Sunday 6 February 2011
Regular Readers will be aware that I have already written a story under the title ‘The First Cut’. The characters in this story are in no way related to those of the original.
** A word of warning: this story isn’t pleasant, and that the content may cause some level of distress and/or concern to readers. ** Also, please be assured that this is not autobiographical in any way.
With my checklist of chores completed for the day, I retreated to the bathroom. Having been momentarily held up writing the note for my mother, by the time I made it to the bath, the water was lukewarm. Sighing, I plunged my arm in and pulled out the plug. I needed to refill the bath, only hot water would be acceptable to my poor aching muscles, stiffened and sore from preparing the house for my mother’s return from hospital. It didn’t help that I’d had terrible circulation all my life and was perpetually cold from the inside out. Whatever the weather, whatever the temperature, my bath and shower water needed to be hotter than most other people could stand.
I watched the water drain from the bath.
‘What a waste,’ my voice vaguely echoed in the bathroom.
While I waited for the bath to empty, I returned to the kitchen where I had sat earlier, writing the note for my mother. I glanced at the envelope I had put it in, resting against the oranges in the Bohemia crystal fruit bowl. I had made sure to employ my best penmanship. My mother, always critical of my handwriting, would not want anyone else to see a poorly written note. She’d often told me that my handwriting was unkempt and doctor-like, and that I needed to spend time practising in order to write like a lady should. I never did practise. Penmanship was of little importance to me.
The half-empty bottle of Chenin Blanc in my fridge called to me. I snatched it from its shelf in the fridge, and poured as much as I could fit into a crystal wine glass. My mother may not have been right about the importance of good penmanship, but she was entirely correct about the benefits of drinking wine from crystal glasses. I never used anything but the best crystal for my wine, and I never bought anything less than the best wine. Where Chenin Blanc was concerned, I only ever bought it from Voyager Estate Winery in the wine region of southwest Western Australia.
Figuring that the bath must have drained by the time I’d poured the wine, I went back upstairs to the bathroom and began refilling it with hot water. Sitting with my back against the bath, I listened to the flow of water. The sound, along with the increasing temperature against the back of my head, and the wine that I’d already consumed, greatly soothed me. I was rapidly relaxing. God how I longed to step into that bath and let all of the day’s complexities fade away.
I knew it was a bad idea to pop a few painkillers while I was drinking, but with my muscles aching so badly, I wanted a quick fix to rid my body of the pain. So, I hoisted myself up to the medicine cabinet above the basin, groaning under the weight of my own body. I popped two Panadeine Forte from the blister pack and swallowed them with a mouthful of wine. It wouldn’t be much longer and the bath would be ready. The only thing that wasn’t ready, ironically, was me.
The rest of my wine didn’t touch the sides going down. It’s not the way I like to drink wine, but I didn’t have much time if I was going to do it properly, and I do so hate warm white wine. The heat and the alcohol made the painkillers kick in faster than normal, and I was becoming drowsier by the second.
I’m not really sure how I managed to undress, but I did, and I got myself into the bath and turned off the taps. The hot water quietened my screaming muscles, and I submerged myself for as long as I could hold my breath. When I surfaced it, everything, felt like it was crashing in on me.
The pills my doctor gave me had not been working. She told me it could take anywhere up to six weeks for the active drug in the antidepressants to accumulate in my system and take effect. I had waited ten, and still nothing.
It didn’t help that my overbearing, perfectionist mother was always on my case. Lindsay, do this. Lindsay, do that. Lindsay, be perfect. Lindsay, be like me. And it didn’t matter how many times I told her that I was not like her, nor did I want to be . . . she still kept on at me, even saying that it was my fault she’d had the stroke. If I had been more compliant, if I hadn’t fought against her at every turn, she’d never have had it.
I knew that wasn’t true. It was her own ultra-perfectionist habits that caused her stroke. She put herself under immense pressure to maintain that perfect life she was leading. That’s really why she had the stroke. And she was coming home today, after spending eight weeks in hospital. Well, not technically home – not to her home. She was coming to my home. Her doctor said she needed twenty-four hour care until she could do most things independently again. Frankly, the thought of having to shower and toilet my mother was humiliating to me, and probably to her as well. There was no way I could do that. I wanted everything to stop – the anger, the hurt, the depression, the guilt, and the overwhelming sadness and sense that I had let everyone down. I had run out of tears to cry, so I did what I knew I could do.
The first cut on my left wrist, well, I hesitated. It hurt more than I thought it would after the painkillers and wine. I had to do it again – cut deeper this time. I heard someone in the bathroom scream, but when I looked around, there was no one there. Then I understood. It had been my voice that I’d heard. I was shaking terribly after the second cut.
I didn’t know if I could do my right wrist, but I closed my eyes and hoped for the best as I cut into that one too. I read or heard that a hot bath makes you bleed out faster. It certainly looked as though it was working. The bathwater went from clear to red in a matter of a few minutes, and I could feel myself finally letting go. I closed my eyes. I remember that. I closed my eyes. And I could hear my heartbeat, slowing.
I tried to count the beats to take my attention away from the agony at my wrists. I think it worked . . . I’m not sure. In the distance, I thought I heard the front door open. She called my name.
At some point everything stopped, and I ceased to be, any more.