There on Death’s Summit

The sky turned grey, and if I had early childhood memories, I might tell you when it began. The darkness came to stay at twelve, and as oppressive as a blanket over my face, it kept me hostage through hibernation; I stopped breathing for twenty years.

The first touch of its hand would result in attention seeking behavior. I’d arrive to therapy, leaving prematurely with no solution as to how I might surface to join the others aboard life.

It was followed by the consequences of a failed relationship as a young adult; I felt like a coward who wasn’t quite ready and by year’s end, I’d sliced myself to bits -the point no longer being to die, only to exceed the pain of the emotional bludgeoning.

I even got creative with a belt around my neck at the top of the stairs but I couldn’t get it right; a piece of broken glass into the abdomen was the punishment for my failure.

And so the years would drag me like a dead animal into the new millennium, partially animated through the final jerking and twitching that accompanies the soul’s departure.

And without a grand entrance, my moment finally arrived.

I meditated on the need for sleep on the short walk home. My nightly meditation involved the visualization of a gun – the expulsion of the bullet would create the easiness necessary to finally rest, but it was afternoon and perhaps I wouldn’t need extreme measures to fall asleep.

There were five footsteps necessary to reach the refrigerator, and an ice cold Coke would be cracked open with a calm hand. I’d make my way to the bedroom and without the drama I had always expected, each bottle would be emptied into my throat.

I’d think to write my mother something uninspired and lacking in creativity – “It’s not your fault,” as the cool sheets wrapped around me; the pillow felt bittersweet. My mind would begin to quiet.

My roommate and ex-lover arrived home; I awoke briefly and assured her – all is well. But intuition would have her return to find me, too late to pull the sedatives from my blood stream, but alive enough to lurch and yell incoherently.

The straps were placed around my wrists and ankles, and I’d thrash violently until, in the early morning hours of January 6th, 2001, I’d slowly open my eyes to a dimly lit room, a stranger reading a book beside me. The lights on the machine blinked and a small tube fed me saline.

I returned to sleep and when I awoke again, my ex-lover greeted me with sadness, with a smile, with a lack of disbelief.

And so I made a deal with God. I surrendered my “option” and a slow death took its place. Pills in excess would be replaced instead by alcohol. Each day, it would promise to provide me with safe passage to a place where life was unnecessary, where it didn’t matter that I was a ghost. It promised to hide my reality so no one would notice, but it failed me.

A three-year turbulent flight would result in a fire so illuminating that I’d see myself in the mirror at last. I’d pull myself from the wreckage, and unaware of what power had now turned my face to the sun, I’d gather the strength to push death into a corner and close the door.

I took refuge in a small room, and there I’d fight to keep the door closed for another five years, the darkness pounding its fists, threatening re-entry. I’d ask for help and help would arrive. We’d move whatever we could against the door, the cold hands reaching into the vulnerable, vacant spaces inside of me.

I waited for my miracle to arrive.

On the day I awoke to something different which was only the absence of the fear and shaking, I wouldn’t immediately recognize the source of sunlight, but I’d walk the distance and I’d find it; I would immerse myself in the warmth of release.

And now, I have made a deal with death.

When my old companion comes knocking, we speak through the glass, we make arrangements for our continued co-habitation; visitations are limited.

I am writing which is no indication of being alive. But today I read my story aloud.

There are no happy endings or a cure for pain. There is only life. It is hanging high in the tree of your fate, and if you are hungry, you will have the strength to climb to its sweetness.

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