A Shot in the Dark

IT LOOKED LIKE any one of a thousand unremarkable nights after closing, the lingering smell of lager and smoke, the murky haze, the glistening glassware, and the bar lights casting a dim glow from the Tiffany styled stained-glass shades. And although nothing at all seemed out of the ordinary, the thin silence was menacing and oppressive.

Omens aside, the pit of my stomach ached as I neared the doorway to the gentlemen’s toilets, and nothing could have prepared me. When suddenly confronted with unimaginable horror, the mind goes into shock. They always say: ‘The world seems to move in slow motion, and your life passes in front of your eyes.’ Well, that is, in fact, what they say, and I can officially say it’s absolute rubbish. Who in the hell are they anyway? They know nothing, understand nothing, and feel nothing. They are merely outsiders, tourists, offering cheap compassion and a multitude of clichés to dull their own sense of mortality. They can’t know what you feel, can’t know what you are going through, can’t know of the vile unspeakable thoughts twisting in your mind. No. 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 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 — 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, painless moment of clarity.

You can never really know what was going through a person’s mind at the moment they decide to end their existence. If they survive the endeavour, they’ll never tell you, and 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 over Jon’s decision was beyond measure. The void he left behind filled my heart and soul with overwhelming despair.

The days, months, and years after that became a blurry, incoherent collage of sane and insane moments. I recall some time in a suburban psychiatric hospital, relating to shock and other medical gibberish about my mental state.

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.

No amount of therapy would change the situation or allay the deep festering pain that was consuming me alive. Drugs, which I adamantly refused, seemed to dull the pain and that clearly defeated the purpose of it all.

Please don’t misunderstand me: 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.