“Take a sleeping pill.” She said to me. “You look like shit run over twice.”
I attempted to glare at her through my bloodshot eyes and my fuzzy head, but I just couldn’t muster the strength. “Oh, go stick your head in a bucket.” I replied, rubbing my temples to ease the pain of my brain.
“Seriously, you’re not going to get anything done tonight in that condition. Have you showered this week? You smell awful, why don’t you take a nice hot bath and sleep in my bed?” She was like a terrier, she just wouldn’t let it go.
“Leave me alone crystal, I’ll sleep when I’m dead and I’ll wake when I want to. You’re not my damn mother, just bugger off.”
Hands on her hips, bionic eyes drilling holes in my armor. “I don’t have to be your mother to tell you you’re a dumb ass. You can’t even keep your eyes open long enough to give me a decent dirty look, it looks like you’ve been sleeping in those clothes and you smell like a dirty sock. I don’t know what you hope to accomplish with your obstinate stupidity but it can’t be working for you very well. I’m going to get you one of my sleeping pills and you are going to sleep in my bed tonight.”
She turned and marched from the room before I could say something nasty. It would have been no big deal to stay here tonight, and the bath sounded wonderful, but I’d be damned if I would do it on her order. One really good way to make sure I do not do something is to order me to do it. I would drive my ass right out of here just to prove that I could.
I was asleep by the time she came back with the pills.
Morning sunlight slapped me in the face at about 7:45 and I grumbled my way to the toilet feeling like I had not slept at all. My head full of cotton, my mouth fuzzy and distasteful, every muscle screaming at me to lie back down.
I drove to work in the clothes I had been wearing for the passed three days.
I was a zombie. Performing at a speed just above catatonic and mindlessly existing for the moment when I could leave. No thoughts, no impressions found their way passed the wall of apathy. No revelations or contemplations, not even a recollection of the scenery. Just one more day of breathing.
I got home at 8:30 p.m. and hit my notebooks. I was still writing frantically at 3 a.m. when Crystal appeared glaring beside me. I scowled at her through the fog of sleep deprivation and whorls of ink. “Don’t you fucking knock? What are you doing in my house? Go away.”
She didn’t reply immediately, just shook her head at me. She pulled a sleeping pill in a baggie from her coat pocket and tossed it on the desk in front of me. “I did knock you asshole, you didn’t hear me. Take the pill and shut up, you can’t keep doing this to yourself.”
I leaned back in my chair and fought the urge to slap her. Someone was always thinking they could live my life better than I was. “Get out of my house.” My voice was hard and rough. “You have no right coming in here and judging me. Let me get back to my wallowing and you can take your little white pill and shove it. You can only go so far, and you just crossed the line.”
She had her arms wrapped around her torso like she was insulating herself from my words. “Your horrible Sara. You are a nasty wreck of a very nice woman and you’re my favorite person in the world. I have every right to be here I’m your friend for christ’s sake, the only one who hasn’t run screaming, and if you think I’m going to sit back spinning on my thumbs while you kill yourself you insult me. Now I don’t care if I have to shove this pill down your fucking throat your going to swallow it.” She grabbed my notebook and shook it at me. “Is this really worth it? You can’t even form two coherent sentences in the state your in, what have you been frantically scribbling for the past several hours, do you even remember?”
This stopped me cold. I DIDN’T remember. It had been so important just a moment ago.
“Okay fine. If you won’t leave I will. I don’t need to sit here while you belittle my work and talk down to me. If you need something to take care of, get a puppy.” I pulled on my jacket and stomped out to my truck while she followed behind me yelling something. I tuned her out easily, I had been getting better lately at selective hearing.
I picked a muddy back road that I knew she couldn’t drive in her little Honda, and spent an hour being livid with her. Chain smoking and scowling at the wind shield took more energy than I had to spare however, and I nodded off with the first lightning of the sky in the east.
Coming awake with a gasp from a frightening dream, I startled a crow from the hood of my old Chevy. “Not dead yet scavenger. Find your breakfast somewhere else.” I muttered as I rolled a smoke.
Driving into work was a surreal experience of swirling mist and shafts of early morning sunlight. It made me feel disoriented and drunk as I swerved on the road and struggled for clear vision.
The job site conspired to attack me in a thousand different ways. My shuffling feet were tangled in electrical cords, hammers pounded more fingers than nails, twisted hunks of random metal found ways to jab me, and a wheel barrow full of gravel went sailing down the hill. I cursed and kicked the dirt in a completely useless display of petty temper, but it made no difference.
Coming awake with a start. A park bench, a lake, deciduous trees… Where am I? Mid-day, joggers and bums, the smell of coffee. I take stock of what I still have in my pockets: chapstick, check. Lighter, check. Smokes, check. Cell phone with a dead battery, check. Wallet with 50 dollars in it, check… Things could be worse.
