Excerpts from the Suicide Letters of Jonathon Bender (b.1967-d.2000)
Dear Ted Poor,
Iím sorry for hitting you over the head with my Scooby-Doo lunch box and cracking your head open with it, but you were a lot bigger than I was then. I was afraid of you and I wanted you and your brother to stop picking on me on the way home from school.
I hope that the doctors were able to patch up the crack in your head, but I have always wondered if they could see inside your head through it.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Thank you for giving me the stuffed dog for my eighth birthday, though I still donít know why I couldnít have a living one. I know that you didnít think that I would feed it and clean up after it, but I would have. I thought that if I took good care of the stuffed dog that you were going to get me a real one for my next birthday.
Thank you for being my friend and playing with me even though nobody else could see you. But I wish that you hadnít run away from home and never come back. Iím sure that it must have been better to grow up without a mom and a dad, but I liked playing hide-and-go-seek with you since nobody else but me could find you.
Iím sorry that I didnít eat the animal crackers after I asked you to buy them for me. I was afraid that if I did that we wouldnít be able to go to the circus because there wouldnít be any animals left or that the animals might have broken legs or missing heads.
Iím sorry that I embarrassed you because I struck out each time that I came up to bat that first summer that I played little league baseball. I really was trying to get a hit.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Iím sorry that I wore the Burger King crown for most of the summer of 1975, but I really did think that I was the Burger King, especially since nobody else was wearing a crown.
Iím sorry that I got the lawn all muddy and sloppy by running through the sprinklers that you had put out in the front yard. I know that you were watering the lawn so that the grass would grow. But I was so skinny and short then, and I thought that the water might help me to grow too.
Iím sorry that I usually went up to my bedroom when you came home from work. I thought that if you didnít see me then you wouldnít be angry with me.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Why did you teach me the childís prayer that was about me dying in my sleep before I woke up? I have always wondered if that was why I so often dreamed that I was dying. Did you know that I was often tired because I had to keep waking myself up from those dreams?
Dear Santa Claus,
Thank you for bringing me a bike for Christmas and for putting training wheels on it so that I didnít fall off of it when I rode it. I knew that there was too much snow on the ground for me to ride it outside then, but I was so excited that you came to our house that I still wanted to sit on it in the living room and turn the handlebars back and forth as if I were going around corners.
Thank you for leaving all of your magazines with the naked women in them underneath your bed where they were easy for me to find. Did you ever look at them yourself or did you just buy them for me? Were you worried that I didnít like girls?
Dear Dr. Newman,
Iím sorry that I was afraid to take my clothes off so that you could examine me. I didnít want you to see me naked or for you to touch me with your thick fingers or those cold instruments. But you made me feel as if there really were something wrong with me. Is that why you referred me to another doctor?
Dear Coach Evans,
Thank you for teaching me to pace myself for those long distance races. I was only starting out so fast to get away from all of the other runners.
Dear Dr. Adler,
Iím sorry that I stopped taking the medication that you prescribed for me. It gave me headaches and made me thirsty, but I stopped taking it because I didnít think that I needed it anymore. I thought that I was thinking okay again.
Dear Mr. Ryan,
Iím sorry that I didnít submit an insect collection for my final project in biology class and that you had to flunk me for it. But I wasnít going to catch insects and then put them inside jars to suffocate them with alcohol fumes. That just made me think about how my dad smelled when he came into the house after he had been out drinking and how all of us would scatter when he tried to swat at us.
Dear Dr. Adler,
Iím sorry that I stopped taking my medication again. I didnít think that I needed it anymore until I realized that I was thinking that the trees were umbrellas, that it was raining apples, and that the raindrops wanted me to eat them until I drowned.
Dear Courtney Betenbough,
Iím sorry that I was so mean to you and that I called you names like ďfat girlĒ and that I made ďmooingĒ noises at you when you walked by me in the hallway at school. You probably wonít believe this, but I didnít mean to hurt your feelings. I was doing it because you reminded me of my dad and I wanted to hurt his feelings.
Dear Jessica Cooper,
Iím sorry that I stood you up for the date that we were supposed to have on Valentineís Day in 1991. Do you think that we could have been happy together?
Dear Heather Fairing,
Iím sorry that I wouldnít open the windows in our apartment. I know how hot it was that summer that we lived together. But I was afraid that somebody would climb up the fire escape and break in on us. There was already too much that was missing from us.
Sometimes when I fart, the smell of it reminds me of you and the way that you used to sit on the toilet in the bathroom with the bathroom door always open.
Iím sorry that I stopped coming to bed at night and started sleeping on the couch with the television on. The station going off of the air and all of that static that came on after that blurred how I felt.
Iím sorry that I ran over the squirrel with my car when we were driving to the restaurant. I thought that it was going to stay on the other side of the road. I didnít think that it would double back on itself.
Iím sorry that nobody could hear you when you were choking to death on a chicken bone and that you could not get yourself up off of the floor to try to give yourself the Heimlich maneuver. You must have felt very scared and alone.
Iím sorry that I didnít go back to Michigan for Dadís funeral even though you thought that I should have. But he didnít know where I lived when he died and I didnít want his ghost to follow me home to Illinois. I didnít want to be haunted by him.
Iím sorry that I didnít chase after my lucky hat after the wind blew it off of my head. I know that I should have at least tried to run after it, but it seemed so dirty after it rolled on the ground that I didnít think that I could ever put it on my head again. Besides, I think that it was listening to what I was thinking.
Iím sorry that you died from eating too much or too fast or the wrong thing or however that chicken bone got stuck in your throat. Sometimes it makes me afraid to eat anything when I am alone.
Other times I canít stop eating when I feel lonely, even if I donít think that the food will choke me and kill me too. ē
Michael Kimball has written two novels—The Way the Family Got Away, which has been translated into many languages, and How Much of Us There Was. He lives in Baltimore with his wife.
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