The Faded Sun
“Was it your voice or another voice that told you to kill yourself?” the stranger asked.
“My own voice,” I whispered from a mouth I could no longer feel.
I brought myself forward in a chair, a purposeful push, only to prove to myself I could move, that my brain synapses fired. I nodded solemnly in the direction of a blank white space. There was a stain in the high corner. I was unable to focus, unable for the first time to pretend. I had always been able to follow someone, to take the cue from the people around me. Here I could not. Here, though I was clothed, I was stripped naked, paralyzed with the thought that there were no answers.
From across the room my husband stirred his body, first to the left and then to the right, needing to get comfortable in a room with no comfort. Pen in hand, the woman with the questions, appearing thoughtful and serious, balanced her clipboard on one leg. Once again my husband moved, taking the chair with him, as he tilted and then rebalanced. I was long used to him, to his motions. I knew what they meant. I could read him like the time, like a sailor could read the wind. He was turning, shifting to the outer part of his thoughts, trying to unscramble what had been left to sizzle in a hot pan.
In the early years, I had expected my husband to change, for his patience to falter, for his colors to transform. But he hadn’t. He’d remained steadfast, dedicated, concerned, serious. And what was I but the quake bringing the waves?
Without wanting to, without deciding to, I whispered, “I’m sorry,” taking in an ache ten-fold with each syllable. The stranger across the room, I imagined she was someone else. I turned her into a person I knew, someone with a face I could read. I stared past her, washing her out like the old faded print of the pastel sunset above her, led my eyes upward into the still glass frame.
“What did the voice say?” she asked.
“To end it all—to stop trying to hold it all together—to give up—to finally do it.”
With narrowed eyes, the lady beneath the faded sunset moved her pen again. “What happened next?”
My husband’s thin lips pressed together. He fingered the arm of his chair in a circular motion. I became still in thought, unable to think clearly. Something was slipping away—pride, pretense, normalcy. Everything inside me collided. Somewhere beyond I heard a roaming echo. “I was on the freeway and had a strong desire to drive into oncoming traffic. I called my husband and I told him…” Here my voice cracked. Here my heart sped. “… and I told him, I wanted to die.”
A silence sat in the room, nodding for me to continue.
Despite the claustrophobic heat, I shivered. Despite the encroaching numbness, I ached. I lowered my head and continued. This time the words came faster. Not high-speed, but above normal, above where I wanted them to be. “I didn’t know what to do, so I drove to our family doctor and fell apart. I feel down onto my knees. Told him I couldn’t go on like this anymore that I needed something to end the pain. Then I begged him to kill me. I screamed at the top of my lungs, ‘Please kill me!’ It was the endless voices…the wanting to be good enough…the needing to be accepted…the constant sense of failure. I couldn’t do it anymore. Not one more day.” A warm tear slithered down my cheek, and then another and another, until I could no longer count.
The silence in the room left, now there was only my heartbeat, and the knowing that I did not want to look up—not now, not ever. Curling my body inward was not possible. I was already turned. So instead I tucked my tired eyes into my lap.
My husband was staring out at the faded picture now. My eyes went empty. A cold shudder splintered down my spine. I remembered I held a tissue, remembered it was still there, and led my hand to my nose, pressing the pink to my skin, breathing in the scent of something that did not come from this place.
“Samantha,” the woman addressed me gently. “I am going to ask you some more questions about your history. Can you do that?”
And here the room laughed, at least I thought it did, came alive like my distant haunted duplex: Her history? Her history? Ha!
“It’s complicated,” I heard myself say. I managed to curl my lip and attempt a smile, thinking the smile was the right thing to do. But I didn’t want to do anymore. I just wanted to be without thinking about what to do.
The woman wrote down more in her blue ink. After a page of scribed sorrows, she looked up. “You know it is very unusual for a person with your history to not have become an addict or ended up in some type of serious trouble.”
Sniffling, I nodded
“What do you think made you strong?”
I twisted the tissue in my hand and looked out, searching into her blue-gray eyes. “God,” I answered.
“You have a strong faith then?”
I thought about the question and then the tears came faster. “Not anymore,” I whispered. “Not anymore.”