That night, and for the first time, I swallowed the antidepressant drugs. When it seemed one pill wasn't doing the job, I took three more. I never planned on using the drugs but it wasn't until I read Romeo's note I decided I might need them. Also, that night, I gave up on holding back and broke down to tears, cried myself to sleep.
I wasn't expecting the content of Romeo's suicide note. Just as I wasn't expecting it to not be a suicide but a letter directed to just a person, to me.
Romeo's photograph stared at me as I tried to decipher the content of the letter. As I read the note, it seemed to me like Romeo was there, whispering the words,
Hey. This might not be what you expected and by the time you read this, I will not be there to answer your questions. You don't know this, but I'm always watching you and knowing you, you'll probably not open the bottle until much later. But, like I said, I’ve always watched you, you never noticed but I prefer that. I watched and admired you from afar. Whether it developed into something more, I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure if it was love, a simple crush or just admiration. But I felt something, I don't know you did but thank you Vera, thank you for allowing me to find comfort in you until my final breath.
The voice ended as the letter did and I found myself popping pills, shivering in my bed, breaking, crying and I didn't know what to call the feeling inside of me. But it was there and heavy, at the same time fragile.
I stayed in my bed with the windows closed all night, Romeo's note squeezed in my hands while the bottle was on the floor, maybe I had lost grasp of it while I was asleep and let it slip.
I woke in the afternoon, which meant I skipped a class and because I didn't want anyone to suspect anything, I went for my shift at Top n Bar’s parking lot, Marilyn sent an email as a reminder that we’ll be working on the golf carts. I immediately regretted not calling in sick when I was almost at the parking lot, because out there, standing under the sun with his hands in my pocket was Derek. After that night at his house, I never saw him again and quite frankly I hoped I never will. But there he was outside the hall like he was waiting for someone and when his eyes landed on me, he began to walk towards me, taking very slow strides.
I was frozen, but somehow I moved — quickened my pace so I could move past him before he had the chance to say anything.
He grabbed me by my hand and gently pulled me back,
“Please Vera, just hear me out.”
I shrugged his hands off.
“The cliché phrase when someone knows they messed up, huh?”
“Yes, I did. I messed up pretty badly and I know saying sorry will never be enough for what you went through — “
“And you have no idea what I went through. You have no idea what those guys did to me and will still do. So your apology doesn't cut it.”
“I’m sorry Vera, I really am.”
“Just forget it.”
I whispered and started to leave but was stopped again.
“I was forced, okay. They made me do it.”
I yelled, then brought my voice low to not attract any attention,
“Nothing will make you deceive anyone that way.”
“Vera — “
“I bet none of what we shared means nothing to you. It was all part of your plan, yeah?”
“No! No, They never approached me until two weeks ago. Believe me Vera, I really didn't want to do it.”
“They came to me. They said they suspected you were gay and if they didn't find out the truth about you…. Things won't be good for the both of us.”
“So you just went with it.”
“You have no idea what those guys could do,”
“You don't know how much they hate this. Look at you, Vera, look what they did to you. Who knows they could do much worse.”
“And deceiving me we shared something was the only way?.”
Derek shook his head violently,
“I didn't mean to. Believe me when I say that's something I didn't lie about.”
“You know something Derek,”
I chuckled — a low, bitter, grave sound,
“Those frat guys might have been the ones who kicked me, hit me, called me names, hurt my pride but you Derek, what you did, hurt so much more “
But it was in the past now and quite frankly one of the last things I want to hear.
“Just leave, please. It's all gone and I want to let all that go but… not now, please.”
He nodded his head, seemed to have given up but called again, his face covered with guilt.
“Are you okay though? I heard what happened — that you're the last person he spoke to.”
I nodded, remembering Romeo's note — another thing I want to forget.
“I’m fine, don't worry about me. Please.”
And with that, I left him standing there and continued to Top n Bar parking lot. I met Veronica there, moving golf carts, smiling so widely as she did her work. I wondered if the problem she talked about was over now.
I wanted to come to work to refresh myself, clear my head a bit instead of being cooped in my room that only reminded me of Romeo, but seeing Derek now really changed a lot of that. I felt drained, no longer having the energy to do anything. I wasn't sure if he was telling the truth, but the one person I knew held his truth and didn't use it against me but for me was dead.
