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Dick Turner was my guinea pig when I entered the “business” back in ’95. He was one of the first students I became really close with after I started working at St. Dymphna High School on the south side of Baltimore. He was your typical high school geek, about 5 foot 10 inches, had the posture of a 95 year old with scoliosis, outdated clothing that fit a little too big and wore an oversize set of bifocals that had a piece of tape holding them together and looked like they’d been through the ringer.
Of course, Dick was the unlucky fella’ that had a shitty life at home, a topic him and I could relate on. His father was an abusive son of a bitch, mom left when he was in 3rd grade to chase her music career down in Nashville, and his older brother ran one of the largest drug cartels east of the Mississippi. Initially, I only saw Dick once or twice a month during his freshman year, usually when he needed to talk about his dads monthly tirade that resulted in another trip to the hospital for him.
I always offered to call D.C.F.S., but Dick would talked about how much he feared his father would kill him if he ever got a call from them. Anyways, throughout most of his sophomore year and in to his junior year, I became the closest thing he had to real family in a short amount of time. On a daily basis, he’d come talk to me about how much he hated coming to school, and to be honest I didn’t blame him.
For years I watched from a distance as he would get pummeled and brutally humiliated by his peers. He had yet to outgrow his speech impediment that caused him from pronounce his ‘r’s’ like a 2nd grader, even I struggled to listen to him talk sometimes, but the students had a field day with that. The self-proclaimed “all-star” future division three quarterback would heckle him as he walked the halls with his possy of subpar athletes. I give him credit though, no matter how much shit he took, Dick walked those halls with a sense of confidence that I never had. Too bad the scrawny 16 year old didn’t have a god damn fighting bone in his body.
Unfortunately, midway through his Junior year, life came at him a little too fast. In addition to his seemly pointless life at home and school, he had faced adversity with depression and anxiety, convincing himself that he was nothing, but a waste. So much of a waste, that he approached me during his lunch hour one-day with a story about his dad walking in on him attempting to hang himself. The most disturbing part about it was his dad proceeded to calmly walk away in content. I never told him about my history/failures with suicide. I tried to help by sharing some wisdom, but in all honesty, I was just bullshitting him. At that time, I’d been living alone for just over five years a few miles from where I grew up, and arguably hated my life just as much as he hated his.
On the side, I ran a small funeral home and specialize as a mortician (If that doesn’t get you excited, I’m not sure what will). The only relationship I ever built was with the local police department by acting as their rat, informing them about the students pushing drugs around town and snitching on weekend parties. Probably , because I was never invited to anything back in high school. Sounds miserable, right? Unfortunately, Dick saw right through my bullshit and it was past the point of no return. A week later, the police pronounced Dick Turner dead, at the age of 17 from self-inflicted wounds. His peers, his father, basically everyone he crossed paths with, besides myself, drove him to this point.
Initially I felt guilt. Felt that this was my fault. Felt that this was just another failed opportunity to actually make something of myself. Quickly, my guilt shifted to anger. Anger towards those that caused him to feel so empty. Not to mention Dick was probably the closest thing I had made to a friend in the last decade. The day after his death, I showed up to school and scanned the halls like I usually did. I realized that the individuals who were the reasoning behind Dick’s actions went on with their day, not even thinking twice about their actions. So I began to write…
This act of taking my own life has not come without deep thought. I’ve done all I can to gain your acceptance, but at the end of the day I guess I am just not good enough. I had every opportunity to take you all with me, but your actions towards me have made it clear that I do not deserve the same life as you.
As I wrote, that anger shifted to adrenaline, giving me a rush I’d never felt before. I was no longer writing for Dick. I was writing for myself and so I continued…
…To Kaycee Smith, Ranae Walker, Sophia Smith, kids who sat behind me in remedial math, and lastly, to QB1, thank you for helping me realize how worthless I am. I hope you will all sleep well tonight knowing that my death comes at the hands of your action. – Richard Turner
A few days later, Dick Turner’s suicide letter just so happened to surface throughout the halls of St. Dymphna. As I scanned over the students that morning, it joyed me to see the weight of the world being held on the shoulders of so many individuals. Individuals that had reminded me so much of my past. For once the power had shifted, and I finally had a sense of relief. Later that week, I couldn’t help but smile as I watched students file through my funeral home for his wake, bags under their eyes, many of them knowing they were at fault. It was exhilarating to watch as they recognize the innocent, helpless individual that they walked all over for years didn’t have a home, or a family. The toll I saw it take on these individuals was like a drug, relieving and addicting. And that was the beginning of it all.
