My Favorite Failures

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I’d been out of the mental ward four days when I opened my throat on the left side, going for the jugular but I guess just cleaving through lesser veins on the way to it. After a debridement surgery weeks later, the surgeon had told me there were definite scratches and thin gouges on the artery, but all the veins around it got it way worse. I’d used a box cutter—wasn’t the best piercing tool. Hey, it was the only thing in my room, and not leaving that room was sort of the point. Not leaving in my body, anyway. At the time, I was so disappointed and mad at myself that I’d gotten to the jugular, only to fuck up by slicing everything but that. Typical me.

That was the first and last time I got that far the blood way. Fuck the blood way. I’d lost a lot of it, don’t get me wrong—almost enough—but I came-to early the next morning and my body, sheets, and hardwood floor were covered in dried blood. It had congealed in and around my foot prints from the mirror I’d used to help me make the right cuts, to the bed I’d collapsed onto. I wasn’t supposed to come-to. Disappointed and even more desperate to succeed, I’d showered then used first aid stuff to bandage my neck, cleaning the gaping swollen wound. I didn’t want to be caught before I could do what I felt I had to do. I put on clean clothes, snuck out of the house without waking up my roommates, and walked to the nearest BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station.

At the BART station, I’d tried to convince myself to jump in front of a train. About seven times I got up, walked to the edge, and watched the oncoming train speed toward me… Couldn’t do it. Harder than I’d thought it would be. The blood had just spurted and flowed out, and I’d expected to just fade away on the bed. Those trains would do a lot more damage, and I still might live. I decided to have a smoke up at street level before trying to work up to it again. During that cigarette—and you can’t laugh at this… or, maybe that’s the best thing you could do—I decided that smoking could be my reason to live. I think that was my survival instinct desperately searching for something to get its job done, so at the time I decided I could live for smoking—but only if I didn’t have to be myself.

I slept out on the waterfront across from a MUNI streetcar graveyard for a handful of days, eating too much Jack in the Box for the iron and fat to refill my blood supply, and drinking myself unconscious at night. Oh, and smoking—always smoking. It sounds so selfish and horrible probably—since at that point I’d been reported missing after my poor close friend and roommate had finally looked in the room I’d left all bloody—but I even entertained myself, like I really was just living as someone else. I’d bought a copy of DUNE at a used bookstore because I’d always loved the Lynch movie version, and read it by the water at a concrete lunch table—finished it in Hollywood at a park a few days later (longer story). Great book. I even went to see Final Destination in a theater downtown, and what a fun coincidence that was—during the scene where the teacher’s neck is penetrated by glass exploding from a monitor and she starts bleeding profusely after pulling it out, I got jealous. Jealous. She didn’t even die from that, but I was still jealous of her copious arterial flow.

Later came the hangings—once even with shoestrings on a tree in a canyon, after I’d fled another psych ward. Funny thing is, I’d gotten the idea to try with shoestrings when they’d taken them out of my shoes in the locked ward. I’d played nice long enough to get to the ‘unlocked’ ward, and they’d given them back to me. So of course that’s what I did with them once I ran away. After the strings snapped the thick tree branch I’d chosen off and I regained consciousness, I’d had to use my lighter to pop the string apart and it left a deep red mark around my neck for a couple days. Once, and I think this time I was even closer to succeeding than the blood time, I did it with a belt in a garage. Everything faded out—almost had what I wanted… Woke up flat on the garage floor with a split eyebrow and a mouth full of blood and bits of my broken teeth. I was so disappointed.

A different time, I’d bought a big, mean-looking knife to try it the blood way again. Climbed up a mountain above a cemetery town south of San Francisco. Drank a bunch of cheap alcohol and tried to push the knife into my neck, and deep enough this time. Couldn’t do it. It was a different feeling driving me that time. So I just lived on the mountain for a while, kind of like the MUNI graveyard. I’d go into town to a grocery store nestled in among the big cemeteries and buy more cheap alcohol. Ate at a Mr. Pickle’s sandwich shop, hoping no one would smell my body odor from weeks without showering. Back up on the mountain, I’d try to drink enough to convince myself to jump off this tall BART station parking garage in the cemetery town. I’d just pass out and wake up with that stupid knife glaring at me—ditched it by a dumpster near the grocery store on my way to get more roof-jump juice.

After all that, there was a half-baked, extended attempt period where I tried—I shit you not—to starve myself. I’d leave wherever I was staying and lie in the closest canyon or big ditch I could find on the dirt and rocks amidst the brush, and just ruminate on how awful and worthless I was and such, occupying my thoughts for several days at a time until the hunger and thirst became too great. Then I would go through trash cans at night or unhook people’s lawn hoses and get my fill. Or beg old, dear friends for money for food and smokes. One of the very dearest would pull money out of a tip jar where he was working and give me cash… Those friends must’ve thought I was addicted to some amphetamine or something—nope, just wasting away from my ridiculous attempt to overpower my mind and body and not consume enough to continue breathing. Then I’d eat, hate myself for doing so, and keep starving myself again until I’d venture back out into the world several more days later. I put myself—and my rightfully worried, tortured loved ones—through this pitiful, ridiculous cycle for about six months. Obviously, that didn’t work either.

None of that shit worked. I was really bad at killing myself. Slight miscalculations and gaps in my knowledge of biology, physics, and the power of the body to affect the mind had led to me being trapped here. Imprisoned in pulsing, rotting, stupid, beautiful, bleak, absurd, precious, pointless meat space. I’m not going to lie and say I changed my mind on any of that… but I’m still here. For better or worse. How I got through it, clawing and climbing back up from the edge of the gaping, jagged maw of the Bottomless is a different story. This one was about how close I came to succeeding at something I shouldn’t have wanted to succeed at.

I am a (formerly reluctant) survivor.

I am a survivor.

I survived.

Still here.

Gonna stay a while.

These were My Favorite Failures.

pml

[ written for an anthology about suicide, but wasn’t accepted. so it goes. ]

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