Copyright© 2021 by Mark Elias
“Okay, Alex, while your mom is here, I want to go over the results of some of the tests I had them run while you were in the hospital.” It was Thursday morning and I was sitting on the couch across from Dr. Victoria Markov. She was dressed rather conservatively with a short sleeve shirt that showed absolutely no cleavage, but nothing she could possibly wear would hide what a stone cold knockout she was. I had no idea how old she was, I could only guess in her early thirties, but she was the source of a lot of wet dreams by her patients. Of that I had no doubt.
“I’ll go over some of these test results and explain a few things for you, then we will get your mom to step out for a bit and we will talk, okay?” I nodded and she reached into her desk and pulled out some papers. “One of the tests I had asked them to perform is called a neurotransmitter test. What we do is take a urine sample and analyze the chemicals in them. What this does, is allow us to see the levels of certain chemicals in your brain. If certain ones are high or low, we can give you medication to help remedy that. We specifically look at four chemicals that are found in your brain and those are norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. The two that I want to talk to you about, the ones that stood out to me the most, were your levels of serotonin and norepinephrine.
The levels of these two chemicals in your brain were extremely low, without trying to confuse you with a lot of numbers, let’s just say your levels are only about one third of what they should be. Levels this low indicate a number of issues including depression, anxiety, insomnia, body pain, headaches and poor appetite. Does any of that sound familiar to you?”
I nodded, “Yeah. Most of it actually.”
“I thought that would be the case. Suicidal people don’t just arrive at that point for no reason. There is usually something that pushes them to it. Depression and anxiety are usually the main causes of it, or at the least they play a significant role in how the brain reacts to situations which may cause suicidal tendencies.”
“So I’m assuming there’s medication for it?” My mom was actually taking notes, using her phone. “Please forgive me if I seem rude. I’m trying to write down some of this stuff so I can talk to my husband about it.”
“It’s quite alright. I will actually give you a copy of the test results for you to take home as well as some literature about what all the numbers mean. It can be a bit overwhelming when you look at it, but don’t let it stress you out.”
My mom put her phone down hearing that and looked back at Dr. Markov. “What are our options?”
“There are a number of medications that we can try, but what I’d like to get him started on is Cymbalta. I’ll make sure you have plenty of literature on it, and I want to make sure you look over the side effects and the different medications that you’ll need to stay away from. The biggest thing I want to make sure I go over with you is that common pain relievers like Aleve, Advil, Motrin and even Bayer aspirin don’t mix well with Cymbalta. That means the only over the counter pain reliever I would recommend is...”
“Tylenol,” I confirmed as she paused to let it sink in.
“That’s correct. I’m going over this with you now because of your situation. In my opinion I think you will be okay. Based on the little time I spoke with you in the hospital, even considering your overdose, I don’t think it would be too much of an issue. Unfortunately, just about every medication I could offer you would have the same limitations so switching to a different medication instead of Cymbalta wouldn’t help at all.” She looked at me and my mom placed her hand on mine and gave it a support squeeze, “Alex, I know this may be uncomfortable to talk about but it’s necessary, and I need you to be honest with me and your mom, but also honest with yourself. Do you see Tylenol as being a temptation for you?”
I shook my head, “No. I’m actually doing really good right now. I mean I still have my moments, but things are going good.”
She nodded, “That’s good. We can talk about that in a minute. Mrs. Jackson, why don’t you step outside and give Alex and I a chance to talk. My secretary can give you a copy of the test results and all the information you’ll need on Cymbalta. You can even go ahead and get the prescription filled while you are here at the hospital. We’ll be done by 9:55 since I have a 10:00 appointment.”
For the next thirty minutes I talked with Dr. Markov about a variety of things. She mostly wanted to get to know me for the first session. She said it would help build up a bit of trust between the two of us. She even allowed me to ask her a few questions. My male brain immediately thought of a few questions I would like to ask her, but I stuck to questions I wouldn’t get in trouble for asking. It turns out that she was married. Her wife’s name was Samantha. They got married last year in Maryland before she was offered the job here. I didn’t stand a chance to begin with, I mean I was only 14, but it helped soften the blow to know that she was both married AND a lesbian.
On the way home I could tell my mom had something on her mind, “Mom, what’s wrong?”
She shook her head, “Nothing is really wrong. I’m just thinking about it all. Overthinking is more like it.”
“Is it about me?”
She sighed, “I want to be open and honest with you, so I’ll tell you. Yes, it is about you. I trust you, Alex, and I want you to know that. I love you beyond words and I will always love you no matter what. We may fight, and there may be times we don’t like each other, but I will always, always, ALWAYS love you. But with that being said, this Cymbalta thing does worry me.”
