That’s it. I’m going crazy. I’ve had some sort of stroke.
I’m dying. Or I’m dead?
This must be death, a calm moment given by whatever fucked up deity has been experimenting with mortal lives for a few millenia. A pretty lame severance if you ask me. You would think the wealth of human experience, feeling, and suffering would be summed up more poetically than in one frozen, weightless moment in time. Honestly though, I can’t help but savor everyone shutting the hell up for once. And there is some sort of mysterious, alien beauty to it all.
Alright, soon here I’m gonna go for good. Or float maybe, if that’s a thing.
How come it’s lasting so long?
Thanks whatever-your-name-is god person, for this strange death experience lying in the hospital bed, my family frozen around me in the midst of varying degrees of sympathetic expressions, unmoving. Am I supposed to be reflecting on them? I guess I could take a moment. Let’s see. My massive father, shrunken a bit physically with age, still forever huge in my mind, looming, his brown eyes wide, eyebrows angled in anticipation of an upward movement, mouth gently curving into a vowel sound that will never be completed. His hand is on the side of the bed and I reach over and pat it gently. He’ll be fine without me. He’s got that beard he’s been working on, his hobby painting and endless sports and all that to appreciate. Ok well, it might suck if his daughter died, but you know, I’m sure he’ll get over it and all that and move on. I’ve never quite experienced what I felt was a real emotion from him, aside from anger of course, which seems to be the only emotion he is truly capable of expressing. It’s not like he never said “I love you”, but when he did it was in this sort of offhand way as if he was saying “Hey I’m your father and I have to say this but it’s not a big deal”. Maybe his emotions are buried too deeply under the vast mountain of body hair encompassing his body. It’s not like I hate him, I just feel like he is merely there sometimes, like a cardboard cutout of a person saying the things he is supposed to say but with no depth, no dimension, and is just propped up by circumstance. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was one of those guys who, after he died you find out he has some juicy secrets like a creepy hobby or a second family or something, but most likely he is just as frustratingly boring as he seems. I guess it’s me that’s dying instead, and I’ll never get the chance to discover anything interesting about him.
Then there’s my sister, barely fourteen, arms crossed, standing behind our father with an expression on her face that is some sort of combination of fear and annoyance. She is always so fucking pissed, but like pointedly in my direction. I can’t blame her. I don’t imagine it’s fun to have an older sister who takes up all the space. I’ve been sick for a while. Where is the room for her to be rebellious and self destructive when I’m over here dying and soaking up all the time and attention? She actually is special though, unlike me. She’s smart. She’ll find a way to turn my death into some sort of awesome trajectory for her life. Really, the essay possibilities are endless. There won’t be a single college able to say no to a heartfelt “My sister’s tragic death and my triumphant coping” piece. And I’m sure the popular kids at school will all be falling over themselves to support her when the news spreads.
And here’s my mother, head bent to my forehead in a sort of forever goodbye kiss. Forever overextending, forever seeking the title of most-effort-put-in, cares-the-most. It’s so cliche, so usual, so expected. The martyr mother. Thank god she won’t be able to pull that shit anymore once I’m gone. No one to sacrifice herself for now and she’ll just have to strap in and experience her own life. Who knows who the fuck she is either without her entire identity being tied to her fucked up daughter. She told me once she used to do theatre when she was in college. She’s one of those people who has a sort of magnetic charisma around them, she’s not the most beautiful person in the room but you can’t stop staring at her and it kind of makes you nauseous but it also kind of compels you to want to please her somehow. I always wanted to please my mother. But turns out the only thing that pleases her is pleasing everyone else, so the vicious cycle goes, everyone too busy trying to make everyone else happy to experience it for themselves.
There we go. That’s my whole family. Time to go? I look up at the florescent light above me on the ceiling of the hospital room. Nothing seems to be happening yet, spiritually or otherwise.
I’m relieved actually. I’m sure that’s expected of you when you die after all the shit my stupid body went through, and I guess the expectation is not far off. Well, let’s be fair to my body, I’m the stupid one. I thought this was what I wanted. And turns out it is and it isn’t. Ok yeah, I’m scared, flutters of panic in my gut and all that, but ultimately I feel sort of excited. Heading to a different place. Or simply no place at all. Anyplace but here, with these people loving me and the painful heavy burden of that.
I had always lived with some vague expectation of light, some brightness, all the sweet memories of my life flashing, a sort of fullness of spirit before blinking out of existence forever. I didn’t realize I had to do all the work of reflection myself before they would let me go. They, she, it, whatever the fuck is up there being perfect so all of us have the luxury of never being able to be.
