One of Clair’s many suicide attempts

Chapter V

A year later, Clair slowed down on the pills and booze, but never to a full halt.

Her reasoning was unclear for the sudden shift, but thought, “Nothing else is working. What could it hurt?”

A friend introduced her to AA and took her to some meetings. To her, it was the dumbest thing in the world, but went along just to shut up her friend.

The few meetings Clair attended, she fidgeted in the chair, played with her hair and mocked its members in her mind.

“Hi, my name is so and so, and I’m an alcoholic.”

Then the typical response.

“Hi, so and so! Glad you’re here!”

Her thoughts continued as she played along, only this time, stood up and told them aloud.

“Hi, my name is Clair, and you people are a bunch of idiots!”

There were no chants of, “Hi, Clair”, only silence from a beleaguered crowd and many stares.

“Big deal. I’m out of here.”

And she did. Clair got to her feet and left.

She never attended another meeting and had proven to herself she could go at it alone.

Clair was cautioned that quitting on her own was not a good idea. Her friend insisted she needed support from other members of the group.

“Hey, I’ve already slowed down on everything, and I did it all by myself.”

Then her friend asked, “But have you stopped?”

“I’m getting there.”

About a week later, she took inventory of the pills and booze and noticed a difference.

“This is great!”

There was more of each than expected.

“This is really working. I’m saving a bundle!”

Though she continued down the same road as before, but reasoned she could handle it this time.

“I will not be a slave to either of you again,” then made herself a drink.

She was proud she rarely got drunk anymore, at least not stumbling drunk. Clair explained it away in her own words, that “she only caught a buzz,” but those buzzes were an everyday thing.

Clair didn’t live far from the bar and walked both ways. After finishing the evening and during her stroll back to her apartment, she would stop and gaze at the billboards along the way to see if any of them had changed. This fixation went on for months.

One evening, perhaps for the hundredth time, stared up at one of them, but this time, threw her hands in the air and said aloud, “What the hell am I going to do with my life?”

Then, like a crazy lady, screamed at the top of her lungs, “When are you going to change the fucking sign?”

Clair made it home, got to the door, pulled out her keys and let herself in. She flipped on the entryway light, then heard a loud pop and a simultaneous flash, like an old Kodak camera.

“Dammit to hell! Why now?”

She tossed a leftover bag of fries on the floor and felt her way down the small enclosed hallway that led to the bedroom. Both arms were outstretched and flailed them around in the darkness like a blind person. She got to her room and sat on the edge of the bed, then reached over to turn on the lamp. It had three brightness settings: high, medium, or low — and chose the latter. With a few turns of the button and two clicks later… wha-la! Though the light was on low, it was enough to illuminate pill bottles, an empty fifth of whiskey, and one unopened bottle of Vodka, all of which occupied the nightstand.

Things in Clair’s mind continued to haunt her… like wanting to die. After years of demons chasing around in her head, including the recent breakup with Hunter… again, were enough of an excuse to take matters on her own. That day was her twenty-second birthday, but on this occasion, it wasn’t months ago… it was today.

Clair sat there for over an hour, and contemplated her life, questioning what it all meant and concluded at that moment — “Not much.”

She got to her feet with determined resolve and announced to herself, “I didn’t have a say-so about coming into the world, but by God, I can decide how I go out.”

Clair took a deep breath and decided tonight was the night. With just enough light, she tip-toed toward the kitchen, and not sure why the need to tip-toe; she was alone. Perhaps it was just an old habit.

She turned on the light above the sink and opened a drawer.

“Oops! Wrong one.”

It was the infamous junk drawer and slid open the next one. It squeaked and rattled all the way out, then rummaged through it and selected a knife.

Clair examined it.

“Damn, I cut up a chicken with this the other day. What would the chicken think?”

She giggled at her own silly joke, then wept.

It was a broad-bladed butcher knife that had a polished, mirror-like finish. Clair held the knife at eye level. With a stoic and curious expression on her face, flipped it up and down with little movement, as if focusing it. She stood there in silence and stared at the distorted, reflected image of herself.

Clair had made several attempts in the past to kill herself, but this time had a look of determination and an uneasy feeling this might be the end. She went back to the bedroom and turned the lamp up a notch for better lighting. While she was at it, went through her pre-printed to do list, with a check box beside each task and went down the list line-by-line.

“Pay bills…,” and marked it.

“I don’t want bad credit. Hairdresser… check. I have to look nice.”

The next one always tickled her.

“Gas?”

She always read it as a question and commented out loud, “Nope, feeling pretty good.”

Last on the list —the grocery store.