Dick has been dead now for about 25 years, and every other year since then, I’ve had many “Dick Turners” come in-and-out of my office. It’s almost like it’s something in the water in this town. There is always that one kid who had no hope. No chance. Their parents neglected them, they had no friends, no one ever gave them a lick of an opportunity. And as I began to notice this, I did them all a favor. When they would share their problems, I was honest and blunt, giving them the same spiel as if it were from a script…
“You know you remind me of myself, and through all ups and downs, medication and therapy sessions, one thing I learned from a young age is that this world will not show sympathy for you. Growing up, I was mocked, ridiculed and picked on by all my peers. My parents didn’t care about me either. God generously granted me with health problems that had stunted my growth at a very young age, so I wasn’t able to fight, and trust me, they will continue to take advantage of that. If you’re the weird kid, better off giving up now, cause truth be told, no one wants to be on the weird kids side. I was called names, they even threw me in lockers and sometimes even beat the shit out of me, you know, for fun.
You’d think at least they’d give you some credit after you come to school with scares from cigarette buds on your face, but no, they just call you pizza face and pick at them so they never go away. People will be so dedicated to making your life hell, they’ll be willing to pay a girl fifty dollars to go on a date with you, just to see you have a little sense of hope and then she will abruptly leave after dinner, making sure you handle the check. In college, you’ll spend most of your time studying and working at a local pizza joint serving late night food to all your drunk, “superior” peers. At that time, your best friend will probably be your boss, Chef Vincenzo. He won’t speak much English, and your conversations will consist of him critiquing everything you do, but at least he’ll acknowledged your humanity, right? By the time you graduate, your parents will have left you ( if they haven’t already), or maybe even overdose on some synthetic drug, and you’ll probably lose contact with your whole family, and have failed to commit suicide a handful of times.….But that’s just speaking from experience I guess.”
Some of it is true, and some of it is an exaggeration, but listen. If you want to know why I am the way I am, if you really must know why I do what I do, I’ll try to make it as quick as possible. The first impractical joke of my life is that my name is Theodore Bundy. Yep, that’s right, I guess when you’re the youngest of six siblings all from different fathers your mom starts to have a little fun and name you after serial killers. I grew up without a father, all my other siblings killed themselves before the age of 16, and ever since I turned 17 my mom had been in-and-out jail for anything you can think of.
Possession of marijuana, driving under the influence, prostitution. Hell, she even had her stint in a drug cartel. Because of my parents uncanny ability to consistently abuse drugs before I was born and throughout my childhood, I am what you would call a “grade A crack baby” that unfortunately, yet miraculously made it out of my adolescence. As a kid I suffered from heart problems, seizures and other implications that have caused a limp in my walk and have left me with an extremely noticeable and unattractive stutter. I give myself credit for being able to provide for myself starting at such a young age, however most of my earnings have gone towards effective healthcare to cover my three open heart surgeries, annual mental health checkups, and monthly visits to the doctor to cope with my macular degeneration, a disease most common in people over the age of 65. Look where I’m at now. Right where they all said I’d be. Just like I was 25 years ago, I currently reside a few miles from where I grew up, and work as a counselor and remedial math teacher at the same high school I swore I’d never come back to after graduating a little over 30 years ago.
So, how can I resist? Over the last 25 years I’ve done what many would call a crime, but I believe to be a favor. I’ve assisted in freeing a dozen of students from this horrible world. By telling them my story, I hope to indirectly convince them that it doesn’t get much better from here. Why? Because it doesn’t. And as they move on, my job is to make sure they don’t go unnoticed. I give them a voice they would’ve never had. Long story short, I make a letter for each them. I target any and all individuals that had cause pain throughout their lives. For example, just under five years ago, I wrote a letter for a young woman named Madeline Snuff. After being allegedly raped by two players on the football team, and harassed by the whole cheerleading team, she came to me for advice. A few days later she took a gun to her head. As I always do, I took it upon myself to composed a letter exposing the two young men. Two weeks later their remorse led them to take their own lives. Do I feel bad? Well, let me ask you this. Did anyone ever feel bad for me?
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