Trigger warning: suicide
I was out walking the dog when she did it. I came home to find her, gun in limp hand, blood spilling from giant hole in her head. Grey matter splattered out across the refrigerator doors, slowly slipping down toward the tile flooring.
“At least she did it on the tile,” I said.
Vitamin was sniffing her head, and I realized we were contaminating the scene. Quickly attaching the leash to his collar, I led him back down the hall, away from her lost battle with depression.
I went outside, where I couldn’t smell the rusty metallic scent filling up in the house. Sitting down on the front steps, the leash gripped in one hand, cell phone in the other, I called 911. Vitamin whined beside me, and I scratched his head, and the operator’s voice filled my ear.
I calmly explained the situation, and the man on the other end of the phone asked me to stay on the line with him while we waited for the appropriate officials to show up. We sat in silence for a while, and then the tears caught up to me, and I sat, sniffling and scratching Vitamin behind the ears, Dave’s breathing on the other end the only other sound.
“Had she been dealing with it for a long time?”
“Huh?” I pulled my glazed over eyes away from the tire swing across the street. “Oh.”
He repeated the question. I tried to picture Tiffany any way except the way that was flashing behind my eyes: blood pooling around open skull, brains sliding down the fridge doors. I thought of her smile, the way it rarely seemed genuine; her forced laugh and how it grated on me when we were out in public and she laughed at something she didn’t think was funny.
“Yeah,” I said after a moment. “She’s been depressed for as long as we’ve been together.”
“Did she mention feeling especially bad today?”
My brain felt like static. Shaking my head, I said, “No. She said she’d make breakfast while I walked our dog.”
Some clicks and clacks on a keyboard sounded off in my ear. “You weren’t home when she did it?”
“No, I was walking our dog, Vitamin.” I wound my hand around his leash a little, picking at the frayed end of the leash.
“Did she ever seek help?” I could hear him typing some more.
I stared at our dog; my ears intent on catching the sirens any second now. Maybe she was still breathing, I hadn’t checked, and I had told him she was dead. Had she sought help? She’d been in and out of therapy, on and off pills of all kinds. Was that seeking help?
“Sir, are you there?”
I cleared my throat and wiped my eyes quickly. “I guess so. She did therapy and took pills sometimes. She was doing yoga and energy stuff.”
More typing. “The medics should be there any moment.”
Sirens rang out through the surrounding area. Relief and nerves coiled together and only allowed half the tension in my body to lessen. “I hear them.”
“Good.” He typed a bit more, and I just listened to his even breathing. How could he stay so calm?
I wiped cheeks again, already wet a second time from continued tears. I stood up and flagged down the driver of the ambulance. “They’re out front now.”
We hung up after a few moment seconds of him asking a couple more questions. I realized they would assume I’d done this until they could tell with absolute certainty that I had not been involved with it.
I ran my hand through my hair and wondered if she’d left a note, saying it wasn’t my fault, because we used to joke so much about how they always thought it was the husband first. I showed the medics to Tiffany, and when I went back outside, there was more traffic. Two police officers and some people I didn’t know but looked official were with them.
My stomach tensed. I felt my consciousness float up and out of my body as I watched myself interact with these strangers, shaking hands, answering questions, gripping Vitamin’s leash, thankful he was being friendly and welcoming instead of growling and overprotective. My head felt numb.
The front door opened. They rolled her out on the stretcher, but I couldn’t see her. A black zipped up bag covered her. More tears slid down my face. I could hear the men and women in suits and uniforms speaking, and I knew they were speaking to me, but it felt incomprehensible. I’d forgotten language.
Suddenly, one of them was gripping my arm and lowering me on to the front porch steps. Several of them stepped around me, walking through my front door. One stayed with me.
The man who stayed with me kept talking, but all I could understand was that his mouth was moving. I shook my head and Vitamin nudged my knee. I placed a hand on his head and scratched. A loud ringing in my ears cancelled out even his familiar whine that usually accompanied the gentle nudge he was giving me. I shut my eyes and breathed for a moment, still unable to recognize language.
