The Way You Die Trying

Elizabeth Brei


You’re not unfamiliar with the concept of suicide.


The idea has bounced around your head several thousand times in the past several years, several hundred of those thoughts circling in the past two or three months. And it’s not really that you’d ever go through with it, or even try, because you’re both a coward and an unyielding believer in hope. You’re not sure which more effectively keeps you from trying, but you suppose you should be grateful.


You still have moments full of smiles, and he still sends you text messages full of capital letters and zealous little smiley faces. They help. They do. You don’t exist in a black pit of despair. You actually figure that in some ways, you’re really lucky, even when words turn sour between you and you almost feel empty to the point of floating away.


You spend a lot of time curled up in a chair in front of your TV, reading until your brain slides liquid with words that make you hate yourself because you aren’t the one who wrote them. Sometimes, you prop a notebook on your knee, breathe sentences onto the paper that stab harsh, like you’re carving them into your skin, and the feeling is so ironic, of catharsis and entrapment, and often, you tear the pages out with a sound like agony, and the ache in your limbs leaves you paralyzed.


Sometimes, you try to explain the feeling to him, like everything is slowly lifting off the ground and out of your reach, and you’re left with nothing but dirt. You describe the hot hate carving itself into your chest, and he tries to understand, but he can’t because his whole life is unfolding in front of him, beautiful and bright, so he holds you in against his side and murmurs things that are supposed to help, that are supposed to comfort you or offer ways out, and all you can hear is nothing.


You drop him off at work on the days he thinks you’re going stir-crazy spending your life being his housewife, and you have access to this little red Toyota with its high-powered air-conditioner and auxiliary plug for your iPod, and you don’t know where you want to go, so you get on the interstate, and you drive with your foot heavy like lead on the gas, and it’s a wonder you don’t get pulled over. For once, now, you feel like there are possibilities, that the future is not one narrow existence you see through a tunnel – not a life spent waitressing or cleaning or simply existing for the sake of existing.


When your fingers are curled around that black steering wheel, and the stereo’s up loud, you feel something – something – and the whole world doesn’t seem so dark. You drive straight on west, and you’re not even sure why that’s the direction you choose. The stereo pumps loud through you, and you scream the lyrics to every single song and pretend that God can hear you if you sing loud enough. All you get is a raw throat, and each swallow feels like a wash of salt water against it.


At the soft feeling of expense that comes with the tears and the words that aren’t yours, you feel slowly numb, like your blood has come to crawl through your veins, a vague ba-dum of your heart, and the music still plays loud, but you don’t hear it so much anymore. The car rumbles lovingly beneath you, around you, and the security you find in this little grey box is unrivaled by anything else, and the tears build in your throat first and blur you into some vague unreal place.


The car offers another whole possibility then, and you think about it. You swirl it in your brain – your position in the right lane, how easy it would be to swerve left, spin your car. You close your eyes for a moment, listen for the squealing tires, the honking horns, maybe the screams or sobs or the whirling sirens of the police car that happens to drive by as it happens. You imagine the call he will get, and you wonder if he will cry. He doesn’t cry often. He accepts most things with a clinical reality, and you know it helps him to be able to do what he needs to do to continue existing. You hope he will cry.


But none of those things happen, because you are a coward, and your hands stay steady on the wheel. At five o’clock, you will pick him up from work, and he will kiss your cheek. You will ask him how his day was, and you won’t know if his smile is the cause of your cowardice or your hope.

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