Clair studied it for a moment, and instead of a check mark, she crossed it off.

“I won’t be needing any.”

She glanced over the list one more time, tore off the page and threw it in the trash.

“I’m sick and tired of being pushed around and told what to do, especially by a piece of paper. Tonight, it will be a to-did list.”

She tossed the rest of the unused pad with the other piece of paper.

Clair researched the usual ways of killing yourself.

“Pills? Too Marilyn Monroe-ish. Besides, they are to be used with whiskey to relax. On the other hand, they were good enough for her, so they should be good enough for me. But with my luck, I’d get sick and puke them out. What a waste.”

She was obsessed with the pills, read the warning label and took inventory.

“And what if I succeed?”

The thought of being hauled out naked on a stretcher was too humiliating and mumbled, “I just couldn’t live with myself.”

Then asked herself out loud in a higher octave, “I just couldn’t live with myself?”

She shook her head and said, “What an idiot.”

Clair rattled the pill bottle once more and tossed it on the bed concluding that pills were too chancy and wasn’t risking it. More ideas came to her, then snapped her fingers.

“I’ve got it! Jump from a building?”

Then paused, “No, too dramatic, besides, I’m afraid of heights. Pistol? Gross!”

She worried she’d wound herself enough to put her in a permanent coma.

“Now that’s really depressing,” then said aloud, “I sure as hell wouldn’t want to inconvenience anyone, sort of defeats the purpose.”

Clair continued the conversation with herself.

“Hanging? Hmmm, now there’s an option. But knowing some of my idiot friends like I do, I’m sure one of them would say something stupid at the funeral like, That Clair, what a swinger. So hanging’s out.”

Clair came across a book about four years earlier about how to kill yourself. At the time of the purchase, she was certain it didn’t get on a bestseller list.

Her next thought was, “What kind of sicko would write such a thing?”

She picked it up at a local used bookstore and wondered if the previous owner used its advice. And for a second, it creeped her out.

She’d never read it that hard before, but tonight felt the need to study it and pay attention to details. After a few minutes, and several scanned pages later, concluded that one of the best ways to off yourself was by slashing the wrists. According to the book, with the success of a lethal cut, it was relatively painless… “like dying in slow motion.”

“I guess I’m on to something,” then picked up the blade and mimicked a line in a marriage ceremony.

“With this knife, I do thee die.”

Taking a deep breath, lowered the blade and did a small cut to her arm, but decided it wasn’t sharp enough. She relaxed for a moment to re-group and contemplated her next move. Clair did not want to become a victim of hesitation wounds. Hesitation wounds are what they imply; for people too chicken to follow through with a lethal cut, just a bunch of little ones. They might get lucky and cut through a decent bleeder, but it takes a while. Oh sure, they’ll carry out the mission sooner or later, but it’s a lot of wasted time, energy, and unnecessary pain to get the desired result. She popped another pill and took a shot of whiskey.

“If I’m going to do this, let’s get it right.”

Clair tossed the knife on the floor, went to the art studio attached to her apartment, and found an X-acto blade.

“This should do the trick.”

She ran back to her room and picked up the handbook to revisit some of its pages, flipping to the part that tells how to cut yourself.

Clair glanced at its illustrations and directions then said aloud, “Oh my God! I’ve been doing it wrong the whole time.”

Now she knew the Hollywood style of slitting your wrist wasn’t enough, referring to those little slices across the wrist. It also recommended doing it in a bathtub; it’s easier for others to clean up the mess. Clair had little concern about tidiness, so the bedroom would be just fine.

To do it right, you take the tip of the razor on your forearm, somewhere between the wrist and your elbow. With the blade facing your palm, slice down along the vein towards the wrist.

“Now, I need the guts to do it. Maybe I should use a magic marker and plot the course to be on the safe side. Surgeons do it, so why shouldn’t I?”

She jumped up again, ran back to the studio, opened two or three drawers and found a black, fine-tipped marker. Clair slammed the drawer and hurried back to her bedroom and made several more trips; wrong size blade or not the right marker. Her breathing got heavier and heavier after all the running back and forth, then collapsed in her chair.

“The hell with killing myself; I’m going to die from exhaustion!”

She relaxed for a few more minutes, popped one more pill and took another swig.

“Oh shit! I forgot to leave the notes!”

Clair ran back to the kitchen, reached into the junk drawer and pulled out a yellow sticky pad.

“Oh, great, more pads.”

She removed three and wrote the words. The first was to her mother.

“Have a nice day,” then the next one, “Dear Hunter, I hope you have a good life.”

