It was not so long ago, what, January 2010? Well, we’d been on less intimate terms long before that, you had always come willingly to my pillow without much prompting, comforting me with your promise of escape when things started to fracture. I guess you’ve been here all along, at least since I was 13. It never occurred to me, but, addressing you like this, you’ve been my most loyal friend and supporter. Ever. That may be sad, or not, I guess I don’t care.
What I was thinking of though, was that first time I ever really committed to you. Do you remember?
I lay in my bed for five minutes after I woke up, The Badger screaming, husband muttering fuck-this, fuck-that while he kicked whatever around the room, additional noises I didn’t bother to register. I thought through the steps, acknowledged that I’d made the decision to kill myself, and pulled back the covers. It did not occur to me that my 36th birthday was in three months any more than it occurred to me that my mother had hung herself exactly three months before her 36thbirthday. It would have borne no relevance even if it had, not on that day.
I went through my steps. I was already in Abercrombie sweats and a pima camisole. Somehow it was important that I be comfortable, and as warm as possible. I pulled on my shearling boots, barefoot otherwise, but that didn’t matter. I pulled on my white quilted jacket – I had others but this had a double collar that would insulate my throat from the abrasion of the rope. I wrote up a quick list of things for M to do money-wise – bank account access, where to obtain my death certificate, how to submit it to the Social Security Administration so that he could collect for the kids. I went downstairs and out of the house.
It was snowing hard and my every breath appeared before me for just the time it took to step through it. The garage was detached, set some 50 yards back from the house. It had bulletproof windows all around because of the deer hunting in the immediate neighborhood. Aside from the antique garage doors there was a side door for entry, always unlocked. I locked it behind me. I heard M’s voice approaching outside, frantic and pleading. He’d observed my silent, deliberate movements in the house and must have gone straight for my desk and my instructions. I fought with the antiquated garage door locks while he banged uselessly on the one door he would not be able to breach at that moment. He wasn’t thinking clearly. I was.
A variety of rope lay about the garage. I picked up a heavy blue braided length – it was freezing in my bare hands. I looked overhead, noted the beams I would need to rig the noose, and looked for an axe while my husband yelled at me from the side door. I found the axe right by the door – my momentary proximity had him pleading all the more, I said to please just go inside and take care of the babies, to respect what I needed to do. I measured eight or ten feet and began to hack at the heavy rope. The blows against the frozen concrete sent shockwaves up my frame, my bones growing colder despite my preparations. It was freezing and the small building rattled with the storm. A good day to die.
There were piles of extra furniture and I clambered up a shorter bureau onto a tall armoire. The cold was starting to affect me, my knees hurt from climbing, the thin skin of my hands hurt from the axe and the rope. Now I strung the rope and made several rough knots to secure it to one beam and coiled it around another beam a few times. I took the rope in my hands, gripped it hard, noted the pain, and jumped from the top of the armoire. The rope held, didn’t give an inch. My engineering had been sound. I conceded the discomfort again while climbing back up to the armoire.
M still shouted at me, trying to shatter the unbreakable glass with a log. In my detachment I was relieved he wasn’t inside calling the police. I had always suspected he might be ineffective in an emergency.
Now came the hard part. I measured what I thought would make an appropriate length for a noose. M became more frantic outside while I wrapped the rope around my neck. My hands hurt from the cold, they were freezing. It had only been 10 minutes, how could I be this cold? Somehow they made the loop and painfully tied the knots as tightly as they could. I gripped the noose and jumped again. It held my full weight.
I noticed on my third climb up that my hands were bleeding from handling the rope, the fingers still half curled from holding myself aloft for a few seconds. I sat on the edge of the armoire and pulled the noose around my neck. M was screaming and sounded like he was crying, I said to walk away, not to watch, he didn’t want to see this. I wasn’t really paying him any attention though, I was fixed on my task. My necessary task.
I leaned tentatively into the rope. The harder I leaned the more it actually did hurt my throat, despite the soft, double plush collar. My hands gripped the edges of the armoire, they were killing me, I’d never experienced so much pain in my hands and wrists before. Putting more pressure on my throat, its arteries, I started to feel tingly and numbish, my consciousness started to flutter. I was testing it, seeing how it would go. It would be ok, I thought.