Alright alright, I get it. My turn. Time to reflect on my own shit. Ok. So I was fucking miserable. I was working a shitty job at a Jamba Juice. I mean, on the surface it doesn’t sound that bad. I had a job. I was good at it. Well, I was as good as one can be when you’re really just a cog in a smoothie factory. At corporate retail robot jobs like that, everything is so exactly scripted and choreographed, measured to the last tablespoon of a protein boost, you can’t fuck up that much but you can’t really do that great. Anyway, I was always on time and always working my ass off, kissing up to the customers and “going the extra mile” as my boss used to say. As far as I was concerned I was just not being an asshole. So turns out I was Assistant Manager material. It was news to me when he told me. A dollar more an hour and 100 times the responsibility. Maybe I just seemed the most gullible, who knows. I shrugged in response and vaguely nodded, while he started rattling off my new duties. When I started doing that was when I started having access to the safe. And that was when I started thinking about being an asshole for once. Like not a major asshole, just a once-to-end-all-and-be-all asshole.
Wait, hold on. Accountability to the higher power and everything. I reflexively looked up, an impotent fluorescent light my only answer. It’s not all about the Jamba Juice. It would be so easy to pin it all on that soul sucking job but I gotta be honest with myself.
I knew from a young age that there was something off about me.
I thought I was an alien. Or adopted. Or maybe an adopted alien, like Superman. Except my only super power seemed to be my ability to daydream. I would dream myself away for hours, think myself into any fantasy I could. Real life was never good enough. I was never good enough. I knew I was special though. I was meant to travel, to get away, to be great but I never seemed to be able to manifest that in real life. In life I was not special, I wasn’t especially attractive, I wasn’t especially intelligent, I wasn’t especially good at anything in particular. I wasn’t an underachiever either, I wasn’t even good at being bad at anything. That was when the thoughts started to creep in first, back then, like a leaky faucet left running until I eventually drowned in it all.
So back to Jamba Juice. Which in retrospect was a comfortable place to work because it enveloped me in the undeniability of my misery. Certainly it helped me to realize my shitty aspirations. I wanted to be so fucking special, so special that I would slowly die in front of my agonizingly supportive family. Well now my confession is just getting ahead of itself.
Basically I wanted to die. Why? Why. Why exactly. Exactly why.
There is an impossibly heavy thing inside me filled with nothing, an intense emptiness, or darkness, like unexplainable dark matter pulling everything down. Or… not down really as much as in. Like a black hole I guess. What’s left? I couldn’t really feel. But also, I felt too much. None if it makes sense really. I felt like I had spent years folding in and in and further in on myself. There didn’t seem to be a real reason or purpose. Depression right? I mean, to me it felt like something more, it felt like I had a destiny, like events were conspiring to bring me closer to the inevitable outcome of my journey. This world was clearly not for me. I didn’t belong in it. Eventually it seemed reasonable and logical to end my own life.
Who was I? Who was I supposed to be? The answer became clear. I was never supposed to be. I was a cosmic mistake that required mending.
But I didn’t want to go in a gory, bloody, shoot myself or hang myself way. That just didn’t seem as romantic, I had been painting a scene of sweet surrender in my mind. I can’t stand blood. And I hate being in pain (ironic seeing as how much pain I’ve been in the last 6 months following this bright idea.)
I stole money from the safe. Fuck Jamba Juice. It was all in all about $1,000. Not exactly a fortune, but definitely more cash than I had ever held at one time. When fantasizing about it beforehand I had convinced myself I would feel a thrill. I felt nothing, as always. I felt no guilt, no fear. I just put it in my backpack and walked out. It was the easiest thing you could imagine. There are no consequences for bad behavior when you’re dead, or plan to be. Aside from, obviously, being dead. Which could turn out to be awesome if you’re living in miserable pain: formerly emotional, currently physical.
