Ditto.”

“What year are you in?”

“Third year, commerce. You?”

“Second year, Health Sci.”

“Ah, Health Sci… that’s intense. Lots of group stuff, right?”

“Oh, yeah. Tons. Everything is group work. I’ve been lucky; I have great group members.”

“That’s good, then. Are you planning to go to med school?”

Clarke grins. This is the usual question she gets asked as soon as anyone hears that she is in the Health Sciences program.

“I’m not sure. Probably… but I want to keep my options open.”

“Cool, fair enough. Have you had any calls or chats yet?" 

“Nope. Hopefully tonight will be the night. What about you?”

“I was on the Line last year, too. I’ve had a few calls… but this is the first time I’ve been here with one of the online shifts! I have no idea how it works.”

“I’m not entirely sure either,” Clarke says, admitting some of her concerns. 

“Well, we’ll figure it out if we need to.”

“Yeah.”

With that, both girls settle in to their own work, occasionally exchanging an exasperated word or two about how much they hate exams and midterms and studying in general. One of the many things that Clarke enjoys about being on the Line is getting to meet so many great people on shifts. The conversation is always so easy to get in to with everyone. It really makes the three-hour shifts go by a lot faster, especially when there are no calls.

Over an hour into the shift, it is still a quiet night and Clarke does not think anyone will be using the line. She has just temporarily given up on her presentation slides (and switched to Tumblr) when a little ding sound goes off from the computer to signal that someone has started a chat. Clarke’s heartbeat quickens, and she is both excited and nervous. 

“Looks like you’re going to get your first chat!” Harper says with a grin, rolling over a little closer to take a look at the computer screen herself. “This is exciting!”

Visitor: hello  


Clarke quickly types out a standard reply.

PSL: Hello, and thank you for reaching out to the Peer Support Line.

Visitor: right

PSL: How are you today?

Visitor: the same as I have been for the past few months

Visitor: maybe slightly worse

Clarke looks up at Harper and worriedly asks, “What do I say to that?”

“You can ask if they want to talk about it,” Harper provides after a short pause. Clarke nods. Harper has been on the line for over a year, and Clarke is grateful for her calm reassurance. She finally understands why all shifts are with at least one other listener.

PSL: I'm sorry to hear that. Would you like to talk about what's been on your mind?
 

Clarke waits, not knowing what to expect. The pause goes on for longer than Clarke thinks is normal, but realistically it is probably only about a minute before Clarke sees the ‘Visitor is typing…’ sign appear.

Visitor: there is always a lot on my mind

PSL: Okay.

PSL: What would you like to talk about tonight?

Another pause, slightly longer this time.

Visitor: i don’t know

Visitor: i am not sure why i am doing this

PSL: What do you mean by that?

Visitor: i don’t know why i am bothering with this chat thing

PSL: Well, I’m glad you decided to chat with the line.

Visitor: sure

Clarke decides to wait and see what the visitor will say, instead of asking further questions. Maybe they just need time. She is right in doing so.

Visitor: it has been five months

Visitor: i have been alone for five months

Clarke looks up at Harper again, not trusting herself to know the right thing to say. Luckily, Harper is already looking at the screen, intent on helping out with Clarke’s first chat.

“Should I ask about it or just wait?” Clarke asks uncertainly.

“Yeah, go on and ask - gently.”

PSL: I see, how come you've been feeling alone for five months?

Visitor: it is the truth, not just a feeling

Clarke waits, hoping this person will elaborate without further prompting. She thinks back to her training and recalls the importance of using silence, letting them take their time, not pushing.

Visitor: I lost her exactly five months ago today

 

So I guess this is about... a break-up? Clarke thinks to herself. Okay.
 

PSL: I’m sorry to hear that.

Visitor: i'm sure you are

Visitor: everyone is always sorry


Clarke waits for a whole minute, which is a lot longer than one would think. They do not say anything.


PSL: Would you like to talk about how you lost her?

Without missing a beat, the chatter replies:


Visitor: going 120km/h on the highway on a Friday night.


Clarke gasps and shares a concerned look with Harper.

Nope, not a break-up.

Clarke does not know what exactly to do in this situation. This is a heavy first conversation for the inexperienced volunteer. She looks to Harper for assistance, but Harper seems almost just as thrown.

 “Wow,” Clarke breathes out in shock.

“This poor guy,” Harper whispered.

Clarke frowns. She had not made the connection that the chatter was a guy. She can see why Harper came to that conclusion, given the “her” that the chatter keeps referring to. Clarke does not want to make any assumptions. She tries to think of what to say next, and quickly.

I’m not going to say that I’m sorry again. They probably get that a lot. They don't seem to like it.

PSL: That sounds like a really difficult way to lose someone.

PSL: Would you like to talk about her?

A pause.
 

Visitor is typing...

Visitor: i have not spoken of her in almost 5 months

PSL: I see. That’s quite a long time to keep everything inside.


