A second of inattention left the Colemans scrambling as they spotted their five-year-old new swimmer in mid-jump off the three-meter springboard at a local pool. The next morning, after an early rain, John found Clarissa outside on the driveway, picking up worms and gently placing them back where she had decided each must reside.
John, Clarissa’s father, said he remembered those events because it was the first time he fully realized that life with Clarissa would provide him a continuous pendulum swing between heartwarming pride and heartbreaking fear.
Clarissa had been daddy’s little girl; in many ways the boy the Coleman’s had hoped to add to their family when they decided to have a third child. When John went to the shooting range, Clarissa was usually his lone company. She was the only one of the girls who enjoyed going to work with John on the many Saturdays he spent trying to optimize his latest waste recycling separation gadget. Clarissa, though, spent most of her time creating mosaics and statues out of spare parts and garbage strewn around his lab.
John had required all three girls to join him for a series of survival training weekends as his fears grew for his family’s safety, but Clarissa was the one who flourished in the outdoors. As she transported into her teenage turmoil years, she frequently took off alone on all-day wilderness excursions, causing her parents to panic in the hours between when she told them she was going to a friend’s house and when they tracked her down somewhere between their home and Humphrey’s Peak or some other nearby wilderness area.
Only Clarissa’s proficiency with a tranquilizer gun – and more recently with an odd-looking rifle John had designed and built – had kept them from sending the authorities after her when she snuck out and travelled too far to reach quickly. John chased her down many times tracking Clarissa on her Lifelink mobile device that allowed the Colemans to watch her on satellite at not-insignificant expense until they could escort her home safely. The Colemans never figured out how to punish Clarissa appropriately to keep her from just taking off. When grounded, Clarissa would isolate herself from everyone, disappearing inside the house for long enough that the rest of the family often forgot she was there. All too often, when they went searching for her, she was gone. When, instead of grounding, her Lifelink was taken to keep her from connecting to the outside world, Clarissa would take off into the woods or nearby canyons or mountains with no way to be traced.
In the last few years and particularly in the last few months, John Coleman said he would have given anything to recapture moments of warmth with Clarissa to replace the constant fear barrage that pounded away at his conscience as she isolated herself and became increasingly sullen. Her previously confident disposition had been wilting in recent years, and now seemed completely shredded. Signs of happiness had fallen from occasional to sporadic to now nearly non-existent. John felt helpless to intervene.
Had I really known Clarissa when I first read her suicide note, scrawled out in pencil and shoved inside her clothes in case anyone found her body, I would have felt at least a part of the soul shattering that John clearly felt in his nearly daily panic.
“i’ve had enough already. i mean, seriously. people hatin me. callin me stupid, snake hole, skeleton and way, way worse. everybody dyin around me. Grandpa’s dead. Sarah’s dead. nobody knows i’m alive or even cares. a-holes at school are alive and smilin and happy and tellin me i’m not worth wastin their oxygen. their oxygen. like i don’t deserve any. at least they’re honest, i guess. my friends abandoned me. great friends, huh. thanks for abandoning me girls. you know who i mean. i mean, seriously, how much am I supposed to just take and take and take and take.
“i just can’t do it anymore, so i won’t. it’s better this way. it’s not like anyone’s gonna care, but in case someone finds my body before it’s all chewed up and turned into animal crap, let anyone who asks know that i’m relieved it’s over and done with and i can not have to wake up every morning dreading how f-ing miserable i’m gonna be again and who’s gonna rip on me in front of everyone, or who’s gonna trip me or shove me or grab at me. it’s weird, but those aren’t even always the worst days. the worst days are when nobody even sees me, even knows I’m alive or cares. imagine being surrounded by a thousand people and still being completely, utterly alone. abandoned. empty. that’s my life now. well, it was anyway.
“you’re lucky i hate my life more than other people. i coulda done it too if i really wanted to hurt people, but then i’d be an even worse person than people who make me sick. i know how to shoot. i coulda gotten a bunch of people, but i’d still feel terrible. and I don’t want to hurt people because i know what it’s like to be hurt all the time. this way, no one’s in pain anymore. it’s probably the right way to go, don’t you think. i don’t wanna burn in hell, and i know i’d get sent there if I killed other people. that’s where i woulda ended up, always in the worst place possible. this way, maybe i’ve gotta shot of goin if there is a heaven. i mean, look at how many lives i saved gettin rid of mine. that’s a lot of people to save for anyone. and if there isn’t a heaven or hell, then i’m just gone and nothin hurts anymore. anyway, tell my parents and sisters i’m sorry that i got found. i’d just as soon they just figured i ran away than have to know i’m dead, but, if you see this, it is what it is, i guess.
“at least i don’t hurt anymore. sorry.”
No teenager should have to feel lingering pain that reaches that depth. For that matter, neither should anyone else.