Read the previous part here: Reaching For Luna – Endgame

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“A girl your age should be thinking about her grades, her future, maybe even dating! And here you are, just sitting around with friends playing chess,” my mother says.

My mother has always been a bit of a free bird in thought, but this is strange even for her. My stepdad looks at her in confusion, and I am confused too. I think it’s unheard of that a mother tells her child that she should date rather than play chess.

“I am seeing someone,” I say carefully. This is not how I envisioned that I would be coming out. This day is getting worse with every second. “Really?” my mom asks, slightly surprised. I don’t blame her. Getting a girlfriend was the last thing on my to-do list for this year. Yet, that has become priority number one for me this year.

“Yeah,” I say.

“Who is he?” she asks. I grimace and then internally slap myself for doing it. I glance at my stepdad, hoping he doesn’t catch my look. I can see by his expression that he understands perfectly. I figure that the cat’s out of the bag and spill the beans.

“Her name is Padma,” I say and then brace myself for my mother’s reaction. Surprisingly, my stepdad speaks first. “We’re very proud that you’ve been able to understand your sexuality. Self-discovery in every way is the first step toward happiness. I’m sure we both want to meet your girlfriend soon. Right, honey?”

Whatever I was expecting from him, it wasn’t that. A surge of gratitude shoots through me, encompassing all my other feelings. He may be far from the perfect stepdad, but right now, I’m just happy that at least one of my parents understands and supports my feelings.

But just when I think my problems have ended, my stepdad reminds me that they haven’t. “Right, honey?” he asks again, shooting a meaningful look in my mother’s direction. I can see that it will be pointless. My mother is livid.

“What did I do wrong?” she asks quietly. “Why does my daughter like girls?”
I don’t know if she’s interested in hearing an answer to that, but I can see that she doesn’t want one within seconds. My mother explodes. “Get out!” she yells. “GET OUT!”
“Honey–,” my stepdad starts, but my mother cuts him off by throwing a vase at my head. I try to dodge it, but it cuts me sharply on the forehead. I feel my blood trickling down slowly, and I look to my stepdad as he gestures for me to leave. I have to trust that he will defuse the situation at home.

Before things get even worse than they are, I sprint out. I don’t want to be hit by another vase. I’m losing blood quickly, and I should probably stop the blood flow. I reach for a tissue and press it on my forehead.

Jumping into the driver’s seat of my car, I drive out of the highway toward a remote bridge. The spot has been a place for me to recuperate and has served me well in times of solace. It happens to be located near a Buddhist monastery. The monastery is a beautiful place, and I remember going there several times before my dad died. After that, the bridge near the monastery became a spot of solace for me.

I pull over in front of the bridge and walk out. It is a small bridge overlooking a high cliff. There is water at the bottom of the cliff, and the monastery is located right next to the pond. I remember my dad parking in front of the bridge, and then I ran over it, my mom and dad following a good distance behind. I would hike a few miles downhill and wait for my parents to catch up.

Eventually, I would lose my patience and run down to the gates of the monastery. A few monks always spotted me and waited at the entrances to ensure I didn’t get lost. They would gently coax me to wait for my parents. When my parents finally showed up, the monks would leave.

Unconsciously, I find myself making my way over the bridge. I pause at the end and look over the edge. I look down at the lake and the monastery, side by side. It would be so easy to throw myself down there and end it all. It would be better for everybody. I wouldn’t be such a burden on the world.

It would be easy just to jump. There is nearly no way I would survive the fall. Even if I magically did, I wouldn’t survive the frigid water with my broken bones. I would almost certainly drown. It feels like the right decision.

I put one leg over the rickety railing. I look down and breathe deeply as I yank my other leg over. I’m now standing on the tiny space between the railing and the edge of the bridge. I look down again, and I see the light in the monastery. The sun has set, but I recall that the monastery is open until 9:30. Sighing, I hop back over the railing. I don’t know what motivates me to do it. I just know that I want to go back to the monastery one last time.

Slowly, I walk downhill. I’m not Buddhist, and my family has never had any defined religion. We’ve visited many places of worship. I don’t know why I’ve always liked this monastery, but it has called to me, and right now, I am answering the call.

My steps grow quicker as I walk toward the monastery. The beautiful scenery around me is begging for my attention, but it is ignored. Right now, I’m too focused on my wanting to go to the monastery to pay attention to the cherry blossom trees.

I’m almost sprinting by the time I see the gates. Taking deep breaths, I slow down and walk through them. There are no monks here to welcome me, but I feel better almost instantly. Almost unconsciously, I walk in the direction of the main hall. My brain is on autopilot, and it is recalling everything I used to do here. Soon, I find myself in front of the prayer hall.

I breathe deeply and walk in. I am faced with several small statues of Shakyamuni Buddha. I look at the painting of Avalokitesvara as tears come out of my eyes. I can’t help myself as I crash to the ground. Emotions are just pouring out of me, and I cry and cry and cry. Nobody is here at this hour, and I am happy about that.

All my emotions pour out as I beg all of the figurines in the room for mercy. I pull up the Heart Sutra on my phone and chant it repeatedly, hoping that I will receive some of the mercy that I need. Finally, I leave the monastery and hike back uphill, still chanting the little I remember. As I cross the bridge, suicide never crosses my mind.

I walk in the direction of my car and fail to notice a small rock. All of a sudden, I’m slipping and falling right towards the edge of the bridge. I crash straight through the rickety railing and start going downwards in the direction of the lake. I scream, but there is nothing I can do.

My t-shirt catches onto a branch and swings me in another direction as it tears. I fall onto a path in the mountains and lay still. My whole body is on fire, but I can’t bring myself to scream for help. The last thing I hear is Padma’s voice saying, “Luna?”

I’m certain that I’m dreaming as I fall unconscious.

I wake up in a hospital bed. The last thing that I remember is falling and knocking myself out. How am I here?

The nurses don’t tell me much and I’m seen by a few doctors. Finally, my stepdad walks into the room. “Your mom is still mad at you,” he says. My face falls. I hoped that my mother would have been pacified by now. “But I admire you,” he adds. “I’m not buying any more weed, and I threw out all of my beer today. Because you’re right. I’m messing myself up with this. I’m getting into programs to help me stay clean.”

I am awed. I gawk at him for a minute before smiling. “Thank you,” I say sincerely. “You won’t regret it.”
“I met your girlfriend,” he said. “She’s a catch, all right! Keep her,” I grin as he says this.
“She found you. She was walking in the mountains near the monastery with her family when she found you and brought you here. She was scared out of her mind,” he says. “You should call her.”
“I will,” I say.
“Say, you like chess, don’t you?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say, unsure of where this is heading.
“I got you this,” he says as he pulls out a brand new rosewood chess set. I am pleasantly surprised to see it.
“Let’s play a game,” he suggests, and we set up the pieces.
I start beating him quickly, and he laughs every time I take one of his pieces. Finally, I move my queen to threaten the king. I smile and say one of my favorite words.

“Checkmate.”

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Rishi Sridhar

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