Friday, November 14, 2014
It's old, but it seemed important to put here
I remember when I was young; there were so many possibilities. Hell, I was a possibility. In my mind, I grew up to be an actress, a writer, a musician, an artist. In my mind, these accomplishments seemed easy: obtainable. The problem was, I never really grew up. I could blame my parents. They gave me everything, but that's the easy way out. The simple fact is that I never had to work for anything. I was smart, I was pretty, I was gifted, and I raged against these gifts just as I raged against everyone who cared about me. I was a destructive force to my family and myself.
As a small child, I remember being afraid of the dark. I had an unwavering belief that if all my stuffed animals weren't securely tucked in, their feelings would be hurt. I would place them all in my bed, tucking the sheets firmly in on all sides, then carefully slide into the middle of the bed. It's interesting, looking back, that it's these fears that I remember clearest; as if they had more to do with shaping who I am than anything else.
I had this friend, and I use the term 'friend' loosely because she was really just this girl, Valerie, I did coke with. We would blather away about nothing and nonsense, but when it came down to it, we weren't friends after the coke ran out. Her mother died one night while we were tweaking, and she was too fucked up to drive home. Her mom had Lupus; a disease that causes your body to destroy its own organs and tissue. I wondered if she died calling her name, softly at first, and then screaming for her as death pressed in around her. At times, I love the romance of that. I think, at least if you died screaming, you died knowing you were alive: if only for that moment.
There was nothing remarkable about the day I took my own life. It was years before any of this, and years before I really began to live. I suppose everyone has a reason; it depends on whether they decide to share it. Personally, it came down to a fourteen-year-old boy's revenge. I was only seventeen. I didn't know he was in love with me. I didn't notice that he followed behind me. Sometimes, it's the things we don't notice that make all the difference. At a hay ride with my sisters, I finally noticed. He tried to sit in my lap, and I lost my temper. What I didn't realize is how ugly love really is. When my mother told me that he had accused me of being sexual with him, I couldn't grasp the idea that someone might believe it was true, but my mother already believed. In the years that followed, I placed the responsibility of my decision on both of them. Looking back, I guess it wasn't either. It was the fact that I was such a bad person that someone could believe it was true.
I divide suicide into three different categories: The Drama Students, The Damsels in Distress, and The Accepting. I was the third one. The Drama Students are never going to kill themselves. They will call you and keep you up all night, but they will never actually go through with it. The most common suicides are The Damsels. They want someone to save them up till the last. The problem is that other people are unreliable. They wait for the prince to show up, and either the pills kick in too soon , or they feel abandoned because no one is there yet. The Dramas and the The Damsels act suicidal. They want other people to feel badly. They imagine their funerals with hundreds of people looking on; every person would be sorry for what they had done. The Accepting are a different breed. They do none of these things because they aren't looking for vengeance. I didn't alert the news media. In fact, I didn't even leave a note.
I mindlessly moved through my mother's bathroom. I found Amitriptyline, Prozac, Xanax, Dilantin, Valium, and Vicodin. I don't remember taking them. I wandered to the kitchen where I added Depakote, Wellbutrin, Lithium, and Benadryl to the list. I didn't blame anyone. I didn't cry for the life I had lost. I didn't hesitate. That's what makes the difference. Everyone hesitates. I've seen it a million times. It's part of the Fight or Flight Reflex. It didn't happen with me though. I stood in the field with the horses until I got tired, and then I went to bed. I didn't have any reason to think I would wake up, but I did. I remember thinking my mother would kill me if I puked on her carpet. My father found me on my bedroom floor. The last thing, and the creepiest thing about the whole experience was how calm my voice sounded, "If you don't take me to the hospital now, I am going to die." There was no regret in that voice. It was cold and indifferent.
Everything else is a blur. They had to perform dialysis because some of the medications would stop your heart if your stomach was pumped. When I saw the doctor he told me if it had been fifteen minutes later, there would have been nothing he could have done. While I was in the hospital, the boy admitted that he had lied. Did you know that one lie can equate to the choice between life and death?
I didn't really know I was alive until my sister died. I'd been too busy killing myself to notice. Then, all of a sudden, there had to be a future because she didn't have one. I had never thought about a future for myself, because I'd never though I'd live long enough to worry about one.
My mother had prepared herself for that call; the one that comes in around when they ask you to identify a body. She wouldn't have had to watch those hazy screens under the greenish glow of the hospital lights. She would have known it was me. The call about Corinne wasn't suppose to happen. The things in life that mean the most, that tear at the very core of you, never are.
