Stephanie was the competition. Short. Female. One and a half years younger… and she was the victor. Four point zero. Me: 3.987 because I refused to retake a math test I did poorly on when I was sick. Both voted Most Intelligent. But it could have been disaster.  

Stephanie lost her mom senior year, just before graduation. Breast cancer. I didn’t know how close she was to her mom, but I figured it was devastating. Stephanie had a pleasant face (which I never would have told her) and a cute little body, which I never looked at before I knew her mom had breast cancer—funny what will elicit a sideways glance. We ripped on her way too much. I actually thought it was kind of cute when she whined about stuff, and as the editor of the yearbook, she let us create the most off-color captions ever in a yearbook, for which she nobly took a lot of heat. (The whole staff almost lost the right to walk across the stage.)

When Stephanie’s mom died, I simultaneously found a file saved on the yearbook computer that was written in diary format. I was pretty sure it was hers as I read, and the final entry was a pretty legitimate threat of suicide. Stephanie and I hadn’t always gotten along, but this was serious, and I thought I had to do something. Maybe it’s a male flaw or just my flaw, but I wanted to help her myself—I wanted to fix Stephanie’s problem, and I made a big mistake in doing so. Instead of telling a teacher, a counselor, my parents, or even talking to her, I decided to anonymously write a response to the journal entry.

I created a fiction that I purported to be true about a Civil War era mother who lost a son and a husband (or something to that effect). It talked about how she went on living for them, for their lives to go on through her. Pretty sentimental, from what I remember. I saved what I wrote to her journal and logged off, hoping she’d see it and not go through with whatever she had considered.

Maybe she never saw it, and maybe she did and it made her more depressed. Or, maybe it did work, and she realized someone cared about her. Luckily, she never attempted suicide, and I’ve always wanted to believe I had something to do with her feeling better about the whole situation, but I know that I made a mistake. I was so in love with my own writing that I thought I could help someone who needed more than my words, and who probably could have used my kind words all throughout high school instead of one last-ditch effort at the end. I’m just grateful I’ve never had to live with the guilt I could’ve felt from that mistake.