“Wow, no wonder he feels like he’s alone,” Harper says. “I hope he has some friends helping him through this.”

“Might not be a guy,” Clarke points out quietly.

“Oh, you’re totally right,” Harper replies. “I didn’t even think of that. Guess I shouldn’t have assumed. You don’t usually have this issue with a phone call.”

Clarke is going to reply to Harper about making assumptions based on the sound of someone's voice, but she gets distracted.

Visitor is typing…

Clarke waits, more on edge than she realizes, her eyes transfixed on those three words. She is startled when her phone beeps with a text. She glances down at it, but before she can check it, she sees that her chatter has replied. Her phone beeps once again but it goes ignored for the moment.

Visitor: i do not really have anyone to talk to about it


Clarke types out her response: Well, then I’m really glad you’re talking to me. She hesitates before hitting send, and then changes her mind.


PSL: Well, then I’m really glad you’re talking to the Peer Support Line.


Clarke looks at her phone as she waits for the chatter to say something.

 

-- 31-03-2015 Tues --
 

11.31PM
Octopus Blake
Enjoy your shift yo

11.32PM
Octopus Blake
I’ll be up and ready to mingle
when you get back

11.33PM
Goldilocks Griffin
Okie dokie 

11.34PM
Octopus Blake
Also chicken was delish


Visitor is typing…

11.34PM
Goldilocks Griffin
Aw yay, I’m glad!

 

Visitor: i do not really know what to say

PSL: Do you want to talk about her?

Clarke wants to be gentle as she asks the question again, not wanting to push too much. She lets the chatter take their time to figure out how they want to reply.

11.36PM
Goldilocks Griffin
I was experimenting with some of
those new spice packet things
in the cupboard.

11.37PM
Octopus Blake
Lol oh yeah, those


Visitor: i dont know how to talk about her

Visitor: i dont know if i can

PSL: That’s okay. It’s totally understandable if this is hard for you.

Visitor is typing…

Clarke voices her concerns about not wanting to be too pushy to Harper. Harper smiles and reassures her. “It’s okay, you’re doing a great job. They’ll take some time to open up, but that’s to be expected.” 

Clarke nods as the now-familiar ring goes off to signal another message.

Visitor: i feel like it should not be this difficult to talk about her

They aren’t capitalizing their first letters, Clarke thinks suddenly. Or using a period at the end of the sentence. I should do the same.

The grammar nerd within Clarke rebels against it, but she matches the chatter’s manner of typing. It is the closest thing to tone-matching that she can think of. Logically speaking, she knows that it is a minuscule detail and makes no real difference, but she still hopes that it might make the chatter feel more comfortable with the conversation, even just subconsciously.

PSL: you don’t have to force yourself to do anything you aren’t ready to do

Visitor: what if i am never ready?

Something in Clarke’s heart aches at this admission, this fear that is so clearly plaguing this visitor’s heart. She just wants to reach through the screen and hug this person. Not in a pitying kind of way, but just in support. She begins to type out a response, but then she deletes it.


Visitor is typing…
 

Clarke waits.


Visitor: i want to be able to do this… i just do not know how.

PSL: that's understandable. reaching out to the line was a good first step though

Visitor: i suppose so

PSL: we can start with something really small, if you’d like

Visitor: like what?

Clarke thinks about it for a second.

PSL: what was her favourite colour?
 

A few seconds pass before the words appear.

Visitor: blue

Visitor: a deep blue, but not quite navy… i think she called it a “dark teal”

Visitor: she used to say it reminded her of the ocean

Visitor: her room was painted in the colour

Visitor: we did it together

Visitor: it took us a lot longer than it probably should have

Visitor: there was more paint on us than on the walls by the end of the day

Clarke smiles, thinking back to when she and Octavia had spent a whole afternoon painting Octavia’s room when they first moved in last May. Octavia had sat on Clarke’s shoulders to reach the very top of the ceiling, and Clarke was fairly certain that Octavia was terrified of falling the entire time. They had both laughed so very hard.


PSL: that sounds like a lot of fun

Visitor: it was

Clarke is glad that the chatter is opening up. She is about to ask another small question when the words appear again, and Clarke knows that nothing she was going to say is as important as letting the chatter say what they need to say.


Visitor is typing…

Visitor: it feels nice talking to someone like this

Visitor: i do not really have a lot of people to talk to

A pause.


Visitor: i do not have many friends i can talk to

Clarke’s heart twinges again. She looks to Harper, but the other girl has temporarily turned back to her laptop and is doing her own thing.


PSL: i see. would you like to talk about that a bit?

Visitor: not particularly

PSL: okay

PSL: the line is always here to talk

Visitor: yes, its too bad this only runs three nights a week

PSL: yeah, the online service is new this term so it’s running as a pilot program, just Sunday – Tuesday

PSL: I’m sorry!

