I'm still inclined to lie about this. Because the lowdown is, the truth didn't set anybody free.
And I wasn't after attention or revenge, as most people will think. At least I know that's what goes through someone's mind when they hear that a girl has tried to do a mean two-step with Saint Peter. Or to buy the whole farm. Or to cash in her chips, if you know what I mean. No. Words had more to do with this.
And if there had been any on the piece of paper that I saw that day at lunch when I was sitting on the side steps of the school, it didn't matter. It was a wide scrap of paper. A single torn slip of paper that danced up on the wind and floated. Then was carried off to somewhere I could not see. I took it for a sign. Not a word had been spoken out loud or even in my head. But that single piece of paper spoke to me, telling me that it was okay. That this was to be how it would be. So in a few hours I was standing in my father's kitchen alone, knowing how I would do this.
I didn't study how to kill myself, either.
I had some ideas about it from a story I once read in a magazine. The point being that I knew that high places and guns and heavy drugs weren't really necessary. No. I just went down the hall from the kitchen into my father's bathroom in his big new house, opened up his medicine cabinet and took out all I knew I would need. It was a three dollar and fifty-nine cent bottle of aspirin. Microcoated and buffered. Really, this was going to be very simple.
That's what everybody would love to hear about. Everybody still is so interested in WHY I did it. And HOW. As though someone like me, who has been where I have is kin to a saint. Or a freak. Somebody who has seen things and been places no one else has. And yet, at the same time, a lot of people seem afraid of me. Afraid to know what I know, I guess.
It doesn't really matter, though, not now. Not anymore. Because what interests me now. What I don't just want to know but HAVE to know. NEED to know. DESPERATE to know, if you really want to get down to the skin and bones of this, is--now that I am still here. And well, DUH, that's pretty obvious. And everyone thinks that I am fine, doing okay really. I've always been good at faking it.
But how do I get back?
Thinking about those early days, I see my shoes, right there at the foot of the bed, my shoes. I would come home from the hospital where I would sit beside Bergin (why, why running through my mind like the drip from a broken faucet--and why had there been no clues? How could I, her own mother, not have known?) and I would lie down fully dressed, the toes of my shoes--black heels, plain pumps, or brown loafers, tennies, even--like splayed fenceposts on top of the bedspread. If I slept, I don't remember. It certainly wasn't sleep as I had known it. My body was a mannequin that I inhabited from eight to two, that I then laid down on the bed to be refueled.
When Bergin decided to take her life, she took mine too; but then, I guess that was partly the point. Before then we were certainly as severed and distant as two clocks keeping time in separate rooms. I attributed our difficulties to her being sixteen and me being premenopausal. (Lord knows--as everybody knows--hormones make the most dangerous minefield in the free world!)
But as the facts unraveled, as Bergin began to let go of them, and I began to enter Bergin's mind, see things the way she saw them--I saw myself. Our history was so messy, so unresolved. There are always multitudes of leftovers when you love someone and then leave that love, as I left Doug, Bergin's father.
Don't ask me about sorrow. Don't ask me what I know of my guilt. Because this is what I want to know, HAVE to know, find out somehow and soon: Where is Bergin's resilience now?
Excerpted from THE TURNING HOUR © Copyright 2002 by Shelly Fraser Mickle. Reprinted with permission by River City Press. All rights reserved.
The Turning Hour