Part two of my plan involved dying via drugs. Well, I guess that was part three and part two was acquiring said drugs. I had no real concept of how much drugs cost. I had never done them before, aside from vicodin when I got my wisdom teeth out. And that had felt like floating numb in a cloud of whatever. Which sounded about right to how I wanted to go. I knew a guy. You know, that guy. Everyone knows a guy who’s inexplicably popular, kind of smelly, never quite makes sense and is really annoying, but you’re always nice to him because you think that one day you might get drugs from him. Ok, so maybe not everyone has a guy like that. But I did. I called him up and said I wanted a bunch of pain pills. He gave me a prescription bottle and a few joints for my cash, probably ripped me off but I didn’t ask any questions. It wasn’t vicodin, it was one of the other ones, norco I think. I took a cab to the beach with a backpack full of booze and drugs. I told the cab driver to take his time, make it scenic. I told myself this is the last of shit you will ever see, so soak it in. Gas stations, grubby sidewalks, some fancy ass hipsters. Then we got near the ocean and it was better, seagulls and shit and majestic waves and all that.
I wanted to get fancy so I had gotten Scotch. My father always used to have a bottle of scotch in his study. I never saw him drink except for once on New Year’s Eve. It just seemed the classy choice. To follow it up I got a forty ounce of Miller, because I was about to live the high life. Also it’s the champagne of beers so you can’t go wrong.
I sat on the beach as the sun settled down into the ocean, taking one pill at a time with a swig of scotch until it felt like there was a dry lump in my throat. In the end there were three pills left. I remember thinking about that. Three is my favorite number. Three has magic to it somehow. Lots of people think so. This is it. I took the last three, closed my eyes and sunk down.
I dreamed I was running down a spongy hill, bouncing a bit with every step, trying to keep someone from going to Jamba Juice. “It’s hell in there. Everything is made out of chemical powders. No one cares. They have no Souls!” The person I was ranting to was dark, a cloud, no face, just a dark shape.
I woke up two days later. Well I didn’t wake up, I just became aware of what I was doing. Apparently all that didn’t kill me. It certainly did kill my liver though and like a zombie I arose in incredible pain and had been wandering down the beach, shaking, screaming, yellow with jaundice and sunburns, covered in vomit and other bodily fluids. I remember looking at my hands and wondering whose body I was in.
Everything else is a painful blur. There was almost nothing left of my liver, so they couldn’t get me anything for the pain. They kept me going somehow. Dialysis was involved. A few exploratory surgeries to remove the necrotized liver parts, almost no sedation. It has really sucked. I could maybe get a donor liver, but since I tried to kill myself they won’t put me on the list. They don’t want to waste precious liver on a suicidal fuck. So I’m just slowly dying, apologizing, dying more, more pain. And I have to look at these fuckers who love the shit out of me and their concerned little faces for-EVER. Forever? Purgatory? Who the fuck knows.
Have I suffered enough for you, you sadistic fuck?
I shut my eyes and leaned back down to my mother’s kiss.
Sound slapped back into existed and scared the fuck out of me, I felt air move and my mothers kiss completed as my father continued talking, the noise of the hospital machines and voices assaulting me as reality commenced and my father completed his words.
“-Octor had some news for us. I don’t want you to get too excited but it could really make a difference. He said we should manage our expectations though.” He looked down at his hand, as if he had somehow felt it when I had grabbed it earlier.
I looked up at the ceiling as I realized the light up there made a faint whirring noise.
“Did…did you guys feel that? Did something happen? I thought I was dead.” I looked up at my mother’s face hovering over me, my voice hoarse and quiet compared to my father’s booming voice.
She looked at my father.
“Oh honey I don’t think she can handle this right now. Maybe we should let her sleep.”
He looked at my face and then looked down at the ground, then looked back up at my hair. I tried to will him to look me in the eyes using psychic powers. It didn’t seem to work.
“You’re not dead Kate. I have some news. They got you on the list, since you’re so young it trumps the suicide issue. You could get another liver soon. He says we should manage our expectations, but it’s still good news so..”
I’m on the list. So that’s something. Another painful surgery. I’ll have to keep living this beautifully painful and painfully beautiful life. Maybe, if I survive.
I was still processing the fact that I hadn’t died when the frozen thing happened. It was weird but usual that everyone was moving, time was still going. I had sort of made peace with an infinity spent looking at my concerned and disappointed family. Is this like It’s A Beautiful Life? Am I supposed to act grateful to the powers that be because I have some sort of second chance? Is this my cheesy made-for-tv-movie moment where I turn it all around and I get better and all that?
“Well that’s good” I croaked out, shrugging vaguely, raising my eyebrows and looking back up to the fluorescent light, which I have just now decided is God.
Yeah I mean, thanks God, you know, for trying. We’ll see what happens. I’ll try not to fuck it up again. I can make you all sorts of promises. But God, I will never ever ever work at Jamba Juice ever again.