Objective: You can make connections between narrative works of similar genres.
Classwork: Read the story on the left, and answer the questions on the right.
Classwork: Read the story on the left, and answer the questions on the right.
I Killed My Best Friend
A True Story by Angel Coombs
There were six of us who went out to Ibiza, Spain, in the summer of 2010 for a 10-day holiday. We'd just finished college, I had my first proper job lined up, and my best mate Sally had just finished a relationship with this horrible guy who was doing her head in. We were all so happy.
We were staying in a hotel in Ibiza Town, jammed into two small rooms. I'd heard it was a party town, but never expected it to be as mad as it was. We seemed to spend most of our time either drunk or hungover.
On the Thursday night, we went down to the main drag. At about 11pm the group split up, and Sally and I moved on to a lounge bar. We'd been drinking vodka and mojito cocktails heavily. We started talking to a bunch of guys, but we didn't fancy any of them, so we took a taxi down to the beach with a bottle of Jack Daniel's each and a packet of cigarettes. The plan was to talk a load of old rubbish all night and watch the sun come up.
It wasn't long before the first bottle was polished off, so we got stuck into the next. It was beautiful down there, but we were getting so drunk it wasn't funny. I remember Sal lying on her back with her mouth wide open and me pouring in Jack Daniel's. At first she tried to drink it, but then she was gagging, telling me to stop. But she didn't make a move to get out of the way, so I kept pouring. We were really messy. Sal was suddenly saying, "Let's finish this off and go for a swim." We both had the better part of a bottle of vodka and a bottle of whisky inside us by then, and I blacked out under the stars.
When I awoke it was about 6am, and the weather had turned cold and grey. I was still drunk and felt like hell. Sal wasn't next to me, so I picked myself up off the ground and went looking for her. I found her after a couple of minutes behind the main beach, in among some trees. As soon as I saw her, I knew something was wrong.
Sal's eyes were closed. I tried shaking her and shouting her name, but nothing happened. Her mouth was a complete mess - there was vomit everywhere - so I cleared it out and listened for her breathing. When there wasn't any, I tried to feel her pulse. Her skin was cold. That's when I started to panic. I ran to the road. A man on his way to work stopped, and I grabbed him by the hand and took him down to Sally.
I didn't speak Spanish, but he knew what was going on - he called the emergency services while I tried pressing her heart and blowing into her mouth until the ambulance arrived.
Sally was dead on arrival at the hospital, and I accompanied her there. She'd thrown up while unconscious, and had been too drunk to do anything about it. She suffocated in her own vomit. I called my parents and they were on a plane by lunchtime. They were with me when I made my police statement. I told them about our night, how I had been pouring Jack Daniel's into Sally's mouth, and she'd asked me to stop. And I couldn't stop crying. I just told everyone how sorry I was, that I had killed my best friend. My parents were saying, "It's not your fault," but I knew it was - I'd been there.
I went to the funeral, and didn't know where to look or what to say. I stuck to my family, and approached Sal's parents. Her mother looked through me when I tried to tell her how sorry I was, and said that, although she didn't blame me, I would have to carry part of her daughter's death with me for the rest of my life. The inquest two months later put it down to accidental death, but that's not something I've ever been prepared to accept.
Instead of starting my new job, I spent all my money flying to Thailand, on the backpacker's trail. Basically, I ran away. I didn't contact my family, except to let them know I was alive, and lost myself in smoking dope. Back in the UK, I had counseling, but it never gets rid of the guilt. I think about Sally every day, and what she'd be doing if she was still around. I've moved to a new area and found a new group of friends, some of whom I've even told about what happened that night. You can't feed off the negative forever. Your actions define who you are, and a life spent in blame would make me a selfish person. Sometimes you have to forgive yourself and get on with it.
I Scarred Myself for Life
The first time I cut myself, I was 16 years old and at an awkward, unattractive stage, physically and mentally. My parents reacted to my moodiness and acts of rebellion by imposing extreme limitations on my freedom; explosive arguments occurred almost daily. I thought a girlfriend would compensate for what I felt was a lack of love at home, but the object of my teenage passion was not remotely interested, and who could blame her?
My emotions came to a head one day after school. Sitting in my room, I reached for a pen lid and dragged the point as hard as I could over the back of my hand. The frustration and violence I felt within me had suddenly found a target. The immediacy of the pain focused my thoughts and brought instant calm and euphoria. Watching the release of blood, I imagined it was my inner pain and anxiety flowing out.
The cutting became a habit and I began to do it at least once a week. When my parents saw the scars, they threatened to send me to a psychiatrist; people at school who noticed the marks were disparaging and insulting, dismissing me as a freak or a drama queen. As a "cry for help," it wasn't exactly effective.
On one occasion I went too far and cut my hand so badly that the skin split open like a lipless mouth and only a thin layer of tissue remained over the tendons and bones. After that I moved my self-mutilation to places where prying eyes could not see, on my upper arms and chest.
After I left home, life became easier and my need to hurt myself less frequent. In Sheffield, at university, my new independence and my first serious girlfriend boosted my self-respect: she made it clear she found my scabby wounds unattractive.
After a year, though, we split up and before long I was slipping towards self-mutilation again. But cutting myself only added to my loneliness, leading to awkward conversations whenever I removed my shirt in front of someone for the first time. Most people who saw my injuries reacted with scorn or disgust. They saw cutting myself as a sign of weakness, juvenile attention-seeking. I, on the other hand, viewed it as a logical means of dealing with the emotional chaos within me, allowing me to function on a day-to-day basis.
It never occurred to me to stop or find other ways of dealing with my problems. I come from a very English background where talking about one's feelings is not done; seeking help was unthinkable. To me, that would have been weakness.
Life started to get out of control after I graduated and moved to London. I found myself in a low-level banking job, with no possibility of promotion. At night I'd return to my beds and drink myself to sleep. I was tired, broke and lonely.
One day I woke up hungover and covered in blood from several deep wounds in my right arm. They ran parallel to each other and glistened horribly in the morning light, exposing layers of skin, fat and flesh. I bandaged myself up and spent the rest of the day in the pub, too scared to go back to my room for fear of what I might do to myself. Suicide was never an option; what I was scared of was that I was going mad.
That was the turning point. I stopped drinking as much and began to look for a way out of London. Two months later I had a job teaching English in Brazil. I'd stopped self-harming but the scars on my arm were livid, so I went to the doctor to see if anything could be done about them. When I rolled up my sleeve, I was surprised to see him recoil in horror. Was this the result of a "weird sex game", he asked? I explained. "Get a tattoo," he said. Perhaps he didn't like self-inflicted wounds taking up valuable surgery time.
Within weeks of my arrival in Brazil, I met a girl. She raised her eyebrows at my scars but, as there were no fresh marks, didn't labour the point as to why they were there.
We returned from Brazil three years ago, got married and had a baby. My scars are still obvious and always will be. I have considered getting a tattoo to conceal them but worry it may draw more attention to the broken skin. I also feel it would be a lie, covering up what is part of me.
What worries me most is not that I will self-harm again but what I will say to my son when he asks how I came by the strange horizontal lines that run down my arm.
When you finish today's classwork, check your TeacherEase account, and make sure you have completed these assignments from last week:
Lucy the Girl in the Window
Two True Stories