Drama Horror Sad

This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

I remember the first time I wanted to die. I was nine years old and we were visiting my grandparents.

After dinner, my grandfather said he didn’t feel well and had to lie down in bed. They called for an ambulance. I sat on the window sill of his room and watched him while he lay there moaning. And I thought, “I guess this is what it looks like as death approaches.” And it seemed very pleasant and exciting.

Later on, when I started medical school, I found that I was fascinated by the cadavers in the anatomy lab. They all seemed so peaceful that I wondered what it would be like to lie down with them. There they were, just sleeping on table tops. Who knew what they were thinking or dreaming! It had to be better than remaining alive.

One night, I went down to the anatomy lab. No professors or students were there. After all, it was 3 AM. I turned on the lights in the lab and found an empty table and climbed up on it. There I lay, surrounded by cadavers, most of them partially dissected. The table was awfully cold, but even so, it seemed quite nice and peaceful.

I stayed only a few minutes, and then decided to go home. It was a pleasant experience except for two problems: the noxious odor of formaldehyde, which caused my eyes to burn and well with tears; and the sticky goo on the floor, which almost took off one of my shoes.

My thoughts about death seemed to come in waves. For long periods of time, for months, absence of those thoughts would give me a sabbatical, allowing me to enjoy a little of my life as most ordinary people do. But as regularly as the orbit of the Earth and the rising of the Sun, rumination about dying would invariably return.

I had never discussed my thoughts about death with anyone. It remained a quiet secret throughout most of my short life. But soon after my residency ended, an event occurred that brought it to the surface for all to see.

As an excellent medical student and resident, I had no shortage of offers of employment with local medical groups. Once my training came to an end, I was recruited by a large, successful internal medicine practice in my home town of East Rockaway, Long Island.

I approached my new job with savage enthusiasm, working like a slave on steroids. My associates were able to see only 20 or 25 patients in an average day. I saw more than 50. Patients had to be on time. If a patient showed up even 3 minutes late, I would refuse to see him or her. I would inform my medical assistant to reschedule them. In my view, an appointment for 2:00 pm meant 2:00 pm, not 2:03 pm. All my paperwork and accoutrements of the practice had to be in order. If my medical assistant didn’t have the chart on my desk in preparation for the patient visit, I would scold her for inadequate and lackadaisical work.

After I had worked in this medical practice for about 10 months, my two associates came into my office and asked to have a chat with me. They expressed their appreciation for my hard work, but said that they were frightened by my discipline and assiduousness. They told me that I was like an overly tightened spring or time bomb, and had to let me go. They recommended psychological counseling. I really hated them for that. Their opinions were so wrong. I was certain they were just jealous and intimidated. They weren’t half the doctor I was, and they knew it.

And to teach them a lesson, I decided to kill myself.

Deciding on the method of suicide was easy. I had access to lots of medication, and I had been stockpiling a few good ones just for this purpose. I set up 90 Valium tablets and 30 Morphine tablets in two small bowls on the kitchen table, right next to each other, and then poured myself a large glass of orange juice. I loved orange juice.

Taking the tablets had to be done in the proper order. It was three Valium tabs immediately followed by one Morphine, followed by a sip of orange juice. As the process continued, a certain rhythm developed. Three, one, sip; three, one, sip; etc. At the end, both bowls had to become empty at the same time. If there were an imbalance in the number of pills, it would have been horrible.

After swallowing the pills, I double-locked the front door, took the phone off the hook, and lay down for a “nap,” awaiting the inevitable feeling of peace and calmness.

As strange as this may seem, I woke up in a padded cell in a mental hospital. I don’t remember how it happened, but my parents related how they hadn’t heard from me in quite a while and couldn’t get in touch with me, so they called the police. The police broke down the door and found me deeply unconscious. I had been asleep for days, but somehow survived.

After this event, my secret was out. I was assigned a psychiatrist and began prolonged therapy. They even started me on medication; I believe it was an anti-depressant. But I assured the doctor that it wasn’t necessary. I wasn’t depressed.

My life seemed to settle down. Once I was discharged from the psych ward, I decided to start my own medical practice, right in East Rockaway, not far from the internal medicine group that let me go. I was determined to teach them a lesson.

It wasn’t long before my new medical practice was booming. Not only that, I met a wonderful woman, a dentist from a family of dentists, and decided to get married. She loved me and seemed able to tolerate all my little idiosyncrasies.

A good friend of mine, also a doctor, and who was the best man at my wedding, was dating a local girl from an Italian background. Even though he told me how he loved her, I believed she wasn’t good enough for him. I warned him, “You don’t want to eat hamburger! You want to dine on Chateaubriand!”

