The Wall

Warning: This episode discusses underage drinking, drug use, self-harm, and attempted suicide.

If this is triggering, this episode may not be for you.

I stumbled out of my room, the half-empty bottle of vodka sloshing in my bag as I made my way down the stairs. I glanced in all directions, but no one seemed to notice me leave. Not that it mattered. First study hours were pretty much optional for seniors.

I could feel my Ace wearing off. How I wished I had another one. Ever since Zach had introduced me to the little pills, I had popped a new one every twelve hours or so.

But the jerk had cut me off. Told me to get my own stash. He was only sharing with Paige now. All because she was better in bed.

Whatever. She could have him. He wasn’t any prize. I had only stayed with him for so long because of the Ace.

A car blared its horn. I looked up in time to see it swerve around me. How had I gotten into the middle of the road?

Huh. Didn’t matter. It was already gone. I crossed to the other side, making my way to the courtyard between the pool and the MacMillan Activities Center.

There were two snow-covered gardens in the courtyard, each surrounded by a foot-high brick enclosure. After taking my bottle from my bag and downing a large gulp, I walked along the one on the far side of the courtyard until I reached the Wall.

This had always been one of my favorite spots on campus. I felt on top of the world here. Behind me was the garden. In front of me was a three-story drop into the parking lot.

I walked along its edge to where it abutted the MAC. After taking another swig of vodka, I walked to the other side, where the wall met the staircase.

Fifteen feet. The Wall was fifteen of my feet long. Did I know that already? I took another swig.

How many times I could hop along it? It was wider than my two feet. I wouldn’t fall.

I took another drink. The bottle was empty. How did that happen? Stupid pint.

I sat with my back against the MAC wall, tossing the empty bottle over the edge. It fell in slow motion, spinning and turning until it landed on the asphalt. And shattered into a million pieces.

Would that happen to me? Would I shatter? Then my outsides might look like my insides.

The campus was pretty dead at this hour. A few cars came to pick up day students. But no one seemed to notice me.

A car passed me, turning toward the TRAC. I watched its headlights find a parking space beside the athletic center. It looked so tiny all the way over there.

A while later, a small dark speck came slowly back along the road. It grew bigger as it came closer. When it neared the stairs, I realized it was a person.

Not just any person. Someone I had once thought of as a friend. Before he had betrayed me.

What had he done? I couldn’t remember. I would ask Zach. He always remembered things like that.

But Zach was too busy with his new girlfriend. The one that lifted her skirt whenever he asked, wherever he asked. The greater the risk of being caught, the better.

The figure nodded toward me. “Hey.”


Pat stopped, squinting at me in the darkness. Did he know it was me? He was under some lights, but I was in the shadows. Maybe he would go away if I was quiet.

“Whatcha doing?”

Maybe not. I shrugged. “Thinking.”

“Oh, I’ll just—” He waved toward his dorm across the street.

That was it. Pat had left me because he was jealous. He didn’t like that I was spending so much time with his best friend. His roommate.

“We broke up.”

Pat continued up the steps. I expected him to leave. I didn’t expect him to sit with me.

“Wanna talk about it?”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why are you pretending to be nice to me?” He had been ignoring me for months. Why did he suddenly want to be my friend?

“Whatever. I’ll leave.”

But he didn’t. I glanced to my left. Beyond the soccer field, snow covered the bare trees. They weren’t quite dead, yet they didn’t seem very alive.

Much like I felt. Was I hibernating, too? Just existing but not really living until the end came?

“I just don’t see the point.”

I could see confusion on Pat’s face out of the corner of my eye. “What point?”

“Exactly! What’s the point? Why are we even here? Sometimes, I wonder if I should just leave.”

I glanced at the broken bottle beneath me. I should wait until I was home. My bedroom was ten times higher.

“You’re so close to graduating. Why would you give it all up now?”

“So what?” I glared at him. The preppy boy with the perfect life. He couldn’t understand! “I graduate. Then what? I mean, my parents already told me that if I don’t get into college, they won’t pay for me to laze around and party like Meghan.”

I waved my hand to emphasize my point. It didn’t feel light anymore. My buzz was wearing off.

