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Friday
Jun032011

Reap What You Sow

It has been said by some of the medical staff at the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, 4077 in South Korea, that suicide is painless. Just pop a pill, pull a trigger, or do both. Why not?  Should you go by plane, should you go by train? Should you take a bus or should you slice open your wrists and bleed out into a bathtub? These are questions some folks try to answer and act upon. Personally, when things get me down I never think about opening up a shotgun shell with my teeth. Instead, I listen to depressing music, watch movies where bad things happen to good people, and read stories about folks who are worse off than myself.  As weird as all of this may seem, it puts into perspective the level of tedium upon which my troubles linger. Now listen here when I tell you that I take no joy in people's real-life pain. The pain of fictitious characters however, helps me appreciate my place in the world when I think I'm as low as one can go. 

The following story, written by someone who knows a thing or two about human psychology, presents a scenario we never want to live out. Its themes linger in the dark, damp basements of our minds, a place we never want to go. Trever Bennett shows us what it might be like down there, shows us the cracked, moldy concrete stairs that could take us down. Should we go inside? What if we want to come back? 

I know where I want to be and am grateful for Mr. Bennett's uncanny ability to write such a convincing tale. It has shown me what a true gift life can really be.

 

 

Fireman's Carry

It had six blades in it, and I was determined to get one out. I turned it over in my hands, examining the cartridge in the steam of the shower, looking for a flaw in its design. There was a bit of a separation on the back where the five front razors were bundled and aligned. Above that, an additional single razor, for touch-ups or whatever, facing me. That blade was surrounded in blue aluminum and too shallow to cut anything, no good.

I closed my eyes and felt his hand on my hip bone, hot water running down. I imagined his breath on my neck, his fingers dancing around my belly and down. He whispered my name, my back against the firm muscles of his chest. His pressure against me was so strong, safe. I remembered him pressing me hard against the wall. I opened my eyes and he was still gone.

I pinched the sides of the cartridge to test its integrity. It was solid, plastic, but it wouldn't budge. I rolled the handle and looked along the side of the head. The blades were bound well inside. I grasped the tops and bottoms of the bundle and attempted to bend it laterally. Nothing loosened. Nothing snapped.

I disconnected the handle from the safety cartridge and set it down on the porcelain shelf of the shower,  next to a top-heavy bottle of Herbal Essences. The shampoo slipped and fell to the bottom of the tub, and I stepped over it. I turned slowly to spread the warmth of the water across my back, hair over my eyes pulled over my shoulders. I set the cartridge flat on my palm and inspected it.

I wasn't good enough to keep him here. I wasn't good enough to keep his touch. Or his breath. He was gone. No note, no reason, no warning, he just left me. I felt this burning pressure in my abdomen, this grinding of my teeth.

I grasped the razor with both hands, thumbs across the blades, and I pulled and bent. I felt the blades cut into my thumbs, pain shot down my arm. My thumbs bled down my hands. I rolled the cartridge over and tried harder until I crushed the plastic and the slim, patented gliding blades all snapped out and sliced effortlessly into my palm. Shit, I thought, I broke it. It was the most accomplished moment I can name in my life, when I felt those blades cut me. I understood then the effort he went through to leave me, the pain he must have felt to drive himself to this.

Blood just ran down my arms. It was a sight. I wish he could have seen it. I got dizzy.

I stepped back on the shower liner which laid on the bottom of the edge of the tub. My foot slipped out quickly and I shattered my toe against the wall of the tub. At the same time, in an effort to catch myself I grasped the top of the shower liner behind me. The back of my knee hit the edge of the tub, and I fell back and out of the tub. As I fell I could hear the plastic curtain hooks snapping almost all at once, and the back of my head hit the toilet hard.

 

I woke up in a hospital room to some conversation about suicides coming in threes that ended abruptly in shushes and whispers, and I was suddenly aware that I had been carried naked out of my house. Whatever drugs I was on made my already blurred vision worse, to a point of having trouble recognizing my sister by anything except her voice.

"You're awake." she said plainly, shyly. There was some blurry person next to her, silent.

My hand was heavily bandaged, except the fingertips, which were healthy and pinkish. An I.V. tube ran into the back of the bandage.

 There was throbbing in my palm, and numbness, which I would later be told was permanent nerve damage. But I could feel my fingertips. The back of my head throbbed, and my big toe. I saw floaters.

I rubbed my chapped lips together, looking around the bright room. My throat was dry. "Uh." is all I could get out at first. She looked hard at me.

"I'm thirsty." is all I could say. My sister got me a nurse, who got me a glass of water and asked me a bunch of questions that I said yes or no to. Apparently I was fine, so she left.

"Can you... uh... talk about... it?" she said. It was all the restraint she could muster. I was proud of her.

"Can Brad leave please?" I said, and that blurry thing next to her got up fast. The door closed slowly. "Who found me?"

"Brad did. We drove you to the hospital."

"Great, your boyfriend saw my tits."

"Are you just going to make jokes?"

