content warning: suicidal ideation, graphic imagery
I don’t want this life; a life that’s difficult and lonely. I don’t want to keep on with my impotent love, struggling for something I can’t have. I was so stupid and naive with my hope for this relationship and my own healing. I want to die. I let myself consider tall things I could jump off of and how much it might hurt to slit my wrists. How long I’d have to bleed out and how I might make it easier for whoever finds me. I wonder how long it would take to get a gun or whether asphyxiating myself with inert gasses might be easier. I think about the people I would hurt–but then about how much I hurt. I think about my cat who died a year ago and how having her used to settle this struggle within myself–how well love keeps one from the edge. I feel the crystalline certainty with which I know I’m seeing Kevin’s* defenses and unresolved issues and his growing edge standing before him. I think about the other survivors I’ve promised a safe container to; how they’re willing to navigate their growing edges beside me. I cannot break my promise, but I don’t feel strong enough for leading, either. I repeat a grizzly deal with myself, I’ve made it before; if it still hurts this much in two weeks, I can kill myself. I stop struggling.
I’m in Chapel Hill at a stoplight when my phone gets my attention. I eye my surroundings vacuously, gaging how much of this drive happened outside my consciousness. I seize the phone. It’s Margy checking on me. I respond briefly, telling her the conversation was horrible and I’m on my way to teach and I don’t know what to do. I text Christian and tell him I’ll need to pick some things up at his place.
Fear sets in as I register that I’m stuck in rush hour traffic because I agreed to talk when it was comfortable for Kevin*. I remember how recently it was comfortable for Kevin* to talk with me every time he had a spare moment and cry more. The car behind me moves too close too fast. I flinch and cower in my seat and then try to recover, uncurling my fingers from their death grip on the wheel. Holy shit, I can’t teach like this. Everything loses focus around me as I finish the drive. I get myself there with just enough time to stop at the pharmacy.
I finally relented and let the concussion specialist prescribe me Prazosin for my PTSD nightmares. The lights in the pharmacy are intense. I contract from the lights, the noises, the people. I can’t teach like this. My friend Laura will be finishing her class now. I text her for help, explaining that I’m having a breakdown and need a sub. When I pick up the scrip, the pharmacist tries to attune to me in our brief exchange but I can’t summon myself to engage. I am curt and far away. I leave the store completely overwhelmed. The parking lot is pulsing with sound and people. I fall onto a bench and hide my face behind my hands, sobbing uncontrollably.
Two women approach me, one standing slightly behind the other at my side. I don’t understand what the woman closest to me is saying but am drawn by her kind face. She holds out her arms to be invited closer. I extend my own in reply and she comes to me and holds me while I continue to sob on a stranger’s shoulder. She says nice things that don’t penetrate into my consciousness, but I know I am being lovingly attended to and calm down enough to hear her friend asking if I have someone who can pick me up. I explain how I’m supposed to teach in 15 minutes and I hope my friend can relieve me. I check my phone; Laura can help. My panic subsides. They both hug me and tell me they’re sorry I’m having such a difficult time. They sound infinitely more empathetic than Kevin* did saying nearly identical words. I drive to Christian’s. He’s at the gym. I pick up a few things I want mechanically, in a daze, and go back out. Partway back to Durham I wince, squinting against the headlights and the hum of activity that is too intense. I can’t do this right now, so I pull into a store parking lot, put my head down and cry.
I remember sitting at a bus stop with Kevin* on an early date after the tea house we’d met at closed. I was not yet ready to be in an intimate space with him but neither of us wanted the evening to end, either–so we walked down a quiet street and sat on a bench in front of a big house under a tree to talk and kiss and hold each other. We talked about possibilities and I confessed; “I’ve thought a few times that things were getting better for me and started to feel hope, but something’s always come to clobber me upside the head. It’s been so difficult…” I trailed off, my voice pinched with the constriction of fear.
“That’s all over now,” he told me, holding me tightly against him. “Nothing else is going to clobber you, I won’t let it.” I heard conviction and sincerity. I felt securely held. My fear dissipated and I surrendered another measure of defendedness, blissfully meeting his kisses in the moonlight.
My head throbs. Both eyes twitch. I’m still shocked that he’s the one who’s done the clobbering that’s killed my hope. I can’t breathe. I miss him.
We’d talked about spending Halloween together but all the festivities were the weekend of his graduation, so Margy planned a party at her place. Kevin* and I decided on going as Gomez and Morticia Addams, which felt like the promise of reparation from past Halloweens’ sinister allegories. I was moved by my sweetly affable and extroverted boyfriend in his enthusiasm. He looked spectacular in his jacket. I’m so disappointed by everything, and I’m going to have to face this party by myself–after all, Margy planned it to make me happy. I’ve already spent more than I should have on wasted gifts and dresses for events I didn’t go to; I am not additionally buying another Halloween costume. I’m feeling dread over attending this party as solo Mortica Addams.
I tell myself grizzly stories about why my character is showing up alone, and I see possibilities of what I can accomplish with effects makeup. Black eyes, bloody slit wrists, ligature marks…those bear closer resemblance to the story about my abuser. A stab wound at my breast, bleeding into my dress…he’s pierced my heart, it’s an open wound. I’m telling my story, showing up exactly as I am–like I do. With sudden determination, I go into the store and find some effects blood.
(To be continued…)
*Name has been changed