I positioned the loop around my skull, figuring where it might catch, under my chin, at an angle, whatever. I couldn’t make it work. Every position I put my head in, when I applied pressure before pushing off, the rope would start to slip over my head. It was too big. If I committed to the jump I would slip from the rope and land on my back, potentially breaking my skull, my spine, or both. None of these conclusions to my not-so-best-laid design appealed to me. I knew I hadn’t the strength to retie the rope, even if it wasn’t frozen solid by now. I sat there for a few minutes, considered the axe, and finally looked at M. Resigned, I jumped down from the armoire, sending another awful shudder through my skeleton. I remained crouched, knees complaining bitterly, my face breathing warm respite into my ravaged hands. I had failed. For now. I needed youtube.
M followed me. I marched through the snow with brisk determination. I would watch a video – probably on youtube – on how to tie a cinching noose. The heat hit me as soon as I stepped though the sliding doors off the rear deck. As I walked up the stairs to my bedroom, where my laptop was, I felt myself thawing out. It registered, momentarily. M, believing the crisis was over, asked if he could get me anything. I asked for a gin and tonic. He turned back down the stairs.
The Badger was no longer screaming, I didn’t see her in my bedroom at all, I must have missed the babies in the living room downstairs. I climbed onto the bed with my laptop, powered it on, & curled up. My boots and coat were covered in snow and it was settling into the down comforter. M came in and handed me the cocktail and I took a sip. I never liked gin, it burned going down. I had youtube open now and did a search for “cinching noose”. M asked what I was doing and I told him. He kept talking but I found what I was looking for. I played the video – 53 seconds – and sipped more of the awful gin. I could do this, I thought. I played it again, took another sip. By the time I’d studied the quick video for the third time I had mimicked the hand gestures enough that I thought I had it down.
And then, right when I had planned to head back to the garage, appropriately armed with cinching skills and a slight buzz, I realized that I was completely thawed, warm. And that I didn’t want to be cold again. And as simply and quickly as that – a change in my physical weather – I had snapped out of it. I was still very calm, I had wanted to die, I really had, and I wasn’t particularly frightened by that fact, it was perfectly consistent with the slow disintegration of my self over the past couple of years. This was my identity, a new marker, an extreme marker I supposed.
Why DID you go then? I don’t think about that day much – no offense – but when I do, it’s that I’m really curious about. Our efforts had been swift and methodical, we had done fairly well, it was our first time. We’ve teamed up since a few times of course, sometimes with comic results, but I felt closest to you on that day, and on the other days you didn’t really leave me. Wait, except for the time we revisited the noose. And I did it right. But that’s for another day.
After you left, I called my psychiatrist’s office in Boston and told the receptionist that I had just tried to hang myself. She sounded freaked out. I told her not to worry, that I would call around and find myself a bed and check in. While I was online looking up which hospitals had mental wards my psychiatrist called me. He was deciding whether to send police. I said no, just to let me know where to look for a bed. He told me where to call and to keep him posted. Professionals really get excited about suicide.
The fellow at intake at Beth Israel said he had two female beds and to get my ass there right away if I wanted one. So I packed a small bag and M drove the three hours to Boston. During the drive I got an e-mail from my office on my iPhone, I was being fired for not being in the office. I found this vaguely amusing.
As you recall, BIDMC has its own psychiatric ER, so that’s where I spent the day, eating turkey sandwiches and Facebooking with the few friends who knew I had been tottering on the edge. The ER was an education in itself. One drunken patient declared he was “outnumbered” by all of the black guards and sang Michael Jackson songs. I felt better for the absurdity. I had signed myself over to the authorities with no knowledge of what they might do with me, how long they might keep me. I had no idea what quick work the attending physician and the team he assigned would make of me, my existence as I currently knew it, and the other life I had essentially buried. Or how much more fucked up having a clearer picture of my own roadmap would make me.
I’m glad you’re in the neighborhood again. I see you’ve switched it up a bit, you’ve got some new tricks. I’ll be happy to play if I have to.