*trigger warning: this piece discusses suicide
My eyes opened only slightly. They shut, then opened again. A nurse stood with Amanda beside the bed I lay in. Tubes and wires covered my body below the hospital gown and blanket. What time was it? What day was it? Where was I? My eyes closed again. The memory of what I had done overwhelmed my consciousness. I opened my eyes, somehow still alive.
“If you want her to be happy.” The words echoed through my mind the night before. It was Jenny’s attorney who had spoken them, the one who I’d once described as a vulture. “If you want her to be happy,” he interjected into our phone conversation as often as he could. He held my love for her over my head like an anvil.
Twenty minutes in and I’d lost my will to fight. Telling me how much I had hurt Jenny worked like the charm he severely lacked. “For the rest of her life,” he kept saying. “For the rest of her life.” The words bounced around my head like a pinball. He asked for my email address, which both he and Jenny already had, to send legal paperwork I could already tell I’d never sign.
“E…E…” My voice grew weaker with every attempt to speak. My body began to hunch over as I held my phone in my hand.
“I can’t understand you,” he said.
“E…E…” I could no longer tell if I was breathing.
“I can’t understand you,” he said again. “I’ll call back another time.”
“E…E…” I slid further into the abyss as shock spread through my veins.
“I’m going to hang up now,” he said.
Then he did.
I swiveled around in my brand new chair, slowly like a sloth. I stared at nothing. I felt nothing. Thoughts were non-existent. I knew only that I was done. No more lies. No more games. No more heartbreak. It was as if my soul had already left my body.
My phone buzzed and I was met with a long text message from Mom. She told me a story about meditation, which was something I had recently encouraged her to do, but “I love you” was all I could say in return.
I put down my phone and opened the cabinet by my desk. I reached for my bag of prescriptions, then swallowed them by the handful. One bottle, two, three, then four. All gone in under a minute. All soaking into my blood stream. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. The 120 pills meant to save my life were about to kill me.
I wrote two quick goodbyes. One was scribbled onto the notepad on my desk. I love you all. I am sorry. The other was posted on instagram, accompanied by a photograph I had just taken of the shirt I wore. liberté was written across the cream-colored tee in blue.
I lay down in bed as acceptance spread through me as swiftly as the pills, my stepping stones to freedom. “It’s not your fault. Please be happy,” I texted Jenny, the only person I wanted to talk to, the last person I thought I ever would. How had the olive branch I’d given her turned into a death sentence? How did the woman I love turn into my Grim Reaper? “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry,” I rambled on to no response. I didn’t even know what I was apologizing for. For all that we’d done to each other? Or for what I had just done to myself?
Time slipped away and awareness began to take hold. “Please call 911,” I texted Jenny forty-four minutes after I told her to be happy.
The earth rumbled and shook below me. Seconds passed and stillness returned. It shook again and the rumble grew louder. It grew closer. The earth roared a sound I’d never heard. It came from the left, like a giant stomping heavier and heavier, heading my way. I thought the Heavens must be parting, about to swallow me whole. But it faded and was then calm once more. “I’m dying,” I texted Jenny.
My body began to shake. The tremors terrorized my legs. They bounced and bounced until something stopped them. What was it? I didn’t know. The earth shook again. Then my body. Then the earth. Then the light, the bright white light that looked like rays of sunshine spiraled into a tunnel shone down upon my eyes. Were they open? I couldn’t tell.
My phone rang and rang. It buzzed with text messages. But I didn’t answer. Life was over as far as I knew. The sound of the sirens swirled with the roar of the earth. Then thump, thump, thump. I heard banging on my front door. “A possible overdose,” a man’s voice said. Thump, thump, thump. The paramedics paced outside of my apartment, waiting for someone to let them in, or waiting to leave if no one ever would.
Eventually I heard Amanda’s voice, my roommate who’d been at work. Her keys jingled and the front door opened, then the one to my bedroom. “In here,” she said.
A swarm of paramedics entered. I saw them only out of the corner of my eye. “What’d you take? What’d you take?” I heard a man’s voice ask. Over one-hundred pills, I’d told Jenny, but I could no longer speak. The empty pill bottles clanged together as someone picked up the bag. “What’d you take?”
The paramedics scooped me off of my bed and led me out of my second story apartment. One man gripped me on either side. I could see my plaid socks drag across the ground. Why couldn’t they carry me? I was too half dead to wonder. I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. I couldn’t even hold up my own head.
They put me into the ambulance, but I remember nothing more. First my consciousness was lost, and then my body’s own control. The tremors had turned into a seizure. My life was slipping further and further out of my grasp.
For years, I feared that Jenny would be the death of me. The grasp I had on my own life had been slipping long before those pills absorbed into my blood. My love for her had turned into an obsession, one that was suffocating us both. Maybe I had willed her to be my Grim Reaper. Maybe any peace between us had been doomed from the start.
I sit now in the same chair where I swallowed those 120 pills, and the last five and a half years replay in my mind like a broken projector. The memories flicker and change and the progress I’d made in our year without contact feels like a strip of film tainted by exposure to the light. I feel sunken by her lies and guilty by my games, ones I’d never even realized I was playing. “We’ve only been thinking of ourselves,” I’d told her attorney. I think of this now, trying to find any ounce of silver lining from our conversation, from his scare tactics.
It’d been an accidental phone call that brought my past back to haunt me, even if Jenny’s attorney doubted the slip of my finger. I wonder still why she called me back that day, and why I couldn’t bring myself to answer. I wonder why my olive branch had been denied, and how my actions were twisted once more. But worst of all, I wonder what would’ve become of me had she not been paying attention on the night I wore my shirt that says liberté.
“Attention is the rarest and purest from of generosity,” philosopher Simone Weil once wrote. It was all I’d ever given to Jenny, and all I’d wanted in return. “We have to try to cure our faults by attention and not by will,” Weil continued.
“If I’d willed Jenny to be the death of me, maybe it was her attention that was the cure.” That’s something I’d have believed before the thirtieth of January, the night I almost ended my own life. I could always take credit for my poor actions, but sparingly the good. I thought it’d been Jenny who transformed me time and time again. But as I sit in this chair, I know the cure and the attention could only ever be mine.