By Daniel Hendrikx
I kick in the door, the wood splintering underneath my heel, and the doorknob flew off into the darkness of her room. There was no reaction from her at all, just a muffled sob in the corner, a weak, pitiful skip in the silence. I find the light switch by memory – I was no stranger to this – but it still hit me like a train to see her. She lay curled on her side, a puddle of vomit dripping out of her heaving, twitching frame, and blood poured from her open wrist, with the knife being swept away by the tide of liquid spreading away from the girl I love so much.
Time slows down in these situations – anybody to witness an event like this could agree with me. You get the reversed-tunnel vision and you see everything. The knife on the ground, the open bottle of pills dropped aside. The trail of dripped blood spaced out, leading from her mirror to her dying frame. The vomit sprayed in a pool. The god-damned number of tablets on the side of the bottle and the four lying discarded – she had ingested twenty-eight Tylenol-3, slit both her wrists, and she was on the brink of death.
“Fuck! Guys!” I bellow, and I hear the commotion downstairs. I had been the one to receive the call from her friend, so worried about her, and I knew my sister well enough to tell I didn’t have time to get the family. I slid to my knees in front of her, turning her to her back. I looked her up and down quickly – the scarred, burned frame she tortured so heartily without any of us knowing.
“Vincent! Get help!” I roar, and I hear feet running for a phone. I try and break down the situation into a solvable issue. She has two deep, deep gashes in her left wrist, but there’s no pressure behind the blood flow. She missed every artery and vein. The cuts were horizontal, though – an accident.
Across for emotion and up for effect.
She heaves again. I rotate her head, shoving two fingers down her throat. She gags, retches, and I remove them fast. She contorts, snaps forwards, and the vomit dribbles down my arm, soaking my shirt through and splattering onto the ground.
I look back and forth, then tear off her pillowcase, twisting it into a kneaded rope, then wrap it tightly near her elbow. The blood flow decreases almost immediately, but I’m not looking for a tourniquet. I’m buying her time.
“I’m sorry,” she gurgles, tears bleeding from her eyes. Her mascara is streaming down her face, black war paint baring the soul of this beautiful girl.
“Shut up,” I murmur. “I love you. Stay still.”
It’s only been a few seconds, but it feels like eternity to me. There are two deadly factors at play and I don’t have time to fix both. I settle on the blood loss. That needs to stop. It had slowed, but that wasn’t nearly enough. I’d practiced this shit often, too often.
I grab an old rag off the floor. Fuck any infections. That is a problem for later – if there is a later. This is bad.
“Guys!” I bellow, and suddenly the door is a crowd of my family. My mother is on the phone, calling the hospital, and my brothers are jamming their way through the door.
“Get some fucking towels!” I yell, taking command immediately. Despite being the middle child this bullshit is my forte; they trust me here. I know my role and they know theirs. They rush out of the room immediately while my mother stands in the doorway, the phone in her hand.
I’m still in my own frame of time, binding her left arm as best I can with the towel. I’m covering the deepest parts, gently keeping pressure on the wound, and she’s recoiling from my touch, sobbing uncontrollably. I can’t bind the right one yet, but it really isn’t too deep. Right now, it’s not a problem. She keeps murmuring over and over again, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” with her head lolling back and forth. She’s slowly going unconscious and I’m terrified, but I’m barely registering it. I’ve been in the room for less than a minute, but she’s slipping fast.
“Shut up,” I say. “It’s not your goddamn fault. Can you hear me?”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
She can’t hear me anymore. When somebody attempts something like this they aren’t aware of it half the time anyway, but she’s employed a popular survivalist technique – displacing her mind from her body in order to keep them from interfering with one another. With mental illnesses that’s a popular reaction. She’s trusted her life to fate now, but I don’t accept that. It’s in my hands right now. She was still alive.
I prop myself onto one knee, grabbing her by the bicep and lifting her into the air. She’s entirely limp, lifeless, and she isn’t muttering anymore. She’s unconscious now. I throw the arm around my neck. I have to keep her head elevated so she doesn’t choke on her own vomit, but I can’t lift her too high, else the blood flow will begin pouring again. She’s heavy, heavier than she used to be, but it’s been a few months since the last attempt. I don’t really register it anyways – I’m in a dead-set state of mind, getting this girl downstairs.
I get her out the door, scratching my arm to hell on the splintered remains of the latch, but I don’t notice the blood. I’m grunting with the weight of my dying sister in my arms, and it’s tearing me apart bit by bit. My brothers return from the bathroom, but I push past them. I need to get her to the table downstairs before she bleeds out.
