By Danielle Service


In the winter of 1995, shortly after I’d graduated college but was living on in the dorms as a Resident Director, I spent one long night on my couch talking to a handsome man who looked and acted just like George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – same demeanor and half-smile, same calculated, lilting amusement. He held dramatic pauses in our conversation, carried with ironic and writerly phrasing. He was exactly my type, a friend of a friend, and as the night drew on interspersed with bong hits (ah, 1995) and deep revelations the intimacy grew. You’d think this story ends with a steamy hookup on a winter night in Atlanta but it doesn’t. He asked just one question, very late:

     “Can I hold you?”

     I nodded, and he did as we continued talking. I don’t remember if we kissed. We probably did, but all I remember is the talking.

     I drove to Washington D.C. the next day to visit a friend, then went home for Christmas. When I came back I expected a continuation of sorts but he held a hand up to the endeavor, pled friendship mea culpa – he still had the hots for an ex. I was disappointed, not crushed. We hung in groups together, partied, did Whip-Its by the train tracks, watched The Doors over and over and over. That was then. We drifted. I moved.

"He sent me pictures of his gun collection and told me he wanted to kill himself. He had started writing suicide notes. Wanted to know if I would read one."

Facebook is the best and worst of all social interaction, like Vegas is the best and worst of all of America’s entertainment. The social network drives you back into arms that would otherwise wave in the wind, the way Vegas showcases talent and vice for the taking that, perhaps, should be left untouched by the commoner. Facebook, the opener of doors that are meant to stay closed. Or not. As society hurtles toward the next tier of technological existence who’s to say how our relationships will navigate? There used to be closed endings to almost all of them. Now they are mostly open. It could be the universe’s way to ensure we will all remain connected. But this is hardly the point.

     So Facebook reconnected us twenty years later. I watched him get married, have a baby boy. Get divorced, unravel. We started talking again on a thread about Stephen King’s It, of all the damn things. Then we started writing. Then he told me he was under indictment for felony charges of embezzlement and wire fraud and was looking at serious prison time. He sent me pictures of his gun collection and told me he wanted to kill himself. He had started writing suicide notes. Wanted to know if I would read one.

     I know a lot of people who talk about suicide like the day’s flavor, just by virtue of the circles I run in. Recovered addicts, alcoholics. Sometimes writers, neurotic types prone to depression and empathy and insight. The thing about suicide intention and idealization is that you can’t freak out when someone suggests it and to be honest there’s not a lot you can do if someone’s bent on it. I read once that suicide becomes an option when pain is greater than the available coping mechanisms for it. So one either breaks or looks for an outlet. I’ve learned to listen and hear people out, not act like they’re crazy or that I have to do something to stop them.

     So I read his suicide note and suggested that in prison he would have so much time to write, and that maybe he could be like Denzel Washington in Flight and take responsibility for his actions instead of killing himself, and he could help other people when he got out. That life would be ten thousand times better once he navigated the swamp of this shitshow. That I’d had myriad students who just wanted their parents around regardless of what the parents had done: kids love their parents no matter what, and his son would too. That maybe a cool book idea would be that he write a collection of suicide notes that chronicled the progression of his recovery and journey through prison.

     I have a dear friend who called a suicide hotline in her sophomore year at a prestigious college. She’d been admitted young and was at the end of her rope. The voice on the other end of that hotline answered, then put her on hold, as in “Suicide hotline. Will you please hold?” When she told me that story I howled laughter, slid my back down the wall while I held the phone. “Oh Christ,” I said, when I could speak. “That’s just too damn good.”

     “But it was that that did it for me, girl,” my friend said. “That’s when I realized that deep on some level that no one gave a shit. Well, not that they didn’t give a shit, no – that it was up to me to pull it together and that the world would go on if I didn’t. Her putting me on hold was a slap in the face.”

     That’s the thing. You never know what’s going to do it. I know I’m good at listening, so that’s what I do.

     My other friend and I continued talking, on and off. I left him alone some, reached out at other times. A couple months ago he told me the charges had been pled down to just wire fraud, a year max in white-collar prison. “I decided not to kill myself out of sheer pride,” he said. “What kind of pussy kills himself over a wire fraud charge?”

     “Fair enough,” I wrote. “I’ll come see you on my road trip this summer if I go that way, before the indictment.”

     “Promise me,” he said. “Promise you’ll come visit.”

     I did. I make it a habit to keep promises as part of my recovery, so I went (slightly) out of my way to hit the mid-sized, southern city where he resided. He was not the same as I remembered. Still smart, sharp-tongued, but sweaty, fraught, desperate. Frenetic energy. He told me I looked great, better than my pizza-delivering ‘powder phase’ days. I don’t have many people in my life still who remember me from that time.

     He asked if he could hold me. I nodded. I let him rub my back. We did not kiss. He had another girl coming over at seven.

Danielle Service is a graduate of The Mountainview Low-Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction. She currently teaches seventh grade Language Arts and yoga in New Hampshire. 

The Line

by Garrett Zecker


"He taught us about food — but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown."  - Barack Obama on Anthony Bourdain, June 8, 2018.

I knew I wasn’t right halfway through the sentence, “I haven’t known anyone directly that it happened to.” My girlfriend was silent beside me in the car. The specter of suicide and death can suck the air out of a conversation. “Well, except for Clark*. I forgot he was dead.” The specter du jour was the sudden and unexpected death of the chef and writer Anthony Bourdain.

