"Y'know, those things'll kill ya," Ephram says, after a minute. The kid's been sitting at his table for maybe five minutes, and just lit up a cigarette.
He gives no indication that he's heard at all, headphones still firmly in place, but after a second the guy says, "want one?"
"Nah." Ephram moves his headphones, enough that the kid can talk if he wants, not enough to indicate real interest. "I'm trying to quit."
Another long second. "I'm Sam."
"Ephram." He studies the guy: pierced labret, eyeliner. Not heavy eyeliner, but enough. A Marilyn Manson follower that didn't have anywhere to go when the indie-punk metal scene made way for hip hop. Punks without a mainstream, or former punk turned - what, exactly? "What're you in for?" Ephram asks, and indicates the center with a flip of his head.
Sam doesn't smile. His headphones are still on, but when Ephram glances at the discman there's no rotation, the music isn't even on. "Uh, vandalism." He flicks his cigarette. "Petty crime. They never caught the drugs or whoring, y'know." Ephram doesn't know. "Attempted suicide. Boring shit."
Ephram nods. His discman is playing Wagner, gently, low. He doesn't really hear it anymore, mostly keeps the headphones on as a kind of hip security blanket.
"You?" Sam asks.
"The usual, I guess," Ephram says without smiling. "Attempted suicide. Boring shit."
Sam puts his cigarette out. "See, they always tell you that trying to kill yourself is major." He shrugs, a little, raises the black turtleneck enough so that Ephram can see his wrist, all cut up with little white scars. A lot of the lines are so faint it's obvious they couldn't have killed him. "It never felt, y'know."
"What're you listening to?" Ephram asks him, next. If Amy had admitted to cutting up her wrists, Ephram would be worried, wouldn't know what to say. Sam, though, he has a feeling that this is a normal conversation, like any other. Hell, it feels like a normal conversation to him.
Sam holds the discman out - Marilyn Manson. "I dunno," he says, taking the headphones off and letting them dangle around his neck. "It wasn't even playing. It just makes it so people don't talk to you."
"Oh," Ephram says. "Sorry. I mean, I get that. I used to pull that trick." he swallows. "on my dad."
"Me too," Sam says.
If Ephram isn't mistaken, Sam's throat sounds a little more closed, a little tighter. He plays with the pen. This is supposed to be reading time, homework time, but usually he just sat there, headphones on, and waited to go to his therepy session. They wouldn't let him read comics and he couldn't seem to explain that Fitzgerald wasn't easing his pain. "So how'd you do it?" he asks Sam. It feels a bit rude, but this is a normal conversation about dying.
"Straight razor," Sam says, pulling up his other wrist. There's a much more obvious scar here. "Jumped off a roof."
"Pills and rum," Ephram says, with a wry smile. "They never tell you how bad that is." Sam grins a little, despite himself. "Hanging."
"That's supposed to hurt," Sam says. "I mean, I did it, but never, like, hard. it was always about something else."
"My grandfather found me," Ephram explains. near his collarbone, Wagner is still playing softly. "He was so mad."
"My mom found me in the bathtub," Sam says. "She cried for a week."
"I think if my mom could have found me," Ephram tells Sam, "I wouldn't have done it. I mean, I didn't expect my grandparents to be so mad."
"Where was she?"
"She's, uh, she's dead," Ephram says, and for a very painful second it's like the night of his recital all over again, when he looked into the front row in the middle bridge and closed his eyes against the fact that his parents - both his parents - *hadn't come*. Not the pain of death, of loss, but shame. "She died in a car crash, uh, just over a year ago."
"Yeah, me too," Ephram says. "But it was an accident."
Sam visibly swallows, and Ephram watches his labret piercing bob up and down, his adam's apple. The guy looked like he couldn't decide whether to be punk or give up, and the cross was pretty, but sad, like someone who'd stopped mid-transformation and forgotten how to turn back. "Your dad?" Sam asks him.
"My dad." Ephram reaches over, turns his discman off. "Well, I hated my dad for most of my life," and Sam nods, says,
"Been there, done that."
"After my mom died," Ephram starts, "we moved across the country. He wanted to get to know us, really, and he couldn't do that in New York or whatever." Sam isn't looking at him, and it makes it strangely easier to tell. "so, there we were, and I hated him, and then we had to learn to live together. theend. except it wasn't." Ephram's voice is flat. "He obviously was more effective at killing himself than I was."
"My dad, it wasn't suicide," Sam says, slowly. "Except maybe it was. There's this thing, someone used to say. 'No one wants to be sick'. But I think my dad, I think he felt sick, unhappy. Small. And he was sick." He took his own headphones from around his neck, put them down on the table a little harder than was necessary. "He tricked me into forgiving him and, and even loving him, right before he died."
"Been there," Ephram says. "Done that."