black-bird

Thirty-seven years ago I bottomed out in my life, and decided to end it. I was living in Ohio, my children were in Philadelphia, and my friend, Joy, whom I lived with, was out for the evening. At that time, I believed that any prescription drug taken in large quantities could kill you, so I went to Joy’s medicine cabinet, swallowed several large vials of pills and lay on my bed, prepared to die.

I had barely closed my eyes when the doorbell rang, persistent and unpleasant. Oh, all right. I’m coming. I’m coming.

I swung the door open to find a dark-haired man in his early 20’s holding a bouquet of flowers.

Hi, I’m Dave, your blind date. Did you forget?

He wore navy pants, a pin-striped shirt and good intentions.

No, Dave, I lied. I didn’t forget. Just give me a minute. He sat in the living room while I changed my clothes. If I’m going to die, I thought, I might as well be having a good time while it’s happening.

I smiled at the bizarre situation unfolding as we drove through the country. Dave lit a joint and passed it in my direction. The humor wore off as I held it to my lips and inhaled. My reality began to shift as it absorbed in my system. Dave had been talking for sometime, but I hadn’t been listening. Suddenly I felt I owed him an explanation.

Dave, there is something I think you should know. I looked in his direction, smiling a thin smile. Just before you came I decided to kill myself and took a whole bunch of pills, so…. ah… actually, I could die any time.

This is a joke, right?

Nope, not a joke, I’m telling the truth.

There was a moment of introspection as he assessed the situation and let the news sink in. The next time he glanced in my direction his face had changed, I could tell he believed me.

Holy Shit! He reached over and positioned the side window so the cold night air flooded my face. Gravel flew and tires squealed as he made a u-turn, going faster than I had ever driven.

What are you trying to do, kill me before the pills kick in?

He didn’t answer; humor was drained from his expression. I’m taking you to the hospital.

No, you’re not.  I’ve spent most of my life in hospitals and I don’t intend to die in one.

You’re not going to die. You’re going to get your stomach pumped.

Dave, I don’t do hospitals, understand?

Twenty minutes later the car shrieked to a halt in front of the ambulance entrance at Columbus General Hospital. He ran around the car and yanked my door open.

I’m not going in there, I insisted. I told you that.

Yes, you are. I’m not going to have a dead girl on my hands. He dragged me from the car, past wheelchairs and magazine racks to the front desk. This woman has to have her stomach pumped, he told the nurse, she’s taken pills. He had a strong grip on my arm, but I pulled away and ran toward the door.

We can’t admit anyone who doesn’t want to be admitted, the nurse told him, sorry. A hot-tempered conversation ensued.

I’d made my way to the sheltering branches of a giant oak and settled in the grass. When Dave emerged, he walked slowly, defeated and tired. He lowered himself on the ground next to me.

Nobody seems to care what happens to people around here, so there’s nothing I can do.

I took his arm to comfort him. That’s okay; it’s not a big deal.

Oh, a human life is not a big deal to you?

My life isn’t. I’ve hated being alive as long as I can remember.

We lay back on the well-manicured lawn and looked at the sky through twilight branches.

Dave, doesn’t it seem that I’m taking a really long time to die? If I think back to the time I took the pills, and all the things we’ve done between now and then, it just seems like I should be dead already. I don’t get it. I don’t even feel sick, maybe something’s gone wrong.

I don’t get it either, he said, but Denny’s restaurant is over there, let’s go get some coffee.

A waitress came over. How you guys doin’ tonight? She was dressed in an orange and white uniform with food stains on her apron. She shifted her weight from one foot to another, as she waited for our order.

I’m fine, Dave answered, but my friend here could die any time, she’s taken a bunch of pills and the hospital won’t admit her.

The waitress chewed on the end of her pencil and looked blankly out the window. Do you know what you want to eat?

What exactly did you take? he asked, as the waitress disengaged and walked through swinging kitchen doors.

I thought back to the empty plastic cylinders but remembered nothing.

I don’t know. I was just sad and went into my room mate’s medicine cabinet and swallowed everything she had. They were all prescription.  He asked for Joy’s phone number and got up to call. When he returned he said, those pills won’t hurt you, there was nothing lethal there.

Stunned and embarrassed, I peered across the table. Then all this was for nothing, right?

He drained the last drops from his cup, and pushed back his chair. It’s beginning to look that way. Come on, I’ll take you home.

Well, look at the bright side, I told him. You’ll probably never have another date like this one.

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