My experience with Bourdain’s work mirrored a reality I was intimately familiar with. I slung drinks and barbecue on Boylston Street in Boston, and with every life change, I changed restaurants and moved further and further westward in the state. I plated pasta and uncorked wine, poured coffee and sliced pie, shook margaritas and shimmied chimichangas. There was an ‘I ate the worm’ club. There were t-shirts. Those years were humbling, exciting, exhausting. They were unsustainable.

When I first entered the industry, Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential had just come out. I took it out of the library. I devoured it, one of the first books that depicted my experience: chefs hopped up on coke to keep the plates flying, waiters and waitresses fucking on the bins holding food they’d serve to our customers, the horrors, the absolute horrors of rotting food behind the swinging doors, the constant opening and folding of restaurants, the dreams, the stress dreams, and the nightmares that accompanied what we all wanted to accomplish. Bourdain nailed it with his unapologetic, brutal, energetic presentation of it all. What’s more, Kitchen Confidential arose from a deal he got when he accomplished that single-random-slush-submission-to-fame New Yorker story that all writers fantasize about but few accomplish. His gritty, stained life was the life I romanticized about.

Bourdain was a virtuoso. He didn’t care what anyone thought.

I knew Clark from the gym. He was a kind, friendly man. We became acquaintances when we found out that we worked for the same school. He was a part-timer, and always sounded like he was hurting for money. We’d text each other occasionally, share writing. He showed me the photography he took with his flip phone. He’d confide in me a relationship he was having with a man who was married to a woman that never reciprocated his advances. He wouldn’t leave his wife. He confided his long legal battle with his landlord over affording his rent. Every Sunday he chopped firewood to earn money. His last six text messages were about earning enough money. He didn’t think school would ask him back to work part time in the fall.

A few months later, he was gone in a small fire he set as he was being evicted. Some friends organized a small memorial at a local restaurant to collect money for his funeral. Someone collected his remaining belongings, what wasn’t destroyed. We chatted about Clark’s thoughtful and selfless ways. Binders upon binders of his photography were recovered. He had an entire photography career in the eighties, taken not with a Motorola but on film. Beautiful pieces explored the body and nature. There were awards, magazine layouts. We were allowed to take some home to remember him by. Everything smelled of embers.

Clark was humble, but no less a virtuoso. From what I hear about Bourdain, he was just as kind, friendly, and true to those he loved.

Neither of these men’s stories are mine to tell. I only have one of their phone numbers and text messages still in my phone as if keeping them might evoke one last call or message from him. But they both brought me joy.

A chef's mise en place and prep area is called "the line," like war, like that thin knife's edge, so hard to see in in two dimensions. Sometimes, that line is so thin it’s invisible. 


*Some names have been changed for this story. If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Last Resort

by Eddie Dzialo


During my deployment to Afghanistan, I carried an M4 rifle and a 9mm Berretta pistol should I need to use on myself. Due to the dust and sandstorms, cleaning our weapons was a daily ritual. I changed clothes less than once a week and showered every other month. Each time I cleaned my pistol, I was reminded of what it was for. I’d take it apart, line it with lubricant, coat it with my issued brush to ensure that it was reliably crisp. I became so comfortable with the weapon that I could pull the slide back and catch the ejected bullet with my hand.

Each time I had to clean the pistol, my 9mm Beretta, I was reminded of what it was for. Because it is only effective inside of 50 meters, it’s a last-resort weapon. With all the machine guns and mortars we carried, there would be little use in it. One step below pistol is a bayonet, and then it’s fists.

Prior to deploying, the officers routinely stayed late and met in the boardroom. We listened to intelligence reports, went over tactical scenarios, and drank beers. Before one of the meetings began, people sat around the table and talked. No one looked unhappy or worried. Though I can’t remember what prompted it, my superior said that if anyone felt like they were about to be captured during our deployment, then we should do the right thing and eat a bullet. The comment was made casually, but it was sincere and loud enough for the whole room to hear. If captured, we would be killed, likely beheaded. The act would be recorded and disseminated on the internet. The people we left behind would have to live knowing that our final moments were being permanently broadcast. Killing ourselves was an act of kindness, a selfless way of protecting our families.

When I deployed, I became suicidal without wanting to be. I’d believed what I’d been told.  Sometimes I fought back by not cleaning my pistol, allowing the powdery dust to build up around the barrel and trigger guard. Maybe it would jam. At some point, I stopped fighting. I even worried about the scenarios where I wouldn’t be able to get to my pistol. What if I was in an explosion and someone grabbed me when I was unconscious, or that I was so badly injured that I wouldn’t be able to physically do it? I even knew how to chamber a round if one of my arms was broken or missing.

People become reckless after surviving a deployment because there’s a certain hint of invincibility that comes with it. But I returned home feeling fragile. The myth of immortality gets disproven when someone you know gets killed overseas.

Our unit returned home, and we were obligated to attend classes intended to help us reintegrate back into our old lives. The Marine who gave one of the classes talked about the increased risk of suicide and the mental steps that someone undergoes prior to it. First someone has the idea and then there’s an intent to carry out the act. During that class, I realized that I had done both. Though I wasn’t suicidal then, and I am not now, not only had I risked my life, I had grown comfortable with taking it.