I wake to the sound of beeping. Not the nice kind that lingers slightly in the background when you don’t put on your seat belt but the annoying kind that counts your heartbeats per second and reminds you that you’re lucky to be alive. That you’re lucky to be stuck on this sorry excuse of a planet. Something moves to my left and a shadow is all I see before my breath catches in my throat and I nearly collapse once again from shock.
“Who are you?” I demand.
The nurse spares me a glance but doesn’t respond. Instead, he continues preparing an injection containing a clear watery fluid. I ignore the pain in my stomach and take a minute to survey the room. My gaze settles on the needle in the nurse’s hands. I stare warily at the sharp metallic tip. “What is that?”
The nurse, a short but wiry man with dark bushy hair, doesn’t so much as glance at me this time.
I attempt to sit up but my hands can move no further than an inch from the bed. I looked down at them and swore.
“Get these shackles off me.”
All I get is a sigh before the curtain is fully drawn aside and a tall man in a billowing white lab coat steps into the cubicle, trailed by a group of two other nurses. He takes one look at me and begins scribbling on his clipboard.
“Any signs of amnesia, Robert?”
Robert, it turns out, is the hostile nurse currently injecting something into my drip.
His response, “none”, drowns out my cry of resistance and no one in the room pays me any mind as the doctor hands one of the nurses the clipboard and orders her to record my vitals.
“How are you feeling today, Aylin?”
“Like I should know what exactly is going on here.”
My sharp tone is not appreciated.
“Do you know why you’re here?” he asks.
Another retort is on the tip of my tongue, but something about his words catch my attention and I realise that I don’t know why I’m in hospital. I struggle to remember but all I can do is draw up a blank.
“Why am I here?” I demand.
The doctor clasps his hands behind his back. “You were found in your room unconscious three days ago. The amount of alcohol and benzodiazepine in your system was staggering but we managed to get most of it out.” He studies my face for a moment. “Does it hurt?”
“Yes,” I grit out.
He offers me a smile. “I’m glad.”
I glare at him and wonder what kind of doctor he is but a sudden surge of images interrupts my venomous thoughts. I remember the alcohol, whisky it was.
I remember the pills and the waiting, the agonising wait, the calm before the storm. And then the hurricane. The rush of drowsiness and content. The kind of feeling I always got when I curled up in bed with a good book. The kind of deep-seated content that you can feel right to your toes. The kind that fills you up until you’re not sure you ever want to get up.
It felt good. But it didn’t last.
“I want to speak to my doctor,” I say.
“I am your doctor.”
“I want to speak to Bobby, my doctor.”
“Bobby is not available at the moment.”
I surge forward in a moment of blind rage but the handcuffs around my wrists keep me back. The doctor doesn’t flinch but behind him, the nurses cast nervous glances at the neighbouring cubicle.
“You may leave,” he says to them.
They may as well have the devil on their heels with the way they run.
Once it’s just us in the room, the doctor sits on the edge of the bed and takes off his glasses. His tired eyes and hunched figure give him the appearance of a weary father. I try not to think of my own father who is likely turning in his grave at this very moment.
“I am required to perform an evaluation,” he says.
I don’t say anything.
“I am required by law to perform an evaluation,” he says.
I still don’t say anything.
“I’ve looked at your previous file,” he says. “There’s a history of clinical depression in your family and you’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder recently.”
I’m not sure two years qualifies as ‘recent’ but I’ve known about the BPD for some time now. It just took Bobby a little longer to figure out. I don’t fault him for that but I’ve never forgiven the one time he recommended me to a ‘specialist’ who misdiagnosed me not once, but twice with bipolar disorder.
The doctor sighs.
“I understand why you don’t want to speak to me, Aylin,” he says. “Not many people do.”
Something goes through me, something I recognise as the feeling of being understood but I don’t let it show on my face. He can’t evaluate me if I won’t speak.
“Just tell me one thing.” He regards the violet wallpaper with a look I can’t quite place. “Tell me why a talented young girl like you would want to end her life.”
“You don’t know me,” I say before I can stop myself.
He glances at me.
“You’re right,” he says getting up. “I don’t.”
“So that’s it,” I say. “A little resistance and you’re just going to up and leave?”
I don’t recognise the tone in my voice. The words slip unbidden from my mouth but I cannot do anything about the tone. About the anger deep in me. Anger at the fact that he is right and that with a few words he can unravel me and cast aside the façade I have worked so hard to create.
Twenty minutes after he leaves, a heaviness settles over my eyelids.
I shut them and allow myself to drift off.
I barely register the clinking of keys and the loss of pressure around my wrists.
The aroma of freshly baked scones revives me from my sleep.
