C.W.: Suicide ideation
The Choice Was Mine
By george Key
Standing naked with my toes curled around the precipice of relapse I stood poised to take that final big step. For years I considered such a move clearly somewhere between sacrilege and selfishly stupid. Yet, my perceived reality evinced such ideation as reasonably justifiable in my mind. A calmness came over me at the thought of finally being free. I could see no other way out of the darkness. I had extinguished my own candle of hope and found myself on the lonesome side of many burnt bridges. For over ten years I spiraled downward toward the flaming sewer lagoon where I belonged.
I had become one of the invisible people, by societal norms not worthy of breathing. My home was anywhere I ended up when the municipal buses quit running each night. My meals came not so fresh from the dumpsters and trash cans. The foul odor which became undetectable in time to me was reviewed as disgustingly rank by the real people. Real people had their act together, I did not. Quite frankly I could imagine there would never come the day in which I would rejoin the societal mainstream.
Continually harassed by police, attacked by juvenile gangs, and targeted by drunken passer-byes throwing rocks, bullets, and insults. Shallow taunts, pelting, nor those “ Vaw-Zzzzips” one hears in the ear when a bullet comes very, very close to one’s head, can none compared to that horror when awakened to the cold distinct smell of gasoline being poured over your sleeping carcass as fraternal pledgers attempt to earn their admission with the flick of a two for a dollar Bic lighter. One does not stop to ask, “Why”, however it seems mathematically negligent not to consider the statistical probability that I might deserve life when so many disagree.
It came down to simply choosing which bus to step in front of. Sitting on the edge of a cold steel bench ready to pounce at the downtown bus terminal, I scanned my choices. ”There must be some honor in this process”, so, I rationalized. Many of these drivers had proven to be empathetic members of humanity. Putting them through hours of incident reports, subsequent flashbacks, and night terrors would hardly be fair to them nor a righteous departure on my part from this living Hell. Some of these drivers routinely gifted to each passenger, unconditionally, that most economic form of kindness, a genuine smile.
Choosing the ideal executioner would not take long with buses converging here every five minutes from some part of town or another. It came to mind that perhaps the plight of 24,000 invisible individuals would be best served with the television news airtime granted if only I chose an express coach. Express coaches shuttled the upper crust worker bees to elitist corporate towers from their privileged nests upon the snob hill of gold. The express routes were deceptive tools designed by politicians. Those politicians left scars with their clown shoe carbon footprints as they secured votes of wealthy disinformed environmentalists. Express #109 pulled into the terminal. This was it. In thirteen minutes, it would be pulling out. That was the one. This was to be my last opportunity to pass something of value to my estranged daughter.
A posthumous insurance award to my surviving beneficiary would be denied if it was an apparent suicide. So, I gathered all my worldly possessions, quickly brushed my teeth, and headed for a spot where the bus would accelerate into traffic. Just then a Church van rolled in and seventeen teenagers poured out into the terminal. They all grabbed bottles of drinking water from a huge igloo cooler. My lips were cracked and bleeding from dehydration, yet my mouth began to water watching the ice-cold beads of condensation drip to the filthy concrete deck of the terminal platform. As the drips turned to drops bringing new life to the terminal deck sludge, I recall thinking even the ants today will be blessed by this Christian gesture of human kindness. I was impressed by the precision, well-choreographed planned disbursement of God’s will as is read, “If they are thirsty give them drink”.
One particularly radiant young woman fixed her eyes upon me. She saw me. I was no longer invisible. The gathering of moisture in my eyes created a halo highlighting her smile. She smiled from the inside outward. Her eyes twinkled with the hope of the most ominous midnight sun. Walking toward me she reached out to hand me a bottle of water. We both, without the invitation of spoken word, sat down next to each other. She reached into a fanny pack pulling out a handmade card. It was a colorful card with two glittery stars pasted on it.
Upon the card was an affirmation that read; “Things are tough right now but give it time; things will get better. You are important, you matter, and you are strong enough to face what life throws at you. Don’t lose hope and know that someone very special is looking out for you”. Hope gave new light to my broken spirit. The affirmation went on to read, “Proverbs 3:5-6; Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight”.
Huge salty tears trailed through my unbathed cheeks and found refuge in my unshaped beard. I’m certain my rank body odor would have offended the most dedicated custodian of any Southern California Interstate Five rest area, yet she showed no signs of judging herself superior to me. The message was clear to me that I needed to quit wasting my life. I am worthy. The necessity to reexamine my instilled core beliefs was now apparent. My existence will be of value; however, I must reset my mindset and move past the walls I perceive in my mind’s eye. Our visit was brief, yet one might rightfully say lasted a lifetime. We visited slightly longer than it took to consume an ice-cold bottle of water on a hot summer day. It was also long enough to reach down into the depths of my despair raising me up like the namesake of the city, from the ashes I rose like the phoenix. Resetting my mindset and being possessed by a passion to give back drove my objective to be of service to others struggling as I had been.
Empowered by the gift of choice, the choice to redirect my core=belief to a positive end was the true gift the young lady presented to me that day. Her kindness lifted my spirit and the affirmation in the message brought me the necessary hope to strengthen my faith. Determined to prove to myself that I was strong enough to persevere, humbly striving to be better, do better, I was able to move forward attaining multiple social work degrees necessary to forge my path that I might hopefully leave something better when my time here is up. The handmade card I held close to my heart referring to it often while still homeless. After securing a room to rent in the back of a mechanics shop it was pinned to my wall above my bed. Today I have my parchments all displayed on the walls of my apartment. I'm proud of those degrees; however, the handmade card that fueled hope for my worthy passion has its rightful place in a frame with my certificate of training in suicide prevention.