Stopping for Lunch
I wondered why they had chosen mauve, if they thought it had some therapeutic benefits or if it was just the cheapest or the one they thought looked the best.
It was mid-morning on the first crisp cold day of October, the sort of fall day when one can feel the melancholy of winter suffocating the air, when I stood on an overlook of the Snake River Canyon, just a few hundred feet from the Perrine Bridge. I had walked to the end of the walking-trail to the last overlook, with the belief it was the most secluded and there would be less of a chance someone would stop me. I imagined that jumping would feel like flying until I hit the ground at which point would come the release that I so desperately longed for. I wasn’t afraid to die and I wasn’t afraid of the possible pain or repercussions ahead of me on the off chance that I survived the leap. If anything I was calm and determined and amazingly clear-headed (if there could be such a thing in moments like this). It was cold and the wind was blowing and my face was kissed with the mist from the waterfall that wind was blowing up towards me. I walked around the outer side of the railing and just before I reached the point at which the overlook was no longer connected to the ground- the point at which I would make the leap-a moment of true clarity and a glimmer of hope hit me in the stomach and I sat down on the wet cold dirt amidst the sagebrush and sobbed.
I walked to my car, sat down and briefly considered going back or simply walking to the bridge and making the leap, but I recognized that amidst all the angst inside was the thought that things could be different. I put on my seatbelt and then cried some more. I cried for the pain that was still inside. I cried for the loss of resolution that just moments before I had carried with such strong conviction. I cried out of pity for myself. I cried out of the fear that I had made a mistake in not jumping. I had wanted to die. Something stopped me. It felt like hope. A tiny string of hope swirling its way through my stomach and body. It was fleeting and short lived. Like those moments of brilliance that pop into my mind while sitting outside or holding a baby, those perfect moments that come and leave, quickly and dangerously.
Not long after that in the spring, it came back, this darkness, this suicidal urge. Maybe it wasn’t so much that it came back. It had always been there, sneaking its way into even minor things. The silliest things would make me want to kill myself. Things like getting a B on a paper or being late to pick my mom up from her night class. I knew the signs of suicidal people. I had studied them. I had learned about them at school, in classes, the Internet, it became a sort of obsession with me. I would do something like laugh at something on TV and I would think; is this what a suicidal person would do, would a suicidal person laugh at something on TV? I began to analyze everything I did. I acted as usual. I didn’t change a thing I did. I certainly didn’t mention a thing about suicide. I thought there is no way any one would know that virtually every second of my day is spent thinking about killing myself and trying to act like I’m not thinking about killing myself.
Meanwhile, I had saved pills. I stopped taking the medication I had been on and was saving it instead. I had so many pills. And I knew, I really knew that taking pills probably wouldn’t kill me, I knew that. I researched it. Rarely do people die of an overdose. I learned that it had to be just the right amount, and it had to be the right type of drug. This is why I also had razors. I knew where to cut and where not to cut. I had looked at an anatomical map of the body’s arteries and I knew where the major arteries were. I knew from an earlier accidental cutting session where an artery was in my arm and just how deep it was and how hard I had to push to get there. To put it shortly I knew how to kill myself. If I knew how to buy a gun, I would have, the problem was I didn’t think anyone would sell a gun to nineteen-year-old girl, so that was out of the question. I didn’t know how to tie a noose. I could’ve looked it up if I really wanted to, but it really wasn’t the way I wanted to die, so I didn’t really even think about hanging myself. So I stuck with the pills and razors.
The week of the planned day, I had an appointment with my counselor, I didn’t mention a thing about suicide, I even told her that I was feeling a little down but nothing too serious. The night before I set up everything I would need. I meticuosly set it out so everything was perfect and in the right spot, and made sure I had everything. The day came and I didn’t show up to any of my classes. I had planned on a time of about noon or so. I got ready, looked at the pills, touched the pills, counted the pills, calculated how many grams of the medication I had, but then, something came over me and I stopped. I didn’t do it.
A last minute spark of panic and desperate hope leapt up inside of me. I picked up the phone and dialed my counselors number and hung up. I did this several times. With my hands shaking, on about the tenth try I let the call ring through until she answered. I told her I was thinking about killing myself, that I had the means to do so. She told me she was going to call my mom and have her take me to the hospital. After I hung up my stomach formed this huge ball of regret. It disgusted me. I disgusted me. I didn’t want my mom to know. She was the last person I wanted to know. She was part of the reason I was in this fucking predicament. And the hospital? Did I really need to go to the freaking hospital? I wasn’t crazy. Maybe I was. I wanted to kill myself after all. I should have just done it. That stupid false hope, that panic, what was I waiting for? To be saved? I hated every fucking cell in my body. I thought about taking the pills now before my mom got home. It is at this point in my story that I question my true intent to die. I wondered if this was the typical melodrama of a lonely teenager. I didn’t question my desire to die, that was there, but really my intent was to shout, in the only way I could for those around me to listen, look at and see my pain. I didn’t want to be invisible anymore. I didn’t want to carry this sadness alone, I wanted someone else to have some of it. So in that sense, yes I wanted to die, I wanted parts of me to die, and I wanted parts of my family to come to life, to see me, to see what was really going on behind my smile, and behind my closed doors. I was exhausted from carrying this sadness for so long on my own. I needed my mom now more than anything, but it was at this time, that I was least likely to admit that I needed to her help. So I waited.
