TW: depictions of depression and suicide
They say that autumn is the most beautiful season on Earth. Tristan didn’t think that way. Ever since he started high school, something terrible always struck him in the fall. As a freshman, Tristan lost both of his parents. As a sophomore, he failed in nearly all of his classes. As a junior, he failed to qualify for the trivia team. Tristan is convinced that he is always cursed in autumn. No matter how hard he tried to overcome his superstition, life would always find a way to shut him down.
The first day of school at East Richmond High always felt like the New Year. All the students walked into the hallway with big hopes and dreams about the school year. Common resolutions ranged from getting on the Dean’s List to running for the student body or making it onto any competition team. For Tristan, his resolution was simple: trying to finish high school peacefully. It was a wish that Tristan had dreamed of for ages. All he wanted was to live high school as they prescribed in the books.
Tristan loved reading. He had a massive 10 x 4 bookshelf in his father’s study. Tristan had a very complex yet sophisticated way of organizing all of his novels. He had books about every topic and genre—fiction, biology, historical biographies, romance; you name it. Tristan was a genius because of these books. Everyone at East Richmond knew Tristan for his expertise in… everything. There was nothing that he didn’t know about. Except Tristan was horrible at school. He was not made for studying. Despite his incomparable vast knowledge, everything he learned in class went in one ear and whistled out of another. That’s why he almost failed tenth grade. That’s why he couldn’t get on the trivia team, or the student newspaper, or run for student council, or anything he found pleasure in. Grades are everything in that school. That’s how you advanced and moved up the ranks. Regardless, Tristan was determined to get that fixed. He was set on making sure that his marks could get him into college.
On the first day of class, he noticed that something was missing. As he sat down, he shook his head, scanning the classroom. There was nobody that he recognized. All of the students near him were utterly new to him. Tristan had only crossed before in the hallways. He found himself in a completely new environment. It was the same situation in all of his classes. He didn’t know anybody’s name and nobody knew who Tristan was. At lunch, he went to the table where the football team ate. Tristan knew the football team quite well. He was in their classes in Grade 10 and 11, despite having no formal relationship with the Tigers. Now, not one member of the team was in any of Tristan’s classes. Tristan took a look at their schedule and compared them to his. All the football team members were together in the same classes, while Tristan was left with students he’d never met. The biggest bombshell came when Alex, the team captain, told him that Naomi had moved back to Japan. The news hit Tristan like a train. Naomi was the girl with whom Tristan always hung out. They usually spent their time during and after school. Naomi was always by Tristan’s side at times when he needed support. She was a figure Tristan could trust.
The countless hours spent listening to Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift on the bus ride back home left an impression on him. After all, who could forget her pink straw hat and brightening smile? It was easy to assume she was Tristan’s first love. Now, she’s several thousand miles across the planet, far away from Tristan. Tristan kicked himself for not saving her phone number. She also didn’t have social media, so there was no way of reaching out to her. He didn’t send her a proper farewell because he thought he would see her again. How could he navigate the senior high without her by his side? Who’s going to comfort him at his lowest moments?
Tristan carried on with the first couple of weeks of his senior year. Everything seemed to be going quite well for him. He was starting to understand the class material that was given to him. He was scoring As and Bs everywhere. This high only lasted for the first couple of weeks. Tristan was still as lonely as ever. Tristan never had an easy time socializing with other students. The coldness of his classmates convinced him that no one in his classes liked him. Every conversation he started with his classmates always ended up with cold one-word replies from them. At lunch, Tristan always enjoyed chatting with the football team. Tristan and the Tigers didn’t get along in the beginning. They used to tease him a lot when they first met. Eventually, maturity made them reconcile. Ever since Naomi’s gone, Tristan realized how much he took the guys from the football team for granted. It was the only gang Tristan ever felt belonging to, even if he never touched a football. He requested the Vice Principal to transfer him to the classes of the football team several times. His demands were denied several times. “You will realize, later on in life, that no one will ever stay with you forever. That’s why you need to learn to make new friends,” the Vice Principal replied. Tristan slammed hard on the Vice Principal’s office door, following her comments. He had never felt this offended at school before. How could Tristan make new friends if nobody wanted to be friends with him? The Vice Principal’s harshness and lack of sensibility made him realize that not even teachers and staff at East Richmond High liked him. After all, East Richmond is known for having some of the best-performing students across the region. Maybe it was because of this reputation that no one cared about Tristan.
Unlike the leaves’ colours, nothing changed in Tristan’s mood over the next following weeks. He was still navigating the grey hallways of East Richmond alone, walking with heavy clouds over his shoulders. Crowds of students chatting and laughing together drove him crazy. Why was he the lonely one? Why was making new friends such an arduous task for him? Where was his crowd of friends? Why couldn’t he be happy like them? These questions brew in Tristan’s consciousness like a category five hurricane. His smile kept folding downward as September turned into October, and the sky grew greyer. His unhappiness nosedived his grades. Tristan even left some of his exam sheets completely blank. He stopped eating the lunches Morgan had made for him.
