"Hello?" Robert echoed, his own voice sounding hoarse in his ear.
"Who is this?" The boy - he sounded young, his voice just changing - demanded.
Robert didn't know what to say. "Who is this? What's going on?"
"Beats me. I was just on with the helpline. They must have made a faulty switch or something."
"You were called by the Suicide Helpline too?" Robert's chest hurt at the thought of this young man taking his own life.
"No, I called them. That's how helplines usually work." The boy said patiently.
"Yeah I kn-" Robert started to retort, then sighed. "What's your name, kid?"
"Hi, Shane, I'm Robert. Why were you going to kill yourself?"
"My parents just got divorced, my mom moved me to a new school, and the bullies are making my life a living hell."
"So you decided you'd prefer to go to a dead hell?" Robert spoke the words before he could stop himself. "I shouldn't have said that, I just meant you're so young. Surely you know how much it would kill your parents if you committed suicide. Man, if my daughter died, I would-"
"Kill yourself? How old are you, anyway? What could possibly be so bad that you were planning to end your life? I bet you don't get beat up and called a 'fag' every single day at school, and then have people spread rumours about you on facebook in the evening."
Robert winced. "I have problems of my own. My wife left me for a friend from work. They got married, they live in my house, and now my daughter calls him 'daddy'. My father abused me until the day I turned 18 and left the house. I got fired a couple days ago. I've never held a job for more than a couple months. I'm over twenty thousand dollars in debt, and right this moment I am in withdrawal from a couple different drugs. Listen to me, Shane. Finish school so you don't end up like me. If you ever need someone to talk to, just call me."
"Won't you be dead?"
Robert took a deep breath and looked up at the sky. It was still full of black clouds, but the rain had stopped. He saw his life play as a motion picture before his eyes. His dad with a bat in his hands, threatening to kill his mom. His brother hiding with him under their bed when Dad came home. His teacher telling him he would never be an astronaut. His best friend in high school laughing as he choked on his first cigarette. But he also remembered good things. The day he proposed to Heidi, the day of their wedding, the honeymoon. The day he found out she was pregnant. And the day his little girl was born. And the day she said her first word.
He let the breath out in a long sigh, closing his eyes, imagining his future. Job hunting, rehab, it was an ugly picture. Finally he spoke.
"Not if you won't."