And finally, “My dearest Charlie, I’m sorry I had to do this. Your friend, Clair.”

After they were written, she stuck them to the wall.

Clair got back to the task at hand, settled in, took the marker and charted its path down her arm as instructed. Disappointed with the markings, she ran to the bathroom and scrubbed her arms clean.

“And I call myself an artist.”

Clair dried her arm, went to her room again, sat down, and repeated the same procedure as before, this time with more attention to detail.

When finished with the marker, she tossed it aside. “Much better. Cleaner lines.”

Afterward, she picked up the blade and turned it toward her skin.

“Here we go.”

She chose a starting point, pressed the blade against her skin and moved it slowly down her forearm. Clair was nervous, but more unsteady, and skipped parts of her arm as it traveled a few centimeters that only resulted with a few slight cuts.

“Not enough blood.”

She wasn’t fully committed to the task at hand and had only grazed herself.

“Dammit, I get more blood when I shave my fucking legs!”

She sat the knife on the edge of the nightstand and knocked over the open bottle of pills.

“My damn luck,” then knelt on the floor, swept the pills into her hand like a dustpan, and placed them back in the bottle.

“What is it going to take to finish the job? More pills? More whiskey? Bigger, sharper knife? God only knows. This suffering will end by my hand —tonight.”

The biggest concern Clair had with killing herself, was most think if you are an artist like her, that’s the way they do it.

“It would be a lot easier if a dump truck would come along and squash me!”

She continued with her delusional imagery.

“I can see it now; the church is melancholy. Soft organ music is echoing in the background playing ‘Amazing Grace’ and a flower-covered casket lies in state, front and center, and a crowd of twenty on the back two rows.”

She paused for a moment and imagined overhearing a conversation between two old church ladies at the funeral.

“She was so young. Why did she do it?”

The other whispered, “Because she was an artist.”

More of her thoughts continued.

“See what I mean? The usual bunch are shedding a few tears and still asking why? Because the old lady is right! I’m a fucking artist, that’s why! Moron.”

With yet another failed attempt to end her life, said again to herself, “This will have to wait until another time. I’m too tired.”

All that was left to do for the evening was to remove the notes from the wall and set them aside.

Clair reached for the blade one last time, turned it side-to-side, and tried to catch another image of herself on the tiny blade. All it had were smears of blood. She wiped it clean with her shirt and laid it on the nightstand, then crawled into bed, turned off the light and covered herself with a quilt her grandmother made when she was a baby. Clair bunched up a small corner of the quilt, held it to her face, and gave it a whiff.

Drunk and high from the pills, plus a little pain from the cuts, she said “I miss you, Granna,” then cried herself to sleep.

***

Clair cursed each new day, but on this one, it was worse. She crawled out of bed, put on her slippers and stepped on a few capsules and pills strewn on the floor from the night before. The hardened, jellied ones beneath her feet crunched like a cockroach that just met its fate. She gathered the powdered remains of the pills and broken capsules, then placed them in a cup.

“I’ll save this for a late-night cocktail. Waste not, want not.”

Besides destroying some of her pharmaceuticals and nursing a hangover, her day started with the same monotony as everyone else, except Clair’s; hers included a shower to clean her blood-encrusted arms. She stood naked in front of the bathroom mirror, held up her arms and rotated them back and forth to get a clear view of the damage.

“I can’t be seen like this. No need scaring the neighbors.”

She lowered them and turned toward the shower a few steps away and said to herself, “Who’d want to live next to a suicidal maniac like me?”

Then she stared back at the mirror.

“Suicide?”

Although she has tried many times before, Clair had never said that word, at least not to refer to her own efforts at suicide, instead, she’d use encrypted language like, “I want to end it all,” or, “I don’t want to go on anymore,” and others. Putting a label on it gave her a moment of pause, but little concern, however, it was still a revelation of sorts.

“I’m glad I got that out of the way. I’m not in denial anymore. And yes I know… it isn’t a river in Egypt. Those AA bastards would be proud.”

Clair stumbled her way to the shower and rinsed her wounds. She watched the river of fresh blood combined with the remains of reconstituted scabs flow down the drain. With the shower complete, she dried off, then saw traces of blood stains and splatters all over the towel in blotches.

“Damn! I need to buy red ones from now on.”

She tossed it in the corner with the others, threw on a robe and went toward the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee.

“Thank God I wasn’t too drunk to set the timer.”

Clair staggered back to her bedroom, plopped down on the chair, stirred in six cubes of sugar and tried to sober up. Pills were still scattered all over the place, and the full, unopened bottle of vodka the day before was half-empty.

 

 

 

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