*trigger warning: this piece discusses self-harm
I sliced once, twice, three times. I didn’t like my tattoo anyway. The blood gushed out from beneath the black ink and I dragged the razor across my wrist for a fourth time.
It was Saturday and I had accidentally called Jenny on Monday. My fingers hovered above her number in my phone, over what I had thought, was a safe distance. It wasn’t and suddenly I was calling her. I gasped and quickly hung up. I wasn’t ready for that. I dropped my phone onto my bed and got up. I tried to shake it off, hoping I’d hung up before the call had gone through. A few deep breaths and all was well.
Sixteen minutes later, I sat at my desk and heard the drumming and vibrating of my phone. I felt a shock in my heart. I stood up and retrieved my phone from between the creases of my blanket. Jenny was calling back.
I held my phone and stared. Sixteen minutes hadn’t been enough to get me ready to speak to a woman I hadn’t seen in a year, one who’d put me through all sorts of hell. My phone rang and rang and rang as I shook like a leaf. I held it longer and waited for a possible voice message, but other than the rapid fire beating of my heart and a missed call in my phone, nothing was there.
I fell to the floor and began to hyperventilate. The socks I’d left there the night before were just to the right of my face. They were sandy brown and covered with green saguaros. I remembered that Jenny had posted photos of saguaros just that morning. I let out a half groan-half whimper through my heavy breathing and then texted my mom. “Are u home yet” “I need to call you” “Like really bad” I sent the screenshot I had taken at 1:03 p.m, just three minutes before, of Jenny’s incoming call. “Call me ASAP”
But I didn’t have time to wait. “Are you home,” I texted Keriann three minutes later.
“Ya,” she replied instantly. One call to her iPhone went without connection. Another call went through to her landline. After twenty minutes of her best efforts to calm me down, my mom called. I switched over to her and she, too, gave her best efforts. But they both said what I didn’t want to hear and I spent the rest of the day in bed.
By Thursday morning, I felt oddly okay again. I sat at my desk and wrote in my journal for the first time since before the accidental phone call. “This morning I feel very excited about my life and what happens next,” I had written that morning. I was clueless as to what would actually happen next. Thursday’s entry started with, “Monday took an unexpected turn,” but the tone of Monday’s entry was replicated. It was saturated with optimism.
I shut my blue and gold journal and put it back into my desk. I turned on my MacBook and finished up some school work. Life, it seemed, was back to normal. At least until twenty minutes later. I returned to my desk from the kitchen and noticed a missed call on my phone. Contact was being attempted from Jenny’s side again, but like before, there was no voice message and I didn’t call back. Again, I fell to the floor. I sobbed without a clue of what to do, for reasons I couldn’t even pinpoint. To take any guesses would be to know the truth of all that has happened since Jenny came into my life. But I don’t imagine you ever will.
“i have felt a major shift is coming in my life,” I texted Matt. “and i don’t know if everything will be for the better or if its the end of it all”
“if you’re feeling a shift, then it’s for the better,” he replied.
“then why am i so scared”
“Few things make you want to live as much as fearing you’re about to die,” I tweeted an hour after the missed phone call. Death, it seemed, was the reason for my fear. I began to sob again, from both the fear and my broken heart. I got in the shower and sat on the floor of the tub. I tucked my legs tight to my chest and kept my head down. My tears spiraled round with the water until finally sliding down the drain with shattered pieces of my heart.
I freshened up, only because I had an appointment with my therapist, John. I sat in the bright red chair in the corner like always. “You might wanna take a deep breath,” I told him. He’d been listening to me talk about Jenny for almost a year. Tears slid out from behind the large green sunglasses I hadn’t taken off my face. I told him about the phone calls and my fear of an imminent passing. “Not suicide,” I said, “but a broken heart.” The burning in my chest felt like it would kill me, just as it had for the five and a half years it’d been coming and going.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “The symptoms of broken heart syndrome are treatable, and the condition usually reverses itself in days or weeks.” But what happens when it’s prolonged? Because the bad news, according to John Hopkins Medicine, is that Stress Cardiomyopathy, the medical term for Broken Heart Syndrome, can lead to congestive heart failure due to the weakening of the heart muscles. My fear, it appears, was rational.
But I woke up Friday morning and for a split second, the pain was gone. Unfortunately, it lasted only as long as it took to light the match and suddenly my heart was on fire again. But I put forth all of my energy into feeling better, and because of that, I did, and by that night, I felt happiness and hope pulsate through my veins. I’d survived Broken Heart Syndrome once more.
I texted Matt again, telling him that I considered giving Jenny a call that night. He reminded me that it was a new moon, a time for manifestation. A light bulb lit up through the haze of my marijuana smoke. It was a new moon when Callahan and Iris met, lovers from a novel I’ve yet to publish. A new moon is when the magic begins, Callahan’s grandma had always told her. I decided to trust in that magic.
Forty minutes later, I was texting Jenny, still too afraid to make verbal contact. My heart couldn’t handle it. Texting seemed like less of a risk. But when you’re reaching out to the one who broke your heart, there’s no such thing as less of a risk. Despite the missed calls on my phone, my text messages went un-replied.
Saturday morning, I felt the pain spread through my chest again. My heart beat hard against my ribcage and I gasped repeatedly for air. I’d dreamt I saw Jenny dressed in body armor, the kind from the original Mad Max films. Others took it as a fashion statement, but I feared it was for her protection; protection from me. I sobbed uncontrollably and the tears followed me into consciousness.
By 11:11 a.m, I had dragged myself to my desk and opened my journal to its first blank page. “Why does it have to be 11:11?” I wrote on the first line. I was too tired to believe in any sort of numerological signs. If Angels were nearby, I couldn’t feel them, and I didn’t figure they were listening. Five pages later, and what felt like half my body weight in tears, I put my journal away and walked to the other side of the room to get my razor blade. It was trapped between my bed and my nightstand where it had fallen after I used it on Thanksgiving. I figured it was best left there. I didn’t want to go down that path again. At least until that moment I didn’t.
I sat on the floor and continued to wail. I gripped the yellow handle of the razor and stared at the word “LOVE” on my wrist. Calmness overtook me, though the tears continued to fall. I sliced once, twice, three times. I didn’t like my tattoo anyway. The blood gushed out from beneath the black ink and I dragged the razor across my wrist for a fourth time. I watched the blood spread across my skin and felt the most in control I had all morning. I couldn’t make Jenny respond, but I could do something to lessen my pain. I smeared the blood around, just enough to make it cover the entirety of my tattoo. Then I couldn’t breathe again.
I cleaned up my wounds and bandaged my wrist. The severity of what I had just done was sinking in deeper than the blade. I grabbed my phone and went back into the bathroom. I shut the door behind me and sat on the floor up against it. It was time to call Jenny back. The phone rang and rang and rang until her voicemail took over. I melted at the sound of her voice, unsure if I was relieved that she hadn’t answered.
To be continued…