The spring of 1996 ended my vampyre poetry phase when I tried to take my own life. My roommate pulled back the velvet drapes concealing the coffin I slept in to find me unconscious, my lifeless eyes rolled back in my head. Blood smeared from my bottom lip, but he knew that was the stage blood I wore at the time. My arm hung to the floor pointing to my ankh and an empty jar of Rose Hips C 1000 Vitamin C Tablets.
I attempted suicide with a dietary supplement.
Slapping me awake, Clay drug me to the bathroom where my Vitamin C plea for help found a home in the toilet. For an entire week my pee smelled like tangerines.
Throughout the end of the semester, guidance counselors quizzed me with questions like, “When you get sad, what color do you see?”
“What one word best describes Neil?”
“Take this doll and show me where the bad man touched you.”
My answers were sand, shoehorn and holding the doll I beat it against the table shouting, “Little boys who play with dolls get the cage. Little boys who play with dolls get the cage!”
That summer Mother and Father enrolled me into Camp Alive! A summer camp for drug-addicts and the psychologically disturbed. Located in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains, Camp Alive! featured absolutely nothing. No pool. No sports. No badminton. No crafts. Nothing.
Campers were assigned to 10x10 white square rooms with one small window near the ceiling and a black iron door. Occasionally a counselor would check in on our sedation. Outside my window, a single asphalt strip ran the length of the building. The giant trees of the Appalachian trail were kept separate by a 15 foot razor wire fence.
The communal showers were under the constant watch of Andrew, a disgusting fat man with a greasy moustache. His voyeurism ended when Charlita, a 25 year old pre-op transsexual shived him with a spork. The guard wasn’t seriously injured, but Charlita was tossed into the padded room for a week. The Padded Room was a sign of status.
I remember on the first day we were given name tags. Each person’s psychosis or addiction was labeled in italics beneath each name. Eventually everyone became known by their first name with their surname being their illness. I was Neil Suicide. Charlita was there for attempted suicide also. Well, I’m terribly social and an “in” presented itself, so I said hello. Our conversation wound it’s way to our suicides.
“Mine was pill popping. I was pretty touch and go there. But luckily, I guess, I made it. You?”
She rotated her caramel colored arms to reveal thirteen various pink and red scars, all of different ages, running across her skin. I pointed out that thirteen was an odd number. Shouldn’t she cut both arms, each attempt? Charlita shrugged her shoulders and told me she also suffers from motivation problems. We found some fruit punch and became fast friends.
But now my best friend at Camp Alive! was locked away in the padded room. I sat alone at my dining hall table, glumly sporking my chili when Bobby Marijuana delivered a message.
“Hey, uhmmm, yeah, that drag queen dude, uhmm…ah shit, oh yeah… He wants you to go to the padded room dude. I think?” I gave bobby my crackers and stole my way to the Padded Room.
Charlita wanted revenge and she had the perfect plan. She told me to find all the gay and lesbian students. We were going to stage a protest in conjunction with Charlita’s release in five days! The protest would coincide with Gay Pride, the last Sunday of June!
Well apparently “gay” isn’t considered a mental illness at Camp Alive!. I only found two homosexual campers, a rail thin lipstick lesbian named Lisa Anorexia (Her Camp Alive! name was so poetic yet so tragic) and Zuni Heroin. He was a tiny Asian with a shaved head who wore swimming goggles everywhere. He had a sinister, dangerous look in his eyes.
Zuni never said a word, only nodded yes. So on the day of Charlita’s release the three of us waited on the black asphalt strip. Charlita emerged from the building, resplendent in her defiance. She stepped away from the counselors and declared,
“Ladies, gentlemen, counselors and fellows of Camp Alive! We, the gay and lesbian campers hereby declare today Gay Pride. We shall express our GAY Pride by marching on the black top and no one shall stop us! To take away our right to self expression is to defeat our expression or something” Mercy, I honestly don’t remember everything she said. That bitch could go on and on and on.
The four of us began marching along the black strip between the east side of the dorms and the fenced woodlands. I expected a mob of counselors in riot gear to tackle us. I expected sirens and a month in the padded room. But instead the counselors just chuckled, watching us.
“What do you do when you protest and noone cares?” I nervously asked Charlita.
“You continue protesting…”
So we marched the length of the asphalt. Passing the Padded Room, Jennie Turrets barked obscenities at us, but otherwise nothing happened. A crowd gathered as the day rolled on. Carmine and Tony Gambler both placing bets on who’d drop first. It was little Lisa Anorexia. I kept telling her she looked like she’d gained some weight, to keep her marching, but it was no good. The counselors rushed orange juice and carrots to her when she collapsed going into hour three.
Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.
For the first few hours we chanted aggressive queer slogans, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re coming for your children!” But as the day drew on, the protest became silent, only punctuated by Jennie’s occasional “fuck, shit, cock fucker!” Eventually the campers returned to their rooms. Zuni Heroin left as the sun set, still silent, only glaring at us from behind his plexiglass headwear.
Charlita and I continued to march. Exhausted and dehydrated we refused to let the counselors not stop us from expressing our Gay Pride in defiance of Charlita’s physical assault. Finally it was 10 o’clock. Andrew with the greasy moustache ordered us to go inside and Charlita stopped marching, smug in her victory.
“I knew this would happen. You are always trying to steal our rights to express our sexuality!” She slowly walked by him, her last image of defiance a righteous middle finger in his chubby, sweaty face.
The remainder of the summer, Charlita Suicide and I were inseparable. On the final week we traded mailing addresses and promised to be pen-pals. She lived in Michigan and I was returning to Manhattan. I wrote her a letter as soon as I got home and in two weeks it was returned to me with a bad addres.
I never heard from Charlita Suicide ever again.