I worked as a funeral assistant for two years, but I never got used to the way the dead look. They seem so unreal, more like mannequins that people. Perhaps, that's what divine intervention really is; the gift of being able to deny that the person you are about to put in a hole is the person you love.
She had been afraid that she would wake up underground, so we were having her cremated. When you're embalmed, funeral homes add color to the fluids that they pump through your veins. When you are to be cremated, they don't embalm you. Her makeup had been applied thickly, Her skin, under the orangey foundation, was colorless like rice paper. I reapplied her makeup; I couldn't let my mother see my beautiful sister, freezing cold and painted to look like a hooker. I combed serum through her waist length hair. Everyone said the funeral home had done a beautiful job. I never told them the truth.
I gave the eulogy, not because I am particularly talented, but because no one else could imagine getting through it. I have always been thought of as cold. I walked along the graves outside and swore I wouldn't cry. I couldn't stand the idea of her death overshadowing her life. My mother never understood this promise. "Even Elise was choked up." she said after we watched the home videos Denise had made. I sat alone, then again, I suppose everyone in my family sat alone that day. Much later, as I sat with my sister, I cried. I cried because her body smelled so heavily of disinfectant, and I wondered what they had thought they could wash away. I cried for her infant son who she never had the chance to hold. I cried because I had been jealous of her. I cried because she had been ashamed of me and loved me at the same time, but most of all, I cried because I had tried to reason with any god that would hear, but I knew that none of them would accept a trade. My soul wasn't worth enough.
I don't know how long I talked to her. I know that enough time passed that her hand grew warm, and for a moment I believed it was all a lie. The woman who had brought me into the room to see my sister tried to look concerned as she went to close the casket, and for the first time since my father had called, I was angry. I was furious. The woman's face looked shocked as a I slapped at her hand. The concern slid from her face like it had been built of wax. Just like my family couldn't close the casket because it would be she was really gone, I couldn't let a stranger put my sister in the dark where she would be alone and scared.
What the doctor didn't tell me was that even though he could restart my heart and keep me breathing, something more important in me had died. That part of me was simply waiting for my body to catch up. Sometimes, it even helped it along. That cold empty voice that frightened me that night when my body was still struggling was truly all that was left. It protected me from being hurt and naive, but it also shielded me from love and hope.
The months that followed Corinne's death were heart wrenching, but the same empty voice that assured me that I was nothing, demanded that I be punished. Because of that, I never though of suicide; I never considered getting high to grant me peace. I just let it all wash over me. What I was left with was nothing like the person I had been. For the first time I was afraid. I looked out at the world from bright green eyes, that would change to a deep forest; the color of her eyes. I would see my hair, which had been so straight a perm would fall out of it, begin to form her curls. I saw the pieces of her in me, and I wanted to protect them. Things were different though. Fear has a way of catching up to you, and I am always afraid now. I can't be near open closets. I am terrified of the dark, boats, trains, buses, being alone, dying, other people... I alphabetize and measure in an effort to maintain order in the chaos, but I feel. My sister's death awakened something in me, and most of it is hard and scarring, but I feel my love for her.
Valerie's mother didn't die because Valerie was high, though Valerie would probably be thinking that months later when she found her father's gun. She never called anyone either. By then, I thought it was the best decision she could make. Valerie killed herself for forgiveness.
Corinne died so that her baby could live. I don't know if she knew that when she made the decisions that she did. She had said the only thing she had ever really wanted was to be a mother. Her aorta, which should have given out years before, had somehow managed to allow her to be one. Corinne died for love.
And me? I nearly ended my life because I didn't like myself. When you line the three up, it sounds so selfish. I didn't think I could live through Corinne’s death, but I never even considered ending my life. I am still getting used to the person I have become, and in all likelihood, I will always be afraid, but just as there are things that are worth dying for, there are things you have to survive to truly live.
I stood watching her lips move in the mirror. It’s a degree of separation that I know I need. “I was prepared for it to be you,” she said as she zipped her black dress. “I just knew it would be. This was never supposed to happen>”
And in that moment, I could hear the things she wasn’t saying; all of the pointless words in between. It should have been you. And even now, when my life has purpose and someone really loves me, I still find myself believing that. Then my father intervened before she would have to hear it too: protecting her. A lot of my life has been about protecting my mother. Parents tell themselves they love their children equally, but we know better. Corinne had been my mother’s favorite. She was beautiful, easy-going, and, most of all, kind.