Suicidal thoughts are hell. Being trapped in your head with the same vision repeating over and over regardless of what you do or say is worse. It’s torture.
PTSD is fucking real. I know this because I wake up screaming from my sweaty, bed soaked nightly nightmare. There are counselors that specialize in it, please do not give in, do not let those fuckers win! I know you can do it, because if you can’t then what the fuck am I even trying for?
This story is mostly truth with room for creative license to make a better story, but yes it was on my birthday and yes the interaction between my siblings is verbatim. I know, it was pretty awesome. – Ramon
Another call. This time it’s a vidchat call, I can tell by the ring. Only my daughter vidchat calls me. I flounder for my phone with my left hand and eyes closed; after the second ring my fingers wrap firmly around it. I know her face is there all lit up on her contact picture. My own eyes still closed, gun still pressed to my head, the hammer teetering on the precipice, I breathe in slow and deep, completely filling my lungs up…and a long steady exhale until everything is out. I will myself to not take in air, will myself to complete stillness.
One heartbeat, the calm starts at my toes. One thousand one. One thousand two. One thousand three.
It’s August 5th, the day I’ve been dreading for weeks has finally come to be. The sun is shining down through the broken plastic slats that cover my bedroom window but haven’t quite yet caught my face. I blearily open my eyes, groaning as I swing my legs out and let my feet hover over the floor. Lukewarm water splashes down my chin, then onto my chest as I greedily gulp water. My phone starts blasting “Who Let the Dogs Out” and the jolting motion of turning my head causes the world to suddenly spin angrily towards the floor. I close my eyes, desperate to stop the spinning. With another groan I push myself upright. All I can smell on my breath is whiskey and shame.
Groggily I begin looking for my panties, making the mistake of looking downwards. The alcohol does not agree. The world begins to again pull violently towards the floor as I stumble towards the porcelain god. 15 minutes later, my mouth smelling minty, I again begin looking for those panties. Doing my best to ignore the tilting of my still spinning head, I put them on. Slowly, I reach for my alarm clock.
Already the empty electronic phrases of wishing me well have begun to come in. The thought of food is revolting, so I head to my patio for a healthy helping of pineapple express. Finally, my stomach quits grumbling angrily at me. My apartment starts heating up as I turn on another fan and pour myself some more water, this time ice cold.
I sit in my chair and wonder to myself how I’ll pass the day. Will I speak to anyone? Will they listen to what I have to say? Will it matter, in the end, what I want or what I say? The nausea makes me think twice before reading a book, or go for a walk, or think about food. I sigh as the realization I will have to talk to people today dawns on me. It is my birthday, after all. One final look out at the trees and I open my phone to answer the first text response. And then the second. And the third…
This nagging feeling I’m forgetting something stays prevalent and consuming. So I get myself another glass of water then turn on Netflix and wait for the feeling to crash over me like waves on a rock. I let the foam subside before I dare chance to move. Out on the patio for more pineapple express and the sun feels good on my naked shoulders. I can hear the trumpets begin to blare away inside my head and within seconds I begin mumbling the song out loud, unaware I’m already at my limit and my day is only 2 hours old.
Another sigh, this time long and drawn out; this time fear mixed in with the mint and whiskey and shame. The latter two standing proud and tall amongst them. I come clean to myself. I speak out loud why I don’t want this day. A high pitched whine, slow and low at first, quickly rises up to drown out my monologue in its bid for my attention. My vision begins to blur and swirl as I speak. Tears, hot and streaming, leaping off my face to my lap. Fuck I hate being hung over. I grasp clumsily at the mantra just in time before the tears turn to sobs. My body begins to heave and I’m holding my breath through them. Exhale slowly, take in a quick breath as deep as I can. Close your eyes and count to 10 and remember to calm yourself while breathing in rhythm to the count. Repeat, repeat. Fuck I hate being hung over.
One thousand four. One thousand five. One thousand six. Second heartbeat, the soothing finishes by covering my head, right down to the last hair.
A soft ringtone from inside, the first phone call full of awkward and fake pleasantries. Such an empty dialogue of love and care. It makes everything worse. The nausea is back as I bite my tongue and attempt to reciprocate a projection of happiness, even though the whole scenario is anything but. I take a leap and bare it all; ask and plead. He says, “Sounds like everyone I know. You should probably talk to someone.” You mean like you? “Just one genuine person, just one genuine action,” I plead to the empty apartment. It stares back at me in silence.
