“Suicide by Death”- Clair, Glen and Stanley
December 10, 2015
Note: Glen is Clair’s therapist and he took Clair to meet Stanley at a special needs school. Clair tried to kill herself again and this is how Glen dealt with it as best he could.
The next day she was allowed to leave the hospital. Clair was in the discharge area of the hospital waiting for her ride. She sat on the chair in a slumped position and rubbed her throat trying to massage away the pain. It was still sore because of the tubes they shoved down her throat to pump out the pills and alcohol.
Clair was expecting Hunter, instead, it was Glen. He sat down beside her and didn’t say a word. They sat there for several minutes, then Clair broke the silence. She didn’t look at him and shamefully said, “I guess you’re a little disappointed.”
“Disappointed is an understatement, I’m afraid.”
“Afraid? Of what?”
“Because the next time you might be successful, and I can assure you, there will be a next time.”
“Why would you say such a thing?”
“Because it’s true. It’s part of your DNA. Let’s go for a ride, I want to show you something.” They got to his car and both climbed in.
“Where are we going?”
“You’ll know when we get there.” They arrived at a small, single-story building just outside of town. Several cars filled the parking lot and she could barely make out the sign at its entrance. She squinted her eyes and read it silently to herself. It was The Garrard Learning Center named after it’s founder, Dr. Vandergriff Garrard. It was a school that served severely mentally and physically handicapped children and teens.
“Why are you taking me to this place?”
In a therapeutic setting and with little emotion, Glen would cleverly use a barrage of open-ended questions he learned in counselor training, such as, “Why do you feel that way?” Or, “Why do you think that is?” Or, “How did that make feel?” Today would be much different.
While still in the car, Glen turned to her and said, “Clair, I’m throwing the therapy handbook out the window.”
She began to think to herself, “Uh-oh.”
His usual tone turned quickly south. “You think your life is so fucked up? I’ll show you fucked up.” He was right about one thing, he did toss the handbook out the window. She never heard Glen talk like that before. They got out and he slammed the car door, and at a faster pace than Clair. Glen made his way to the front door and she arrived a couple of seconds later. He rang the buzzer and a voice through the speaker answers. “May I help you?”
“Hi, I’m Glen Turner and we’re here to see Stanley.” The doors security lock clicked open and they let themselves in.
The administrator, Dr. Ellison greeted them. She extended her hand and clasped Glens. “Good to see you.”
“You too, Debbie. This is my friend, Clair that I told you about.”
Clair was reluctant and nervously extend her hand as well. Dr. Ellison vigorously shook her hand and welcomed her to the school. “Nice to meet you, Clair.”
“Glen, I guess you are here to see Stanley. He’s excited to see you. It’s been a while.”
The trio made their way to the gym where all of the kids were. There were a lot of noises that filled the air. It was well lit and a bit cool. To Clair, it smelled just like her high school gymnasium, like stale jockey straps from the boys locker room. The bleachers rattled as some of the kids were stomping on them as they cheered the players in a wheelchair basketball game. Stanley noticed Glen from across the court and motored his way toward him. Stanley used his right hand to maneuver his chair, with the other one, weak and uncontrollable, waved to Glen. They met together near the water cooler and as best as he could, reached for him with his fragile arms. The two embrace and Stanley’s arms flopped all over Glen’s back trying his best to pat him. Glen returned the patting with gentler, little ones. In those first few moments, all you could hear coming from Stanley was a distorted, “Hi Gen! Hi Gen! Hi Gen! I wuv you, Gen!” Gen was as close as he could do to pronounce Glen’s name.
They stopped embracing and Glen said, “Me too. Stanley. I want you to meet a friend of mine. This is Clair.”
Shyly and with his head lowered, he peeked up just enough to get a look at her. “Hi, Cwair, guh…, guh…, good to ma…, ma…, meet you.” Cwair was also the best he could do saying her name.
