The Zero Mile Post marked the meeting of two railway lines and possibly the beginning of the city of Atlanta. Zero Mile is a series of sometimes fictionalized and sometimes real stories based on life in Atlanta, Georgia.
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
I’m reading the book “13 Reasons Why.” I’ll explain my motives.
Because I can’t see a show or movie based on a book without first reading the book.
Because I have a 13 year old, I have to listen. Not talk. I hear the kids talking about it. I think that kids talking and us, the adults, listening is good. They are talking because someone told them that they shouldn’t watch the Netflix show. Someone told them not to read the book.
Because telling a kid “No” is the best way to get them to do that thing. I got four kids to iron this weekend. How? I told them they couldn’t. “The iron is hot and dangerous. I want the job done right.” They begged and pleaded. I relented. They did a good job.
“You know this is reverse psychology, right?” I asked. It isn’t the first time they’ve heard me say this.
“But, Mom, ironing is so much fun!” they said. Exactly the opposite of what I thought at age 13 when ironing was a requirement for me.
Because suicide is real. I have a friend in Palo Alto who volunteers at the railroad crossing near her son’s high school. She puts on a reflective vest and carries a flag. Parents take turns monitoring the train line that connects San Francisco to San Jose because so many kids have died by suicide.
Because the issue doesn’t end with teenagers and young adults. Anyone at any age could need support to prevent suicide. People say the phrase, “They had so much to live for.” A 15 year old girl and a 70 year old man both have so much to live for.
Because I don’t believe fiction has an obligation to facts. Do you know how much “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “The Help” fixed race relations in America? None. Not at all. Literature and movies and TV shows have an obligation to reveal a different kind of truth, however macabre the subject might be. Art also has an obligation to make us ask questions about ourselves and the world.
Because stories save lives. A story that one person disagrees with might also be the same story that changes another’s perspective and saves a life.
Because I need my kids to learn what is appropriate for them. I like horror movies a lot. I like zombies in just about every variation. I love Westerns. I like paranormal thrillers and science fiction. You want to know what scares me? “The Godfather” and “Scarface” scare me. Movies about the mafia and drug cartels freak me out. But not Freddy Kruger. I can’t explain it, but I know myself. I know what I can handle and what upsets me.
I don’t need my kids watching a TV show about suicide, but I do need them to start making choices on their own without me deciding for them.
“This show has a graphic suicide in it? Do you know what that means?” I asked because I didn’t know what my kids had already heard. They knew what suicide meant, but not the word “graphic.”
“Graphic means explicit. In detail. It means showing the razor and blood and a fake body being hurt in a way that would kill a real person. Do you want to see that?” I asked because kids are not stupid. They hear more and worse details from their friends. But they can talk to me too.
“Do you know what rape means? That means a violent sex act against someone’s will. It is painful. It leaves physical and emotional scars for a long time. It is a crime and a show of control. It is something serious. Meaning you don’t touch anyone in a way they don’t want to be touched and you don’t let anyone touch you in a way you don’t want to be touched.”
“Some people feel very sad. Sometimes sadness lasts a long time and that’s depression. Depression leads to many things like dangerous behaviors with drugs and alcohol and sex. And also leads to suicide or hurting other people.”
“Support systems are the people you talk to when you are happy and when you are sad. Your friends. Me. Your family and aunts and Nana and cousins and uncles. You will have both happy and sad times throughout your life. Life is not all happy. Life should not be all sad. There is no formula for how much of each. It isn’t always possible to tell me when you are sad. You might not have the words for it. I am your mother, and I am telling you now that sometimes I am sad. Even as an adult, I don’t always have the words. I still, constantly, make mistakes. But I am always looking for happiness. Sometimes it is hiding.”
Because sometimes I have to talk.
“This is not the only time we are going to talk about suicide and rape and depression and friendships and disappointment and sex and your body and happiness.”
Because of the way my child looks at me as I say these words. They are frightening words. I am not afraid to say them. I want my kids to see that.
Because we are afraid that our children might die.
Because we are afraid of our own sadness and depression.
Because I realized that part of this conversation is that there isn’t “The One–Time Talk About Suicide” or “The One–Time Talk About Sex.” This is an ongoing-never–ending-until-the-day-I-am-dead-and-gone conversation about these things and every other thing. We will have to talk about love and death and choices.
I’m going to read the book “13 Reasons Why.” There are many conversations ahead. I’m going to watch the show so I can be a part of this one.
Nicki Salcedo knows the loops and the backroads of Atlanta. She is a novelist, blogger and working mom. Zero Mile stories will appear on the Atlanta Loop on Wednesdays.