Pat tried to defend his sister. “That’s not—”

I shook my head. He had misunderstood. Those were my parents’ words, not mine. “I know. She’s finding herself. And she’s doing a great job. I mean, she never would have considered costume design if she hadn’t taken this year off. The thing is, I already know what I want to do. And I won’t be able to, so what’s the point? I should just leave now.”

“Where would you go?”

That was a good question. I didn’t really believe in Heaven. I was pretty sure this was Hell.

I shrugged. “Don’t know. I mean, I’d guess I’d find out.” Too bad I wouldn’t be able to tell him what I learned.

“When are you leaving?”

“What time is it?”

“Nearly eight.”

“I’ve been sitting here for, like, an hour. I think need another drink.”

One more drink should give me enough courage. I needed to answer Pat’s question. Where would I go?

Pat pointed toward the dorms. “Obviously, I don’t have anything. Want me to run to your room and grab something for you?”

The poor, naïve boy. “A guy in my room? During study hours? I mean, are you trying to get me in trouble?”

He swore. “Wasn’t thinking. What if—Oh! I got it! The infirmary!”

I narrowed my eyes at him. Why would he want to go there? Was he trying to get me in trouble or something? “What do you mean?”

“Meghan said the nurses are, like, always drinking. I bet I could find something there.”

That girl would know. She had spent half her time in the infirmary when she was here. But why would Pat help me? Because that was the kind of guy he was.

Pat was still plotting. “I’m thinking it’s in the nurses’ lounge. But I don’t know where that is.”

Really? It was so simple. “I do. You go down the hall and it’s, like the—I don’t know. Fifth door? There’s a label for it.”

Pat frowned. “It would never work. I mean, I’d get caught right away.”

“You need someone to distract the nurses.”

“Yeah, but who?”

I sat up, planting my feet in the garden box. “I’ll help you. I can say I have a headache. When they’re not looking, you can go get a bottle.”

This was an amazing plan. As we made our way to the infirmary, I couldn’t believe I had never thought of it before.

All I had to do was pretend to be sick and Pat would get what I needed to leave here for good. Headaches were always great excuses to hang out in the infirmary. Actually, I had the ghost of one now. Maybe the doctor would examine me.

Would they find out about the vodka? The Ace? If they did, they may not let me leave.

I grabbed Pat’s arm. “I can’t do it.”

“Why not?”

“If I pretend to have a headache, they might keep me overnight. But you’re a real actor. If you pretend—”

He nodded. “Okay.”

But I didn’t want him to get in trouble. “And we shouldn’t meet later. I’ll find you tomorrow. If I, you know, am still here.”

I wouldn’t be. But he didn’t need to know that.

When we entered the infirmary, I grabbed his arm as if I were helping him. He doubled over and started moaning. He was an excellent actor. For a split second, I thought he really was sick.

I hurried over to the desk. “My friend isn’t feeling so well.”

The nurse came out from behind her desk. “Well now, you don’t look so good.”

Pat groaned. “My stomach.”

The nurse took his arm, leading him toward the exam rooms. I went to sit in the visitor’s chair until they were out of sight.

No one was at the desk. I went to the restroom. It was the second door on the right. The door was open, the light off.

That would be my escape. Grab the bottle, guzzle it down in the bathroom, make my way back to the wall. Perfect. I just had to get the bottle.

I continued creeping down the hall. The lounge was just ahead. When a nurse came out, I peeked through the closing door.

It was occupied. I hadn’t planned for this. Now what? How was I supposed to get the alcohol if there were people in the room?

“You okay?”

I spun around. The nurse from the desk was standing behind me.

She sent me a concerned look. “You look a little lost.”

I pointed over my shoulder. “I was looking for the little girls’ room. I think I’m a little turned around.”

She nodded. “Of course. It’s right over here.”

She gestured to an exam room. There was a bathroom on the other side. I had to play the part. I went inside.

There was a strange contraption on the toilet. It reminded me of the seats babies used when they were potty training. I pointed to it.