“Clair this is my brother, Stanley.”
She looked at Glen with a confused expression. “Your brother?”
Stanley started tapping on Glen’s arm. “Come here, I want to talk to you.” Glen leaned in close and he whispered, “She’s pwetty.”
Glen moved away from him and replied, “You think so?” Clair overheard the conversation and Glen’s sarcastic reply, then she playfully punched Glen on the arm.
Taken aback by her gentle assault added, “You’re right, Stanley. She’s a regular Miss America.”
Clair grinned then said, “That’s better.”
Stanley started to laugh a little then chuckle as he spoke. Not his usual style and with a hint of sarcasm asked, “Is she your girrrrlfend?” Stanley started flapping both arms about laughing the whole time.
“No Stanley, Clair is not my girlfriend.”
He stopped with the wailing arms, then thoughtfully said, “Well you said she was your ‘fend’” and she is a girl, so that makes her your girlfend!” He started to laugh again and pounds his thighs like a snare drum. Now Glen started laughing and so did Clair.
The three gain control over themselves and Glen pulled out a clean handkerchief from his pocket. He motioned for Stanley to sit still for a minute. As best he could, he steadied himself and Glen gently held his chin as he wiped away some drool that oozed from his mouth and rolled down his cheeks.
“Stanley, Clair and me are going to walk around with you for a little while, is that OK with you?”
An enthusiastic Stanley said, “Hell ya!”
“Well, Stanley, you got that out loud and clear.”
As they were moving along, Stanley said to Clair, “Guess what Cwair?”
“What is it, Stanley?”
“I didn’t fart in gwoop today.”
Not knowing what to say and a tad speechless, replied, “That’s good, Stanley.” She slightly raised both of arms and looked at Glen with an expression that said, ‘what now’? He smiled and with a couple of nodded twitches toward Stanley, prompting her so say something and she got the hint. She nodded back in the affirmative, then lightly rubbed Stanley on the back and said, “I’m proud of you. I’m sure everyone in your group appreciated it.”
“Thank you, Cwair.”
The three wandered around for a while, and as they did, Clair was caught gazing at many of the kids, sometimes in amazement and other times in astonishment. In another room down the hallway, some of them laid on padded cushions on the floor and could only squirm around like a new-born child, while others moaned or cried. Some were strapped to a wheelchair so they wouldn’t fall off while others sat motionless gazing into space. She witnessed several of them getting their much-needed medication to either prolong their lives or maintain it.
She was shaken by the experience and all that she saw, and wiping away moistened eyes, said, “Glen if this is your attempt at a first date, you’re lousy at it.”
“Like I said, I tossed out the handbook when I decided to show you this place. This might help you with a better understanding of yourself.
“Well, it’s working, Thanks.”
“Before we go, I want you to take a hard look around. Look at their condition, look into their faces.”
“I feel terrible. Those poor kids.”
“You know what? This is as good as it gets for most of these kids, including Stanley.”
She began to tear up again and asked, “Why are you doing this to me?” Quiet and uncontrollable sobbing came from her as she asked, and almost in protest, demanded an answer.
“I’m not doing anything to you, Clair. This is their reality. You think that there isn’t a kid in this place that wouldn’t trade you for your self-loathing, pathetic set of circumstances?”
“That’s not fair!”
“Fair? Ask them about what’s fair. To them, “fair” is a place they go to every once in a while, see a few clowns, a couple of elephants and maybe eat some cotton candy.”
She did not like hearing what Glen had to say, but she was listening.
“Here’s the deal, you have a choice, most of those kid’s don’t. Did you ever consider a fate worse that death? A lot of it is right in front of you. To many of these and their families, death would be a welcomed friend. Clair, this about the most unprofessional thing I could ever say to you, but if you don’t pull your head out of your ass, you could end up in the adult version of this. Want to go see one?”
“I’ve seen enough.”
She shamefully lowered her head, then Glen said, “We have to get out of here.”
