A Shot in the Dark

IT LOOKED LIKE any one of a thousand unremarkable nights. The lingering smell of lager and smoke. The murky haze. The glistening glassware, and the bar lights casting a dim glow from the fake Tiffany shades. Nothing at all seemed out of the ordinary, except the silence, menacing and oppressive, drip, drip, dripping from the walls in the damp come from the bricks.

Long shadows aside, there was this ache I felt. It had started in my chest earlier in the evening and had grown into a twisted dread, drilling into the pit of my stomach as I neared the men’s toilets. I wasn’t prepared, but nothing really could have prepared me for the millions of justifications and denials that my mind would put forward in order to erase that moment to come from all time in perpetuity: past, present, and future.

They always say that the world seems to move in slow motion and that your life passes in front of your eyes when confronted with what can only be defined as The End. That is what they say, and I can officially say its absolute rubbish.

Who in the hell are they anyway?
They are outsiders.
Day-trippers.

Tourists, offering cheap compassion and a multitude of clichés to dull their own sense of mortality. For all their thoughts and prayers, they can’t feel what you feel, can’t know what you know or understand what you are going through. They can’t even begin to interpret the vile and unspeakable thoughts come to slither about in your head. That sort of pain is yours alone.

You own it, and it owns you.

As I stood there staring at the blood-covered walls, nothing flashed before my eyes. Nothing came into my mind. The fact that I could no longer breathe was the only thing even remotely perceptible to me. There were no words, no tears, and no heartfelt moans. I just stared at it. A cold, dark, and empty stare. The same stare I had at my husband Jonathan’s funeral a week later. The same stare that became a permanent part of me from that moment forward. My entire world had gone to wrack and ruin in Jon’s one brief moment of clarity.

You can never really know what’s going through a person’s mind at the exact moment they decide to end their existence. That’s their pain, and if they survive the endeavour, they’ll never tell you. If they succeed, all you can do is pick up the pieces and attempt to go on, but every night, as I lay reaching towards the empty space in our bed, I just couldn’t fathom how to do that, how to pick up the shattered pieces of my life and get on with it. I felt ashamed, somehow responsible, and the guilt I felt was beyond measure. The void he left behind filled the gaping holes in my heart with the same cold, empty, silence I’d experienced that night.

One day went by, then another, and then the days, months, and years after that became a blurry incoherent collage of disconnected moments. I spent a great deal of time staring into the bottom of a whiskey bottle. I didn’t sleep much, and I recall some time spent in a psychiatric hospital, some ridiculousness relating to shock and other medical gibberish about my mental state. A danger to myself, they said.

Maybe, probably. Who knows?

In my opinion — and I have lots of those — there was nothing wrong with my mental state. The facts were the facts: Jonathan was dead; I was guilty of a mountain of indiscretions; I was convinced that my redemption was at hand; and, I was going to take whatever punishment the universe saw fit to deal me.

Psychotherapy wasn’t going to change the situation or release me from the festering hatred that had come, without resistance, to consume me alive. Drugs, which I adamantly refused, just dull the pain, and that clearly defeats the purpose of it all. Forgetting someone you never thought you’d lose is pain that must be endured, so I was not suicidal. The notion never entered into my mind. I didn’t want to die. If I were supposed to die, I figured it would happen when it was right, in the grand scheme of things.

I simply didn’t want to be alive.

Kafka once wrote, ‘A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.’ For the first time in my life, I understood what he meant.

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