Visitor: oh that’s okay, it’s not your fault at all

PSL: but the phone line runs every night from 7 – 1am. You can call any day, or even now if you’d prefer

Visitor: maybe, but my cell phone bill would be far too high if i did that

PSL: oh right, okay

Clarke tries to think of a way around the phone charges. She seeks Harper’s advice, but Harper has no suggestions. This is an ongoing problem with the line – it is not toll-free. Clarke wracks her brain, trying to think of how best to continue the conversation.


Visitor is typing…

Clarke’s breath catches, relieved that she does not have to figure out what to say, but also unsure of what to expect.

Visitor: what now?

PSL: we can talk about another small thing, if you’d like

Visitor: i think i can do that

PSL: okay

Visitor: what is the next small thing then?

PSL: you tell me

A pause.


Visitor is typing…

It takes time. Clarke imagines them struggling over the keyboard, trying to find the right words. She wishes there was a way for her to make it easier, but that is not how life works.
 

Visitor: i think i would rather have you ask another question

PSL: okay, sure

Visitor: okay

PSL: did she enjoy listening to music?

Visitor: yes, of course

PSL: what kind of music?

A pause, and then:

Visitor is typing…

Visitor: she used to listen to bands with weird names that most normal people have never even heard of

PSL: like what?

Visitor: this one band called Grounder Attack was her favourite

PSL: i haven’t heard of them

Visitor: i didn't think so

Visitor: i used to tease her and call her a hipster

Visitor: she hated that

PSL: well, hipsters never want to admit that they’re hipsters :P

Visitor: that is very true

Visitor: :)

Clarke is irrationally pleased that the chatter chose to throw in a smiley face, almost as an afterthought. She wonders if they give as much significance to it as Clarke does. Probably not. Clarke had been worried that her little comment would be taken the wrong way, but this did not happen, and Clarke is glad.


Visitor: i made the mistake of calling her emo once and she threw a book at my head

PSL: oh no, was it a heavy book?

Visitor: it was an unabridged copy of les mis

PSL: ouch!

Visitor: fortunately, i have very fast reflexes

Visitor: the only damage that was done was to the book as it hit the wall

PSL: poor book

Visitor: yes, it was never quite the same after that

Clarke can’t help the little chuckle she lets out, nor the smile that spreads across her face at this little anecdote.


Visitor: i bought her a new copy to make up for it

PSL: that was nice of you

Visitor: she was weirdly OCD about her books

Visitor: they had to be in perfect condition

Visitor: les mis was her favourite

PSL: ah, a fan of the classics!

Visitor: yes

Visitor: she dragged me to the movie when it came out

Clarke is surprised by this, and wonders how long they were together.


PSL: what did you think of it?

Visitor: too much singing

Clarke laughs at this, and Harper looks over at her with a curious smile.

“Is the chatter making jokes now?” she asks incredulously, leaning over to take a look at the chat herself.

“I think so,” Clarke replies in amazement.

“Well, then we know you’re doing a good job.”

“I hope so.”

PSL: that’s fair

PSL: what did she think of the movie?

Visitor: she liked it, but said it paled in comparison to a broadway show

Visitor: her favourite is the 10th anniversary concert

A quick Google search tells her that Les Miserables came out Christmas 2012. Almost two and a half years ago.

PSL: well, she has excellent taste

Visitor: yes she does

After a beat:

Visitor: did

Clarke mentally chastises herself for her stupid mistake. She let herself get carried away with the conversation. She does not want to say another wrong thing, so she chooses to wait it out instead. She does not have to wait long.

Visitor: have you seen it?

Clarke is surprised by the question. She does not understand why they would care whether she has seen it, but she responds anyway.

PSL: yes, and I thought it was alright. the 10th anniversary concert is excellent, though i think i prefer the 25th

Clarke is drawn out of the conversation by another beep from her phone.

Visitor is typing…


-- 01-04-2015 Weds --

12.07AM
Octopus Blake
Bro it’s April

12.07AM
Octopus Blake
Like wtf

12.07AM
Goldilocks Griffin
Shhh can we not?
 

Visitor: well to each his own

Visitor: or her own I guess

Visitor: their own

Clarke waits.
 

Visitor is typing…

Visitor: just her presence made everything easier, made me smile

Visitor: she cared about everything and everyone

Visitor: she would always call me before every midterm or exam or game or whatever, just to wish me luck and tell me that i am amazing

Visitor: she would tell me that i was going to change the world

Clarke soaks up the words, reading them with a somewhat sappy smile on her face, building up an image in her mind of this girl who clearly adored her chatter. And her chatter clearly adored her right back. Clarke wonders if there is a better term for this person than ‘chatter’ but nothing springs to mind. There is another pause from the other side. Clarke does not want to interrupt, but she also wants to reassure the chatter that she is still there, still listening. Harper tells her to just wait, let the chatter get it out. Clarke nods in agreement. She waits. Her phone beeps and she looks down to read the text.


