I am ten the first time my mother tries to persuade me to commit suicide with her. I say no.

I say no again a few months later and a few months after that and then there is no need to say no for a while because the new hospital stay does something good and she’s on new meds and my father says she’s stable enough that he can now get the divorce he’s been wanting. What he doesn’t say is he has a whole new family, waiting for him in another state.

I have to say no again on my fourteenth birthday. It’s not as awful this time because of my new friend, Bettina. Her mother is crazy, too, and her mother doesn’t just threaten suicide—she tries it. Bettina’s dad’s a drunk but he does know how to call 911. And he’s a nice drunk. He never hits her. He never gets into her bed. We make bets about which mother will take her life first. We play Clue with a suicide theme. Which room will she do it in? And how? The rope and pistol are easy to figure, but the others, more challenging. A candlestick, wrench, or trophy I guess I can see although you’d have to be persistent and able to put up with a lot of pain. The baseball bat? No way could you get the grip right, although Bettina says it could work.

When we’re bored with Clue, we write our mothers’ suicide notes. We argue about whether you get more or fewer points for cliches. “I have no reason to live anymore.” “My life is meaningless.” “I want to die.” Duh. Only 34% of suicides leave a note, but we know our mothers would.

There are pluses and minuses to our mothers. My mother is fun crazy, but Bettina’s is just sad crazy. My mother loves scary rides, and she takes me and Bettina to Las Vegas where we ride Big Shot, X-Scream, and Insanity. (Haha.) X-Scream is the scariest thing in your life. It teeter-totters you over the edge of the SkyPod from 866 feet high. My mother wants to take us on a road trip all over the country to ride the 10 scariest rides in the U.S. But we say no.

And I say no, again, to a double suicide pact with my mother one week before I turn sixteen. This is the first time she puts her hands on my shoulders when she asks. Her eyes glitter like cold mica crystals.

And I tell Bettina that I thought she had it worse because at least my mother is fun sometimes, but now I worry that if I keep saying no, my mother will decide on her own to take us both out. Bettina hands me my fourth beer and we clink bottles. “I do wonder about that,” she says.

Photo by Andrew Lynch, used and adapted under CC.