Then another afternoon is upon us; the waning hours I hate. I’m lying low behind the couch, staring at the ceiling through red-veined eyelids when a shadow passes over. My gaze is awakened and it tracks Kristine’s furtive kitchen entrance.
I rise and follow, surprised she’s up, and curious about her motives. We are both shocked to catch her in the act of swallowing a handful of pills. A tableau of white-faced resolution and stunned doughiness develops. The picture of her intent is pasted in large letters. She’s chosen to relieve her hurt and pass it on to me.
There isn’t much left in my emotional bank. What use is it to convince another person’s mind to step away from this crumbling edge I so often skirt myself?
A more physical approach is called for.
I hunker and approach with arms outstretched. She becomes a skittish animal, flashing defiance by attempting to escape the confined area.
We grapple for a few seconds until I find a space to bear her down. Holding her to the floor, I force an arm up her back until continued struggles bring pain. Her mouth opens to scream when the arm-lock passes uncomfortable. I poke fingers into a howling throat. She bites quite hard, but is overtaken by a vomiting fit when my knee drives into her stomach.
When enough pills are coughed up I loosen my grip. The flurry of activity breaks the emotionless silence she carries about. The crying is pitiful; the sobs, a ragged release of pent-up grief. Rock hard limbs soften gradually until the misery tapers off. I lift her to my quaking chest. The embrace is not reciprocated. Tears of frustration fall from my eyes. Her ears are deaf to my regrets and apologies for faults, real and imagined.
The crying jag expends a small reserve of energy. Weakly she pulls out of my arms and leaves me with dragging steps. I remain on the kitchen floor as the bedroom door encloses a private grieving.
She isn’t the suicidal type. This attempt is recognisable as a specially honed arrow. It carries a message meant to strike my inadequately shielded, vulnerable heart.
Each day I’ve expected her forgiveness, solely to alleviate my guilt and inability to cope. In the wake of disappointment, when this fading, forlorn desire for a quick fix and miraculous recovery dissipates, I think of Kristine’s unbearable existence.
The drugs that have escaped my control are once again encapsulated by my room’s safe.
Before it is shut I free several capsules meant to soften depressions hold, and visit Kristine’s balled up form. An extended palm full of bliss is accepted with no look, beyond their silent promise, at me.
The range and quantity of our medications increase in an unorthodox treatment of deteriorating minds. It may fly in the face of a thousand absent experts but Kristine finds the experimentation agreeable. She demands the nothingness sedatives bring and the almost nothingness of depressants in between.
I allow this course, believing she is safer in dreamless sleep. It claims huge chunks of her days and as a stopgap measure it is satisfactory.
Her swift addiction possibly aids a wish for self-destruction but while she’s alive I bribe her into eating. Doling out one pill for each glass of orange juice she drinks is tolerated, but she cuts herself with sharp objects if I withhold her escape route by asking for too many concessions.
The trade erodes my attempts to improve her health...
...days scroll past in drug-fuelled, deceitful games with unequal stakes...
...the descending sighs of Snow White’s drugged sleep deepen. We’ve had another listless argument regarding the need to change her bedding. The fight reaches past my understanding and comes up with handfuls of vexation.
A disappearance from her side to silently stalk the shadows in the hell of cubicle division downstairs is an intuitive move.
I feel its pull. Something random guides me.
An elusive answer floats just out of my reach of straining fingers. The sight of a stencilled word is catalyst enough to break away from the constant search.
A counsellor’s office. A room of beseeching questions and comforting answers.
I’ve brought baggage aplenty for a person of such training to sort through. That there is no-one inside to offer me cool drink and quiet words is beyond disappointing.
The neatness of the office offends me.
I sit in the advisor’s comfortable chair, spinning mindlessly, knocking items from the desk and idly reading the spines of shelved psychology manuals. These learned tomes are helpless in the light of my problem. I retrieve one as an example to the others and maliciously tear handfuls of pages from its incomprehensible interior. Another is unmade, and another, in a disassembly line of destruction, until the carpet is covered by torn and crumpled paper.
I climb onto the leather covered desk to sit cross-legged. I escape this sea of sage opinions and dry, inconclusive case studies, on an isle of ignorance.
As I stare into the maelstrom a sleek telephone catches a jittery vision. Once I might have played up to its purpose and conversed with myself.
I’d developed a phobia against them since then. A belief of something cold and calculating waiting ever so patiently at the other end. It has killed the humour of this game.
Yanking the phone jack out of the wall isn’t enough. A top drawer containing stationery is upended and replaced with the sinister phone inside. Its threatening presence becomes harmless when shut away.
A brightly covered phone book lies on the papered floor. I pick it from amongst the evicted detritus of pens and paperclips.
It draws my attention.
Pages riffle through my fingers, releasing the names of people and businesses as they fan past. A long list of past deaths, and worse; the present undead.
Something sparks recognition. Intrigued, I thumb a return to an advertisement not especially interesting at first glance.
The Golden Pine Nursery. I’ve never been there. Gardening is not my thing.
Is this a link I care to follow?
Kristine and Shanna.
A fond memory.
A story related that washed over my disinterest. A private memory perhaps Kristine might not have shared if not for the jaded company. She’d talked softly about things done and places visited. The memory had sounded so alive and sweet it had struck a jealous nerve and knee-jerked the cruel reaction of rudeness.
Then it is clear. Her voice describing the sound of wind through the pine trees. I’m smitten with this pine tree salve conveniently located one suburb over.
Was this the fate I argue and scoff at?
My injured heart and loosely reined gut decide my next move. I tear out the page.
Who am I to argue if destiny chooses to speak through a laser printed commercial?