12.10AM
Octopus Blake
This is a serious matter 

12.11AM
Goldilocks Griffin
I’m not ready to accept
that it’s April yet, okay?


It seems like her chatter is done, at least for the time being.

PSL: she sounds like a truly wonderful person
 

“Can I thank her for talking to me? Can I say it was a great step or something?” Clarke asked. 

“Yeah, of course. Recognizing and applauding their growth is a big part of offering support. You’re doing really well, Clarke!”

Clarke is grateful for the reassurance. She doesn't know why she keeps doubting herself so much. She just doesn't want to say the wrong thing.

PSL: thank you for telling me about her

PSL: i'm glad you were able to take such a big step

Visitor: was it really a step?

PSL: yeah i think so, and it can’t have been easy for you. so thank you

Visitor: right

This is followed by yet another pause, and Clarke is beginning to feel like maybe she actually did say something wrong. Perhaps it had come off as insincere or something. She hopes that isn’t the case. Why are words so hard? She is pulled out of her worrying by the same three words.


Visitor is typing…

One of the phones in the hub starts to ring, and Clarke shares a surprised look with Harper. Harper goes to answer the phone, and Clarke is a little uncomfortable with the knowledge that she is now alone in this conversation.

“You’ve got this,” Harper says before picking up the phone. Clarke tries to tune out the call as she focuses on her chat.


Visitor: god i loved her so much

Visitor: she was intelligent and kind and too good for me in every possible way

Visitor: but through some miracle, she was mine

Visitor: for some reason, she loved me

Another brief pause.

Visitor: and now she is gone

Visitor: and i am alone once again

Clarke gulps. She can’t help but focus on the word ‘again.’ Why were they alone before? Her phone beeps, but she simply cannot bring herself to tear her eyes away from the computer screen.

Visitor is typing…

Visitor: and everything reminds me of her

Visitor: songs and books and movies and TV shows and food and just about everything is laced with memories of her

Visitor: even my own damn room feels like some sort of crypt because everything is connected to her, it all leads back to her

Visitor: i have put away all the photos but she is still just everywhere and it still feels like i am drowning in her

Clarke waits a few moments to let the words sink in, to let the chatter settle down a bit. It might just be in her own head, but Clarke imagines them breathing deeply and working themselves up. So she gives them a moment before replying.

PSL: that sounds like a lot to deal with for the last five months

Visitor: you have no idea

Visitor: or maybe you do, i do not know

Visitor: i hope you have never been through anything like this

Once again, Clarke is taken aback by the chatter’s consideration of her.

PSL: no i haven’t, but i imagine it must be very difficult

Visitor: you are not wrong

Another pause, longer this time.

PSL: if you don't mind me asking, how come you put away all of the photos?

A moment of hesitation, and then:

Visitor is typing…

Visitor: it makes it easier

PSL: does it really?

Visitor: no not really

Visitor: but it’s something


Clarke sighs in relief, glad her probing question wasn't inappropriate.

PSL: it’s okay to need more time

Visitor: it has already been five months

PSL: yeah, and that's a long time to be feeling this way. but sometimes things take time, as much as that sucks.

PSL: how come you feel the need to set a timeline on yourself?

Visitor: because i have things to do, classes to pass, responsibilities, and i cannot afford to sit around and wallow indefinitely

Visitor: i need to stop being so weak

Clarke gasps. Throughout this entire conversation she has thought many things, but not once has she thought that the visitor seemed weak.

PSL: why do you say that you're weak?

Visitor is typing…

The three words disappear and no new message is sent. Clarke begins to worry. It is another whole minute before anything happens

Visitor is typing…

Visitor: because if there is one thing i have learned from this, it is that love is weakness, and i am so tired of being weak

Clarke does not know how to respond initially. It is not her place to disagree with the chatter. It is not her place to tell her that love is not weakness.

PSL: I can see why you feel that way. but people heal at their own pace, and i don't think that makes you weak.

Another pause. Clarke waits. She checks her phone just to give herself something to do.

12.15AM
Octopus Blake
Neither am I. We can live in
denial together.


Visitor: perhaps

The pause that ensues is so long that Clarke wonders if this is going to be the end of the conversation.
 

Visitor: she was always a lot better with words than me

Visitor: she always knew exactly what to say, exactly what i needed to hear

Visitor: i can’t help but think thta she would know hiw to make it stop hurting

Visitor: but then i remmeber that sheis no longer here and she wll never be here again and i will never haer her voice again and i just have to accept that
 

Clarke notes with anguish the way the words have become less clear, the typos that have suddenly appeared when earlier there were none. She cannot help imagine that tears are clouding the chatter’s eyes, making it harder to type. She hopes this is not the case.


