Rock Bottom R Kennedy-Escott

Trigger Warning: Attempted Suicide

My eyes flicker open. It takes me a minute to remember where I am, and what I've done. I can feel the cocktail of co-codamol and vodka that I washed down a few hours ago tearing my insides apart. The pain in my stomach is excruciating, like a wild tomcat is trying to claw its way out.

I roll onto my side quickly, as the contents of my knotted stomach burns its way up to my throat. I struggle to swallow but manage, somehow, to push it back to the pit from which it came. I pull the duvet over my clammy face and scream into the softness as tears and snot join together in a sticky fusion.

The room starts spinning as I pull myself out of bed and into the bathroom. I try to kick the door closed behind me but it doesn’t catch the latch. I retch a few times over the toilet, trying hard not to expel the bile and waste the effort I put into this. I continue heaving while my surroundings fade in and out of view. The taste in my mouth changes from bitter to bland, as my senses grow dull and disorientated.

I hear my housemate's footsteps climbing the stairs at speed and her voice pierces my ears as she calls to me before she’s even seen me crunched up on the bathroom floor.

‘What’s going on, are you okay?’ she asks, her tone changing from disgruntled to concerned in a flash as she pushes the bathroom door to a stop.

‘Sorry,’ is all I manage, as the word scratches its way out of my throat. She tells me she’ll leave me to it as she leaves the bathroom and walks into my bedroom next door.

I hear a rustling. A gasp. A few swear words. And she’s back.

‘What the fuck have you done?’ she shouts at me, her voice wavering. I can’t tell if it's in anger or fear, and I refuse to look at her to find the answer. I hear her footsteps on the stairs again, followed by muffled voices which I can only presume is her telling her boyfriend what I’ve done. I wipe my mouth with a flannel that’s warm and rough after a night on the heated towel rack. I use all the energy I have to try and stand, but my legs are weak and heavy and unable to support the weight of all that I am, so I crawl back to my bedroom. I don’t have the strength to pull myself into bed, so I grab my pillow and cover my face with it, trying to ignore the blur of reality with the blackout of the now damp cotton.

I don’t know how much time passes as I drift in and out of sleep.

Or consciousness.

I’m not really sure which it is that keeps pulling me into darkness.

Eventually my housemate is back, and I can feel her struggling to squeeze a pair of trainers onto my feet. She grabs both of my hands and pulls me up to barely a stand, and I stumble with her downstairs. I can’t ask her what she’s doing, or where we are going, all of my energy is focused on not falling down into a heap as my legs tremble beneath me.

I’m in the car now, unsure of how I got here or how long we’ve been driving. We are pulling into a carpark. We come to a stop and I wait patiently for my housemate to open the passenger door. She slips her neck under my arm and scoops me out of the car. This time my legs refuse to cooperate and they buckle as soon as my feet touch the tarmac. I can hear shouts for help, and now I’m being lifted into a wheelchair and pushed quickly into the building, which I now realise is a doctor's surgery.

‘What happened?’ I hear the doctor ask as soon as my wheelchair jolts to a stop, which sends my stomach into motion, as if a carnival man is whirling a waltzer too fast, despite screaming for him to stop. I try to open my mouth and tell her I'm fine, but all that comes out is a cough of bile. Someone standing next to me, a nurse I think, instinctively shoves a cardboard bowl under my chin to catch the acidic vomit.

Through the cloudy film that covers my eyes, I watch as my housemate hands the doctor the empty tablet packets and I silently curse myself for not hiding them better. I see my housemate's mouth moving but her words don’t seem to reach my ears. I watch as the doctor’s face turns a striking rhubarb colour. She’s shouting now, at my housemate, at the nurse, and at me. But I'm too tired to even try and make out what she’s saying, so I decide to close my eyes for a little while.

I squint as I open my eyes to a bright light and quickly realise I’m in an ambulance. A thin, blue blanket is wrapped around my body and I’m instantly annoyed when I can feel it bunched up and digging into my bum cheek. I have no energy to move it and instead turn my head to look at my housemate. She’s on the phone, and her eyes light up as she notices I'm awake. She reaches out and places the phone to my ear. It’s my mum. She’s shouting. She sounds angry, and I let her think I’m listening intently as I let my mind sink into the cloud that is enveloping it.

The blanket is pulled off me and I feel relieved as I'm helped into yet another wheelchair. I am being wheeled through corridor after corridor and with each turn of the corner I can feel the contents of my stomach crawl closer and closer to the surface; another cardboard bowl is placed in my hands and I try hard to grip it with my shivering fingers. After what feels like an age travelling through a labyrinth, I’m parked up in a small seating area and I can feel the eyes of half a dozen strangers staring at me. I distract myself from my watchful audience by trying not to slip back out of consciousness, but my chin keeps dropping to my chest every ten seconds or so, and my eyes are struggling to stay open. The only thing that seems to waken my mind is when more bile and vomit launches itself from my mouth and into the cardboard bowl, which is now filling up at an alarming rate, so much so that I have to grip it tightly to make sure not to spill anything.

Eventually I am wheeled into a curtained cubicle, where I’m lifted into a bed by strange arms. Various wires are attached to me. Normally I would protest to the male doctor pulling my t-shirt up without my consent, but I can’t bring myself to fight so I turn my head to the side and try to ignore what is happening. I see my housemate again, she looks anxious and worried. I feel a wave of guilt run through me as I realise this must be scary for her. I really didn’t think she would care so much. She turns to the doctor and I can tell she is trying to talk quietly but her voice travels loud and clear around the small cubicle.

‘Do you know how long this will take?’ she asks the doctor; whose eyebrows raise at the question. ‘I need to get ready for work.’

The doctor stares at her for a moment, and just as he opens his mouth to speak, I use all the energy I have to answer her myself.

‘Just go,’ I can hear my voice cracking as I speak, ‘I’ll be fine.’

I close my eyes again and let the noises from the room and the ward beyond the paper-thin curtain bleed into my ears. I hear her say a quiet goodbye, which is followed by a light breeze as she leaves through a closed curtain.

I wish I’d done a better job.

I feel a pressure behind my eyes, then tears start to slide down my face. I can’t be bothered to wipe them. I can’t even stop crying when I’m taken to a ward, where I’m joined by a kind woman who's tasked with keeping an eye on me.

I keep crying silently for hours, until my mum appears in the room. She wraps her arms around me and whispers ‘I love you’ into my ear. I finally feel a weight lift from my chest, because my tears suddenly hurt a little less now they are landing on someone else’s shoulder.

Selected: 24th Short Story Contest
Published in Issue #30

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