“Sir, can you hear me?”
Opening my eyes, I found tissues in front of my face; it was a box from inside our house. I grabbed it and set it beside me. Getting one out, I blew my nose and balled the used paper into my fist. His eyes stayed on me the entire time.
“Can you answer my questions now?” He had a notepad in hand, pen at the ready.
I swallowed and shook my head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear what they were.”
“That’s okay, I’ll repeat them.”
We worked our way through his list of questions slowly; people came in and out the front door while I did my best to answer everything. I wondered again and again if I should get a lawyer. I made mental note of Vitamin’s stellar behavior, silently promising him a giant treat later, assuming I didn’t get arrested for my wife’s suicide.
After what felt like a thousand questions, he asked if we could go inside, and that was what broke me. I pushed Vitamin aside gently and threw up in the bush next to me.
He coughed and took a step or two away from me and the fresh addition to the front yard. I wiped my mouth and blinked a couple times, taking deep inhales and exhales. I stood up and pulled Vitamin away before he could start trying to investigate my leavings.
“I don’t think I can go in there.” I felt my eyes running again. I blinked, but the tears were already there. I patted my face with my shirt sleeve.
The officer glanced at the front door and then at the circus at the edge of the front lawn and in the driveway. He shook his head.
“We have to go in.”
I sighed and nodded.
We stood just inside the front door. I pointed to the hall. “This hall leads to the kitchen where I found her.”
“And where do you keep the gun safe?” He was ready to scribble down my answer.
“What?” I frowned. “Upstairs. Why? What’s that matter?”
“We have to fingerprint it.”
“Oh.” I nodded. “Okay. Yeah, it’s upstairs. In the bedroom, under the bed. Right side.”
He wrote that down and then we went over several other things, he asked more and more questions. Finally, he started asking about what our last fight had been about, whether she’d seemed especially upset this morning. And again, I wondered if I needed a lawyer.
I answered every question, the best I could, trying to remember every detail.
After another dozen questions, I cleared my throat. “I didn’t do this. Just so we’re clear. I know you have to ask these questions, but I wasn’t home. This dog and I were out taking a walk, that she told us to go out and take.”
He sighed. “Right, son. This is just procedure. I’m sure you didn’t do anything, but we have to follow the rules.”
I chewed on my lip. “Should I get a lawyer?”
“Only if you feel like making this more difficult for all of us.” His pen was at the ready; his eyes on me. “You want a lawyer, kid, or are you going to work with us?”
I held his gaze, rolling my tongue over the grooves of my teeth; my jaw tightened. I blew air out of my nose hard and quick. “She killed herself. She’s wanted to do it for a long time, and I begged her not to for years. I guess my pleading was finally just not enough anymore. I want to go mourn my wife without an interrogation. Is that too much to ask? What else do you want me to say?”
We made our way back outside, where there was a lot of conversing going on between the medics and the people in suits and the other officer. The one with me headed over to them. I started to follow, but he stopped me.
“I need you to stay there, all right?” He pointed to spot far enough away from the bushes that I wouldn’t have to smell it again.
I did as he asked with Vitamin panting lightly at my side. Every few moments, they’d throw a glance in my direction. I wondered what Tiffany had done to make this process so difficult. Maybe she had left a note that said it wasn’t my fault, maybe they thought I’d written it or had forced her to write it. I groaned; clutching my stomach again, I bent over and waited for whatever judgement they were over there deliberating.
The one who had stayed with me, walked over, another officer in tow. His hand already edging toward his handcuffs.
“Tiffany, if they’re about to ask me to go down to the station with them, who will take care of Vitamin?” I whispered, looking up to the sky as if she would answer.
My eyes watered again; I crouched down and hugged Vitamin, holding on to his brown fur, wishing it was Tiffany’s warm embrace instead.