Visitor: and i still haven't figured out how to make it stop hurting

 
Clarke does not know what to do. She does not know how she can help. She wishes she had more to offer. All she has are a few words.
 

PSL: i'm really sorry you're feeling this way. is there anything that helps at all?
 

Visitor is typing…
 

Visitor: i do not know

It had taken them almost two minutes to type out four words. Clarke imagines them typing, deleting, re-typing. Hesitating. Confused. Her heart aches for this person who she knows virtually nothing about.


PSL: okay

Visitor: yeah

PSL: is there anyone in your life who you can talk to about the way you feel?

Clarke recalls how they mentioned not having many friends, but surely they have at least one or two, maybe even from high school. Or maybe a sibling or a parent they can talk to.


PSL: perhaps a family member, or a close friend?

Visitor: i do not have very many close friends. the few that i do have were also her friends, and they all look at me as though i am missing half of myself. i do not care for this look.

Clarke can understand the hatred of what she likes to call the ‘pity stare.’ She felt it too, after her father died. She is about to reply, but she sees that the chatter is typing, so she holds off.

Visitor: as for family…

Hesitation. A pause. They must really be thinking through what they want to say. Clarke hopes this is not too difficult for them.

Visitor is typing…

Visitor: they would not care to hear about what I am going through

PSL: I see. why do you say that?

Visitor is typing…

Clarke is nervous about where this will take the conversation. Family stuff will probably open up a whole new can of worms. Clarke is patient. She waits.


Visitor: it is the truth

Clarke still waits, somehow knowing that they have more to say on the matter. She is right.

Visitor is typing…

It takes a while. This is either going to be long, or they are doing a lot of deleting and re-typing. Maybe both.


Visitor: my parents are not exactly thrilled by the fact that their daughter is into girls. ever since i came out to them we have not spoken all that much… or at all. i somehow find it hard to believe that they would be empathetic if i went crying to them about my dead girlfriend.

Visitor: not that i ever cry about it.

Clarke is struck by the bluntness of her words – and it is a her, that much is now quite certain. There is so much packed into this one message that Clarke does not even know where to begin. This is the first time that the chatter has referred to her as a ‘girlfriend’ and Clarke feels like this is somehow a big deal, but she will not say anything about it.

She cannot help but notice the way her chatter has started to use periods now, and how this makes the sentences seem more clipped and somehow detached. Like the chatter is trying to dissociate herself from the words, or to make them end more quickly.

I’m thinking way too much about punctuation, Clarke tells herself. Not everyone is as weird as I am about it. It probably doesn’t mean anything.

She wants to ask how long it has been since she came out to her parents. She wants to comment on the fact that she just said she never cries. She wants to tell her that sometimes parents suck, but it isn't her fault. She wants to tell her that it is okay to cry.

She does not say any of this.


PSL: that really sucks, and it sounds like a very difficult thing to go through

Visitor: it was

Visitor: but she helped me get through it

Visitor: i would not have been able to get through it without her

Visitor: now i will have to go through my whole life without her and it is taking me far too long to get used to that idea

A pause.


Visitor: it is becoming harder to ignore the pain

PSL: i see, and what do you mean by that?

Visitor: i try to get through the day without thinking of her but it just seems impossible.

Clarke considers her next words carefully before deciding that it is okay to say.

PSL: have you ever tried to let yourself feel a bit of that pain and sadness? To actually think about it all?

Visitor: why on earth would i want to do that?

Clarke sighs. She knows that this is not something her chatter will agree with. She will not be amenable to this notion of acknowledging pain – or, as she calls it, weakness. Clarke wonders if it is even worth explaining. She decides that it is.
 

PSL: it’s understandable and okay to feel sad at times - especially after something like this

PSL: i think sometimes you have to let yourself feel these things in a safe and healthy way before you can really move on

Visitor: i am afraid I have to disagree with you there

PSL: fair enough

Clarke wonders if the chatter will end the conversation now. At any time, she can choose to close the chat and it will be gone, over. Clarke really has no say in the matter.

There is a longer pause than normal. Clarke does not know what to do, but for some reason she feels like she should not be the one to break this silence. Her chatter does not appear to want to end the conversation, or else she would have done so by now.

Clarke waits. 

Finally:

Visitor is typing…

Visitor: what if i cannot move on?

Visitor: what if it just feels… wrong

The fear that clearly lies underneath these words eats at Clarke’s heart.

PSL: i can see why you might feel that way

What Clarke does not say is that she would have wanted her to move on. That is not Clarke’s place. It would be wrong of her to make a statement like that, when she does not really know the chatter, let alone her late girlfriend. Fortunately, Clarke does not need to say any of this.

Visitor: i know that she would want me to move on and be happy, find someone else, ride off into the sunset or whatever

Visitor: i know she would want that for me

PSL: i would have to agree with that

Visitor: that’s easier said than done though

PSL: yes, for sure

PSL: do you think maybe you might be thinking of moving on, but it just feels really scary?