I sat on my bed in the basement waiting for my mom to drive home. I stared at my feet and I was literally shaking. I thought about taking the pills now, before she got home. I reached over and opened the box where I had been saving all of the pills and started to count them. I put one up to my mouth and set it on my tongue and swallowed. I did this ten times, and then stopped, walked to the bathroom and flushed the rest down the toilet. Tears streamed down my face as I shook and watched the many different pills swirl their way down the toilet and I took a deep breathe and went back to my bed and laid down curled up into myself and waited for her to come home.
The banging of the screen door and the click of her heels against the laminate flooring roused me up from my curled position. I sat up, and started to pack a bag. I didn’t know what to do. She walked in my room, and sat down on my bed. She sat down gently next to me as I stared straight ahead at my open closet, with clothes strewn across the floor. She took my hand in her hand, and as she did the scent of Obssession perfume filled my senses, and I took comfort in the familiar smell. She asked me if this was because she and her husband had been fighting more lately. I didn’t say anything. She continued, you know if you’re worried about it, he’s not leaving like your dad did. I didn’t have the energy to tell her I cared less about her husband than anything in the world and that in fact if he did leave I might jump for joy, so I stayed silent, and got up and packed the rest of my bag. She asked me if I had taken anything. I lied, told her that I hadn’t, that I had called my counselor before I took anything. She believed me, grabbed my bag and headed up the stairs and stopped at the screen door. She asked her husband if he was going to give me a hug, he didn’t respond, so I walked out the door without a hug and sat down in our old Mercury Sable. My mom followed, you know he really does care about you, I don’t know why you don’t give him more of chance, she just had to tell me. I didn’t say anything.
She drove me to Arby’s before she took me to the hospital. I guess she thought I might be hungry. Or maybe she knew that the hospital food was going to be terrible and that this would the last time I would have fast food for a while. I ordered a turkey sandwich with curly fries. It didn’t matter I couldn’t eat it anyway, but I picked at it to make her feel better, to make her feel like going out to lunch before going to the hospital was a good idea.
We had a conversation like it was a normal lunch. Like I wasn’t about to be admitted to a psych ward. I went along with it. I wanted her to feel like I appreciated her taking me to lunch, like it was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for me. So I laughed and smiled at her. I even wondered if maybe going to the hospital wasn’t necessary anymore, I was smiling so much. The thing is she didn’t look happy. I could tell because when she smiled, her eyes didn’t turn up like they usually did when she smiled. Her eyes looked sad. And her voice, her voice didn’t sound right, it sounded tired, and a little shaky, maybe beaten down. I wondered if this was her giving up on me. Or maybe it was me giving up on her. I couldn’t tell.
So I stopped smiling, so she would stop smiling, so we both would just stop fucking smiling. I almost killed myself an hour earlier and we were fucking smiling like it was a normal thing to do. Like admitting your teenage daughter to a pysch ward was an everyday occurrence, an occurrence that warranted an outing to lunch. Why don’t you talk to me she, she said. I’m talking to you now, I answered. I knew what she meant, I just didn’t want to talk. I looked around at the people eating their lunches and wondered what their lives were like. I didn’t think that any of them had ever been in a psych ward. There was a table of construction workers, and a young woman with a small child, an old couple, and some teenagers from the high school. I wanted to be like any one of them. I closed my eyes and imagined what each one of their lives might be like when they left this restaurant. I wanted to be the teenage girl at the table of teenagers, She seemed normal and I was pretty sure she didn’t have an arm full of scars and a stash of pills saved with the intent to kill her. I closed my eyes and wished that when I opened them I would be her but it didn’t work. My mom answered her cell phone. She always answers her cell phone. I dumped our tray.
We got in the car and drove the half-mile or so to the hospital. I counted all the red cars we drove by. I rolled down my window hoping it would help me breathe. I asked her how long she thought I would be there. She thought a couple weeks or so. We pulled up to the hospital. Canyonview Psychiatric and Addiction services. There was no canyon and certainly no view of one. There wasn’t even a picture of a canyon inside the building. I thought about pointing out the irony of this to my mom but when I looked over at her later as we were sitting in an examine room, she had tears in her eyes, and I didn’t think she would appreciate it anyway. Even years later I wonder why they named it Canyonview. It sits in the middle of a neighborhood, with no canyon in sight.
We walked in. I considered telling my mom that it was all a mistake that I hadn’t really felt suicidal, that I was really fine, that I didn’t need to be in the hospital, that I really just wanted to go home. But I didn’t. I looked around, took notice of the locked door and the cushioned chairs, the magazines and the pamphlets asking if you’re sad, anxious, more than just down in the dumps. The walls were a mauve color. I wondered why they had chosen mauve, if they thought it had some therapeutic benefits or if it was just the cheapest or the one they thought looked the best.