Wait, Before I Go

by Michael Miersen

I won’t apologize for what I’ve done, it was my choice to make. I just want you to understand.

I had felt leaden for so long, anxiously waiting for… something to begin. Even in the cheap, coffee-stained clinic I felt like I was holding my breath.

No one knew I was there, I had left the house like normal, lying because it came too easy. You smiled as I left. I wish you had noticed. I wish I could have been worse at faking.

The explosion of pain at the base of my skull made my stomach flip. The injector hissed and the doctor said something reassuring.

It would take a few days to activate, he said, and I nodded, already well aware. I had read everything on NRDs I could get my hands on, always careful to tell myself I’d never really get one.

Originally, Neuro-electric Regulatory Devices were used for deep brain stimulation, for correcting irregular neural activity. Your uncle got an early model for his Parkinson’s, remember? It remade him, good as new.

I had never seen you so happy.

I could still feel the pea-sized implant in my neck, snug between skull and vertebrae, as I handed them a check worth pretty much everything I had. They say you can’t feel its cilia, those long electro-chemical fibers a hundred times thinner than a human hair, burrowing their way up the brainstem and into the grey matter, but I couldn’t shake the tingle just below the skin. Like a million electric ants colonizing my brain.

Modders tweaked the implant early on, figuring out how to stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain. Thrill seekers and addicts jumped on, then quickly died. It was all over the news, you saw it. Apparently it didn’t take much to overdo it and disrupt the activity in your brain. Like a power surge killing your laptop.

It just… switched you off.

I didn’t drive home after the injection, or to work, or to that sandwich shop we always used to go to. I just drove. It felt good, being nowhere, going everywhere. I wonder if that’s what being a ghost is like. Did I ever ask if you believed in ghosts? I don’t think they’re real. Not anymore, at least. Sometimes, though, I hope.

Apparently, it only took NRDs a few years to outpace guns as the preferred method of suicide. Mostly for men, mostly over the age of thirty. It was quick and painless and easy to get. There were thousands of pop-up implant clinics. Go to any of them with a story about some neurological disorder, something easy to play off, and pay their exorbitant fee.

I faked depression. I had money. That was enough to get my very own off-switch, modder app sold separately.

As soon as I got home, all I wanted to do was hide. I wanted to tear at my neck, my eyes, my hands. I wanted you to see, I think, I wanted you to see how sorry I was.

The phone was in my hand, then, I didn’t remember unlocking it, but it was open. The modder app sat like a blue-and-white tombstone in the middle of my screen. I couldn’t move, I just stared at it, entombed in my car, until the screen finally faded to black.

You asked about the injection site only once, two days later. By then it was only a dried scab the color of raspberry crumble, no larger than a pinky-nail.

I don’t even remember the excuse I gave. I had accidentally scratched myself itching, or something. You told yourself you believed it, you told yourself I was fine. I told myself you were happier that way.

There was a lightness that followed me for the next few weeks. The implant lessened some of the anxiety, like letting steam from a valve. You noticed too, I think.

I remember watching this documentary about all the people who killed themselves by jumping off the Golden Gate bridge. There’s a part where the survivors talk about how, as they were falling, they realized how small their troubles were. How infinite their solution was to such a finite problem.

In a way, I felt that too. Being able to check out early made everything seem so harmless. I only had to reach for my phone. I guess you could say I was happier in those few weeks than I had been in a year or more.

I know how it sounds, I know it’ll wreck you, but please. You can’t let it.

Do you remember when I got rejected by NYU? You pushed me forward, you kept that fire going. Every audition I didn’t land, every rant, every time I quit, every time I won. You always held me up. I loved you for it, even when I couldn’t stop hating you too.

But you’re only human. That waiting, that need, whatever it is, it’s bigger than you.

My whole life, I’ve been standing on a frozen lake, a thin layer of ice between me and the infinitely cold, dark water. The first cracks were tiny and I could still convince myself my footing was secure. But the cracks grew larger. Deeper. Each new fissure made the others so much worse. I’ve stood there for so long, I no longer know where to move, and I don’t know how much longer the ice will hold.

As I left for work this morning you said goodbye. I had texted in sick and never told you. I drove to a comic store I used to go to all the time, years ago, when the cracking ice sounded like the world shattering. It’s where I found this Neil Gaiman comic that showed me how to stand there a little longer. I couldn’t stop reading it, it was like someone finally understood what I had been trying to say for years. I was almost broke then, but I bought every volume they had.

The place is gone now. It’s a tire store.

The Jennings play turned me down yesterday. They loved my audition, as usual, but they wanted to go in another direction, as usual.

I know what you’d say: I don’t really fail until I quit, it’s all subjective, you only need one chance, yes, yes, you’re right. But there’s… I don’t have the words…

They gave me a cupcake yesterday at work for my five year anniversary. Did I tell you? I can’t remember. I got a little sign, a card, everything.

I took it all to the bathroom and dumped it in the trash.

This job was supposed to be a stop-gap. I was just passing through. Now I don’t know if I can escape it. Coming in every day, it hollows me out.

Maybe I should have lived out of my car, maybe I should have truly suffered early on.

Would I have been happier? Would I have gotten farther? Would I have wanted it more?

I parked outside of town, at that place we used to hike, the one down the dirt road where no one ever really goes. I hadn’t realized where I was going until I pulled in.

I’m not sure why I started typing this to you. Maybe its just to keep my phone busy so the modder app doesn’t burn another hole in my screen as I sit waiting.

I won’t email it out, even if.


I haven’t felt the ants in weeks, but here they are, back again, just behind the eyes. Does this make me a bad person? Did I do it all wrong? It’s hard to think with these ants. Aren’t I an asshole for having so much and wanting so much more? I wish there was another me that could just be the person everyone needed. Painless. Instant. I wasn’t supposed to be this way.

I won’t apologize for what I’ve done, it was my choice to make. I just want you to understand.

I love you.