A pause.


Visitor: well that is an interesting question

Visitor: touché

Clarke smiles.


Visitor: but there is more to it than just that…

PSL: of course! this is a very complicated situation, with complicated emotions

PSL: there is no reason to rush

“It’s 1.03,” Harper says suddenly, causing Clarke to jump a little in surprise. She has been so focused on the conversation that she did not even noticed when Harper had hung up her call. She does not think to ask what the call was about, even though you are supposed to debrief with your co-listener after every call.

“Oh, you’re right. I didn’t even realise that much time had passed.”

“We’ll have to end the chat soon.”

“Yeah, it seems to be winding down, I think.”

“That’s good. What did I miss while I was on the call?” 

Clarke scrolls the chat up to let Harper skim through the conversation.

“Wow…” 

“Yeah.” 

“Guess you were right about it not being a guy, eh?”

“Mhmm.”


Visitor is typing…

“It’s good that she sees that her girlfriend would want her to move on. She seems to know where she wants to go from here. This is good,” Harper says with a nod and a slight smile.

“Yeah. I wish I could somehow encourage her to try talking to her friends, but that might be pushing it. I’m just glad she was able to talk about her girlfriend a bit, at least.”

“Yeah, that alone is definitely a huge thing,” Harper assures her. “You did really well!”

Visitor: can I make it even more complicated?

Clarke doesn't know what this means, and she gives Harper a puzzled look. Harper shrugs.
 

PSL: I’m not quite sure what you mean

Visitor: i mean, can i say something that will make this all even more complicated?

PSL: oh, of course!

The words are sent without any hesitation, without thinking about it. It’s only after they are sent that Clarke glances at the time on the screen. 1.05AM. This will probably not end very soon. She voices this concern to Harper.

“Probably not,” Harper agrees. “Who knows what this new thing is. It’ll probably take a while to properly discuss.”

“I don’t mind staying behind to talk to her for a while longer,” Clarke says automatically, not wanting to leave the chatter hanging. “You can totally go though!”

“Oh, no, of course not! I’ll stay with you. I don’t mind staying for a while. She seems like she really needs to talk.”

Clarke is grateful. They both have put a lot of effort into this chat, so they both want to see it through.

Visitor: it was my fault.

Visitor: i was driving that night.

Clarke gulps.

“Does she mean what I think she means?” Clarke whispers.

“I think so…” Harper responds hesitantly.

“Shit.”

Visitor: it’s my fault

Visitor: i tried to do everything right, i didn’t drink at all and i made sure we left the party at a decent hour

Visitor: but we still crashed

Visitor: and it was all my fault because i was driving too fast as usual and not being careful enough and i did not keep my eye on the drunk moron swerving around in his car ahead of us

Visitor: because she was with me that night, she was thrown through the windshield, she broke 27 different bones, and she bled out before the ambulance could even get there

Visitor: it will never not be my fault

Visitor: this pain and guilt will never go away, and i do not even deserve to be relieved of it

Visitor: i have to learn to just… live with it

Visitor: i have to be stronger

A pause. There is no way this is going to wind down any time soon.
 

PSL: that’s a lot of guilt to hold on to on your own for five months

Visitor: yes

Visitor: i am afraid i am not very good at dealing with it on my own though

Visitor: i do not know what ‘dealing with it’ would even look like

PSL: well, I’m glad you came to talk to the line tonight

Visitor: me too, actually

PSL: would you like to talk about that night a bit more?

Visitor: not particularly, but i suppose i can

PSL: only if you feel comfortable talking about it, it's up to you

Visitor is typing…

Clarke’s phone buzzes.

1.15AM
Octopus Blake
It’s a quarter after one, I’m
all alone and I neeeed you
noowww
 

Clarke rolls her eyes.

1.15AM
Goldilocks Griffin
Get back to your essay you slacker

1.16AM
Goldilocks Griffin
I’m going to be home slightly late.

1.16AM
Octopus Blake
Aw, okaayyy

 

Visitor: it was Halloween

Visitor: she was dressed as Olaf and despite my many protests she made me go as Sven

Visitor: frozen was one of our favourite movies

Visitor: we went to a party in her home town thrown by her friends from high school, about a 40 minute drive from Ark

Visitor: i was designated driver so i did not drink at all that night

PSL: right, and you said you left the party early?

Visitor: yes, i did not want to stay out too late because of the drive back… people get crazy on Halloween so i did not want to get caught up in late-night madness

Visitor: we were out of there by 12.30 and we headed straight back


“She really did do everything right!” Clarke exclaims.

“Sometimes I guess that just isn’t enough,” Harper says sadly.

