The Marching Band
Today is Fat Tuesday. It is the day that marks the holiday, Mardi Gras, which is a traditional Southern Catholic holiday that I still don’t fully understand. It is a big enough holiday here that I have been given the day off work. I am thankful for this because I am in no state to be going anywhere right now.
I have just woke to a spinning ceiling and dried blood on my clothes. There are several deep cuts on my left arm and an empty bottle of Wild Turkey laying on my bedroom floor. I reach for my phone to check the time and see a concerned message from my friend Brooke. I try to read back my message from the night before and all of them had been cleared. In a panic, I send a reply and apologize, having no idea what I had told her. She forgives me and asks about my wrist, which is still seeping small droplets of blood.
I declare to my spinning apartment.
I’m getting dressed, trying to find a shirt to cover the disgusting wound on my arm, when my phone buzzes again. It’s another text from Brooke.
“My best friend tried to kill herself last night by taking pills. We are visiting her in the hospital. This isn’t something to dabble around in. You need to get help.”
I trip over my jeans as I try and put them on and fall into a sobbing heap on the floor. I lay on the floor and cry and convulse as if I was possessed by demons. The alcohol in my stomach combined with the violent crying makes me vomit.
I stumble into the bathroom and clean myself, there are a few drops of blood in the sink next to the disassembled parts of a razor.
“Why are you doing this to her?” I say into the mirror. I was either talking to myself or talking to God.
I look at the clock and it’s 9:45 a.m. I have an appointment with my therapist at 10.
“This will be fun,” I say to myself out loud. I grab my phone and text Brooke before leaving my apartment.
“I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay. Just focus on recovering right now.”
“Are you alright?” My therapist asks me. “You look very tired.”
“Yeah,” I respond. “I’m still a little drunk. I shouldn’t have driven here.”
After making this statement and reading her concerned face, I decided in my head that now would also be the perfect time to show her the deep cuts on my arm.
“I also did this,” I tell her, rolling up my sleeve.
“Hello?” My Mom says through my phone’s speaker.
“Hey, Mom. I know we were supposed to get together today, but I really don’t feel well. I should probably just go home and lie down.”
“Oh … okay … Is everything alright?”
“Yeah. I’m just a little sick.”
I can hear the disappointment in her voice. My Mom is a school teacher and had the day off. We had made plans to spend the day together. I can’t let her know what is happening to me.
“I love you, Sean. I hope you feel better,” she tells me.
“I love you too,” I say, trying my best to sound okay.
I drive around town aimlessly for a while before stopping to eat at a small hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese place. I order a large bowl of pho, which is perfect on my twitching and hung over body. Each sip of the hot beefy broth slowly warms my insides and brings the color back into my face. As I sit, I try and process all that has gone on so far. Should I talk to Brooke about what happened? What did I even say to her last night? I should probably just never talk to her again, at this point.
I notice a beautiful young couple a few tables down.
“Maybe I should start dating again,” I say in my mind. “Brooke has a boyfriend and he is a really sweet guy. Maybe if I found someone, I wouldn’t do stupid shit to myself like last night.”
I begin to daydream about a girl sitting across the table from me. She is excited to be with me. She is smiling at me and has the most beautiful, affectionate look on her face. Her eyes drop to the cuts on my arm and her face turns somber and heartbroken. She gets up and leaves me in the restaurant alone.
My daydream ends and I begin to cry in the restaurant. At this point, I don’t really care about embarrassing myself because I have no shred of self-respect left.
After I finish eating, I drive home. My roommate, Nathan is at the apartment for his lunch break.
“Hey Sean. What’s up?” He asks, as he takes a bite out of some leftover pizza.
“Not much. Pretty boring day off so far,” I tell him, concealing my wounded arm and trying to hide the fact that I am a living, breathing disaster.
“Did you hear about the parade?” he asks.
“A man drove a truck through a high school marching band during the Mardi Gras parade today. Several kids are in critical condition.”
“Yep, he floored it straight into the band as they were marching in the parade.”
Nathan continues to describe what had happened and his words fade out and my chest begins to tighten. I sit down on the couch next to him and stare at the wall for a few silent moments. I am visualizing the horrific scene of the accident in my head. I can see the shocked faces of the parade spectators. I can see Brooke and her friend at the hospital. I can see my mom at home by herself.
“That’s awful,” I say halfheartedly.
more by SEAN SULLIVAN
photograph by Louis Blythe