8FOLD: Doomed Romance # 2

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Sun Nov 4 22:41:52 PST 2007

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   The last time I tried to kill myself, Angie stopped
   There are two ways to hang a man.  One is to break
the neck.  Fix the rope to something sturdy, put him
on a chair, kick the chair away, and bam: neck's
broken.  Painless and quick.
   But that wouldn't work for me.  There was nothing
in the apartment to fix a rope to, other than maybe
the shower rod, which I didn't think would support my
   The second way is to strangle him.  Wrap the rope
around something, hold it in your hand, and pull. 
It's far more painful, can take a long time, and if
you're doing it to yourself, you can stop it any time
you want.  You have to really hate yourself to do it
this way.
   The thing I remember is the tightness around my
neck, a tightness that seemed to spread to my whole
body.  As it became harder to breathe, I felt small
tingles of numbness in my body and especially in my
brain.  I wondered if I was going to pass out, and if
in doing so I would release my grasp of the cord,
rendering the whole venture for naught.
   Angie started calling for me.  I pulled tighter and
harder.  Maybe I could finish it before she found me. 
But no such luck.
   She unwrapped the cord frantically, tears streaming
down her eyes.  She kept shouting, "Why are you doing
this?"  Over and over again.
   I didn't answer at first.  I was a little dazed, my
brain still fizzing from oxygen depravation.
   "I don't want to live," I said finally.  "I want to
be dead."
   But that wasn't a good enough reason for her.  She
kept staring at my neck, where the cord had dug into
it and made a welt.  "Your neck," she said.  "Your
beautiful neck."  And this too was repeated, like a
   Angie made me promise never to do it again.  I
always keep my promises.

   It took a few weeks for the welt to disappear.  It
upset Angie to see it.  I started wearing my four
turtleneck sweaters in rotation, using the
Monday-Thursday rule to get as much mileage out of
them as I could.  (Whatever you wear on Monday you can
also wear that Thursday without washing it.)
   This hid my neck pretty well, but when I was
changing or when I went to bed, she still caught sight
of it.  She would stare at it; sometimes she would
touch it; she would say very quietly, "Your neck. 
Your beautiful neck."
   Once she asked me how I could do this to myself,
and to her.  "Don't you know that I love you?" she
said.  "Don't you know how much losing you would hurt
   I didn't want to hurt her.  I told her not to
worry.  I had made a promise, and I was going to keep

   I don't want to say that I necessarily have a
desire to be dead.  I like being alive, and so in that
respect I was lying to Angie when she asked me why I
tried killing myself.
   It's not a desire.  It's a drive.  It's an urge. 
This maddening feeling, this oppressive and
suffocating feeling, an overwhelming amount of pain
and I just want it to stop.  I ask God over and over
again to take it away.  That I'm not strong enough. 
That I can't take it anymore.
   Sometimes I feel like he's listening.  Like things
are going to get better, just around the corner.  If I
can just hang on just a little bit longer, it'll all
turn around.
   It feels that way for Angie too.  She said that
when she met me, her luck had finally changed.  That
now our luck was going to change.  Any day now.  Any
month.  Always darkest before the dawn.
   "What if you give up, and the next day was going to
be when it all was going to change?  We're that close.
 I can feel it..."
   But it's like Zeno's Paradox.  No matter how far I
move forward, it seems like we can never reach our
   And it discourages her too.  I can tell.  She
doesn't hide it very well.  She doesn't hide anything
very well.  Angie's completely without guile.  I wish
I was.  I wish I could be a whole lot more like Angie.
 Wish I could be a good person.
   I wish I could be honest.  Tell her exactly how I'm
feeling, exactly what I'm thinking.  Sometimes I do,
and I almost always regret it.  I don't want to hurt
her, I don't want her to worry.
   I don't want to be dead.  I really don't.  But when
I get twigged out, I have this urge to run down to the
laundry room and glug down the bleach.  I imagine it
burning my throat as it seizes my heart, squeezes it
hard, sending hard ripples and painful spasms through
my body.  I worry that it would make me throw up
before it killed me, and that Angie would find me and
call an ambulance and save me again.
   I also remind myself that I made her a promise, and
that I have to keep it.  I wish I thought of that
first, but I don't.
   Sometimes I'm not even that down and I think about
it.  When I'm cutting vegetables, I imagine plunging
the knife into my belly and pulling it across,
allowing my intestines to spill out.  I think about
holding them as I fall to my knees.  I wonder what
they feel like in my hands, how heavy they will be,
how slimy, what texture.
   When Angie and I go for a walk, I always give her
the wall.  That way, if I want to leap in front of an
onrushing car, she has less of a chance of stopping
me.  My body twitches when I see a suitable candidate.
 Part of me says, go, go, go!  But my body never does
anything more than twitch.

   She suggested that I see a doctor.  "You won't talk
to me," she said.  "Maybe we can find someone you can
talk to."
   "I talk to you," I said.
   "Not really," said Angie.  "You go around for days
or weeks being moody, and I ask what's wrong, and you
tell me it's nothing, that you're fine.  And then I
find out that you're not fine.  And if you'd just tell
me right away, maybe you wouldn't spend all that time
carrying it around."
   This was true.  But when she said stuff like that,
it didn't make me want to tell her about it.  It
actually had the opposite effect: I have to do a
better job keeping it in.  I can't break down and tell
her, because that just hurts her and I don't want to
hurt her.
   Of course, trying to hold it in more just makes it
build up worse and worse until it spills out again. 
And then she worries even more, and the whole cycle
starts anew.