"The fuck else am I going to do, Stacy? I wasn't trying to kill myself if that's what you want me to say." I was telling the truth.

"What the fuck, then, Jacquelyn?" she said. I don't think she meant to be this mad. I hadn't heard her swear since high school. The clock ticked loudly.

"I just wanted to know how he did it, okay." I said, or I tried to say, but these tears just came out and my voice got all full of holes and it broke and cracked the last few syllables. Stacy watched me as I regained my composure and wiped my eyes with my blanket. "Where are my glasses?"

She handed me the frames and the room came to vivid detail, a little too quickly. She was wearing stained sweats. Acne flared on her neck. Shit, I thought, I broke my family, too.

"Look, you dated a flake. He couldn't cope. He couldn't deal. He was weak. You have to move on." she said. She had rehearsed this.

"Oh, my god, I know this, Stacy!" I was hot with anger and opiates. "I know. I get it.  I hate him. I know."

"Then what the hell were you doing with a razor?"

"Stop." She stopped. "Listen." She listened.

"I found him. In the bathtub. We used the same razor, the guy ones. They work... better." Tears welled up but I continued. "And he." My voice was too high so I started again. "And he took it apart, Stacy, he took one blade out. He must have used tweezers or cutters or something. But he took it apart meticulously, and he did it."

Stacy stared at me blankly. She was about to say something like 'and...' but she restrained. Brad coughed outside the door. I said:

"Stacy, it took me twenty minutes to get that razor apart, and I hurt myself doing it."

"What are you saying?"

"What I'm saying is, he wasn't a dog chewing its leg off to get out of a bear trap. He was a calculated killer."

"He killed himself."

"He killed me, too."

The clock ticked loudly.

"Does it hurt?" she said. "Your hand?"

"Um," I wiggled my fingertips. My wound, still fresh, flexed against its stitches. Dull ache ran down my arm. "My foot is worse."

On that note the doctor came in. He asked me a bunch of questions that I said yes or no to. Visiting hours ended. I was given pills. I went to sleep. Woke up every two hours to a nurse asking me if I was killing myself. Wouldn't have thought of it otherwise.

The next few weeks were sterile dull hours in a hospital room. My sister lent me her iPad. I started playing Angry Birds. I stayed up late playing Angry Birds. I don't play that game anymore.

So I was back in the apartment and my insurance was nice enough to get me new carpet. My room smelled like the hospital. I slept for about a day. Old boyfriends called me. I called them back. I threw up I was so drunk.

I had a dream about bloody white sheets. My hand drug against iron. I woke up in cold sweat.

The next morning I heard the bustle of my sister entering our apartment with Brad. He was carrying a bag that was filled with Stacy's shit. She had moved out. Now she was moving back in. This was the first I'd heard of it.

I was crawling across the floor now, ear to the top of the stairs. The coffee pot was gurgling. They were whispering. I stood up as quietly as I could and closed my door hard. I yawned loudly at the top of my stairs and limped down the iron steps. One slipper, one toe cast. I walked straight to the coffee maker and poured myself a cup. I leaned against the counter and sipped. I was hiding my hangover.

"This bag is heavy, Stacy," Brad said. He slung the big black bag over his shoulder in resemblance to a fireman's carry. He leaned heavily on the hand railing. I burnt my mouth on my coffee.

"Do you need help?" Stacy said.

"No, I've got it."

"You're a trooper, Brad." I said. He stomped up the stairs and didn't respond.

"You don't have to give him crap every time you talk."

"You don't have to correct me." She set down her mug. "I'm sorry," I said quickly. She rubbed her temples with her eyes closed. My tongue was numb.

"How was last night?" she said. It was my first night alone since I was brought to the hospital.

Honestly it was the first good night I'd had in a while. I missed the place. It had a fucking spiral staircase in it. A bar kitchen. The living room was furnished by the complex, looked great, and there was a tiny balcony with a third-floor view. We had one of the best apartments in East Lansing. And I had it to myself last night.

"It was good," I said. "Watched a lot of TV." I didn't tell her that I went through half a pack of cigarettes on the balcony, which was also nice.

"Did you eat?" Love this question.

"I ate." I ate cereal. Same off-brand frosted flakes the hospital had. But I didn't lie.

"Alright, well," she opened the refrigerator to a door full of condiments. "We'll need to go get groceries. Let me know if you're--oh hold on." Her cell phone was vibrating. She flipped it open and read a text. She rocked back and forth on her toes.

"Um, I'll be right down."

She climbed the stairs quickly at first but as her head poked out of view her steps slowed.  She stepped, stepped, stepped out of view. I heard a muffled conversation for a minute. The shower started.

I leaned against the counter, sipping coffee. I began counting the surfaces in my apartment that I remembered having sex on. The counter I leaned against. The bar in the center of the room. The balcony. The couch we were furnished with. It took Windex to get our prints off the glass coffee table. The walk-in closet. Both bedrooms. The iron spiral staircase. The shower. Then he died. But at least we were thorough.

