Friday, September 12, 2014

Grief Relief (short fiction)

Everybody said the same thing. Oh, they said it all right, but only officially, and only because it was a fad. A fad, in that, like the ice bucket challenge, everyone was doing it, and almost no one was thinking of the true significance of it.

And it was a lie.

What did it mean to "reach out for help"? If things spilled over and it was just too hard and the loneliness too agonizing, what were her choices? Her friends were uncomfortable with her grief and always tried to cheer her up. They talked brightly and continuously, trampling her attempts to communicate. Sometimes they brought things over, cookies, a hand-crocheted tea cozy. They steadfastly didn't talk about her depression, and made it know somehow that she wasn't supposed to, either. Then they said to themselves, "There. I have tried to help Sarah, but she doesn't want my help."

OK then: so how else does one "reach out for help"? How about a minister? The Word of God would solve everything. No, SHOULD. Not only that, she must obviously be faithless to be in this state. Cheer up, for the Lord helps you all the day long, even if you are too ungrateful to recognize it.

"Sarah. Soooooooo. I see you are having some feelings of slight depression."

Slight, my ass. But what am I supposed to tell him: that I want to cut my wrists most of the time?

"Well, I'm having a little bit of trouble sleeping."

"So how much sleep are you getting, Sarah?"

How much sleep are you getting? How much sleep are you getting?

"Four hours, maybe five."

"Well, dear, as we get older, we require less sleep. This may just be an adjustment. But I'll give you more Seroquel just in case."

"I've gained thirty pounds on the Seroquel."

"Well, dear, we'll just have to exercise more self-control, won't we ?"

Self-control to forfeit her one form of self-comfort? An adjustment to the weird jangles and patterns in the air and on the walls which she knew represented months of severe sleep deprivation? But no. Don't tell him about that. It would be antipsychotics for sure, the big guns, and then it would truly be over.

CUT! CUT! Don't print any of this, throw the footage away because it is useless. There is NO ONE to talk to about ANY of this: "resources" do not exist because everyone is uncomfortable with the erosion of her personality. It's too macabre, so it isn't happening. There, now, we're finished.

When Dan died, she felt as if she were falling endlessly, the air whistling in her ears, sure she would never hit bottom, but then when she did, she began to fall again. Everyone told her to go on a cruise. She remembered widows who had done that, who seemed suddenly liberated and twenty years younger, joyful for the first time in decades. Dancing, kicking up their heels, getting new boy friends that their families didn't approve of.  It didn't happen to her. A year and a half went by, her friend Doris died suddenly of a heart attack,  then her grandchild Nathan committed suicide. The act was a searing thunderclap, followed by white noise that blotted out every colour there was.

Can all this happen to one person? Oh, no, I guess it can't then.

But it did.

There was lots of hand-patting, a ton of advice and homilies ("a person is only as happy as they make up their mind to be", "the only thing we can control is our attitude", "it's always darkest before the dawn", etc.), but also some savage things leaping out at her from nowhere (or somewhere?), including her daughter snarling at her, "This is all your fault. You had a bad influence on him, all that mental illness crap. I never should have let you near him."

You walk along. You get through the day. Friendships wither because it is harder, and harder, and harder to keep a smile on your face, harder and harder to "act normal", cover the abyss. Then one day you walk into the living room just as a news announcement flashes on the screen, some sort of message: "The Williams family requests privacy at this time." Then it quickly moves on to the next item.

The Williams family. 

As you head upstairs to the computer, hoping to find out more, a thought hits you, a jolt coming straight down on you like lightning out of the sky. 

It's Robin Williams. And he has killed himself.

For a while the news bubbles and burbles. Some people say it was his fault, others say he was being selfish. A psychologist writes him an "open letter" long after he is dead, telling him why suicide is such a bad idea and why he shouldn't consider it. Helpful. He should have reached out for help, of course. All you poor, distraught fuckups out there, make sure you reach out for help! But if you were so in touch with things that might help you, if you were a real person, a normal person, not a percentage point dwelling in the sludge at the bottom of the human barrel, reaching out wouldn't be needed to begin with.

All right then. I know this is a bad idea, probably an unpopular idea, but he set an example, didn't he? The brightest, most effervescent personality who ever lived, hanging himself with a belt. Myself, I always thought it was a good idea to use two ideas concurrently: take the pills, THEN hang yourself. Cut your wrists, THEN jump off the bridge. That way, you won't have the sagging-through-the-floor humiliation of waking up from a failed suicide attempt, the entire family furious with you for being so selfish.  But what about throwing yourself in front of a train? I've run out of prequels there.

Oh all right, this method will do. I know enough to follow the correct procedure because I have read up on it. There's just tons of stuff on the internet now; you don't even need to go to the library and get that odd look when you check out all those books. I know the drill by now, mainly by doing it wrong. Don't just take the pills, because you'll throw them up for sure. Have a sandwich first, a sort of symbolic Last Supper, the final meal before the convict is executed, with a nice hit of alcohol. (I've been sober twenty years, but what does it matter now? My family told me I never should have been an alcoholic to begin with.) Then a few Tums and two Gravol to avoid puking them up. Let it settle, then start to take the Seroquel, but NOT all at once. My God, someone must have supervised this to get it exactly right! But they call it mercy killing, or they used to. Assisted suicide? There's no one left who will assist me.

A life is done, then it's undone. It's completed, meaning that it is finished. (Didn't Jesus say that on the cross? Such a wag.) People can run around and scream all they like, blame me, say everything is my fault, which they will. But they won't have Sarah to kick around any more. Oh, no they won't.

She lies down on the bed, and in a last bitter joke that no one will understand, spreads her arms out in a crucifixion pose. Blessed assurance: the wave passes over her, enveloping and dark, bringing her at last the peace that passeth all understanding.

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