Stuart woke at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. He got out of bed and looked out the window. It was raining, typical he thought and lay back down on the single bed. Should he get dressed? There was no point. He wasn’t doing anything today.
Stuart was hung over with a banging headache. The evening before he was at his friend Bill’s house party. Bill’s parents were away for the weekend. It was good craic, as far as he could remember, but he blanked out halfway through the night. Stuart and his friends started drinking at 6 o’clock the previous evening. They’d been snorting cocaine and popping ecstasy tablets, so today Stuart was on a serious come down. He definitely did not feel at his best. In fact, Stuart hadn’t been his usual self at all recently.
In the past six months Stuart was experiencing low moods and diagnosed by his doctor with depression and anxiety. At first, he was happy enough with the diagnosis because it meant he was eligible for the ‘sick’, ESA Employment Support Allowance. His monthly income from the ‘bru’ increased from 230 to 500 pounds. Stuart never worked a day in his life.
‘Why should I have to work when the government give me money for nothing?’ He said. The truth was he didn’t have the motivation to get up and go to work.
Stuart now cursed himself for having depression. It affected him almost every day of the week, as did his anxiety, which made the most remedial of tasks, like walking to the shops and starting conversations, extremely difficult. Stuart’s doctor explained his depression and anxiety were due to drug and alcohol abuse. Stuart thought his doctor was wrong because when he took drugs or drank, he could actually function properly.
Finally, he got out of bed after an hour debating with himself. He decided to get dressed and call to his mum’s house. He found the t-shirt he was wearing the night before rolled up in the corner of the room. When he picked it up, he noticed drops of blood on it. For God’s sake, what the hell happened? Stuart flung the adidas t-shirt into the washing basket and picked up his iPhone. He wanted to call Bill but noticed the screen was badly smashed.
‘Absolute nightmare,’ he said. His mum bought him the phone at Christmas, she was going to kill him.
Stuart pressed the on-button, half expecting the phone to completely breakdown, but to his surprise the home-screen lit up with the battery at 5%. He hurriedly made the call. The phone Rang 7 times before Bill answered. Stuart was certain he wasn’t going to pick up.
‘Hello,’ Stuart said.
‘Who’s this?’ Bill asked.
‘It Stuart here.’
‘Oh right, I still haven’t saved your number. What’s the craic?’
‘Just wondering what happened last night? Last thing I remember was us boys doing shots in the kitchen, at around 11 o’clock.’
‘Well you and John ended up fighting, and he decked you. After that you started crying your eyes out, saying you don’t want to be here anymore, you feel like killing yourself and all of that. So, I sent you home.’
‘No way, are you serious mate!’
‘Deadly mate. Couldn’t have you crying on like that…’
The phone went dead.
Stuart was embarrassed, he’d humiliated himself. How could his so-called best mate send him home? He was clearly distressed. Stuart had mental breakdowns like this before when he was drunk, but he’d never done it in front of his friends. And now he’d made a fool of himself. His breakdowns usually happened when he went home, and his mother had to deal with him then. The first time she was sympathetic. They’d spent countless hours in the accident and emergency department of the local hospital, waiting to see the mental health team, who took what felt like forever. No matter how long they waited, or how much his mother protested, they wouldn’t book him into the psychiatric wards. He couldn’t be treated for mental illness and suicidal tendencies because he was on drink and drugs. They would consider him for admittance if he was off everything for at least a month.
Stuart was careful to keep this a secret from his friends, but now they’d found out. He was worried about what they would think of him. His mother had also gotten sick and tired of his behaviour, and unwillingness to stop taking drugs or drink. So, she threw him out of the house, and he moved into a hostel two months ago. Since then the depression steadily grew worse. He now, more than ever, had suicide on his mind. The only way to escape these dark thoughts was smoking cannabis, drinking alcohol, or consuming drugs like ecstasy and cocaine. He tried diazepam a couple of times but the last time he took ‘blues’ he blanked out. He woke up three days later without the foggiest idea of what he’d done or where he’d been. The only thing Stuart was sure he had done was cut himself. There were twenty or so thin slices across his outer left forearm. That was six weeks ago. The first time Stuart self-harmed.
Stuart promised himself he’d never self-harm or take diazepam again. He’d managed not to do the latter but he self-harmed on other occasions, three times now if he counted last night. When he looked down at his arm he was disgusted and ashamed of what he done. He’d noticed the five cuts this time on his outer right forearm. The last scars had only faded. Hiding these new cuts was going to be a hassle. Stuart never told anyone about his self-harming problem, not even his mother. Luckily it was winter, so he would wear a jumper or a coat whenever he was in company.
Stuart left his bedroom to use the communal toilet. He went to the sink to wash his hands but got a shock when he looked in the mirror. He looked absolutely horrific. He had a black eye, that was actually purple and blue. His hair was standing up at the back of his head and there was black stuff and vomit on his face and chin.
