The Outside Man

None of her friends knew anything. “It’s always the last person you expect,” one of then said and then immediately apologized. There was a lot of that. Apologizing. As if it was their fault that Helen killed herself. As if, since they couldn’t think of a proper reason, they thought she must have committed suicide just because of them.

It’s not the person you least expect. It’s the person you never think of, the person who never enters your mind. If you really looked at them, you would see it, that despair, that look in their eyes. But Helen wasn’t like that. I had dark days; Helen had hope. She always had hope.

I broke into her apartment. I went through her stuff. Her books, her DVD collection, even her goddamn bathroom. In a notebook, I found this drawn in the margins:

Below it, Helen had written: Et in Arcadia ego.

Does this mean she was thinking about death?

Before I was able to flip through the notebook some more, looking for more clues, I heard keys in the door, I heard the door creak. I hid. Was she here? Had she come back? Would I finally be able to talk to her again, ask her all those questions?

But no: when I glanced out, it wasn’t Helen. It was a man, mid-twenties, sandy brown hair. He was looking around. What was he doing here?

“What are you doing here?” I asked, stepping out from my hiding place in the kitchen. The man jumped and then put his hand to his heart.

“Sorry,” he said. “I was just…you look so much…are you Cassie? She told me about you.”

“Who the fuck are you?” I asked.

The young man took a deep breath. “My name is Harry Burton. I was Helen’s boyfriend.” She never mentioned a boyfriend. Was he telling the truth? How could I know?

“Prove it,” I asked. He took out his wallet and removed one of those picture triptychs you get from photograph machines at the mall. It was him and Helen. They were hugging in the first one, laughing in the second, kissing in the third.

“You want to know,” he said. “How she died.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement. “I want to know, too. Let me help. Please.”

I held the triptych in my hand. I looked at it. There she was in shades of color. “Fine,” I said, handing it back to Harry. “Fine.”

He could help. He could tell me other secrets she had. But when it was time, when I would see her again, it would just be me. Just me.


The Parent Trap

Talked to my parents today. They were…uncooperative in my quest. Helen was their pride and joy and now they want to forget her, want to pretend she never existed. Make her an unperson, wipe her from their memories.

But I’m here. As long as they can see me, they will be reminded of her. That’s my little revenge.

I remember Helen talking about them, about how overprotective they were of her. Now they are overprotective of their own misery, wallowing in their silence.

“Did you talk to her?” I asked my mom. She wouldn’t look me in the eye. “In the week before, did she talk to you?”

“I don’t know why you’re doing this,” my mother said. “It’s pointless. There’s no reason. You should just give up, like you gave up on so many other things.”

I ignored her. “Did she talk to you? She did, didn’t she? What did she say?”

“Nothing,” my mother said. “We talked over the phone. Small talk. How her postgrad studies were going. That sort of stuff.”

Now was the tricky part. “Have you seen her?” I asked. “I mean, have you seen her recently?”

Now she looked at me. I could almost believe she wanted to cry, but had forgotten how. “She’s dead, Cassandra.”

“I know,” I said. “I saw her.” My mother looked away again. “I saw her outside my apartment building. She was looking at me.”

“So, what,” my mother said, “you think perhaps she faked her suicide? I saw her body, Cassandra. I was there. She’s dead.”

“I know,” I said again. “I still saw her.”

As I walked away, she said, “You’re as crazy as she was.”

Maybe I am crazy. Maybe I’ve gone fucking bugnuts. Maybe I didn’t see her, but only a reflection in the window that, in my grief, my mind decided was Helen.

But that didn’t matter. It didn’t matter if I was crazy or if Helen was crazy. Even crazy people have a reason for offing themselves.

I turned back to my mother and said, “When I see her again, I’ll make sure to give her your fondest wishes.”

I walked away and didn’t look back.

The Big Kick

What happens after you die?

Well, that’s a morbid fucking question, right? So why am I asking it?

My name is Cassie. I had a twin sister named Helen. Yes, had. She’s dead now. She killed herself. Turned on the oven, stuck her head in, and breathed deeply. Left behind a suicide note, too. It only read six words:

See you on the other side.

Yeah. So now you see why I’m asking such a morbid fucking question.

What happens after you die? After you kick the proverbial bucket? Bite the big one? Give up the ghost? Push up daisies, as in being buried underground and having your dead body decompose and become fertilizer so that daisies can grow?

You see, after Helen died, I did see her again. She looked…the same way she always looked. Except she has this glint in her eyes. This fucking glint that said: I know something you don’t know.

You think I’m crazy right about now. Maybe I am. Maybe I’ve gone out of my fucking gourd.

But then I don’t really give a crap. I’m going to find her again. I’m going to find her and ask her some questions. We’re going to have a little Q & A between us.

I’ve always been the bad twin, the sister who disappointed mom and dad. Helen went to college, got her degree, and then inhaled gas until she went to sleep and never woke up.

I’m going to find out why.