I pass through my apartment on the way to the bathroom, finishing off the rest of the water as I go. The bathroom smells of lilac potpourri with a hint of whiskey laced vomit, the shame still prevalent only now faded into the background like a second on a film set. On goes the overhead fan and next the water. My motions all robotic and rushed, as I don’t want to even chance a look in the mirror. I’m standing there, water hitting the back of my head, blinking my eyes free of the water in them every so often. I turn the handle, inch by inch, until I can barely tolerate it. Then I turn it an inch more. I’m breathing heavy through the thick steam and heat. My arms and chest have long turned red, the feeling of fire ants crawling all over me instead of water. And I swear to God I’m not crying this time and FUCK YOU for even thinking that. I reach back and turn the knob a few inches more.
My stomach grumbles again, this time with the pangs of hunger. I blink my eyes and realize I’m in a towel, sitting in my chair. All the blinds are open, the sun shining in and the trees are swaying outside with the wind. I can hear the cars driving by on the street below, each one a distinct sound, each varying in volume. I can smell the whiskey on the clothes I wore last night, still lying haphazardly in the middle of the hallway where I threw them off of me in a drunken stupor mere hours earlier. The smell of a full trash can in a hot apartment emanating from the kitchen behind me. Rotting banana peels and old pizza boxes in the heat wave of the late Seattle summer; I should be sick to my stomach. Too late for that.
One last call. Frowning as I answer, I cheerily carry on the conversation. “Yes I’m having a great day! The sun is out and that’s cool, maybe later I’ll treat myself to a movie.” The lie is easily believed because she wants to hear it. Before I can stop it, hell before I even realize it, I’ve blurted out another plea; another bald faced truth is hurled from my lips not unlike the vomit mere hours earlier. It hangs heavy and foreign and thick in the air, both of us feigning ignorance in an awkward game of chicken. I turn yellow as the floodgates open; the seams burst! No matter how hard I try I can’t stop, I keep going until I’m finally interrupted with, “You’re not the only one who lost mom. Quit being so selfish.”
I hang up the phone.
One thousand seven. One thousand eight. One thousand nine. Third heartbeat.
Suddenly I’m conscious of the weight of it in my hand. The plastic bumps that were molded for grip digging into the skin of my palms. The steel is cold to touch, even in the sweltering heat. The finality of it smacks of a lonely and deadly beauty you might recognize in a snow covered field with one solitary, vibrant red rose. With a patter a teardrop hits the chamber. My hands, shaking all day, are now steady as a rock. The lone bullet is slid in with an elegant, mechanical grace. I keep pushing down even though it’s seated. My thumb turning red, then white. Its lethality is enchanting; I can’t take my eyes off of it.
The weight feels as if it’s the world. It may as well be. All the promises, all the failures, and successes, and joy, misery, pain, exultation laughter utter humiliation and triumphs are all right there. Pressed right up against my temple. I vaguely register there’s no more tears, my face is dry as a bone. No more uncertainty and pain and anxiety and nervousness. A laugh escapes just then, such a small thing, really. I exhale, then close my eyes and begin to squeeze. Images, clear and vivid, like a highlight reel and yet it’s happening all around me, just as I remembered.
I’m 6 and walking down the street in cowboy boots and then 10 and looking out at New York City from the Statue Of Liberty and I’m 16 and it’s me and Pat and we’re skating down the blacktop and laughing and wild and free and I’m 21 and kissing Diana at the beach and she’s so very beautiful and 26 with my right hand raised, so sure of my belief that it’s the right thing to do and 30 with my dream girl staring at me with those pale blue-gray eyes, plans of wrinkled skin and sunsets and grandchildren and I’m 32 and her little hand is holding my finger and it’s so tiny as I stand there helplessly watching her struggle and fight for every labored, shallow breath and I’m 35 and I watch as the pink casket we picked out for her is lowered into the ground.
And it’s all in succession and it’s all at the same time; all the smiles and laughter and pain and sorrow, all of it in an instant. Or a lifetime?
One thousand ten. I open my eyes.