by Stephen Paden

She was born Hope Dawn Richardson, but everyone who knew her called her Despair. The irony wasn’t lost on anyone.

It started in ninth grade when Hope tried to overdose on Tylenol in the girls’ bathroom. Samantha Cole, replacing her tampon in the stall farthest from the door, heard Hope’s moans coming from the stall next to her. Samantha recalled that it was her decisive action that saved Hope, and decided to run for class president on the simple message: “I care about you.”

For Hope, however, the popularity, or rather notoriety had only exacerbated her desire to keep trying. She tried more pills, slitting her wrist (which looked more like a cat had used her arm as a scratching post), and even jumping off of the roof of her ranch-style home, resulting in two twisted ankles.

Nothing worked. Hope decided to stop trying and focus on school, but only after a brief stint in a mental health facility that catered to depressed teenagers.

After her release, Hope made good on her promise to not attempt suicide again and also her promise to focus on school. Four years of high school passed quickly and Hope found herself on stage at graduation speaking as Valedictorian.

Her classmates, however, never forgot her antics. After freshman year, she had earned the name Despair, which was, at first, a burden comparable to Jesus lugging his cross around Jerusalem, but in the end, a moniker that she wore with pride.

Forty years later, she still couldn’t help but laugh: Hope had become Despair like her body had become cancer.

The irony wasn’t lost on her. She put the revolver in her mouth and pulled the trigger.

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