October 7, 2012

[TW for discussion of suicide.]

Sunday was my birthday. I turned 44.

Today I have an anniversary. Another birthday, of sorts.

I am turning 2.

I don’t know any other way to start this story.

*     *     *     *     *

Funny thing is, two years ago today—on the actual day of October 7, 2012—nothing happened. I lay on the couch. I spent that whole month of October laying on my couch. I ate there. I slept there. I got up only to grab food or use the bathroom.

I had been carrying the date of October 7 in my head since that spring (for reasons I remember but find too tedious to recount) as the day my clock would finally run out. October 7, 2012 was a Saturday, meaning as long as I dropped any farewell notes into the mailbox on the street after 5 pm, they wouldn’t be collected for over 24 hours. If anything went wrong—if for any reason I found myself still alive on Sunday—I’d have another full day, probably two, to regroup and try a second time. Perhaps a second method. I went off all prescription medications in early September and began hoarding the pills instead. I knew which local drugstore stocked the loose razor blades I liked best.

For months I braced myself for this outcome. Not because I particularly desired it. I was just bone-tired of putting it off.

Then, in late September, my parents passed through town—the easternmost point of a month-long driving trip they took that fall, and one of the reasons I’d scheduled my death for October. A chance to say goodbye, even if only one of us knew it. On the last night of their stay, my mother had a dream in which I told her I was planning to suicide. Or that’s what she said to my father the next morning; today she says she first had that thought the evening before and then lay awake all night haunted by her conviction.

At 5 am I received a text: Come to the hotel as soon as you can. We need to talk.

Up in their hotel room, my dad gestured me to a pair of chairs, then sat down in the one across from me. My mother sat on the other side of the room, half-turned away and looking down at her hands.

“Your mom had a dream last night. She thinks you’re going to kill yourself.” He paused. “We’d like to ask you not to.”

The pause I took was longer. The pause I took felt like an eternity.

In the end, I agreed.

We all behaved like that was enough to resolve the issue. My parents stayed for an extra day, bought me a fall coat (“The receipt’s in the bag. Just take it back within 14 days if you want to do an exchange!”), and took me out to dinner at an upscale Italian restaurant. The following morning they left for the next leg of their trip, driving away in the truck with the engine not quite large enough to pull their new trailer without frequent overheating. I saw them off, then went home and moved onto my couch for a month.

Two years later, we all find ourselves mystified by these choices. As my mother said recently, “I can’t believe we just drove off and left you. I didn’t understand how bad it was. I didn’t know anything about suicide back then, or what else to do.”

I concur. She didn’t know, and neither did he. And neither did I.

For one thing, we all thought my agreeing not to take the pills meant I would not die.

*     *     *     *     *

The metamorphosis that turns worm into winged color involves destruction.

Inside its chrysalis—that shell of skin that emerges, hard and crackling, from beneath its final molting—the worm dissolves, undoes, unbecomes. It perishes into a glue of undifferentiated cells; it gestates for a second time. When old matter made newly-winged rips at last through the dry husk of its once-self with sharp intent, we clutch our hearts at its beauty.

Researchers believe a butterfly retains some memories from its life as a caterpillar. It can, in part, look back.

I pray the caterpillar cannot look forward. I am not sure the dream of one day flying can adequately prepare its soul for the dissolution first required.

*     *     *     *     *

October 7, 2012 marked the beginning of a new life I am now creating, each day upon the last.

October 7, 2012 also marked a day I died.

Today I cradle grief to my chest like a sleeping infant, even as I stretch and flex new wings upon my back.


[“October 7, 2012” is part of an ongoing memory project. 
The entire series can be found here.]

18 thoughts on “October 7, 2012

  1. Yesterday was my one-year anniversary. Or re-birthday. I think I need another year to figure out which it was — a reuniting with what was, or a creation of something new. Unfortunately, I had no parents in town with preternatural dreams. Fortunately, I didn’t know what I was doing (I’ve since learned, dammit), so the pain gave me enough pause to make a phone call. Which led to a trip to the ER, which led to being “observed” overnight, and by observed, I mean being held in a cell-like room full of cameras with a police officer guarding the exit. By the next morning, sleep deprivation had sapped my will to try again. A metric assload of therapy later, and here I still (again?) am. They say I’m getting better. They may be right. If so, part of the credit goes to honest conversations with those who have been there. Thank you for this and the other stories you’ve been sharing. Thank you for letting me converse with you through the comments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. *nodding* It takes time to decide what the experience means to you, or what you need it to mean, or what it means ~now~ as opposed to any of a number of ~thens~.

      Let’s hear it for metric asstons of therapy, amirite??


  2. Alice this is gorgeous. I mean, of course it’s intensely sad, but it’s beautifully done and evocative. I love the mother/child connection and the idea of helplessness–not only for the person suffering, but for the ones who love them too. I am glad that you use this day as a birth day rather than one of mourning. And I have to ask if it’s a mourning cloak butterfly, because I live for those kinds of symbols and metaphors. Gorgeous stuff.


    1. Thank you. It’s a piece I’m quite proud of, for how well I think it captures a particularly complicated feeling.

      As to the butterfly, no idea! It was a copyright-free image I found on a wiki last year. Now, if you’ll excuse me, gotta go Google mourning cloak butterflies…


    1. Har har! 😉
      Seriously, though, the next installment is coming probably this weekend. And then I’m going to blog only about light and easy stuff for a while. Maybe tv werewolves or Garfield Minus Garfield cartoons…


    2. Blerg. My last comment makes it sound like maybe I write this stuff for fun! Mostly, I’m just trying to get it out of my head. I wanna sleep again sometime this decade.


  3. I am speechless. I am completely in awe of the power I find in these words. I am also extremely glad that you have the opportunity to stretch those wings, and I hope, truly fly free soon.


  4. Once again, I had no idea what you went through, but I am SO glad you are with us here today celebrating another re-birth day. ❤


    1. Thanks! First week in October has gotten a bit dense with significant dates–Oct 4 was my anniversary with the ex. Felt good this year to reclaim some of the energy! 🙂


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