I heated up my mug with a fresh pour. Water splashed upstairs.

It's been eight months. He's been dead eight months. And I'm still alive.

 

A memory:

We're covered in sweat, I've climaxed twice and he's laying on his back out of breath. I'm playing with his fingers and he's panting more and more slowly. He's trying to form words between gasps of air.

I kiss him and he laughs. I laugh. I climb onto him and nuzzle his cheek. He smiles big and I feel his dimples against my cheek. His hands still wander.

"Mmm that was good." I say. We're using our sex voices.

"It's always good." It is. "What made this good?"

"Mhmhm."

"Hmm?"

"That is as dirty as I talk, mister," I say and he laughs.

I let him slid his hands all over me for a while, and eventually I roll over, drained. His hands follow me.

"Hmm, someone's excited," I say and I roll away. I'm not in the mood.

He freezes.

"Um." he says, and I'm really not in the mood.

He lays there. He's uncomfortable. He's grinding his teeth. I smile.

"Muah!" I roll on top of him. He grabs my ass. I'm not in the mood. I freeze.

He freezes. We're at an impass. I smile, and I kiss him on the cheek. He stares past me. Gears in his head are turning. I run my fingers through his hair. He continues to stare. I still don't know what to do when he does this.

"What are you thinking?"

His face wrinkles into a smile. "Nothing." His eyes keep staring past me.

"Nu-uh-thing?" I squeak out, and his lips thin into an even stranger smile. Then silence.

"Um." he's distant again. "I need to use the bathroom."

He goes in. I hear the shower and I rest my eyes.

I wake up in the morning and the shower is on. I decide to go in and join him. He likes surprises. He had a big one for me. A big, cold, blue, bloody, stiff surprise.

He leaves my apartment in a big black bag. Two strangers carry him down the spiral stairs. Same size bag I'd be in. Two more strangers watch me cry.

 

I finished my coffee, listening to the water hit the floor above me. I set the mug in the sink.

When the thump of the water stopping resonated through the apartment I unlocked my jaw. I put my ear to the base of the stairs. Just mumbles. Footsteps as they dried off. This was a strange moment for me. I've never thought of the both of them naked before. If they've had sex they keep it a good secret.

An intensely unsatisfying awareness of my own voyeurism rushed down my spine as the door to the bathroom opened. I tip toed over to the couch and picked up a book to pretend reading. Stacy came down the stairs in a robe.

"You want to come with us to Meijer?" she said. I must have given her a look. "We didn't just have sex."

"No no, I wasn't accusing you, um, I'm sorry."

"Oh." she said. Was a defense reaction programmed into her?

"Yeah, I'll get ready, go ahead and get dressed," I said. She was uncomfortable with the softness of my voice.

"Alright." she walked back upstairs with me following her. She opened her door, revealing a shirtless Brad with his head in his hands, sitting on the bed. He looked up at me and we made eye contact. He looked quickly back at Stacy who closed the door behind her quietly.

I stood at the top of the stairs, staring at the closed door.

I got dressed in my room quickly, and I had time to brush my teeth. The door to Stacy's room was still closed when I finished, so I paced back into my room. My comforter was half off the bed, and my pillows. My sheets were deeply wrinkled from my sweat the night before. I tucked in the sheets and tossed the comforter over, pulled tight, smoothed the wrinkles. Turned off the light as I left the room.

Stacy and Brad push out of their room, spring jackets on, keys jangling.

"Got a list?" I said.

"I'd rather play by ear in the produce section."

"So we're off." I grabbed my jacket out of the closet. We climbed down the stairs single-file. I grabbed my cell off the bar.

Putting on my shoe, I kicked a package of brand new white sheets. I slipped my fingers through the knots in my laces. Five long, fresh scars intersected the lifeline on my palm. Brad, kneeling, bounced his eyes between the sheets and my hand. He tied up his shoes and held the door for me.

I led the parade to Brad's car, and he clicked open the locks. I reached the sedan alone, and turned to see Brad's back turned, talking to Stacy, across the parking lot.

I imagined Brad in a fireman's suit. Stepping out of the burning apartment. Chorus of applause. Streamers and sirens. Bundle of bloody white sheets over his shoulder. Striking a fratboy pose for Channel 5.

I climbed into the back seat and closed the door. Brad and Stacy eventually climbed in. The car smelled new.  I didn't know he had to have the interior redone, the extent of my damage.

"I like what you did to the car, Brad," I said. I looked out the window. We drove by Pita Pit.

"Yeah?" he said. "Insurance covered everything."

"Everything," I said.

The sign for Bell's Pizza coasted by. I slid my hand across the new leather seat. It looked nice. It looked better than if it all never happened.

 

 

Contact Mr. Bennett at treverjbennett@gmail.com

 

Trever J. Bennett | Age 20 | Sanford, Michigan

Once gave his spare change to a panhandler on the streets of Detroit. Upon further inspection, the person begging for change turned out to be Lucy Lui.

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