There’s nothing like almost killing yourself to put things into perspective. The slow, dull lull of life seeping out of your body one drop at a time, and you, rushing to say all you need to say before it’s all over. And by you, I mean me, of course.
But I’m getting way ahead of myself. I won’t start at the beginning because I don’t think I have a lot of time, for reasons you may already be able to infer. Suffice to say, I have been feeling uninspired and bored with life as of late. Like a sinking boat with no paddle. Like the wind was taken out of my sail. Like… ugh. I think you see what I mean now. What’s up with all the nautical clichés? Must be the pool of blood forming beneath me.
Anyway, you’re probably wondering what the hell I’m rambling about. I was hanging out with a friend at a cafe earlier, trying to write a story I’ve been struggling with for weeks now, metaphorically banging my head against the keyboard and literally staring into the oblivion that is the blank page. My friend astutely sensed my despair when I took a deep breath and said “fuck” a bit too loud in a quiet and public place.
His eyes snapped up to me as he froze in place, halfway through underlining a sentence in the book he was reading. He looked around to see if anyone noticed my little expletive outburst before returning his attention to me for my inevitable follow-up statement.
“I thought I had this story figured out,” I said, “but really, I have no idea what the conflict should be.”
“What is the story about?” he said.
He was a philosopher, so I knew he was asking about more than just the plot.
“It’s a loose interpretation, a retelling, if you will, of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave,” I said. “Except in a sci-fi setting and with a lesbian protagonist, but I never say that she’s a lesbian outright, because it’s just supposed to be a normal thing, right? Like I’m making a statement on gay rights without ever actually saying so, you know? Indoctrinating it into the reader’s mind and all that. But I try not to think too much about theme and symbolism until after I write the first draft.”
My hand trembled as I picked up my coffee cup and brought it up to my mouth. I grimaced as I swallowed; one, because the liquid burned my palate, and two, because I fucking hate the taste of coffee. It’s tolerable on the days I bring my flask, but today was not one of those days.
If you’re wondering why I would order and consume something I already knew I disliked, well then, you’re on the right track to understanding the type of person I am. But I digress.
“Okay…” he said. “I meant what is it literally about, but whatever. Sounds like you’re just thinking too much about it.”
“Oh. Well it’s just… like… aliens and shit. I don’t know.”
“Sometimes it’s best to recreate a certain mood you’re trying to convey. What exactly do you want the reader to feel? Duplicate that.”
“I was thinking the theme could be failure.”
“Perfect,” he said, perhaps a bit too quickly for my liking. “It’s only after you lose everything that you see how much there is to gain.” He smiled. “To misappropriate a quote from a certain famous writer.”
I laughed, despite not finding it funny. “So I should start a fight club then? You want to be my first fight?”
He gave the ridiculous notion a second to settle. “No,” he said. “You know how when someone has a near-death experience, they inevitably take account of their life and suddenly have this intense drive to do all the things they have always dreamed of doing but never actually got around to doing?”
“Sure,” I said. “So… what? I should do something semi-suicidal to see what almost dying feels like? And then write it down?”
“Yeah. Well… kinda. Don’t actually risk your life. Just try to imagine what that feeling would feel like.”
I took a mental note of his suggestion and quickly dismissed the thought. Afterwards, we had a spirited debate over beers across the street where I tried to prove that free will exists and that there is no self. We ultimately agreed to disagree and parted ways for the night.
Thinking that my buzz would be enough inspiration, I tried to pick up where I left off in my story, but the words were still stalled in my mind. Those that did flow out were entirely the wrong words. It was then that I remembered my friend’s advice.
I went to the kitchen and grabbed the sharpest knife I owned. Some ceramic knife I bought when I intended to learn how to make sushi and never ended up using. I placed it against my radial artery–long ways because I’m not a fool–and closed my eyes. I tried to imagine what it would feel like to legitimately want to end my own life. As I took a deep breath to let the feeling sink in, an overwhelming desire to sneeze kicked in and let itself loose.
Now, there are people who exist in this world who can sneeze and barely move an inch. I am not one of those people. When I sneeze, it is with my entire body.
The knife traveled down the length of my arm, cutting deeper the closer it got to my wrist and severing the artery. Blood gushed out and slid to my fingertips, trickling down to the tile like crimson raindrops.
“Ah, shit,” I said, because it’s difficult to be profound when you’ve just given yourself a fatal wound.
Instinct kicked in and had me groping through kitchen drawers to find a towel or something to stop the bleeding. Of course the only one I owned was a pristine white towel my mother gave me for my house-warming. I figured it would be easier to replace the Betty Boop print than my O-negative blood type, so I pressed it against my arm when a thought occurred to me.
I took out my phone and did a Google search to find out how long it would take to bleed to death. According to Yahoo! Answers (as credible a site as any in my harried state), it would take about an hour, possibly two or three but definitely no less than thirty minutes.
I rushed back to my keyboard and threw the towel on the floor. Mess be damned. I was feeling inspired! I clacked my fingers against the keys, completely disregarding the story I’ve been trying to write to instead bring forth what you are reading now. This funny, absurdist little tale that I am just now realizing is… complete garbage. Oh, my God. I’m dying. What the hell am I doing?
My eyes struggled to read anything I had just written. The room spun and tilted as my eyelids suddenly became heavier than cement blocks. The soiled towel seemed to increase in weight as if Betty Boop had been impregnated by my DNA.
Wait, what the hell am I talking about? You can’t get pregnant through a blood transfusion.
That was my final thought before I passed out.
I awoke with a severely sore neck and a forearm that might as well have been glued to both the carpet and Betty Boop’s svelte waist. My double vision had subsided to one and a quarter. I pried my arm from the wool and cotton spikes and assessed the damage. The blood had clotted to form a jagged red line that was sure to turn into a scar.
I staggered over to the bathroom mirror and regarded my paler-than-usual face before smacking it with cold water. I forced my eyes to focus and calmed my heart with deep, slow breaths. I’m going to be okay, I thought.
Making my way back to my so-called office, I plopped myself down onto the seat and re-read this story. I ultimately decided that it had some merit, maybe, if I rewrote it three or four times.
I went back to the kitchen and regarded the bloody knife on the counter. I let it be and poured myself a glass of scotch.
There’s nothing like slowly killing yourself to put things into perspective.
Header Photo: By I99pema (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons