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Every Visible ThingA Novel
By Lisa Carey
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Lisa Carey
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The first time I tried killing myself, nobody noticed. This was last year, when I was in the ninth grade. I took a whole package of Actifed, tiny white pills I had to push one at a time through the tinfoil backing. It was the only drug I could find in the medicine cabinet besides vitamins and Owen's inhaler. The thing is, I'm not sure why I did it, except that I had a test the next day in Ancient Civilizations that I hadn't studied for. It was an honors class. I used to get all As in grammar school, which was why I was allowed to take it. I'd never failed a test in my life. But I hadn't been doing my homework, and I'd barely taken notes in class. It had gotten to the point where just seeing the textbook in my bag made me chant you're dead you're dead you're dead, over and over in my mind, until I barely knew what the words meant, but they scared the shit out of me anyway. I took the pills at three in the morning with a bottle of ginger ale. All that happened was my vision went a little funny and then I threw up. By the time my parents woke up I was green and pasty-mouthed and still heaving. I didn't exactly announce what I'd done, so they thought I had the flu and let me stay home. My mother is in medicalschool, where she gets to pretend to be a doctor and has to stay over at the hospital about every other night. My dad used to be a theology professor at Boston College, where I was supposed to go someday because it would be half-free, but they fired him. Now he works for a publishing house downtown, editing religious books written by other people. It must be boring because he never talks about it. When Owen and I stay home sick, we do it alone.
For some reason that day, when they were gone, after my stomach settled and I had some toast, I decided to go through Hugh's stuff. I inherited his room. It's in the back of the house, far from my parents and Owen, near the sun porch and the back door and the kitchen. They gave me Hugh's room when I started high school, making a big show out of cleaning him out, not wanting me to feel like I was living with a ghost. They couldn't go all the way, though, and I found everything in the basement, in banker's boxes with his name written in black Magic Marker on the contents line.
I took a few things at a time, so they wouldn't notice. First it was his turntable and his rec-ords, which I listened to when the rest of them were asleep. My favorites were the Beatles and Prince, much easier to listen to than the Clash or the Sex Pistols. My brother's tastes seemed divided between normal music and the loud, screaming, unbearable stuff he must have thought was cool. I tried but couldn't stand those. Only boys, and the occasional tough, disturbed girl, listen to punk as if it is music.
I brought his books up next, sliding in between my Anne of Green Gables series and Gone with the Wind, Hugh's mauled copies of The Catcher in the Rye, Invisible Man, The Brothers Karamazov. His Snoopy, with its loose neck and the fur gone gray. I even sneaked a few items of his clothing: a flannel shirt, black fatigues from the army-navy store, the leather jacket with snaps and a dozen zippers, unfathomably left behind. I couldn't wear these things without my parents recognizing them, so I kept them in my closet, hidden at the far edges behind the confirmation dress I never wore and my old blue toggle coat, which for some reason I refuse to let my mother send to Goodwill. At night, after my parents went to sleep, I would take out the jacket, slip it on over my flannel pajamas, and finish my homework with leather heavy as a warning on my shoulders. (I made up all my work for Ancient Civilizations. I didn't want things to get so out of control again.) In the tiny zippered breast pocket, I found a smashed, brittle plastic square with one squishy condom inside. This was disgusting, the thought of my brother stashing it in there. He had a girlfriend in the ninth grade, and I wondered if the condom was something he would have actually used, or just wishful thinking. It was kind of exciting after I got over the shock. No one had ever found this before; it was something only I knew. That my brother, at the age of fifteen, had walked around with the promise--or hope--of sex in his pocket. Though the date stamped on the edge of the plastic was from three years ago--apparently condoms expire, just like milk--I left it in there. I liked the idea of it wrapped in the satin lining, still waiting to be used.
It wasn't until this past summer that I found the film. It was in a box with other photo supplies--printing paper, bottles of chemicals, a metal can of compressed air. Hugh was obsessed with photography. He was the one who took pictures when I was little; my parents only ordered the school photos and took half a roll on Christmas and birthdays. When he was in high school, they let him convert the back bathroom with the broken toilet into a darkroom. He spent his weekends locked in a cube of red light, printing his photos onto eight-by-ten paper, hanging them on a clothesline to dry. There were only a few old photos in the box, mostly rolls of unpro-cessed film and envelopes full of plastic strips of negatives. It was hard to tell what the pictures were of, except . . .
Excerpted from Every Visible Thing by Lisa Carey Copyright © 2006 by Lisa Carey. Excerpted by permission.
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