‘For God’s sake,’ Stuart said. What would mum think if he called looking like this. He quickly cleaned his face, throwing water on it and patting the hair down. He went back to his room, got his jacket, and walked down to the reception desk in the hostel. He was opening the main door when a voice called after him.
‘Stuart come here.’
Stuart stopped in his tracks and turned to see Larry, the manager of the hostel, sitting at the check in desk.
‘What is it Larry?’ Stuart asked.
‘I need you to sign this,’ Larry said with a sour expression on his face.
Stuart lifted the piece of paper and was surprised to see it was another warning. ‘What’s this about? I didn’t do anything,’ Stewart protested.
‘You were here last night, threatening staff and other residents, off your head on God knows what. Looks Stuart you’re a nice kid when you’re sober, but this is your final warning. Anymore incidents and you’re out of here.’
‘I’m not signing that…’
‘It doesn’t make a difference if you sign it or not, anymore crap and you’re out the door.’
Stuart lifted the warning and went out the main entrance in an even worse mood. It was always one thing after the other. He never seemed to get any good news.
Stuart got halfway to his mother’s house and the rain began to fall heavier. By the time he walked through the front door he was drenched.
‘Hello,’ Stuart called out.
‘Who is it?’ his mother replied.
‘It’s me, Stuart,’ he said entering the living room.
His mother was stretched on the two-seater sofa. watching the soaps on TV. Stuart’s little sister Daisy was on the floor, playing on an iPad. When she saw Stuart, she jumped up and ran towards him.
Stuarty, look mum’s Stuarty’s home,’ Daisy shouted.
Stuart picked her up and swung her in the air, before putting her down with a big hug. Daisy was only four, so she didn’t really understand why he wasn’t living with them anymore. When he placed her on the ground, she grabbed his hand and pulled him towards her iPad.
‘I’ve got to show you this…’ Daisy said.
‘That’ll have to wait Daisy. I need to speak to Stuart, in the kitchen.’ Mum said.
Stuart knew what was coming.
‘Look at the absolute state of you. What happened to your eye?’ His mum said in a hushed but angry voice, so Daisy couldn’t overhear.
‘I was round at my mates,’ Stuart said before his mum cut him off.
‘What mates? I’ve already told you before they aren’t your friends! They don’t give a s*** about you. Look at the weight you’ve lost. What were you taking last night?’
‘Aww mum give over, I’ve not been here 2 minutes and already you’re putting my head away.’
‘No son, it’s the drugs doing that to you, not me. Have you had anything to eat today?’
‘No, I was going to see if you’d give me money to get….’
Stuart’s mum cut him off mid-sentence.
‘No son, I’m not giving you money, so you can go and buy drugs with it. I’ve told you before, I’ll make you dinner every day, but I’m not giving you anymore money.’
‘Why not?’ Stuart asked, regretting it as soon as it came out of his mouth.
‘Why not? I’ll tell you why not…because you’re running about like a wee lost soul with no other purpose in life than drinking and taking drugs. That’s why not!’
‘It’s okay then, I’m leaving here…’
‘Not want something to eat?’
‘Not with you getting on like that.’
Daisy came running into the room just then. ‘Stuart are you coming to see this…’ she said.
Stuart picked her up once again. ‘I can’t Daisy love, I have to go. I love you and I miss you.’ Stewart gave her a kiss.
No, I don’t want you to go…’ Daisy said as he set her down.
‘I have to…’ Stuart said and went towards the door.
Stuart closed the front door and heard his little sister crying. As he started to walk, he too started sobbing. How could his mother think so little of him? How had his life got so bad? On the journey back to the hostel a lot of bad thoughts went through his mind. He’d never felt so low. He got to the main door and his mind was already made up. He blanked Larry as he tried to start a conversation. Stuart made his way to his room.
Stuart went into his room and scanned his surroundings. The room was like a prison cell, 6 X 8 feet in length and diameter, a single bed with dirty sheets, two posters of cars on the wall, a chest of drawers, and an empty TV stand where his 32 inch Toshiba used to sit before he sold it.
‘This place is hell,’ Stuart said as he burst out crying.
Stuart retrieved his housecoat from under his bed. He pulled the rope out of it and tied it to a coat hanger, then placed it over the door…
Around 300 people gathered in the cemetery at the Sacred Heart Chapel. Three days had passed since Stuart took his own life. If only he could see how many people loved and cared about him. If only he could see his broken mother and wee sister. If only he could see the pain and misery. But he can’t see, just like so many young people who take their own lives. If you’re feeling down or suicidal remember problems are temporary, death is permanent.
2nd Prize Short Story Intermediate, Listowel Writing in Prison Awards, 2021
Under 25s Special Award for Flash Fiction & Short Story, Koestler Arts, 2021back to Writing