Veronica noticed me first, she waved at me. I waved back, making my way to her.
“Thank you so much for helping me last night. Hope it wasn't much of an issue?”
“No, it's fine.”
I smiled, drawing the sleeves of my hoodie, hoping it will cover all the bruises.
“Get on with what you're doing then, let me not distract you.”
I gave a small laugh and made my way to one of the golf cart, but was stopped by Veronica’s high pitched voice,
“Oh no dear, you can't handle the golf carts yet.”
I asked, confused.
“Well, you are still new here and you don't have access to the gold carts yet,”
Veronica sighed, her lips forming to a sad smile,
“We just have to see how well you'll do with the other tasks you are assigned and we’ll see where we’ll go from there.”
“But Miss Marilyn sent us an email this morning, a reminder that I will be working on the golf carts, with you.”
“Oh no, she might have forgotten.”
“Miss Marilyn is getting so forgetful these days. Let me see her — “
“No, it’s fine.”
I stopped her as she attempted to walk away,
“It might have been just a mistake. I'll go clean some equipment.”
She thanked me for being understanding as I left to the other side of the building where equipment like spare parts of gadgets meant for rooms in the hall were kept. That was how I spent the rest of my afternoon shift, trying not to think, trying not to feel but that only made me do what I didn't want to.
I left the room the moment my three hour shift was over. Veronica was standing at the entrance of the building, like she was waiting for the arrival of someone and when she saw me, she waved and took long strides towards my direction,
“I didn't see your car anywhere.”
she pointed out.
“Yeah. I haven't been feeling the vibe to drive, y'know.”
I chuckled, she joined in, though I wasn't sure what was funny.
“Come on, let me give you a ride.”
“No, I'm fine. Walking actually feels good nowadays.”
“I insist, Vera.”
And I wasn't sure what she was trying to do but she went ahead to give me this puppy look that I had no choice than to give in.
Once we were in the car, she turned to me and began apologizing for not picking my calls and I got into trouble for that. I told her it was fine, I didn't get hurt.
“There's something you must know though.”
“I feel so guilty for Romeo's death. I feel it’s all my fault.”
Wondering what she meant by that, I asked but she squeezed her face to a frown, like she was about to cry,
“Just calm down Veronica, it’s fine”
I assured her.
“No, it’s not. Romeo was just caught up in our ridiculous conspiracy drama.”
“Some LLC frat guys kept harassing some of the women that wanted to join flowersuns, our sorority. So to get back at them we decided to expose them on Twitter with how they were homophobic towards Romeo. We didn't mean this. We didn't mean for anyone to get hurt.”
And she bawled her eyes out again, letting out a fierce cry. What she said hit me like a blow to my head, because I couldn't stop thinking Romeo would still be alive if the Twitter saga didn't exist. Then again, what happened, happened because he was a victim of bullying and harassment, the twitter thread was just something to fuel his actions. As I watched Veronica cry, I became numb, empty but I found myself patting her shoulders, whispering words that I hoped would calm her down.
After a long moment, she lifted her head and dried her face, giving me a shy smile,
“I’m so sorry, that was really embarrassing.”
“No it's okay.”
I assured her,
"Please don't feel that way and guilty too, it's not your fault.”
“Let me make it up to you.”
Veronica offered, her sad smile still on her face,
“I'll take your shift the day after tomorrow. I really feel bad for what happened yesterday. Let me make it up to you.”
“No, don't worry about it. I didn't get seriously hurt, really.”
“Still, Let me just make it up to you. You need rest also. This week seemed to have been really horrible for you.”
I refused again, she continued to offer and pressed on it until I couldn't fight it anymore and felt it would go on forever if I did.
“You just relax and I’ll handle everything for you.”
I returned her smile and sat in silence as she drove to the fraternity building, a country song playing in the background. This time, I was careful with how things came out and told her to drop me off a block away from the building and I saw her off from there.
It wasn't until I was in my room, popping a pill in my mouth that I remembered and realized what Veronica said earlier. I never told her I got hurt and was harrassed the previous day.