It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the harsh fluorescent lighting and a little longer for me to realise I am not alone in the room. I sit up despite the ache in my body and Brian (perhaps wisely) makes no move to help me.
I cut him off with a wave. “Save it.”
At this point, I’m glad to be with anyone.
“I brought your favourite,” he says, pushing the basket towards me.
I manage a small smile.
“Your mother called,” Brian says.
That would not be a first, Brian has come to know my mom quite well.
“What did she say?” I ask, picking at a scone.
He stands up to help me adjust my position this time and I give him a searching look as he fluffs my pillows.
“What are you doing here anyway?” I ask, chewing a mouthful of carrot flavoured bread.
“I thought you didn’t want to-”
“Well now I do, so spit it out.”
He looks almost relieved to have the old me back if the tentative smile on his face is anything to go by.
“You are my girlfriend-”
“-and I would want to visit you in hospital if anything… happened.”
I don’t miss the way he says the last word. And I don’t like it either but the scones are nice and the company far in between so I let it pass.
“I start my studies for the bar tomorrow,” he says.
As an engineering student and an aficionado of the arts with little to no knowledge of the workings of other professions, I merely nod and “ahh”. I’m not quite sure that Brian understands I was on borrowed time for the last few hours. Just like he doesn’t understand we’re not together anymore or that the scones are the only reason he’s still here.
I pick a third one from the basket, trying to ignore the heavy silence.
It’s a long minute before he asks, “Should you be eating so much?”
“Precisely because they pumped my stomach.”
He scratches his head. “About that…Why did-”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I say.
He holds my gaze. “I think you need to talk about it.”
My fingers clench.
“Leave it alone, Brian.”
“You tried to kill yourself, Aylin. I think the least we can do is talk about it.”
I sit there in shock. In the five years I’ve known Brian, and the three that we’ve been together, he has never once raised his voice at me. Not when I ran away from home that one time and my mother called the police. Or when I crashed his car after he tried to teach me to drive. Not even when I broke up with him because we couldn’t agree on what I should do when I was having a crisis.
And now, after all this time, after I’ve taken matters into my own hands and decided to stop waiting for life to happen, now he wants to yell at me like he has any right to do so.
“Get out,” I say.
He has the decency to look shocked. “What?”
I point at the curtain. “Get. Out.”
He narrows his eyes and presses his lips into a firm line. “You know what? Maybe I don’t want to. What are you going to do about it if you can barely get out of bed?”
I reach for the red button but the smirk on his face stops me.
“Sure. Go ahead and run away like you always do. Sweep your problems under the rug one more time and see if you don’t sneeze yourself to death.”
I am standing by the time he says ‘problems’ and my hand comes down on his cheek when the last word leaves his mouth.
“How dare you,” I say, stock still in fury and shock at what I’ve done.
“How dare you,” he says, and for a moment I think he’s talking about hitting him but I see the rage in his eyes and I know.
I know that I have hurt him in a way I can never take back.
In a way I can never atone for.
“To throw away everything you’ve been given, all because people don’t like the way you dress or the things you say. Wake up, Aylin. Not everyone likes you, not everyone will agree with you. Suck it up and move on.”
Tears well in my eyes, begging to be set free but I refuse. I refuse to let them fall, I refuse to let Brian see that his words have hit home even though he already knows they have.
“It’s more than that,” I spit, overcome with a mixture of shame and anger. “You of all people should know that.”
His hand brushes against my cheek and I realise I’m crying despite promising myself not to. I yank myself away from him but there is no pleasure at the sight of his wounded expression. All I can think is that he deserves this. He more than anyone should know what they did to me, the years of suffering I endured at their hands. He heard the merciless taunts and witnessed the sickening humiliation they subjected me to. Where were you? I want to demand. Where was he when everything went wrong?
His next words sting but there’s no denying the ring of truth to them.
“To you maybe, but not to them and certainly not to the world.”
No one will care and no one will understand. They’ll all tell me the same thing he’s telling me albeit with different intentions. He steps forward and pulls me into a hug, tentatively at first, but when I don’t resist, his arms fully encircle me. I let myself inhale his subtle cologne.
I mumble, “I still hate you.”
I feel, more than see his smile.
I fall asleep to the sound of my own breathing, and I wonder what it would have been like if I was no longer a part of this world. If I was gone from the lives of the people who relied on me. If I never felt the sun on my face and ate scones with my ex-boyfriend in a public ward.
“Thank you,” I whisper.
Brian looks up from his book, the setting sun casts shadows on his dark skin.
I let my eyes fall shut.
“For waking me up.”
(Based on a true story)
Elaine R. Omwango