Then of course is when I realize that I have no idea what town I am in, or where my truck is, or why I am there in the first place, or who I should call about this.
I find the parking area but my truck is not there. I am now very hungry and very worried, so I find a likely coffee shop, which is where I discover that I am about 250 miles from home. I sit down in shock while my coffee cools.
It is Tuesday, I’m expected at work today. I am now going on day five in the same clothes. I don’t know when the last time I brushed my teeth was. The last week has been a haze of half remembered moments and garbled writing on winded pages. I do not know when last I ate or what it was… I do not know how I came to be here.
This is, I believe, rock bottom.
There is no excuse or explanation. There is no memory of anything after clocking out at work.
I am terrified by the large daunting blackness that is the inside of my skull.
I eat a scone that I do not taste and swig my now cooled coffee. A bus ticket stub is discovered in my wallet, which explains at least one thing about my current existence.
I go back to the park bench to hate myself in private.
“What’s eatin’ ya little sister?” An old man had sat down beside me. Smelling of sweat and soil, with a full white beard and kind blue eyes. Suddenly very comfortable with his presence, I give up easily the word I had not dared to utter for 7 months.
“Ah, well that one’s a bitch.” He said with a gentle smile. “Do you have any plans?”
“Plans?” I was incredulous. “What are you talking about ‘plans’ ? There are no big ideas, no nifty trick or clever contraption. No way around it, rhyme or reason, or any kind of sense to the glittering parade of life. There is nothing to ‘do’ about it at all. Just accept it.”
He was actually chuckling by the time I was done with my little rant. “What are you doing on my park bench young lady?” This caught me so off guard that I actually spit out my answer without thinking.
“You a drug addict? That sounds like a junkie to me. Don’t like junkies at all, can’t trust em far as I could toss an elephant.” I imagined my bleary eyed disheveled appearance and couldn’t blame him for the mistake.
“No, not a junkie old timer. Just someone lost.” I said quietly.
We sat in silence for a bit, until he asked, “Do you have any family? Any close friends? People who are wondering where ya are?”
“I just have one person; Crystal.” I told him.
“Ha! Knew you were a junkie.”
“Crystal is a person, I told you I’m not a drug addict… I don’t think I treated her very well for all her kindness though…” It hurt me to admit it, and it was a well deserved pain.
“That’s how it goes honey.” He said kindly. “You always hurt the ones you love because only people who care about you are vulnerable to your pain. Know what I mean? When you hurt they hurt. When you beat yourself it’s their heart that gets bruised. Don’t take a wise man to know these things little sister.”
I sat in the aftermath of his words for a few moments. Absorbing the weight of his obvious truth. I stood up to shake his hand. “Well I think you are a very wise man sir, and I thank you for taking the time. My name is Sara.”
“Eddie.” He replied with a smile. His grip was firm and calloused, just like mine. A fleeting bridge between two worlds of consciousness in a simple gesture.
I walked the three short blocks to the bus station and slept like a baby the whole ride back. I found my truck at the terminal with a parking ticket fluttering in the breeze, and it made me laugh. It rather surprised me, that laugh, I hadn’t been doing much of that lately.
I drove to Crystal’s house and relaxed in her hammock until she got home. I thought she would dump us both on the ground when she leapt in to hug me.
“Where the hell have you been? You can’t just run off like that without leaving a suicide note!” She teased and hugged, hiding the vast relief behind humor and laughter.
I sat her down in the grass and took my shoes off, digging my toes into the clover as I spoke to her. “I’ve been a bad friend. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that I was hurting you while I hurt myself… I don’t know how to accept love or help, but I find myself in need of both of them. I was trying so hard to leave something behind in writing. I thought the only message I had was ink, that the only legacy would be paper.” I took her hand and smiled into her eyes. “I don’t mean to be too mushy, but your memory of me is my best legacy. I only keep one person in this world within my heart, and there is only one person who dies with me. I want to be a better person, and leave you with memories that make you smile instead of cause you pain. I want you to forgive me for being an insufferable ass and I’m hoping you’ll give me a second chance.”
When I was done we were both crying and smiling at each other. She gave me good solid squeeze and pretended her cheeks weren’t wet. “Okay the first thing you can do to make it up to me is to take a bath, because my nostrils have been assaulted quite enough already. Then you can take that damn sleeping pill and lose yourself in the decadent pleasure of memory foam. THEN you can stay for dinner and make me some blackberry cobbler for dessert.”
I rolled my eyes and groaned at her. “Damn woman you sure know how to piss a person off with the cutest little smile, don’t you? Okay fine we’ll do it your way.”
She bustled me into the bathroom and made sure the water was scalding. As I sank down into the blessed heat I felt it seeping into my tired bones. The last thing I heard before my ears submerged was Crystal yelling from the kitchen, “I’m gonna come in there to check on you ya know, I don’t want some drowned skinny bitch in my tub.”
I smiled and splashed with my toes.