 

PSL: it sounds like you were trying to be really responsible

Visitor: not responsible enough

Visitor: she was not wearing her seatbelt

Visitor: i was

Visitor: every single day since that night, i wish it could have been the other way round

Visitor: virtually every night in my dreams i make her put on that damn seatbelt

Visitor: if i had just done that then everything might be different

PSL: there was no way you could have known what was going to happen

Visitor: that is no excuse

Visitor: i should have known better

Visitor: we were almost at our exit, she was saying silly things in the car the way she always did when she was a bit tipsy, and i let myself get distracted

Visitor: the car in front of us was swerving dangerously everywhere but i did not give it any importance. i should have kept my distance from it. that was another mistake i made. when he suddenly hit the brakes and tried to reverse on the freaking highway like a moron, he slammed right into us

Visitor: airbags went off. she went flying through the windshield. I don’t remember much, but I remember trying to crawl out of the car to her but the damn door was jammed

Visitor: i just about had enough sense to dial 911 before my head started spinning too much to stay awake. i had to wait there, trapped in my seat, as she bled out

A brief pause. Clarke and Harper look at each other solemnly.

Visitor: they told me later that it had been painless for her, but i do not know if i believe them

PSL: did you get hurt as well that night?

Visitor: physically?

Visitor: a few fractured ribs, a couple stitches, a fairly serious concussion, and some serious whiplash

Visitor: I was in the hospital for about two weeks

Visitor: the other hurt was a lot worse than the physical hurt

Visitor is typing…

Visitor: it never stops hurting

PSL: I'm sorry you're hurting

Visitor is typing…

Visitor: i do not deserve to stop hurting

Clarke has to think through her response. Guilt is a very tricky emotion to deal with. It’s probably the hardest one to get over, because, just as the chatter had said, you don’t feel like you deserve to get over it. This girl probably would not respond well to something like ‘it wasn’t your fault’ because she would not believe it. There must be a way to validate her feelings of guilt without explicitly agreeing with it.

PSL: even if you feel like you've done something wrong, that doesn't necessarily mean you deserve to be punished forever

Visitor: because of me she is gone

Visitor: i do not deserve to be able to just move on

PSL: even though you think she would want you to?

A pause.


Visitor: fair point

Visitor: i am certain that she would want that for me

PSL: okay

Visitor: she would not blame me


“This is good, right?” Clarke says uncertainly. Harper nods. Clarke still feels like there is more to this. Surely it can’t be his simple. Once again, she is right.


Visitor: but that does not
stop me from blaming myself

Visitor: i am my own worst enemy in this case

Visitor: i ended her life… surely I do not deserve to be forgiven

Visitor: right?


Clarke gulps. This is a plea for absolution, for forgiveness. Clarke does not know if it is her place to give these things, but this chatter will believe whatever it is she has to say in this moment. Clarke is careful with her choice of words.


PSL: there was another car involved in that accident, and from what you've said the other driver was not being safe at all. i don't think it's entirely accurate to say you ended her life

PSL: but even so, people make mistakes. you’re only human… and accidents happen

PSL: punishing yourself will not make anyone feel any better, least of all you

Visitor: and it will not bring her back

PSL: no, it won’t

Visitor: nothing will bring her back

A pause.
 

Visitor: i suppose there is some truth to what you are saying

PSL: i’m glad you think that

“This is good. It looks like it’s winding down again. We can probably lead to a close soon,” Harper says, pleased. Though Clarke agrees that this part of the conversation is winding down, she does not know whether her chatter is in a place where she can be left alone just yet.

Visitor: I do not know what comes next

“It’s already 1.28," Harper says with a sigh. "We’ll have to tell her that the line is closing. We can give her the number for Good-2-Talk.” 

“I don’t know how I feel about leaving her, though,” Clarke replies hesitantly.

Visitor is typing…

“Yeah, I really don’t want to either, but honestly it feels like we could be here until 3AM and it won't be any easier to end the conversation.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”


Visitor: I don't want to simply forget about her

“We can’t stay here all night, Clarke. I know it sucks, and I hate to do this as well, but…”

“Yeah…”

“Next chance you get, just tell her that, unfortunately, the line is closing.”

“I guess…”


PSL: why do you think you’ll forget her?

“Maybe we shouldn’t be asking questions,” Harper suggests. “That’ll make it go longer.”

“Oh, you’re right. My bad,” Clarke says sheepishly. “I guess we can’t be here forever.”

Visitor: is that not what moving on is?

PSL: not necessarily

Visitor: then what is it?

PSL: i don’t think i can tell you what it is because it’s different for everyone

“Ah, I can’t end it! It’s too hard!” Clarke exclaims.

“God, there really is no opening for it,” Harper replies with equal concern. “I don’t know.”

“We have to do it though, I guess,” Clarke sighs.

“Yeah. We still have to log the chat after, and I have to log my call from before. And I have 8.30 class!”

“Oh, shit, I didn’t know that!” Clarke says, suddenly feeling bad for Harper.

Clarke begins typing out a reply.

