"I can't take it. I want to die."
The words burned the cell phone screen as I read the text message at my desk. Who the hell was this? The number was unfamiliar, but I did not have the heart to reveal that to the person reaching out from the other end. If this individual was at the brink, surely the last thing they needed was to hear they weren't important enough to be programmed into the phone of the person they turned to for help. Clearly they needed a friend, and glancing among the papers strewn on my desk, I wagered that with enough correspondence I could talk them down, figure out who they were, and still finish my work for the day. But who did I know in Oklahoma?
"It can't be that bad. What's wrong?" I asked.
"I'm 2 fat and ugly. Jamie doesn't luv me," my phone buzzed.
Still no clue.
Four hours and many exchanges later, I was no closer to remembering who this was, and unfortunately they were seemingly no further from the ledge. It appeared he or she was in high school and shouldering the burdens of what it meant to not be considered "enough" for their peers, parents and teachers.
Although it often feels like eons, it hasn't been so long since I trudged my own way through the harsh winds of adolescence, armed with blue braces, a frosted pompadour and a slight flair for the dramatic. I typed back that things do get better, but in my head recalled the stack of bills in my apartment, reminding me how adulthood kind of sucks too.
I decided not to send that last part in my text; better to stay positive.
As the workday wore on and as my own mood began to reflect the tone of the cell phone suicide watch, my responses became less frequent as the messages became more frantic. Too much time had passed for me to ask their identity now, so I typed a message that I would call once I left work.
"Wait. U don't have a job. Who is this?" they asked.
Bewildered, I typed my name in the keypad.
"Sorry! I think I got the wrong number. LOL," read the message.
The laughter rose from deep within me, bubbling out in a harsh snort that has plagued me since high school. The poor kid can't even send a cry for help correctly, I thought sardonically, but at least they were struck by the same embarrassing humor of it. Two people, a thousand miles apart, awkwardly fumbling to help each other through the day; one too distraught to message the right number, and the other too proud to admit they lacked a clue. Our laughter broke the space between.
So every now and then on a difficult day, I'll text that number to see how everything is going. I always feel better when I see the ":)" in a response. Maybe at times we send the right cry for help after all.