Once again I am Kristine’s poor excuse for a nurse. Unlike the prior physical hurts she has sustained, I am at a loss how to alleviate her suffering. It’s true she has fallen, but only in love; and the part that is broken is inside her fragile heart. My inept doctoring has but one cure-all for this ill.
I’m at her side when she rises from the drugged sleep, gasping with instant remembrance.
“Is she gone?”
Her small, child-like voice flays me with a guilty whip. I nod.
“It was quick.”
The boom of a solid door closing behind her eyes is almost audible. She retreats inside herself and sleeps.
I feed her anti-depressants when she wakes. Talking is reduced to single word responses as long as the question does not tax her mind too much. I would cope better with rage than this deep hopelessness and total surrender.
I talk brightly through my own indulgence of gel-covered powders. I use the drugs to heighten my sense of humour but false hilarity cheers neither of us.
She is determined not to eat, barely picking at the smallest portions I offer constantly. Her weight loss replicates Shanna’s infestation, and the comparison is frightening.
Another afternoon lands upon us. It is these waning hours I especially hate so I lie low behind the couch until they pass. I am here in position, staring at the ceiling through red-veined eyelids when a shadow passes over me. Kristine passes my hidden body unknowingly and she furtively enters the kitchen.
Suspicious of her stealth I rise and follow, surprised and ready to be pleased that she’s up and feeling better. We are both shocked when I catch her in the act of swallowing a heaped palm full of pills. A tableau develops as her guilt turns to steely resolution and my stunned indecisiveness chases its tail for a solution. The intent is pasted across her face. She’s chosen her exit, and even stoops to my methods and tools to get it done.
A physical approach counters my frozen brains need to think. I hunker like a linebacker and approach with arms outstretched. She switches from skittish guilt to open defiance, and then attempts to escape the confines of the kitchen.
We crash through the kitchen doors and grapple for a few seconds until I can lift her bodily and find a space to bear her down. Holding her to the floor, I force an arm up her back until the pain causes her to scream and cease struggling. Her open mouth is my cue to poke a finger down her howling throat. She bites quite hard, but not before I achieve my goal to make her gag. She is encouraged to vomit by driving a knee into her side at the same time.
When enough pills are coughed up I loosen my grip. Our nasty altercation has broken the emotionless silence she’s carried alone until now. Her cries are pitiful; the sobs, ragged in their release of pent-up grief. Rock hard limbs soften gradually until the abject misery tapers off. I lift her to my quaking chest but she slumps instead of returning my embrace. Tears of frustration fall from my eyes. Her ears are deaf to my outpouring of regrets and apologies for faults, real and imagined.
The crying jag expends the small reserve of energy she’d saved for her last act. Weakly, she pulls herself from my arms and I let her go. I’m left behind as her bedroom door encloses on a grief she intends keeping to herself.