The very first time I ever sliced through flesh, I was sure that I would die. I was sure I would carry it out. I was sure I wanted to. I was 19, a nursing student, struggling to develop my own morals and beliefs, in a crisis, at a crossroads. After I slashed with the only available sharp object, ineffectually, I limped to the emergency room, where a physician examined my wounds and said, "I won't stitch these. So you wanted attention, now you're going to get it. Because what you chose is big red scars." I still carry the scars, finally flesh-toned after a decade of red, like slippery obstacles I've traversed.
I went to church camp. Finally feeling rebellious enough to need church camp, like I needed a dressing down old fashioned hellfire and brimstone manner even if the man throwing the first stone was a hypocrite? I showed up with my gauze wrapped wrists and arms, dripping sweat in a long-sleeved shirt of my father's that hung from my guilt-eaten-spare frame. I remember the drive there, my father met us and insisted that I ride with him back to camp, my friend following behind. My father asked why I did it, I said I didn't know, and then we were silent for the rest of the drive, his pulse palpable in the heavy summer air. I've always wondered what he was thinking, my father, there that day with me in bandages and a stoic frown.
I was quickly ushered into a sweaty lamp lit cabin. I sat in the corner, where the logs met and there was a lovely view of some impressive spiderwebs. My parents on either side. The pastor and his wife, conspiratorially drawing us into a circle, bent forward in their chairs. I remember my mom saying, low, "Well, why don't you tell it, Genevieve?" There was a long, charged pause. Then I began to spill, just bare bones, of what I was suffering and why and how much that made me want to die.
Another long pause. All I remember is the pastor's wife, patting me gently on the arm over the cuts bandaged there, smiling the sickly sweet smile that dripped like corn syrup from her lips, insincere, saying that "it wasn't really a suicide attempt, it was more about getting attention." I quit nodding. I sat stock still. I waited to see what my parents would do, if they would be able to see the little game being played.
Nothing. That sentence from the pastor's wife the last benediction of the vignette now echoing in my mind. And every time since it's been deeper, wider, more dangerous, more risk. As if the only way to beat that whole dreaded segment of my life would be to prove her wrong. To tell her I was serious - I meant to do it! To commit suicide as some plaintive cry that I did try, I just wasn't very good at it, and thank God! because look at all that has been accomplished since then. Suicide as the punctuation note to that sentence? It blasts backward into the past and contorts memories and dreams. It's dust cloud thunders on into the future to eat up legend, and all that might have been, all those who might have mattered, all that wouldn't have happened if I was there.
To think that I would still give someone that power, someone I haven't seen for 15 years, and I've no idea what's happened to her since. Let her have power over me? Let her steal my joy? No way, José. That pastor's wife has no say in my life now and no power over it. Because truth sets people free. So go snake your arms into someone else's future, Satan, cuz I'm takin' mine.