The night my son tried to kill himself, I was dreaming of my own life without him.
It was the middle of the night, and my eyelids were so far into REM sleep, they were fluttering in response to a make-believe world in which he did not exist. A world in which I was still entirely myself. A world in which I was carefully listening to every single of piece of music that came my way, giving credence to every poet and author who appeared before me, and a world in which I was still making way for art and growth and experience and wild abandon. A world where I was still beautiful, still relevant, still alive.
And then, something jerked me upwards until suddenly and without any apparent reason, my eyes were forced open, to focus on the one thing that laid before me: My stupid fucking cell phone, previously silenced. It babbled at me with its glaring announcement that I had a missed a call from a girl I cared for who wouldn’t ever call me in the middle of the night unless it was serious. But I closed my eyes anyway. I closed them and had the world’s stupidest thought, which was: “She’s probably just calling because some dramatic thing has happened between herself and a boy or something.” And I tried to soothe myself with that thought, until I couldn’t soothe it any longer, because I knew her, and I knew something had happened, and that The Thing That Happened was not something that i was allowed to ignore. And so I replied with a text, lazy in my intuitions. She responded immediately. And what came next resulted in me bounding out of bed like everything around me had been set on fire, gone up in engulfing flames in a split second. And then I was at his door, and I wasn’t even knocking first, and I was asking him, in a voice that was not my own, “what did you take? How many?” And the answer was quickly interpreted into my own mathematical equation of “60.” That solution kept pounding through my skull, like some sort of tribal beat until I could relay it moments later to a 911 operator who seemed bored. “60 pills. 60 of them. 60, 60, 60.”
The professionals did even faster calculations, in milligrams, and came upon a number that immediately halted them to a snail-like pace, one that was agonizing to me.
There was no siren. There was no emergency. There were calm voices, men in uniform trudging through my home, pushing away blankets and debris on the floor with their heavy black boots as they sauntered through and all I could think was, “how embarassing that it’s such a mess in here.”
There were rough men asking “why why why” and all I could think was “Why does it MATTER?”
And then there was movement. Mine, and everyone else’s, and I was following closely behind an ambulance, until we had arrived at a hospital that was supposed to give me calm, give me hope, give me something different.
I raced to his room, yelling at people younger than me in administrative positions to “open the fucking door” and then snarling at everyone else to “tell me what room.”
And then I got close, and I reminded myself to breathe, and I walked in calmly, with a face and a disguise no one ever taught me how to create. And what greeted me in that tiny room, was my baby. The first one, the one human being in the entire universe that I learned to love more than myself, in a way that has been so fierce that at times, it has frightened me. And when I looked, I could only see that small, tender boy, with a head full of white-blonde hair and clear, soft skin, in a portable bed that he did not belong in.
Today, after months of acute hospitalizations and anti-psychotics and words that I never expected would be part of my vocabulary, I think back to that moment, when I arrived at his room, in a filthy hospital that did not deserve him. And all I can see are his long dark lashes, his big blue eyes, full of pain and anguish, and how they looked at me with the only apology I would ever receive.
And today, I have learned how to be still and quiet and remember that moment, that first glimpse of my baby in the most horrific pain any of us can imagine. And I know now, unequivocally that my life, under any scenario, was never meant to be lived without him. That being graced with his presence has been proof enough to me that God exists. It has been proof to me over the last 18 years that I helped create something amazing, and purposeful, and beautiful. And that dirty hospital? It doesn’t get to have him. Not now, not this way, not ever.