22 December 2014

The Quiet Miracle

Trigger warning -- suicide.

The twenty-second of December, 2009.

I was at my grandmother's house. They are trying to induce labour in my mother... again. Six times they've tried this. Six times she's been at least two weeks overdue no matter how many drugs they pump into her system. The fourth time, when I was only nine, they started inducing her over a full week before her due date. She went in for induction on 26 December that year, and I didn't see her or my dad again till 15 January, the day after my sister was born. In the meantime, my siblings and I were shuffled between extended family members with great abandon. And I, being the oldest, was expected to mind my similarly traumatised siblings, even as my own world seemed as if it was falling to pieces around me without my parents there to stabilise it.

Now, six years later, in 2009, here I am at my grandma's again, waiting for a 'successful' induction that will never be and well we all know it. But by now, the next-oldest sister has taken over some babysitting capabilities, and I am alone in my grandma's basement in the 1970s-orange spinning armchair.

The Christmas lights shine all around me -- the basement is the grandkids' Christmas decoration bonanza, where all Christmas heck breaks loose -- and the gas fireplace runs at regular intervals. This has been my place of solace for years. If the people get too much for me, I retreat here. This is my thinking space, this room, this chair, these warm-coloured surroundings. Some might find 1970s orange shag ugly, but I find it reassuring. (Thinking back, I'm surprised my looks-conscious grandmother lived with that carpet for twelve years.)

I stare at the TV cabinet, thinking, sinking deeply into the bleeding gash across my soul, the bleeding no-one will acknowledge, never mind attempt to stop. I stare at the TV cabinet, at the reflection of the Christmas lights making a plastic smile in the glass door, and I search my mind for the reasons I should live.

On the other end of the basement, in the kitchenette, in the first drawer on the right, are knives. Sharp, turkey-carving knives. I don't know how I know that's where they are, but somehow I do.

But suicide is not something to be taken lightly -- I know that much. So before doing anything, I must be sure this is what I want. To that end I'm sitting here thinking, making sure I really truly have nothing left to live for.

After at least an hour of contemplation, I come to the conclusion -- no. There is nothing.

I am convinced that no-one loves me. That no-one would notice I was gone. Or, that if I was gone, they could finally be happy because then -- finally -- I would have done something 'right.' Then I would be out of their hair and they wouldn't have to deal with needy, annoying me anymore. Perhaps my death would be the only way I could please them, and I so wanted to do well -- to please them, so then they would finally be able to love me. The irony was not lost on me -- that if I was dead, therefore they would finally be able to be happy with me and to love me, I wouldn't actually be able to experience that love and appreciation. But no matter -- at least I could be at peace knowing they would be pleased with me for sensing when I wasn't wanted and removing myself from their lives so they could live in peace, without having to deal with me.

Yes... yes. This was the only way. I didn't want it to be, but there was no reason for me to stay. They wouldn't love me as long as I was here, and all I wanted to do was to make them happy for once.

I sat there in that chair for a good hour (maybe more, I don't know -- time doesn't matter much when you're going to die), thinking it through, every angle, trying to foresee any potential hitch.

No. There was none. All I had to do was get up, cross the room to the kitchenette, and get out a knife. And that would be it. And then they -- that is, everyone -- could finally live in peace, knowing that I would never bother them again.

I sat there. And sat there. Visualising everything, how it would play out. My arms rested, fully and utterly relaxed, on the overstuffed arms of the orange chair. I sank deep into the cushion, my weight, my head, pressing against the back. Comfy. Too tired, too spent, to get up. I wasn't so much sitting in the chair as the chair was holding me. My body was totally relaxed for once. I had surrendered to the chair's sturdy padding.

I stared blankly into the fireplace, still thinking through my decision. Letting my mind wander a little, for the last time. Thinking... would there be anything I would miss? I was crying, inexplicably. But the tears meant nothing. It was only the bleeding, gaping soul wound doing a little housecleaning.

My body sank deeper and deeper into the chair. It wasn't particularly warm, but it was my grandma's and that was enough. I let my head fall back, still thinking, still feeling numb pain, waiting for the decisive moment. Giving someone, anyone, one last chance to call me up and tell me how much they loved me and how much I meant to them, like in all the stories... you know the ones, where someone's decided to kill themselves, and just before they take the pills/fire the gun/whatever, someone they know randomly calls or shows up and says, 'I don't know why, but I really felt like I needed to tell you how much I love you...'

Well, God. Give me one reason.

I waited. I waited.

No-one did.

Time passed, and the wound stretched bigger. So even God wouldn't send someone to stop me? Even God was just going to apathetically let me die?

My grandma came down and told me to come upstairs for supper. I did without a fuss. I had no reason to disobey.

The rest of the evening is lost to me. I don't remember what I did after supper. I don't remember if we stayed the night or if my dad picked us up so we could spend the night at home. He must have because on the morning of the twenty-third I was at home, ironing my mother's present before wrapping it.

Four days later, 26 December 2009.

I was at a family gathering -- the extended-extended family (my great-grandmother's descendants) Christmas celebration. Sitting at the table next to my (predictably still-pregnant) mother and my aunt, I suddenly felt horribly sick -- faint and hot.

I remember my mother calling my dad over and then everything began to shift and I closed my eyes. I heard voices around me, voices I knew, but it was too much effort to discern what they were saying. My heart felt like it was racing. I was only vaguely aware of someone taking my right arm.

"What's her normal heart rate?"

"I don't know. We've never really paid attention."

"Either way, it's too fast."

"Do you trust me?"

It took a moment for me to register the words were directed at me.

"Do you trust me?"

I couldn't breathe. My head felt like it would explode.

"I guess."

"I'm going to carry you to your vehicle and your dad's going to take you to the hospital. Okay?"

I nodded and was carried, without a coat, into the sharp December air, into the rattletrap (the family vehicle at the time). I lay limp in the seat as my dad drove the two blocks to the hospital. I don't recall if I even had the strength to buckle my seat belt.

My dad stopped outside Admitting and brought out a wheelchair for me, then wheeled me into the emergency room and went back to park the van.

The emergency room was full -- my dad took the last empty seat -- but my ashen face and irregular racing heartbeat got me in within five minutes. I realised years later that they had honestly thought I was dying.

I was given an IV -- to this day I have no idea what it was for or what was in it -- and tests were taken. An hour later the doctor came back with a verdict and a prescription. The former was a dangerously low hemoglobin count, and the latter was for the most disgusting substance on the face of the Earth. I swear they scrape the stuff out of the murky depths of Hell and bottle it and give it to the innocent populace with the wide-eyed promise that it'll restore their iron levels (which it never does, at least not enough that you can stop taking it).

Anemia. A curse that never goes away. It causes not only prescriptions for the nastiest substance in the galaxy, but it causes lightheadedness/dizziness, extreme weakness, and a complete inability on the part of the doctors to diagnose you with anything but anemia ("Fractured leg? It's because you're anemic. Take more iron. You'll be fine"). And based on the fact that I was only six points away from getting a blood transfusion, I had been crashing for a while.

At least four days.

I didn't make the connection until November 2012, when I inserted the experience as backstory in a novel (nothing is sacred). Only then did I see the miracle that happened that day, 22 December 2009.

God didn't send anyone to stop me. He Himself, who formed my body, reached down and stopped me.

That 'curse' -- that curse saved my life that day. I was already crashing, too weak to get up. And that saved my life. Because I can tell you if I had gotten as far as the knife in my hand I would not be writing this now.

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