The nurse had followed me into the room. She rolled her eyes. “Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot this toilet is broken. You’re going to have to use the hat. You can just leave it. I’ll take care of it when you’re done.”

I shrugged. “Yeah. Okay.” It wasn’t like I was really going to go, anyway.

I closed the door. I just needed to wait for the nurse to leave. But now, I really did have to pee.

I sat on the stupid hat thing. It was weird. I couldn’t wait to get out of here.

After washing my hands, I peeked through the door. The nurse hadn’t left. There was a doctor with her.

Maybe the lounge was empty. I tried to sneak past them.

The nurse turned to me. “Oh, I don’t think I caught your name.”

“Meghan. Meghan McGregor.”

The doctor smirked. “Ah, yes. I know Miss McGregor quite well. You often visited her.”

I pointed to the door. “I better go.”

He gestured to the table. “I haven’t examined you yet. What brings you to the infirmary?”

“Oh. It wasn’t me. I brought my friend. His head was really bothering him.”

The nurse emerged from the bathroom with a jar of yellow liquid. She sent me a funny look. “I thought it was his stomach.”

“Oh, that’s right. I had the headache. He had a stomachache.”

“Well, let’s see if we can’t figure out what caused it.”

He again gestured to the bed. This wasn’t right. I didn’t want to get into the bed. I was on a mission. What was it?

But I was in the infirmary. If I pretended I was hurt, they would give me something for the pain. It wasn’t Ace, but it might be strong enough to help me remember why I was here.

I put my hand to my head. “Oh. I think it’s a migraine. It hurts so bad.”

The nurse passed the jar to the doctor, then came to take my arm. She guided me toward the bed. “That’s a good girl.”

I glanced at the nurse. The doctor had disappeared. The nurse took my pulse, then started asking me a lot of questions.

A long time later, the doctor returned. He asked some more questions. Were they the same ones? I couldn’t remember.

They never left me unattended. They never stopped asking me questions. I closed my eyes and willed everyone to go away.

When I opened my eyes, I was so disoriented. The lights in the room were low and the sun coming through the window was hurting my eyes. I had no clue where I was.

Someone was in my room. “How are you feeling, Chloe?”

I moaned. “Who are you? How do you know my name?”

“My name is Gwen. You told me your name last night. Do you remember coming to the infirmary?”

I shook my head. I was pretty sure I felt something rattle inside it. “Make it stop.”

“I can’t until you tell me what you took. We know you were drinking last night, but there was something else in your system.”

“I—I can’t tell you.”

Gwen put a hand over mine. “Chloe, I can’t help you until you’re ready to talk to me. I can help you feel better. Help you get rid of the pain. But you need to tell me what you took.”

I glared at her. “Nothing gets rid of the pain! Nothing helps me! Only Ace. That’s what I need right now. Get me some Ace and I’ll be fine!”

I crossed my arms. There was an IV in my hand. How did that get there? I stared at it until I fell back asleep.

I lost track of time. After several cycles of sleeping and waking, I became more aware of my surroundings. Gwen spent a lot of time talking to me. Eventually, I started answering her.

By the time they released me from the infirmary, I had been clean and sober for five days. I knew it was a major accomplishment. But I had taken a steady stream of Ace for nearly two months. I had been drinking for years. And now, I had to put my life back together.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Although my memories were hazy, I was pretty sure I had alienated everyone I cared about.

Going back to my classes was difficult. Gwen had emailed my teachers, telling them not to force my participation. I was glad.

In every class, I wished I could be invisible. Everyone was sending me nasty looks. At first, I thought they had heard about why I had had been in the infirmary. Then I realized it was my behavior before the infirmary that had upset them.

I took the long way to my house, along the TRAC road. I stopped at the bottom of the MAC staircase. There was no trace of glass on the ground. Had my bottle really shattered? Or was it a strange dream?

I glanced at the Wall. That hadn’t been a dream. Gwen had filled in that blank for me. Pat had found me. Saved me.

Of course, she didn’t say his name, but I remembered well enough. I knew he may never talk to me again, but before he wrote me out of his life, I should apologize.

Classes were nearly over for the day. I headed to the dining hall to find him.

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