“Why did you tell Debbie that you didn’t like me anymore?” I had no idea why I said what I said. I hadn’t planned on talking to her about it just yet, if ever, but before I could stop myself the words were flying out of my mouth.
“What?!” She wasn’t yelling in anger. I could tell that by the tone of her voice. It was a shock and surprise. “What are you talking about?”
“I heard you one day talking to Debbie. You were in the kitchen and you thought I was asleep. I was coming downstairs and heard the two of you talking. Right before dad got home you told Debbie that you didn’t like me anymore.”
She pulled over to the side of the road and kept both hands on the steering wheel, but tears were coming down her cheeks. “Alex, is that what has bothered you all this time?”
I nodded, not wanting to open my mouth and say the wrong thing.
“First of all, let me apologize for that. I shouldn’t have said it much less said it where you could possibly have heard me. Second, let me say that we are family and we will ALWAYS love each other. Loving you is eternal and unbreakable, but that doesn’t mean I’m always going to like what you do. There will be times you piss me off. There will be times you hurt me. There will be times that you make me smile and be incredibly proud that you are my son. That’s just life, Alex.”
I wiped the tears from my eyes before they ran down my cheeks, “I’m sorry...”
I tried to talk but my mom wouldn’t let me, “No! Don’t apologize at all. I was frustrated with a lot of things, especially with what was going on with you and Allie. I was venting and should have done it in a more private setting. Sometimes you just need to complain and know that the person listening to you isn’t judging you and knows that you are just frustrated.” She patted my leg, “Come on, let’s go to Snopocalypse. I think we both need some ice cream. Just don’t tell your dad.”
Allison had been coming over almost every day after school to keep me company and to bring me notes and work from school. She and I still had a long way to go to make up for the nearly two years of lost friendship, but we were fast making up ground. A lot had changed between us, but the more we were around each other the more we realized, things were still the same.
Monday morning found my alarm going off at 7:00 signaling it was time for me to get up and get ready. My parents kept me out of school for the last week in order to give me a chance to recover physically and mentally, but I couldn’t put off the inevitable. I tried to convince them to let me stay out a bit more. I was SURE the school would work with me, but it was my dad who was the firm one for a change. He just told me that I couldn’t be afraid of people for the rest of my life. I had to start learning to deal with things and I wouldn’t ever do that as long as I was hiding in my room. That, along with the fact that Allison promised she would be with me when I went to school that morning, gave me the strength to get up and face everyone.
Sitting in the back of Debbie’s car I saw the school in the distance. I could feel my heartrate begin to pick up. My palms were starting to sweat, and it was becoming hard to breathe. My chest felt like I had someone sitting on it and my legs were shaking. I closed my eyes and tried to drown out all of the fear, and then I felt Allison’s hand close around mine.
“Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. It’ll be okay.” I smiled at her reassurance. It did help some, but the anxiety was very real.
I could feel every eye in the world looking at me. I might have been walking around with a giant scarlet “S” for suicide on my chest. I could hear the whispers floating on the air like a discordant melody. Were they sad or happy to still see me alive? I could hear the gavels of judgement being rapt upon the imaginary judge’s bench I saw in my head. Allison made sure to walk beside me, smiling that warm happy smile to anyone who looked our way. The sea of people seemed to part like the Red Sea, except I didn’t feel like Moses leading his people to the promised land. I felt more like Pharaoh’s army ready to be swallowed up by the raging waters.
“I can’t...” My voice was shaking and nothing more than a whisper as I stopped at my locker. When I left the school two weeks ago today, I hadn’t even bothered to take my books with me. I wouldn’t need them, and it was one less thing for my parents to have to deal with. The school had gathered my books and held them for me until Allison picked them up and placed them in my locker for me.
“Alex, it’s okay. Don’t worry about what others are thinking. Their opinion doesn’t matter.”
“That’s easy for you to say. Everyone loves you. I can hear what they are thinking. I can see it in their eyes. They all wish I had...”
“Alex! Don’t you dare finish that statement! I’ve known you since we were in first grade. You are stronger than you think you are. You can do this. Just focus on one class at a time.”
I looked at her with a bit of hesitation. One class at a time? Taking a deep breath I closed my locker and gave her as confident of a nod as I could, “One class at a time. Okay.”
“Good. I won’t be able to see you again until lunch, but I’ll meet you here at my locker, after Mr. Lawson’s class, and we can go get lunch together.”
One class at a time, that’s what she said to focus on. It actually surprised me how well the idea of one class at a time helped me. By shutting out the rest of the day I had less to worry about. I could focus purely on the class in front of me. All my teachers knew about what had happened with me, and those who didn’t know immediately I’m sure found out last Monday when Mark Green had been arrested while at school. None of my teachers made a show of my absence for the last two weeks, and I think it helped that I was still caught up on my work. Allison had been bringing home all my assignments and returning them for me to my teachers. She had really become a lifeline for me, and I’m not sure I’d have made it without her.
