By Graham Danzer
Jenealle blinks heavily in the sunlight after a virtual eternity in the darkness. The darkness of the waiting room at a local psychiatric hospital where she had been sitting anything but patiently, yet holding onto her seat in line for dear life, afraid of what she might do to herself if she left. Jenealle had spent longer then she could remember, lost in herself. She is really in a world of her own—eyelids heavy from lack of sleep without the energy to climb into bed and tears in long painful drops that never seemed to end.
Remembering the days that she felt better after crying, Jenealle smiled bitterly to herself. She now tried not to cry for fear she might never stop. She had finally mustered the resolve to do something about it. Tired of being tired, she decided in a fell swoop to do away with herself, to end her life. The thought was almost romantic. Not so much leaving and never coming back as being relieved of the suffering that had swallowed her whole. There was a dark cloud hanging somewhere over her head and there seemed no way out. This dark cloud had been with her longer than she cared to remember. There is a feeling of lifelessness as she woke up in the morning, only to awake to the same pain she longed to sleep away. The better days she could remember were when she lay immersed in a drunken stooper, eventually drifting off to sleep, grateful for the escape it afforded her. But the escape was always tenuous, and it never lasted. She would awake to the same self she had tried to drink and sleep away. Gloomy, angry, lost, somewhere between life and death. Death . . . the thought was relieving.
The pick-me-up this brought her led her to say more to her boyfriend Jason then she had planned to. In the earlier stages of her darkness, she resisted saying anything. She knew that if he knew what she knew about herself, he would think of her as being as pitiful and weak as she knew herself to be. She cared what he thought of her. And at the end of every day, she loved him. She loved him as much as she hated herself. He was hope, he was safety, he was comfort. He was the only part of her that was still alive.
Though she fought hard to be something more then nothing, for him at least, one night the words just seemed to tumble out. She barely recalled saying them. Often when she spoke, the energy required to speak drained the life out of her as quick as he gave it back to her in even some of her darkest hours. But the thought of killing herself and ending her pain, and his burden, sounded appetizing. She almost wanted to share this glory with him, this fatal attraction. But his face betrayed no such admiration. Rather, Jason was terrified. His eyes turned wide and his movements frantic. We need to get you some help! Jenealle had seen those hospitals before, their never-ending white hallways, fat nurses and shapeless zombies wandering aimlessly in open-backed gowns, drooling from medication and slumped from the loss of the will to go on. But she would go for him, and if not for him, for nowhere better to go and without the will to commit suicide.
Jenealle could rarely find reasons to going on. After leaving the forbidding waiting room of the psychiatric hospital, she couldn’t think of any. She stood blinking in the sunlight staring off into a blank spot in the sky, not entirely bright, though her eyes burned with sensitivity. Not sleeping despite being overwhelmingly tired made her every bone ache, her senses aroused. The wind bit with icy teeth, the dim, 5 o’clock sky overhead seemed to blast her with white rays, the smell of despair assaulting her nostrils.
She had just gotten done with sitting in that waiting room for hours on end. Those nurses with their name tags and smiling pictures bustling past her, an occasional psycho shouting at the wall, the police twice dragging a kicking and screaming mess of humanity down an endless hallway until the screams drowned out into whispers. Jenealle watched one after another, go in and out. Some admitted, others turned away. This place seemed so forbidding. So scary. It confirmed many of her worst nightmares. But she had promised Jason. The pain she had caused him was intolerable. God she hated herself. But she didn’t have the energy to get out of that hard plastic chair and to go through with it, to leave and to end it once and for all.
Something just wouldn’t allow her to. When her number was called from the just passing triage desk, Jenealle timidly approached her interrogation in wait. A woman, short and plump in words and appearance, rattled through a million questions. Jenealle’s mouth answering quicker then her mind could formulate the answers. Her darkness made time slow and methodical. But the whole time she felt like this woman was set on proving her wrong, despising her and calling her a faker. Jenealle already felt miserable. Little could be worse then feeling miserable and having to go through this. She just wished the whole thing could be over. But like her dark cloud, it never seemed to. Then all too suddenly it did.
“Sorry miss, you don’t have a specific plan to kill yourself so you can’t be admitted, plus with the city budget cuts, we don’t have as many beds as we used to. Here’s a list of all the clinics in the city. You should go to one and see if they can help you. NUMBER 19?” Jenealle batted her eyes in perplexion. That was it? She breathed a heavy sigh to herself, looking down at the mass of names, addresses and phone numbers on what felt like a dictionary she had been given. It made no sense and felt heavy in her sweaty palm. Where was she supposed to go? What was she supposed to do? What did it matter anyway?
Jenealle crumbled it into her pocket as she returned to the world she knew. Down the steps and onto the pavement. Never had she felt so forgotten, so unwanted. Everything came to her at once. Pain, anger, fear, sadness, she couldn’t tell one from another. But they all hurt so much. As she blinked in the dim light, her senses caught on fire. She tasted a salty tear that had fallen down her cheek. Where did that come from? Passing cars some 20 yards away on the street seemed to blare in her ears. And the light from the vast, darkening sky seemed blinding. Blind, deaf, and dumb. Not even wanted by the crazy house, she thought to herself. I should just do it. . . do it . . . do it . . . the thought lingered long in her mind. Never had it seemed more seductive.
Note: Graham Danzer is a writer who lives in San Francisco. Mr. Danzer also holds a master’s degree in Social Work. He is our new staff writer.
Also see The lacerating cry of Gina: eternal prisoner of the State and of her own state of mind