A Sun They’d Never Catch

The funny thing about almost dying is that in a lot of ways it’s similar to what you’d expect. It’s the little departures from expectation that fuck with you. Let’s back up, though, because my situation’s a little different from most. I wasn’t going into cardiac arrest or total organ failure or anything like that. What I did was I left work on my lunch break, caught an Uber downtown, and picked out a good X-Acto knife at the art supply store. I wouldn’t recommend using an X-Acto knife, by the way. Not because it’ll fail, but because there’s a very good chance it won’t. Take it from someone who immediately regretted their decision: You’re going to want to give yourself a chance to climb back up the hole of everlasting blackness. So the X-Acto knife. There was leaving the store and thinking in a matter of fact way that, well, I’ve got the knife now, so I have to go through with it. That it’d be a waste not to. There was walking down the busy lunchtime streets of Chicago, understanding that this would be the last time I’d see a driver flick a pedestrian off. This would be the last time I’d see a light’s red turn green. The last time I’d hear a thumping Reggaeton bassline as the car playing it passed by. There was receiving a text from a friend, then a Snapchat from my little brother, and having to look away from the phone, put it in standby mode. There wasn’t any of the second guessing you’d expect, not even during the more grisly parts of the story. I’m not saying these things don’t happen, I’m just saying I was past all that. My case was different. There was picking the right bridge and planning out the logistics, realizing this would be the last time I’d plan something, the last time I’d be thinking something at all, that I’d never experience being human again. There was ignoring these thoughts so I could get on with it. There was finding the little secluded spot across from the bridge where I could do it, “FORGIVE” intaglioed on the wall behind the trees and grass. Yes, it really said that. I couldn’t make that up. There was finding the cardboard mat on the ground, empty liquor bottle next to it, diseased pillow off to the side, and apologizing in advance to the homeless guy who’d have to come across all this blood. There was the one pure moment of pain, after I rolled up the thick woolen sleeves of my winter coat and the blade entered the flesh of my left arm, then almost nothing. Almost peace. There were both of my arms open, bleeding freely onto mildewy cardboard. There was me wondering what was taking it so long, squeezing the skin beside the gaping wounds to speed up the process. There was sitting there wondering if I was getting sleepy or if I was placebo-ing that based on my expectations. There was shifting my position because my legs hurt, and almost laughing about that seeming so important. There was pissing my pants and my vision being almost apart from my body. There was getting up and leaving the secluded spot, trailing blood as I climbed up to the bridge’s pedestrian walkway. There was the comical moment when a cyclist stopped behind me to snap a pic of the Chicago River in all its January glory, me turning away so he wouldn’t see my arms as he passed, him apparently so focused (or mortified) that he didn’t say or do anything. There was studying the way the bridge sloped like a slide just past the easily bypassable guardrail. There was, like I said, no hesitation whatsoever. Just sliding for a second, then air, then icy green enveloping everything. There was seeing the sun shine through briny black, and somehow swimming for it. There was hearing my terrified yells, almost automatic, almost outside of me, and realizing I wanted to live. There was swimming to the pylon sticking out of the water and streaking bloody hands on it, having nothing to grab onto, and almost wanting to laugh if I wasn’t bleeding out and drowning in the Chicago River. There was swimming around the pylon because there was nothing else to do. There was finding the ladder and almost not believing it. There was climbing this ladder and not even feeling the pain in my arms, though it must’ve been terrible. There was getting to the top of the structure and the person across the river who somehow saw the whole thing (again, I couldn’t make this up), megaphone-telling me that help is on the way and I should stay put. There was thinking, well shit, now that I actually want to live I better not bleed out. Etc. And the fire engines. And the paramedics. And the heated blankets to pull the chill from my bones, and the straps to keep me stabilized but really probably to stop me from looking at my arms. Eventually there were the Frankenstein stitches, sixty in total, and even those went away after a while, in the way that everything does. But more than that, than any of it at all, there was lying in bed on the locked ward and watching the birds fly past the window, wingtips grazing glass, all of them darting off for a sun they’d never catch but which they’d reach for anyway.

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