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Saturday, March 03, 2012

Bildungsroman

Full disclaimer - I'm thinking that this post is going to ramble a bit. May get a little lengthy so I can't guarantee I'm even going to finish it. I mean, I'm reasonably sure I know the point in the story that I'm going to start writing and I know the point where I plan on stopping (which implies, rightfully, that it has some prologue and some epilogue that I'm not going to get into right now), but I may lose focus at some point and just post whatever I have written at that point in time.
But here it goes.........

Whenever anybody asks about where I was on December 31st, 1999, I tell them that I rented a cabin in Amish country. No phones. No electricity. No comforts of modern life in anticipation of the impending apocalyptic effects of Y2K. Ok, not that many people ask. Just when it comes up in conversation.
Which is not often.
But I wasn't there.

I was fully aware that it was going to seem totally cliche to do it on December 28th. Exactly one year after (that's prologue, pay no attention to that). But that wasn't the only reason for picking that day. Sure, it was a big part of it but it wasn't just that. It just seemed liked the last few months had been leading to that horizon. That sunset.
I put a lot of thought into how I was going to do it. Well, not so much HOW but more about WHERE. Specifically, I was worried about who would find me. I didn't want to put any of my friends or family through that, seeing my bloated and/or bloody and/or rotting corpse. So I thought about just chaining barbells to my ankles and steeping off a boat in the middle of the ocean. Or shooting myself in the middle of the woods (assuming the critters would take care of the rest). But then I just thought that mightbe worse. Essentially just disappearing and everyone living the rest of their lives not knowing.
So I came to the conclusion that I'd have to do it in a hospital. Sure, it would suck for the unlucky doctor, nurse or orderly who found me, but its not like that wouldn't have seen a dead body before. But the flipside to that? It's a hospital. Filled with people trained to save the lives of people who did stupid stuff to themselves. Even if I walked into the emergency room and popped a cap in my dome, there would be a trauma surgeon 15 feet away just waiting to resuscitate me even before my body hit the ground. So I spent literally almost every waking hour from Thanksgiving to mid-December trying to figure out a way around these obstacles.
This is why I shouldn't be left alone with too much free time on my hands. I think too much.
But I figured it out.
I called a doctor friend and told her I had a sinus infection. She called me in a prescription for omoxicillin. I called he back a couple days later and asked her to switch the prescription over to penicillin because the omoxicillin was freaking me out (this becomes important later). Then I tossed my stationary bike in that back of my truck and drove (I didn't want to go to a local hospital - I know a lot of healthcare professionals and didn't want to run into one inadvertantly).
So I drive 2 entire states away. Find some not-quite-rural-not-quite-suburban town, pull into a convenience store, ate a microwaved burrito, thumb through the phone book, find the nearest hospital, drive over there, and park at the edge of the lot near a clump of trees (it's just about getting dark.
I drag the bike out of the back of the truck, plant it in the middle of the trees, then just start pedalling away at max resistance. 10 minutes. 30 minutes. 45 minutes, the lactic acid burning in my calves, sweat rolling off my brow. I made it an hour and 15 minutes before stumbling back into my car and driving over to the emergency room entrance.
I walk in clammy and clutching the lower right part of my abdomen.
So by the time they take my temperature and draw a blood sample, I'm running a decent fever and my white blood count is elevated (but not off the charts). They ask me to rate my pain. I say "7, sometimes 8". It didn't take House to diagnose acute appendicitis. It would definitely have to come out. But since it was getting late and the pain was manageable (and I had recently eaten), it could wait until the morning. So they admitted me and administered 500mg of omoxicillin.
They put me in a double room. That was bad. I really hadn't considered that possibility. With an older guy, mayble late 60's or early 70's, who had just broken his hip. It was close to 11:30PM by then. But he seemed pretty medicated and was 3/4th's asleep most of the time. So I just read The Heart of Darkness in my head to pass the time.
The nurse walked in about 1:30AM to change his IV and check on mine. I waited about 20 minutes after she left to get up, get my boots, trenchcoat and pants out of the plastic bag the ED nurse had packed them in, and pulled my IV into the bathroom. I sat on the toilet, unlaced my boots and withdrew the belts from my pants and coat. This is the only part I hadn't fully planned out because there was no way of knowing what the configuration of the room was going to be. I just assumed that I could loop one end of my McGyver'ed noose over the bathroom door onto the room-side doorknob, then tightened to other end around my neck. Then it would just be a matter of stepping off a stool. Badabing badaboom, problem solved. But the room-side doorknob was actually handle-shaped. When I quietly looped one end of my "noose" over it (careful as to not wake my roommate), re-closed the door, and gave the belt/shoelace/belt a little test tug, it slipped right off. That was a problem.
So I had to improvise. The bathroom-side doorknob was actually a doorknob-shaped doorknob. The only way I could make it work would be to open the door fully against the bathroom wall, loop the noose on the knob-side and hang myself in the bathroom with the door wide open. So I checked to make sure my roommate was still asleep, carried the stool over from the shower, tightened each end of my makeshift rope, and stepped up on the stool.
But it didn't seem high enough.
There was no way just "stepping off" was going to do the trick.
So I jumped up as high as I could.
It hurt like a son of a bitch.
Like a lightning bolt from the top of my head all the way down to my tailbone.
But my momentum pulled the door away from the wall and it was now only halfway open. So now I'm staring straight ahead directly at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, head askew and turning reddish-blue (or just purple, I guess). I also feel my toes barely touching the floor as my "rope" slowly stretches.
This isn't good.
But it gets worse.
Apparently my attempted leap to death has caused a bit of a ruckus. Enough of a ruckus, in fact, to wake my roommate from his painkiller-induced slumber. I look over just in time to see hime come to, gradually lift his head... and lock eyes with my own now-bulging eyes.
Needless to say, he freaks the fuck out.
So now I'M freaking out. I start to kick my legs up and down like a toddler throwing a tantrum trying to snap my vertabrae before he can push the call button to get a nurse to come a'running.
So to my left I have an old geezer frantically screaming and reaching for the alarm, and directly in front of me I have my own flailing reflection which, by now, I can barely make out because the capillaries in my eyes were beginning to burst.
It would have been hilarious if I had taken the time to fully appreciate the insanity of the moment.
But I didn't have the chance because I was busy slipping into unconsciousness.
I woke up several hours later in a different room (without a door) with a nurse or doctor checking in on me every 15 minutes and giving me looks of alternating pity and disgust. I just pretending to be confused and kept asking why I was there.
Dod you know that omoxicillin can, in rare circumstances, cause hallucinations? It's true. And since I had a recent (and spectacularly convenient) history of omoxicillin-induced psychotic episodes (confirmed by my doctor back home), I was able to convince the hospital psychatrist that the suicide attempt was a result of those hallucinations rather than my rather depressing prologue.
Unfortunately for me, the hospital (or maybe it was the entire state, I'm not sure) had a policy that you have to be held under observation for 72 hours after a suicide attempt. So I spent the day of New Years Eve 1999 playing euchre in the psych ward with a 19 year old bipolar girl and 2 generally mentally-disturbed middle-aged men (I was asleep at midnight because the hospital was pretty fascist about their "lights out at 10pm" policy - hardly seemed fair).
Good times. Good times.

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