by Remy Dou
The morning of the third day of his suicide attempt, Chris woke up with a migraine. The sunshine beaming in from the window behind him caught the gloss of the coffee table and sank into his eyes like sharp needles. Squinting, he brought his hand up as a shield, dropping the bottle of rum. The thick glass shattered, the sound jostling his brain cavity. He tried opening his eyes slowly to regain composure. Though he shielded them from the sun, his vision remained blurry and opaque. As if taking inventory of all his maladies, his mind scanned his torso, registering nausea in addition to his headache.
A sudden impulse to stand seized hold of him. Leaning his body forward, he pushed up with his legs. His stomach lurched. Chris lost balance and landed hard on his knees. The glass shards on the ground buried themselves into his skin. His forearms kept his face from slamming into the coffee table, but his bones absorbed the blow, forming hairline fractures that spread out like veins. The sour taste of vomit crept up the back of his tongue. His body heaved reflexively, catapulting the contents of his belly all over his arms and the coffee table. The semi-clear liquid dripped down, mingling with the blood that had slowly leaked from his knees onto the floor.
Minutes passed before Chris attempted to move. His arms pulsated and his head throbbed. He pushed his body up with his hands, but that sent a jolt of pain shooting across his forearms. Resting most of his weight on his feet, he wobbled into a standing position. Glass clung to his kneecaps and the mixture of blood and vomit dripped down his shins until it was absorbed by his white socks.
Trying not to slip, Chris slowly made his way to the bathroom. The clean white tile and porcelain toilet reminded him of a hospital. Stumbling in, he leaned his hip against the sink to keep from losing balance. Chris used his elbows to pry open the medicine cabinet. His eyes scanned the bottles, not quite knowing what to look for. The writing on the labels swayed back and forth, refusing to let itself be read.
Frustrated, Chris snatched up an orange prescription bottle and twisted off the cap to peer inside. The little blue pills laughed at him as they flew across the room and crashed against the hard glass of the shower door. He stared at his medicine cabinet, realizing that the one thing that could take away his headache was what put him in this state in the first place.
Sighing, he picked up the bottle of mouthwash to dilute the taste of vomit in his mouth. The weight of the bottle in his hands sent fresh lightning shooting across the microscopic fractures in his bones. The bottle crashed in the sink, spilling its green contents like toxic waste. The smell of the mouthwash rose, gathered in Chris’ nose, and stimulated a second bout of heaving.
The abdominal contractions forced Chris backward. He slammed against the doorframe, which tripped him to the ground. Bile splashed against tile on the floor, dripped down his chin, and soaked his shirt. He laid face up, spread eagle on the ground, the lower half of his body inside the bathroom, the upper half in the hallway. Hoping not to choke on his own reflux, he turned his aching head over on its side.
An hour later Chris could no longer see out of his right eye. His head still throbbed. His body screamed out in pain. Fluids leaked out of him uncontrollably. If this was death, Chris decided to welcome it, closing his eyes.
* * *
Rays of sunset warmed his face. Chris opened his eyes and realized he must have slept for hours. The vision in his right eye had returned, but coyly. His arms still hurt, but the nausea vanished. He wanted to get up, but could not. The two legs attached to his body trembled at the thought. Accepting that he couldn’t do anything on his own, he managed to call the only person he knew would drive over at a moment’s notice.
Carmen picked up the phone, registering Chris’ ringtone. Last time they spoke it was over brunch six months prior. She remembered him mentioning his lost desire to write.
Her thumb slid over the answer button. “Hi, Chris,” she greeted.
“Carmen, are you far?” he asked.
“Huh? Far from what?” she said.
“I could really use your help. I’m sorry to call you this way,” he said.
“Are you okay?” said Carmen, concern creeping into her voice.
“Not really. I need someone to take me to the hospital,” said Chris.
“Yeah, of course. I’m on my way. Would you prefer I call an ambulance?”
“No, no. This place is a mess and I’m not quite sure I want people seeing this. You never know what might get on the news,” he said.
“Okay, I’ll be right there.”
Carmen arrived at Chris’ home within half an hour. In that time, he dragged himself onto the couch, scooting glass out of the way and wiping the floor with his pants. She came in using her key and yipped when she saw glass and blood on the floor. Running up to lift him, she managed to bear some of his weight, placed him in the car, and drove off to the hospital.
At the hospital, she asked the staff to help her place him in a wheelchair. She told them she thought he might have tried to commit suicide. They asked what her relationship to him was and she explained she was his ex-wife.
The nurses took Chris’ vitals as they rushed him to the ER. Thoroughly dehydrated, the head nurse asked that he be placed on intravenous fluids. Moments later a doctor came in, asking questions.
“Can you explain what happened?” asked the doctor.
Chris did, describing his three-day endeavor.
“Can you get someone to bring in the empty Tylenol bottles from your home?” said the doctor.
“Yes—my ex-wife is probably still in the hospital, waiting to hear from me.”
“Okay, I’ll have someone find her. I’m going to Baker Act you Mr. Miller. Do you understand what that means?”
“Yes,” said Chris.
“If what you described to me is true, there’s nothing we can do restore your liver, other than an emergency liver transplant, which is not guaranteed and will depend on whether you have renal or other organ failure. You are facing an almost certain likelihood of death,” said the doctor grimly.
“I’m prepared for that,” said Chris.
Surprisingly, Chris’ blood work came back negative less than an hour later. A second test confirmed the results. The doctor began to doubt Chris’ story despite seeing the empty bottles of painkillers Carmen recovered. Thinking the entire ordeal might have been a cry for help, he transferred Chris to the mental health ward. By midnight Chris slept profoundly in his new hospital room, arms carefully suspended on slings.