But after two years of marriage, my new wife became unhappy. She complained that I was too intense. She claimed that she couldn’t take it anymore. I begged her to give me another chance, but she told me that she was filing for divorce.

Don’t think I would let her get away with something like that. I was determined to teach her a lesson. I left several notes in the house, strategically placed so that she would definitely find them. After placing the notes, I drove over to my medical office, taking my 12-gauge shotgun and a bottle of vodka with me. I was sure to load the shotgun with buckshot. I considered loading it with turkey shot, but rejected the idea. Turkey shot might spread out too much and cause more of a mess than necessary.

I sat at my desk and downed a few jiggers of vodka while examining the shotgun and making sure the safety was in the off position. It’s not easy to aim a shotgun at yourself. The main problem is being able to pull the trigger when the gun is pointed at yourself. It’s just too far away to get a good grip. I considered pressing the trigger with my right great toe, but rejected the idea. I didn’t want to die without a shoe on.

I called my friend, the doctor who was dating that Italian girl. I told him, “I’m just getting a little numb right now. Just getting a little numb. Soon I’ll be at peace.” Unfortunately, he heard me rack the slide on the shotgun, and asked me, “What was that sound?”

I admitted to him that it was a loaded shotgun and that I was having some vodka. Then he said something really strange. He said, with alarm, “Oh, no! I just received a call on my cell phone that my father is in the emergency room. My mother says he had a serious heart attack. Steve, could I call you right back? Please stay right by the phone. I will need your advice on this. I am going to need you to recommend the best cardiologist. It sounds like he’s critically ill.”

I waited at my desk, and within about two minutes my friend called back, just as he said he would. He told me that, yes, his father was critically ill with a massive heart attack and might not survive. We immediately discussed the options. I mentioned that his father would very likely need an emergency cardiac angiogram. I recommended an interventional cardiologist at the hospital whom I believed was the best. And, suddenly, just then, there came a loud pounding on the door of my office.

From outside the front door, I heard, “Police! Open the door right now!” And then came the sound of a battering ram, smashing open the door on the first impact.

I screamed into the phone, “Did you call the police!? What’s wrong with you!?” And within a few seconds, I was restrained, on a gurney, on my way to a psych ward once again. Little did I know at the time that there were police snipers stationed all around the office, just in case I had decided to burst out of the door shooting. In retrospect, that might have accomplished my goal. I believe they call that “suicide by police.”

As circumstance would have it, I recovered from that event, and my wife decided to stay with me. I surmised my little maneuver worked quite well. I had had a strong feeling that such an expression of drama would convince my wife to back off from any thoughts of leaving me. I had a nice chuckle about that. And so, not only did we remain together, but we were eventually blessed with three beautiful children. My three daughters became the loves of my life. I was determined to do everything for them.

But, as you might have suspected, my marriage did not remain stable. My three girls were eight, five and two years old, and were beautiful and intelligent. We lived in an exceptional estate on the top of a hill on the north shore of Long Island. My wife did not want for anything. But she again told me she was unhappy and was going to file for divorce. I spent a long time thinking about that. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. Who could possibly want to abandon such a charmed life?

That night, I did not go to bed. I sat in my home office and wrote out several notes to leave around the house. Then, I went to my stash of meds that I kept in a secret compartment in my closet. I decided to use intravenous Valium this time. That method of delivery is faster and more certain. I started an IV in my left hand, hung the bag of Valium on a pole, and wheeled the entire apparatus into the garage.

I had just bought a new Cadillac, and couldn’t help admiring it as it stood in the garage. I cleaned and waxed the car frequently, at least once per week, so it always looked perfect. The magnificent white pearl finish shone like quartz under the fluorescent lights.

I brought in a bunch of towels with which I sealed any cracks along the edges of the garage door to make sure there was no way for oxygen to leak in. Once sealed, the garage became like a gas chamber, akin to the ones the Nazis used. I chuckled about how weird that must be to recreate a gas chamber so many years after World War II. But, I thought, one has to admit that it is effective.

I sat down in my new Cadillac, started the intravenous Valium drip, and turned the key. The Caddy started up with a soft hum and gurgle. And there I sat, for a few moments, until I felt woozy and sleepy. I soon lost consciousness and began to experience the peace I had sought all my life.

The following morning, the phone rang. My wife answered and heard a gentle male voice. While listening, she noticed that my side of the bed was still smooth and unruffled, suggesting that I had not come to bed that night. A sense of trepidation immediately arose in her.