By the time fourth period rolled around I was beginning to feel like things were going to be fairly normal. I did occasionally hear the whispered name of Mark, or catch a few people trying to stare at me wondering if all the rumors they heard were true, but I did my best to push them out of my mind. I had managed to avoid Jennifer and David entirely and I had almost forgotten they existed until I left Mr. Lawson’s English class to head to my locker and wait for Allison.
“Hey, Asshole!” Jennifer caught me before I could fully exit the class. I stopped dead in my tracks, not really prepared for a confrontation.
“Jennifer, please just leave me alone.”
“Not a chance!” She got up into my face, well as close to my face as she could get considering I was a lot taller than she was. “Thanks to you, Mark isn’t in school anymore.”
“Thanks to Mark, I almost died!”
“Next time we’ll just have to make sure we finish the job!”
“Mr. Jackson!” I heard Mr. Lawson call me from inside. I quickly stepped into his room as Mr. Lawson looked at Jennifer and motioned her away, “Ms. Hansen, I suggest you run along to wherever you need to be. I need to discuss some things with Alex.”
I had never been more thankful to have been called out by a teacher. I was usually one to shy away from attention, but Mr. Lawson may have just become my favorite teacher.
“Is everything okay, Sir?” I actually wasn’t sure why I was called back in.
“Everything is just fine, Alex. I actually called you back in because I noticed the beginning of a confrontation. I’m not sure what Ms. Hansen was saying to you, but it didn’t look good. You’ve got lunch this period correct?”
I let out a sigh. Yep, Mr. Lawson was now the coolest teacher I knew. “Yes, Sir. Allison is supposed to be meeting me.”
He nodded, “I think Ms. Moon knows your schedule quite well. Why don’t you sit in here for a bit? I’ve got a free period next. I’m sure when she doesn’t find you at your locker, Ms. Moon will come here looking for you.”
I gave him a nod and sat down at one of the desks, “Alex, it’s none of my business what has happened to you, and I won’t try to pry into your life. But I do want you to know that if you ever need anything, even just someone to listen to you, I am always here. I think I can speak for all of your teachers when I say that.”
I could only nod, feeling a bit awkward. I was having to be protected from a girl by one of my teachers. Yeah, I’m sure this would help my reputation around the school. When the halls had cleared, I stood, “I think I’m going to head to my locker now that the halls are empty.”
Mr. Lawson only gave me a smile and a nod before sitting back at his desk to do whatever it was teachers do on their breaks. Just as I was leaving the classroom, I saw Allison coming down the hall looking concerned.
“Yeah. Jennifer tried to start something after class. Mr. Lawson saw her and called me back inside to keep me from having to deal with her. He may be my new favorite teacher.”
Allison looked angry, “I’m going to have to deal with Jennifer.”
“Please don’t!” I sighed as we headed for the lunchroom. “At least not right now. I’ve got enough stress going on. I know you are just trying to help, and I appreciate it, but just let me deal with it right now. There may be a time when I need your help, but just ... not now okay?”
“Okay, but don’t think I’m not ready to kick her ass at any moment.” I stopped dead in my tracks. I don’t think I had ever, in all the years I had known her, heard Allison use anything remotely resembling foul language, much less threatening to kick someone’s ass. I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Thanks. I needed that.”
To say that there was tension at lunch would have been an understatement. Allison never left my side and really went out of her way to help me ignore the looks I was getting from Jennifer, David and the rest of the gang that sat with them. If looks could kill Jennifer and David would have shot me, stabbed me, hung me, and burned me alive all at the same time. The other half of the lunchroom was just quiet. They recognized the tension and just waited for something to happen, but nothing happened. At least not at first.
Thursday, after lunch, I went to my locker to get my books for the last half of the day when everything went to hell. I didn’t even have to open my locker to know something had happened. Our lockers had both a top and a bottom locker. I was lucky enough to get a top locker. Bailey Jessup had the locker beneath me. She and I hadn’t really said a lot to each other the entire year, and we seemed to have worked out a system where each of us could get to our locker without blocking the other. Bailey was in band and though we were never ‘friends’ on any level, she had never tried to be mean to me. So when she locked her eyes on me and started to scream, I knew something was wrong.
“What the hell, Alex?!”
I gave her a confused look at first, “What?”
“What the hell did you put in your locker? It’s f•©ked up everything in mine! All my books, my notes, my clothes.”
I looked past her and saw red paint flowing down from the bottom of my locker and into hers. “F•©k!”
“He didn’t do anything!” Allison was quick to try and defend me.
“He obviously did something! Look at my shit!”
“I’ve been with him just about all day. He hasn’t done anything.”