Charlotte is 15. She has been going out with Kyle for about four months. It has not been an easy ride, and she argues with him one night on facebook. Upset, she goes to the medicine cabinet and takes a handful of paracetamol tablets. She texts Kyle, and a few other people, and tucks herself into bed, still crying. She hears shouting, and then there is the car ride to the hospital, and then she sleeps.
She wakes in the hospital, and her phone is full of texts and some missed calls. The only ones that matter are Kyle's, and his are worrying. He says he feels betrayed; she had promised him she would stop self harming. She texts him. He does not text back. She phones him. He does not answer. Charlotte is scared now. He always said he would be there for her. She phones the landline, and Carrie, Kyle's little sister, answers. She takes the phone to Kyle.
Carrie, who is 12, is off school today and she has spent the afternoon watching the cable guy install new TV channels. He is really helpful and shows her how to set the decoder and how to get all the new channels. After he has gone, she flicks through the channels and watches half a movie. Then the phone rings. It's Charlotte, and she sounds worried.
Carrie takes the phone upstairs and knocks on Kyle's bedroom door, but as usual he doesn't bother answering her. She goes in. Kyle is hanging in his wardrobe, a guitar string around his neck. Because the guitar string has cut his throat, the confined space of the wardrobe drips with blood. He has voided his bowels and bladder. Carrie has never seen anything so unimaginably dead.
With a presence of mind she didn't know she had, she hits 111 on the phone she is already carrying. Then she rings her mum, Tina. All she can say is 'Get home, get home...'
First on the scene is Omar, the ambulance officer and his colleague. Omar cuts down Kyle, lays him carefully on his bed, and waits. There is nothing else to do.
Tina arrives home after getting Carrie's panicked call. The ambulance is in the driveway. Perhaps there has been an accident. She runs into Kyle's room, sees him, sees Carrie, and then the world just caves in. She flings herself at Omar, screaming, vomiting, dragging herself down his body, now on the floor, Omar's voice, this stranger, saying something, it is all over, Carrie is with her.
Omar finishes his shift. Because he didn't have to take Kyle to hospital, he is supposedly ready for his next job as soon as he's changed his uniform. He gets home. Jen has fed the kids and is getting ready for work. They have about twenty minutes together. He tells her about Kyle and finds he is actually quite shaky in his hands and a bit tearful. I can ring in sick, says Jen. It's OK, Omar says. I'll put the girls to bed and watch a bit of Top Gear and I will be OK.
Jen drives to work, to the hospital where she works as a nurse in the emergency department. She is assigned Charlotte to care for.
The cable guy has gone to his next job, unaware that a young man was killing himself in the bedroom at the house he connected up earlier that day.
So, i am an admirer of Gus Van Sant's film Elephant, which is about the Columbine High School shootings, as seen from that one day in the lives of many different people at the school. i assume it is called Elephant after the proverb about the blind people who were asked about the elephant. They all felt the elephant. The one who felt the ear thought an elephant was like a giant leaf. The one who felt the side of the elephant thought it was like a wall. The one who felt its tail thought it was like a rope. Nobody knows all of the elephant.
i wanted to tell this story from the points of view of everybody except Kyle, who is almost a hidden character, even though the story is all about him.
Because this is real life, however, there are sequels. They go on and out for ever. Here is one.
Kyle's funeral takes place five days later. The first wash of horror and grief has passed. The funeral is huge. There is a lot of crying and hugging. You could say teens love drama, but teens also have compassion and very easily put themselves in each other's shoes. Charlotte is not at the funeral. But Dezrae is. She was Kyle's best friend.
Dezrae's big sister Broghan stands in the doorway of the chapel, too scared to go in. A part of her life is in that coffin. She didn't know Kyle well, but she remembers her own suicide attempt two months previously. She doesn't want to see Kyle. If she saw his face, his dead face, she may see reflected in it, her own.
This could go either way. Suicides can run in waves. Broghan could think, well, it was that easy, it is just that bit more possible now to do it again. But Broghan has used her time wisely. She has confided in people she trusts, and over the last five days she has talked to Dezrae, her annoying little poser of a sister who is nothing but a selfish cow most of the time, in ways she never thought she would. Now Dezrae and she are allies. They know how much they love each other. Broghan stands in the doorway of the chapel, too scared to go in. But now there is love, enough love to go round, enough for all the world, enough to live.