“Hi, there, Rachel. It’s Dr. Jim Hamnoy. You know, the radiologist. Rachel, listen, we had a breakfast appointment with your husband this morning at 7:30. It’s now 7:45 and he’s not here yet. I know how insanely prompt he is. It’s not like him to be late to anything. So, I was just wondering if he’s there.”

My wife put down the phone and quickly looked around the house, but obviously no one was there. Our daughters were upstairs, likely still asleep. As she walked back towards the phone, she decided to check the garage, just to see if the car were still there.

When she opened the door to the garage, she immediately saw me sitting slumped over in the driver’s seat of the Cadillac. The car had run out of gas and was not running. She ran into the sealed gas chamber, screaming my name, “Steve! Steve!” But within 10 seconds, the garage became totally silent once again.

Just then, our five-year-old daughter came into the kitchen and picked up the phone and said hello. Dr. Hamnoy, who had heard my wife screaming, asked her if her mother was there. It was then that my middle daughter saw my wife lying on the floor of the garage alongside my Cadillac and myself. She ran into the garage screaming, “Mommy!” And then, there was total silence once again.

Hearing the commotion, my associate immediately called the police, and soon my family became national news.

I remember the headlines, saying, “Wealthy doctor, in despair, commits suicide, inadvertently kills wife and middle daughter.” The newspapers spelled out the entire tragic affair. “A successful physician, at the top of his profession, living in a beautiful mansion on the north shore of Long Island, with everything to live for, takes his own life. His wife and daughter also die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Fortunately, his other two daughters survived.”

So, in the end, I finally achieved what I had sought. But my peace was now ripped asunder by the deaths of my wife and daughter. Instead of the peace I had desired, I am now left with an eternity of despair and sorrow. If only I could have another chance at life, perhaps I would approach things differently. Now, I’m in hell. 

December 18, 2022 03:21

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Angela Pirozzi
02:12 Feb 10, 2023

Bruce, you have such a unique and lovely way of writing. Even though this story was a tad macabre, which is one of my favorite things, it was still articulate and spell binding. Love your stories.


07:01 Feb 10, 2023

Dear Angela, thank you so much. Macabre is definitely fun to write. I agree with you.


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Eileen Turner
20:29 Dec 24, 2022

You've done it again. No wonder I look for your stories. Suicide attempters are confusing - truly depressed/hopeless or manipulative? You can't always tell. As a nurse I was always assigned the attempters - fellow staff said I had the patience for them. Whatever the motive, to hurt yourself takes determination; consider the new diabetic trying to stick that insulin needle into his skin. But, the low gas volume in the car makes me think manipulative. Accidentally successful.


23:07 Dec 24, 2022

I don't think this guy was accidentally successful. This was his third attempt at suicide, and this time he used intravenous Valium. I think he meant it. But the frightening thing about this young man is that outwardly he did not appear depressed, and even told his psychiatrist that he wasn't depressed. Such profound mental illness is really difficult to deal with for doctors and for the people around such a person. Thank you so much for your nice comments!


Eileen Turner
01:03 Dec 26, 2022

You make a valid point. I once dealt with a patient who said all the right things, was due to be transferred out, then made another suicide attempt. No one saw it coming. (Almost said too much.) Like drug addictions, the families and others around the attempter suffer perhaps more than the person wishing to die. Is suicide forgivably desperate, or does it carry a cruel lack of concern for others and self-absorption? Both? Having been on the receiving end of: Why didn't I know? What should I have done? I should have helped. I failed that per...


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Helen A Smith
13:03 Dec 18, 2022

What I like is that you’ve approached a difficult topic in a unique way.


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Helen A Smith
12:35 Dec 18, 2022

What a story Bruce. You don’t go easy here! The narrator’s lack of awareness of himself and the effect his actions have on others stands out. He seems a very detached character. He appears to have everything and yet cannot see the point of being alive, death seeming to be the more peaceful option. On an existential level, it could be argued this is the case and his attitude is not unreasonable. Except, clearly there is much to live for (at least most of the time). I guess this is why people have profound religious beliefs to give life me...


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Wendy Kaminski
03:39 Dec 18, 2022

Powerfully expressive, twisted story from start to finish that will leave a lasting impression on me. He truly never seemed depressed; from the start, he wanted to die. His "punishment" for others' infractions was, in fact, to attempt get what he wanted in the first place. (And yet, as a professional, he continued to fail to achieve his dual goals every single time... until the last, of course.) It's an interesting, twisted logic that likely has many more layers in it that I've yet to dissect, but I wanted to bookmark this so that I could c...


23:09 Dec 24, 2022

Very interesting point! I guess they can hash that one out for eternity.


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