If Only I --

drtackett By drtackett, 5th Nov 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Personal Experiences

Based on a true story, this short memoir relives a tragedy that still haunts me and still leaves me wondering, What could I have done?

If Only I . . .

Hey, do you wanna drink?

Deb, it’s John. Jenny killed herself last night.

I hold the police report in my hand and stare at it: Breaking and Entering. August 5, 2010. Its torn edges and crumpled facing stare back at me. Odd. I thought I threw it out after Jenny’s funeral but apparently I stuffed in an envelope with some old photos and tucked it away on a closet shelf.

Oh my god! What happened?

Envelope in hand, I sit down on the edge of my bed, set the report aside, and finger through the photos, stopping at the one with Shari and her sons, Mikey and Zach. Shari’s white blonde hair rests softly against her freckled face, eyes squeezed tight as her sons press their lips against each of her cheeks. It’s a pretty picture. I had taken it when they lived with me many years ago, when I was naive and Shari was clean.

I don’t know.. It was accident

I allowed Shari and her sons to stay with me, to escape John, Zach’s dad, and his obsession with alcohol. John was a nice guy and a good dad. He loved his son and he loved Shari. He loved Mikey, too. But he loved booze more. When John drank, he did things he shouldn’t—he spent money they didn't have and bills went unpaid. Shari couldn’t deal with that. She needed a man who was going to take care of his family. She had already lost Mikey’s dad two years ago in a drunk driving accident. She saw John going down the same road. She couldn’t handle that. She needed help. I opened my home to her. Even knowing what I know now, I would do it again. Everyone deserves a second chance.

She was fucking around with that stupid gun she bought.

I flip through more photos, pausing and smiling at a few: Jenny and Shari cheering the new year; Jenny riding me piggyback, twirling a neckerchief high above her head; John hugging me. I hold up the one with Jenny and me wrestling, my arms wrapped around her waist as she leans forward, struggling to escape. I’m smiling. She’s not. Shari, in the background and out of focus, is sticking out her tongue.

Why was she fucking around with a loaded gun, John?

Must’ve moved back in with John at this point, I thought.

I don’t know. She kept putting it to her head. I told her to stop.

Shari would have never gone out and left the kids with a babysitter when she lived with me. She thought that John was stalking her and would kidnap Zach while she was out. He was stalking her—kind of—but he wouldn’t have kidnapped Zach. He really wasn’t capable of hurting anyone, much less kidnapping his son. Besides, he wasn’t very bright and he was scared to death of me.

She pulled out the magazine clip. I don’t think she thought it was loaded.

I turn back to the photos before me. Must’ve been fifteen years ago. At least. I laugh out loud, remembering the good times. I trace our youthful faces with my eyes. I was much thinner then with perfect skin and chiseled features. I couldn’t have been more than thirty, and Jenny not more than twenty-five. But Jenny’s chipmunk cheeks and mouth, bright eyes, and her copper-brown hair, which she styled like a football helmet, made her look like a teenage Kristy McNichol.

Was she high, John?

I pull out another photo. My heart sinks.

Probably. I left her alone for two minutes to make a drink. I swear. The gun was on the table.

Jenny’s looks have faded. She has aged ten, fifteen years, hair mussed and unkempt, eyes lifeless, deadpan. She sits, shoulders slumped, on a porch swing in a white tank-top, braless. Her elbow bent on the armrest, her thin hand clenching the chain that suspends the swing. Yellow and white roses bloom behind her as thick grass brush against her bare feet. Off to the side a squirrel nibbles on lunch. I remember this taking this picture. God, I was so blind. Why could I not see that she was on pills?

She must’ve picked it back up while I was in the kitchen.


Life surrounds her as she withers from it.

I asked her if she wanted a drink. Then—


—the gun went off.

Jenny, Shari, and I had been friends for years. Decades really. They had both lived with me on and off, at different intervals of their lives. Shari and her kids first, then Jenny and her girlfriend, and then just Jenny. I helped them through their problems: relationships, money, but never drugs. I’m sure both were clean when they lived with me. But who knows? I was dumb ass.


I ran to the door—her brains were . . . were splattered everywhere, against wall, everywhere.

I glanced at the report lying next to me. I remember getting the call that someone had broken into my house, the back door kicked in, computers and laptops missing, my mother’s ring, necklaces gone. I felt raped. Abused. And then, I got pissed—to point of wanting to put my fist through their faces. But then, I caught myself. I wasn’t them. It was drugs. My mind is still numb. Not because that day was the day Jenny and Shari robbed me but because that was the day I realized how blind I had been to their habit.


She was making this sound. Oh my god. I’ll never forget it, Deb. It was like she was drowning in her own blood. Choking. And there wasn’t anything I could do.

I often wondered if there were anything I could have done. If I had been a better friend to Shari, maybe Mikey wouldn’t have overdosed at twenty-one. I wish I would have told her that I thought Mikey was high most of the time. Why couldn’t she see that he was? Why didn’t I ask her that question? He overdosed once already. Why didn’t I come right out and say, Can’t you see that he is a pill head? Why couldn’t I see that at that point, she was too?


Jenny died in my living room. Oh my god. Oh—

My god! If I had paid attention, maybe Jenny wouldn’t have killed herself. Maybe she wouldn’t have been playing with a gun, high on pills. Maybe she wouldn’t have forgotten that she had engaged the bullet into the chamber of the gun and it didn’t matter if she took the magazine out. It doesn’t matter! The bullet is still in the chamber. You have to clear the chamber, Jenny! If you pull the trigger the gun will go off—

Hey, do you wanna drink?


Drugs Abuse, Drugs Caused Death And Crime, Memoir Writing, Memoire, Memoirs, Memories, Tragedies, Tragedy

Meet the author

author avatar drtackett
Currently, I am a Journalist and Screen Study student at U of M, with a concentration in film and screenwriting. My writing will focus on short stories, poems, and some articles.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
5th Nov 2014 (#)

No one is really prepared for a tragedy bound to happen - playing with fire has consequences - siva

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author avatar WOGIAM
5th Nov 2014 (#)

Do not balme yourself in any way, tragedies happen and most of the times, we can never explain or understand the whats; whys, when, hows, of them.

Remain strong and if you can, continue to support her children and loved ones.

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