Unfortunately, the line is closing now, so I’ll have to go. If you feel like you would like to talk further, you can call Good-To-Talk toll-free at 1-866-925-5454. You can also come back to the peer support line another night.  

Before she can hit enter, she sees the three words that make her freeze

Visitor is typing…

Clarke copies the text and then deletes it.

Visitor: I do not know what moving on would be for me

PSL: that's okay, it can take time to figure out

PSL: not knowing right now doesn't mean you'll never be able to get there

PSL: even just exploring what it might look like is a really great start

Clarke pastes the chat-ending message again and gets ready to hit enter, but she is still hesitant.

“Just do it before she can say something else that makes it even harder to end,” Harper says hesitantly. Neither of them wants to do this, but they are left with little choice. 

“I don’t know.” 

Clarke is about to hit the backspace button to edit the message a bit when she accidentally hits enter.

PSL: Unfortunately, the line is closing now, so I’ll have to go. If you feel like you would like to talk further, you can call Good-To-Talk toll-free at 1-866-925-5454. You can also come back to the peer support line another night.


“No!” she exclaims. “I hit enter by mistake. Shit! No!”

“It’s okay,” Harper soothes her. “It had to be done anyway. It's okay.”

Clarke is still unhappy about the way this happened. For some weird reason, she feels like she wasn’t ready for it to end.

Visitor: oh

“My heart is breaking here,” Clarke groaned.

“I know, God this is the worst.”

PSL: i’m really sorry

Visitor: i understand

Visitor: if i come back will i get to talk to you again?


“Oh, God.”


PSL: we have a lot of volunteers, and it'll probably be a different person next time

PSL: but I guarantee that anyone else on the line will be just as capable of supporting you!

Visitor: but I would have to explain everything all over again

Clarke can only imagine how difficult it had been for the chatter this time. She is probably dreading the thought of having to do it all over again.

Visitor: when is your next shift?

PSL: we have a rotating schedule so i don’t really know

Visitor: may i ask for you again?

In Clarke’s mind, she is raging against her training. They were told in no uncertain terms that this kind of thing was not allowed. Clarke has never questioned this rule before, but now it seems stupid to her. (In some part of her mind, she knows that it is in place for safety reasons, and so that the listeners don't invest too much of themselves into helping others in an unhealthy way. They aren't counsellors and they aren't meant to create personal, ongoing connections on the Line. Boundaries are important, etc. etc. She of all people knows the importance of all of this, but she ignores this part of her mind for the time being.)

She knows that these chats are being recorded and some will be read at random so that they can evaluate the efficacy of the new online support. If that were not the case, Clarke would have already given this person her email address or something so that she could continue to chat with her. But she is new to the line and she does not want to risk it, so she has to leave her chatter hanging, only hoping that they come back later and get support from someone else.

PSL: we don't generally do that, i'm sorry

Visitor: okay.

Visitor: i get it.

Visitor: i think i feel a little bit better after this  

PSL: i'm really happy that you're feeling a bit better

A brief pause.


Visitor: is there anything you can tell me? a nickname or some kind of clue so that they know i'm talking about you if i ask?


A pause.


Visitor: please?

Clarke feels like hurling herself off of some sort of cliff. This part is too difficult for her to handle.

PSL: i’m really, really sorry

Visitor: okay

PSL: i can't do that, but please do feel free to use the line again. all of the other listeners will be just as willing to help

Visitor: i think i will

Visitor: thank you. for everything.

Visitor: bye

Chat has ended. Visitor has left the conversation.


Clarke is surprised by the abruptness and finality of how it ended. She shares a look with Harper.

“At least she said she’d use the line again,” Clarke says weakly. 

A part of Clarke wants to save the transcript of this conversation, for some reason, but she knows that doing so would not be ethical, so she leaves it there and closes it. By the time that both she and Harper are packed up and done logging their respective conversations, it is 1.45. Clarke staggers her way back to her house, exhausted both mentally and physically. Taking off her coat, she knocks on Octavia’s bedroom door.

“Come in!”

Clarke lets herself in. “Hey,” she says tiredly as she flops down beside Octavia on her bed. Octavia has her laptop out and her books spread around her. Clarke has to pull a book out from under her belly.

“Well, you look exhausted.”

“I am. How’s your essay going?”

“Not bad. I’m on page five.”

“Nice.”

“Are you actually going to get up or do you plan to just lie there like a beached whale?”

“Nap first.”

“Fine.”

This is how they made it through the last all-nighter: with consistent naps to help boost their energy. Sometimes they were twenty minutes long. Sometimes they were an hour and a half.

“What time is it now?” Clarke mumbles.

“Like 2.05.”

“’Kay, wake me up at three.”

“Okay,” Octavia replies with a light laugh.

 Clarke does not fully recall what exactly happened next, but when she wakes up, it is 9.30AM, her alarm is blaring La Vie en Rose, and she is in her own room.