They said goodbyes to Stanley and Dr. Ellison, then retreated to the car. The drive to Clair’s apartment was silent. They reached their destination and both just sat there, still saying nothing. She broke the silence and said, “I like your brother. What’s wrong with him?”
“He has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.”
Curiously she asked, “What is that?”
“In laymen terms, Lou Gehrig’s Disease and it is fatal. Time is not his friend.” She just turned away from him and stared out the window.
Clair made several trips to see her new friend, Stanley. They shared many hours together over that span of time. One of the staff members approached her one day and told her how much Stanley liked her, even referring to her as his girlfriend. It made her smile.
On one of her visits, out of the blue, Stanley asked Clair if she believed in God. “I think so.”
Again he asked, “Cwair, do you believe in baby Jesus.”
Placating him, she replied,“Yes, Stanley, I believe in baby Jesus.” Clair walked the hallways with Stanley for a while and said he was tired. “Do you want to go to sleep.”
“I think so. Will yooah ta…, ta…, tuck me in?”
“I’d love too.” They got to his dorm room, and with the help from one of the aides, carefully removed him from his wheelchair and placed him in his bed. Clair pulled the blanket from the foot of the bed and covered him. Stanley reached for Clair’s hand and said, “Cwair, I want you to believe in God.” He had been somewhat somber, but perked up and said, “I’m going to Heaven and play with baby Jesus!”
“That’s nice, Stanley.”
“A nice wady said when I go to Heaven, I’ll be normal again.”
“Stanley, she might be a nice lady, but you my friend are the most normal person I know, and I know a few crazies.”
Stanley began to laugh. “Yooah funny, Cwair!”
Then slowly and methodically he said, “I la…,la…, luuuv you Cu-laaair.”
“Very good, Stanley. You’re about ready to give a speech!”
She kissed him on the cheek and gave a light tap on the chest. “I love you too. I’ll see you in a couple of days.” And she did.
A few weeks later she went to see him and Glen was there as well. Clair could tell that Glen had been crying. “What is it, Glen? Where is Stanley?”
He shook his head, and with both arms, he flung them around her and held tight and whispered, “Stanley died this morning. He asked for you.” She held him even tighter and tried her best to keep her emotions. It was her time to comfort Glen, hers would have to wait.
Clair went to a nearby secluded park and sat there for several hours. Her hands tightly gripped the steering wheel, so much so, it left indention’s on it. During that time, she never moved a muscle, she only stared out straight ahead. This went on until it was nearly dark. A few people during her stay came and went. She witnessed a few families playing around, young lovers leaning against a tall oak, and several children who had assembled a make-shift soccer game. She saw all of this never moved or made a sound; she just kept staring.
It was dark by now and the park was void of any people, except Clair. The only light in the park was courtesy of a full moon and millions of stars that twinkled in a cloudless night sky. She interrupted her silence and opened the car door and got out. She stumbled around like a zombie and walked a few feet from the car.
Clair stopped in place and fell to her knees. Still silent but using both fists, started to pound the ground with so much force she created little miniature “combat foxholes”. She was huffing and puffing and the only sound heard was the pounding of the earth. She stopped with the pounding, raised both clenched fists in the air and screamed at the top of her lungs with so much force it hurt her. The pain felt like she’d been hit in the gut with a baseball bat.
She staggered to her feet, looked at the heavens and yelled, “Why?Why?Why? He didn’t do anything to you! He didn’t do anything to anybody!” Again she fell back to the ground and landed on bent knees. She covered her face and a river of tears flowed through her fingers and endless sobbing followed.
She looked up again toward the stars then like a scolding parent, pointed and screamed upward, “Fuck you!” Clair fell back to the ground. Her face laid in the dirt and recent grass clippings were stuck in her hair.
With less anger but increased sobbing, she got back up to her knees, looked toward the ground and quietly said, “I hate you, God.”