   I hate to see her worry.  It consumes her
completely.  I used to have trouble getting her to
come because the whole time she couldn't stop
obsessing about the bills or work or her health.  She
couldn't enjoy herself.  When she worries, she's
absolutely incapable of enjoying herself.
   And, in turn, that means I can't enjoy myself.  I
can't be happy when she's unhappy.  She's everything
to me.  She's the only thing that's keeping me alive.

   When we first started dating, I wouldn't let her
get unhappy.  I was aggressively cheerful; it never
let up.  It helped that I used to be funny.  I used to
have jokes and stories, dozens of them, and as soon as
she had started laughing at one, I launched into
   The problem with the pace I was keeping was that I
eventually ran out of material.  I had told her all my
jokes more than once.  She got tired of my stories. 
The new ones I came up with didn't have nearly the
same sparkle.  I used to be funny.  I used to make her
   I wish I could again, especially now, especially
when she needs it.  She doesn't sleep much anymore. 
She stays up most of the night, staring in the dark,
unable to let go of her worrying.  I know she's
worrying about me.  I know that I'm hurting her.  Her
worrying-- my depression-- it's killing her, it's
slicing her up.

   She doesn't smile very much anymore.  I'll ask her
what's wrong.  Ask her how her day was.
   "It was fine," she'll say.  "I'm just a little
   "Any reason why?"
   "No reason."
   "Something I did?"
   "You just worrying about stuff?"
   "Not really."  And she wasn't lying.  I could
always tell whether or not she was lying.  "Not really
thinking about much of anything.  My head's just
empty.  I don't feel like doing much of anything

   I try to make her happy.  I try to make her laugh. 
Usually she just nods kinda dumbly, like she only half
heard me.
   We try to go to movies that won't depress her. 
Movies with happy endings, where the dorky guy gets
the girl, or the cool guy stops the terrorists, or the
whacky sidekick makes anachronistic wise-cracks and
pop culture references in a fairy-tale setting.  I'm
not a big fan of those movies, and it's hard to
disguise my dislike of them.
   "Well, I liked it," Angie will say.  Then we'd get
into an argument woven not so much from yelling and
screaming but an uneasy silence.
   Sometimes I do better than others about keeping my
mouth shut.  Then I'll get, "Thank you for sitting
through it with me.  I know you didn't like it.  I
just can't take anything that's going to bring me

   It's hard to see her this way.  Harder, because I
know it's my fault.  I did this to her.  Before she
met me, she would laugh and smile.  She would cry. 
Now she doesn't even do that.  It's like she has no
emotions left at all.
   "I feel weird," she said.  "I don't feel like me
anymore.  I don't feel like I'm even alive."
   "Just hang on," I said.  "We're in this together. 
We'll get through this.  Things are going to change,
and soon, and for the better."
   But she believes it even less than I do.  I just
keep bringing her down.
   Even if things do change-- if I get a better job,
or we win the lottery-- I don't think it would make
that much of a difference.  I would still be
depressed, and she would still worry.  It's who I am
and it's who she is, and a little luck isn't going to
change that.

   I know that if she left me, I could never survive
it.  I love her and that's all that's keeping me
   But if I died, I think she would still be okay. 
She's strong like that, much stronger than I am.  I
need her to live, but she doesn't need me.  She
worries, but she would be okay.  She would move on. 
Probably find someone who deserves her, someone who
can actually take care of her.
   Maybe it's her luck that's supposed to change. 
Maybe I'm holding her back.  And the thought of that,
coupled with the way she's being whittled down, makes
me so angry at myself, it fills me up with
self-hatred.  I think about jumping off a building, or
setting myself on fire, or tying a bag around my head.
 I think about starting the car and setting it in
reverse, letting it roll down the driveway.  I put my
head down on the pavement, and the wheel rolls over
me, breaking my nose with a splurt of blood before
squashing me painlessly dead and flat.
   But I don't do it.
   For now, I love her more than I hate myself.

   It's not always sad.  I know there are happy times
even now.  She has smiled and laughed more than once
in the last week or so.  I did enjoy myself, we did
have a good meal, we did go for a good walk.  But I
have to remind myself, and worse, I have to remind
   Depression has a way of obscuring the good things
in your life.  It focuses you so much on this moment,
and on itself, that it's like you've never had a good
time ever in your life.  And even when you remember
it, even when you find a specific example to counter
the charge, it feels so far away, so out of reach,
that it just makes things worse.  You can remember the
event, but not the feeling.

   I keep telling myself that I can't take it much
longer.  That I've just about reached my breaking
point.  But then I keep going.
   I would welcome a break-down.  Something that
dramatic would shake things up.  Whether for good or
for ill, it would be over.  Finally, at long last, the
pain would be gone.  But I never quite get to that
point.  It just gets worse to worse, but I never hit
bottom.  I just keep falling.
   Deeper and deeper.  It never ends.
   It never will end.
   No end and no relief.  I'm not allowed.  I made
Angie a promise, and I'm going to keep it.


Tom Russell


"Fishin' sure does take out
 the miseries out of a man."


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