Snapshots From A Failed Suicide Attempt

March 18, 2012

Snapshots From A Failed Suicide Attempt

1. Pinching Pennies on the Cusp of Death

While walking to the park, I suddenly realized that I needed to buy water to drink with all the pills. I’ve always had difficulty swallowing pills. I have to wedge each one partway down my throat before gulping some water. Sometimes the pill slips out of position, even after the part with the water, and I have to start over. And here I had thirty-two pills to swallow.

At the supermarket I found that they didn’t carry any bottled water (this was long ago, before bottled water became ubiquitous), so I decided to buy the most water-like thing they had, which was apple juice.

In the apple juice section, I spent a long time comparing the prices of the various brands before finally recognizing the absurdity of what I was doing.

I laughed all the way to the checkout line, and I laughed as I paid for the apple juice, and I continued to laugh as I walked through the supermarket parking lot.

2. A Useful Thing to Know

In the park, after swallowing the pills, I laid down to die. I remember looking at the branches above me before closing my eyes. I had no idea how long it would take, but I imagined that I would become sleepy and then fall asleep and then die without knowing I was dying. So my last conscious moment would be one of extreme sleepiness.

The next thing I remember — this may have five minutes later, or ten, or twenty — is of standing on the spot where I had just laid, having realized that I didn’t want to die, not then or ever.

It’s a useful thing to know.

3. Morning Constitutional

The closest hospital was three miles away. Fortunately I was a runner back then, so three miles wasn’t far. However, in the two previous weeks I had gained at least ten pounds, mainly by gorging myself on pies and cake. My favorite was Entennmen’s Chocolate Fudge Cake, which I would finish in a single sitting, eating directly from the box. I would often eat two cakes a day.

So the extra weight would be a problem, but the pills were a far greater concern. How long could I run before they made me collapse? I settled in at a modest pace and tried to distract myself by focusing on my breathing.

About halfway to the hospital I noticed a figure in the distance. As I came closer I saw that it was a man and that he was walking toward me.

This was, to say the least, a bizarre place for a morning constitutional. I was running along Roosevelt Boulevard, a twelve-lane highway bordered by nothing but trees. Stranger still, the man appeared to be dressed entirely in white: white top, white pants, white shoes.

Also he seemed to have no arms.

However, a moment later I saw that he did have arms, and that they were wrapped across his chest, as though he were hugging himself.

This too seemed strange. Of course the whole day seemed strange. And now here I was, running to the hospital because of an aborted suicide attempt. It’s difficult to think of anything much stranger than that.

Except perhaps for what came next, which is that I saw that the man was not hugging himself. Or that if he was, it was not by his own volition, because he was wearing a straight jacket.

As I passed him, he smiled the smile of a man enjoying a stroll in the sun.

I waved to him, and he shook his shoulder in a way I took to mean he was waving back.

4. Killing Time

On my arrival at the hospital I discovered that I didn’t feel all that wretched, considering. I remember standing across from the emergency room entrance, confused about what to do. I didn’t want to enter unless I was certain I needed immediate medical attention. I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting in a dreary room with a loud television, waiting to hear my name called. So I decided to remain near the entrance, where I would be seen if I happened to pass out, until I was certain it was time to go in.

There was a phone booth nearby, so to kill time I called a girl I knew, I believe her name was Lori. She was blond and played guitar. We had made out once.

I kept the phone booth door open, just in case. We talked for a while before I finally told her where I was and what I had done. She begged me to go to the emergency room, and I promised I would go as soon as I felt bad enough. However, every few minutes she would ask how I felt, which quickly became tiresome, so I lied and said that I was feeling awful and that it was time. I think she may have cried.

Then I paced back and forth in front of the emergency room entrance, waiting.

5. Consequences

Life is a series of decisions and their consequences. I decided I wanted to die, and then I tried to kill myself, and then I changed my mind, and then I found myself standing in front of a hospital, feeling drugged and woozy.

I pushed open the door and walked to the desk. There was a nurse there, smiling at me.

“Hi, Michael,” she said.

I was stunned. How did she know my name? Was this a dream? Was I hallucinating? Was I dead?

“Lori called us,” she said. “We already have your information. The doctor is ready to see you.”

March 5, 2012

Grandmother

There was once a boy — me, in fact — who had an inflatable grandmother. She wasn’t my real grandmother. My real grandmother was a regular, non-inflatable person who got cancer and died. And then my grandfather, who had Alzheimer’s, came to believe that his wife had run away with another man in the building, who also got cancer and died.

I’m not sure if I’m explaining this right. The other man really did die from cancer, just like my grandmother, and no one ran away with anyone. But for some reason my grandfather believed otherwise, and it broke his heart. My father tried to convince him of the truth, but he wouldn’t listen. So it was then that my father came up with the idea to replace my grandmother with an inflatable doll.

Of course I didn’t understand any of this at the time because I was just a boy. Instead I pieced it together later, and my father filled in the gaps. All I knew at the time was that whenever we visited my grandfather, there would be an inflatable doll sitting on the couch and that I was supposed to call the doll Bubbie.

K: Was it a fuck doll?

M: Well, yes, only I didn’t understand that because I didn’t know what those things were. But, yes, it was an inflatable doll that you have sex with.

Anyway, my father or my grandfather, I don’t know which one, dressed up the doll to look like my grandmother. It had makeup on and wore the same clothes my grandmother wore.

I remember sitting in my father’s car in the parking lot of my grandfather’s building and having my father explain that Pop-Pop was really confused and that he missed Bubbie so much that he now had a doll that he thought of as her. He asked me to play along and say hello to the doll and call her Bubbie, and I said I would. After that we had a regular visit. We sat around eating danish like we always did, and talking about whatever we talked about, and sometimes my grandfather would direct comments to the doll, so we all turned to the doll to see what it would say, but of course it never said anything.

We had about a half dozen visits like this, and then one time we came and my grandmother… I mean the doll… wasn’t there. She was usually propped up on the couch. So I said, “Where’s Bubbie?” and my grandfather said she wasn’t feeling well and was still in bed. So I went to the bedroom to say hello, like I was supposed to do, and there I saw this terrible thing. She, it, was in bed, on her side of the bed, completely deflated.

K: Was she dead?

M: Well, she wasn’t dead because she had never been alive, but I knew she was broken.

K: How old were you?

M: About six. Anyway, it’s weird because it was actually kind of upsetting. I had come to think of the doll as my grandmother. I knew it wasn’t a living thing, and I knew that my grandfather was crazy, but I had gotten used to the doll being in the place of my grandmother, who I missed terribly, and now the doll was deflated. I didn’t know if she, it, the doll had a tear that could be repaired, or if her… what do you call it? The place where you blow her up?

K: The blow hole.

M. I didn’t know if that rubber cap thing had come off, and I didn’t think it was proper to look, the same way that I never would have looked under my real grandmother’s garments. I wouldn’t have done that even if I had found her dead. It was really strange because as I stood there, I was hit with this wave of pretend sadness. Or maybe it was real sadness. Anyway, I didn’t tell anybody what I’d seen, and then we left, and then my grandfather was put in a nursing home for people with dementia. The end.

K: This is another story that makes me want to fucking kill myself.

M: Thanks, sweetheart. The end.