Ever since Tristan lost both of his parents a couple of years ago, he was mainly raised by his 30-year-old sister Morgan. Morgan was finishing her Ph.D. in sociology, all the while trying to work full-time at Pete’s Joint to support both her and Tristan. He always admired her sheer will, perseverance and strength. No one was more hard-working than Morgan. She loved her little brother and always fought to defend him. When the teachers at East Richmond High expressed little hope in Tristan’s future, Morgan always stood up and believed in his potential. Tristan always looked up to his sister. He wished he had inherited her endurance and tenacity to help him cross these difficult times. Even though Tristan loved Morgan more than anyone else, his wishes sometimes lead him to resent her. Why couldn’t he be as normal as she was? Morgan had everything Tristan wished for in life, like top-notch grades and a fiancé. Morgan got engaged to her high school sweetheart, Mario. They were to move in together once Tristan attended college. That was why Tristan never opened up to Morgan about his loneliness at school.
As the leaves drifted away and days shortened, Tristan tried to find alternatives to cheer him up. After all, his birthday was coming up in a few days. He hoped to organize a huge birthday party to commemorate his seventeenth birthday. Morgan had a big midterm exam that evening, so she couldn’t celebrate with him. With this renewed happiness, Tristan started to spread the word concerning his birthday party. He promoted it to the guys on the football team and the students who were in his classes. He sent out posters and emails to everyone. Each invitation was met with happy acceptance from everyone. Seeing this positive reception, Tristan took it upon himself to buy everything needed for the party. He had cake, pizzas, sodas, and a fake ID to get beers at the local convenience store. When that Friday evening came, Tristan waited patiently at his door, hoping people would show up. He waited, and waited, and waited some more. Finally, after five hours of waiting, no one bothered to show up. Disappointed, Tristan loaded up his Instagram and saw the cold truth with his very eyes. Everyone Tristan invited was watching a hockey game, viewing a live concert, attending someone else’s birthday party, or going out on a date. Whatever people did that Friday night, everyone pretended Tristan never existed. Tristan never felt this betrayed in his life. Not only was he spending his birthday all alone, he realized that he could longer trust anyone at school. As for Morgan, she should have finished her exam a long time ago, but she never returned home. Tristan had never felt this worthless and distraught before. He tried drinking his sorrow away like how they did in all the books and songs he read and listened to, but it only aggravated his pain. As the buzz started to hit Tristan, he reminisced about all the good times he had with Naomi. All the memories they spent together slapped Tristan again and again. He was so happy back then, so why did she have to go back to Japan on Earth? Why couldn’t she stay for one more year? Without Naomi, Tristan felt he had lost everything. He had no friends, and he believed he had no future because of his grades. He thought he had nothing to live for.
Tristan stumbled into his father’s study. He tossed the massive bookshelf down, revealing a hidden safe in the wall. After some fumbling around in the drawers on the study’s wooden desk, Tristan found the key. Once Tristan opened the safe, he found an old stainless, black-gripped Smith & Wesson revolver. Next to it was a single .357 Magnum. Tristan opened the cylinder, loaded the bullet, aligned the chamber with the barrel, and pulled the hammer down. He had the barrel pointing under his chin. His hands were shaking, his heart was racing, and his fingers were fidgeting.
Suddenly, Morgan, who had just returned home, walked into the study and found Tristan with the gun. She had witnessed the mountains of unopened pizza boxes downstairs and followed the empty Budweiser cans to the study.
“What the hell are you doing?” she exclaimed horrifyingly.
“I’m- I’m gonna do- do- do it,” Tristan stuttered, “I’m go- gonna do it. Good- Goodbye.”
“Give me the gun, Tristan!” Morgan dropped her purse and rushed toward Tristan. She begged Tristan to let go of the revolver, who held it firmly in his hands. Morgan tried to yank it out, but both she and Tristan were fighting over it. Tristan bit and pulled Morgan’s hair but she wouldn’t give up for her brother’s sake.
After a few more tense moments of fighting, a loud bang put an end to the brawl. Morgan then fell on her back with eyes wide open. A massive pool of blood leaked from the top of her head. Upon realizing what happened, Tristan dropped to his knee and cried, screamed, yelled in anguish. Tristan then pulled Morgan’s lifeless body and hugged it. Caressing her bloodied blonde hair, Tristan cried and begged incomprehensibly for her forgiveness. But, the only person who could have brought happiness to Tristan vanished, like that last remaining bullet in that empty Smith & Wesson. Of all the errors Tristan committed in his life, there was no walking back from what happened on the seventeenth October 13 of his life.
They say that fall is the most beautiful season on Earth…
By Jacques Wang