I’m calmer now than I was a few seconds ago. I’ve employed the same tactic she has: I’m aware of the pain in my arm and the stress on my back, but I don’t quite realize it. I can smell the blood from her arms soaking into the towel. It’s already stained a deep red. She begins retching again when we’re halfway down the stairs and I swear, leaning backwards to compensate for her jerking, snapping movements. Again, my shirt soaks up most of the vomit. I tilt her backwards to ensure it doesn’t get into her wound, the one I haven’t bandaged.
I don’t feel a thing. I’m not angry, or concerned, or even scared. I’ve blocked it all out, and I feel like I’m watching the situation from outside. I’m not aware of any personal thoughts on the matter. Every motion as I carry her to the table, leaning backwards and slowly lowering her as my brothers kick everything from the table onto the floor, it’s all appearing practiced and calm. I’ve done this before, and odds are I’ll do it again.
I hear a siren in the distance, biting through the dead silence of the night. I get my arms free and hit the light switch. My mother flies into the room behind me, panicked and yelling.
“What is this? What’s happened? What’s going on? Is she okay? What are you doing?”
I spread her arms on the table thoughtfully. “Please be quiet.”
“What’s going on? I called the ambulance but I didn’t know what to tell them!”
I turn to her, suddenly angry. “Every fucking time! Come on! Go upstairs. Get the pill bottle, put the spares back into it, and throw a towel on the floor. David! Flag down the goddamn ambulance, okay? And move your fucking car, they won’t be able to get to the house. Get them in here as soon as fucking possible.”
My younger brother stands quiet as the other two fly out of the room. My older sister is on the phone already, probably calling somebody to come keep an eye on him. I know he feels lost, but I don’t have thoughts to spare here. I begin unwinding the towel wrapped around her elbow, releasing the pooling blood. It begins to seep through the bandaged towel.
“Come the fuck on, Rebecca,” I murmur. I jam my finger into her throat again, and she barely reacts. She’s going comatose. I wrap her right arm as best as I can, stopping the blood. I toss the bloody spare towels onto the floor. Then I grab her arm again, throwing it around my neck. Red and blue lights swirl through the kitchen and I hear wheels peeling their way into the driveway.
I lift her into the air, and her arms fall limp. Locking her arms into place isn’t working anymore. I’m running very low on time, but I don’t let it get to me. No distractions.
Across for emotion, up for effect, I think to myself again and again. This wasn’t an intentional suicide attempt. It was a self-harm attempt gone too far. I manage to get her to the door, where I’m stopped by a man in a black- and yellow-striped suit.
“Woah, woah,” he says, taking her from me with a practiced hand. “I got her, kid. Don’t worry.”
I grunt, helping him get her into the stretcher he’s set up on our front step. I see the clock on my way out the door, and it’s only been four minutes or so since I found her. She was still alive.
He and I wheel the stretcher down the driveway. He tries to wave me off, but I'm not letting it go so easily. “Twenty-eight to thirty T-3 pills,” I say. “Three deep cuts, two on the left and one on the right.”
“Any prescription medication?”
“Seratonin and apo-Naproxen. Antidepressant and painkiller.”
“Got it,” he says. He lifts the stretcher through the level and moves her into the back of the ambulance. “I’ll take her from here, kid. Don’t worry about her.”
“I love you, sis,” I murmur, watching him slam the doors, jog for the passenger door, and tear towards the hospital.
I sit down on the steps. I know the drill from here. I’ve served my purpose. My mother, sister, and brothers get into the car, but there’s not enough room for five. I’ll get there by bus soon. But I need time to recuperate my mind. Everything hits me at once, every emotion I have blocked for the last five minutes, and it breaks me: the anger, the sadness, the helplessness, the worry, and the fear. It eats away at me, and I feel like I’ve taken a load of bricks to the head. The wind is cold and I’m in a torn t-shirt soaked in the blood, vomit, and tears of my dying sister. I put my head in my hands. I wipe the blood from my own scratch off onto the gravel below my feet – I don't care.
Nobody saw the tears leaking down my face as they left. I had served my purpose. I had bought her time. She was still alive.
I wish I could have done more.
Daniel Hendrikx is a Professional Writing student from Newcastle, Ontario. Daniel grew up working on farms, and writing his own fiction. He finds time to write between playing video games and his guitar. Daniel is aspiring to be a professional writer. One day Daniel hopes to write a memoir as he draws his best inspirations from his own life