The Morning After

By Kimberly Zapata

She rubbed her middle finger along the edge of her lower lip. It was chapped and cracked like an elephant’s back, and if she picked at it, the skin would come off in sheets. It would peel back like the bark on sycamore or a summer birch. But she knew this. She had done this picking and peeling routine many times before and so — for the sake of her scabbed over lips — she decided to move on.

She let her finger slowly glide and continue on its course.

But before long, her finger became wet. It became viscous and tacky, gooey and gummy, but that is because her finger had reached the corner of her mouth. It had reached the corner where shit collects from the night before.

Another day, she thought as she wiped the spit away, the sleep away, and the stale beer away. Another sleepless night.

She moved her now-sticky finger from her face to her bedsheets. She wiped it clean on the cheap Target comforter and then tossed the blanket aside, burying the evidence in an unmade ball on her bed. She lifted her head and her body, she leaned forward, and then she stood up.

She instinctively made her way to the bathroom, but once there she found signs of the night before.

She found evidence of  “what happened” the night before.

There was a towel on the floor and a nearly empty bottle of Advil on the counter. The mouthwash was uncapped, the first-aid kit was out, and bandaids and prep pads were strewn about reckless abandon.

They had been dumped like the contents of your pocket after a long day at work.

Of course, she knew what she had been looking for. Despite a night of heavy drinking, she still remembered what she had been looking for, but the pills weren’t there.

The sleeping pills were missing.

Shit, she thought. Why weren’t they there? If only they were there.

After rubbing her eyes and taking a long deep breath, the girl pursed her lips — framing them up for the words she was about to say — but instead of speaking, she stayed silent. The feelings were real. The thoughts were real, and the memories were rushing back, but the words were caught in the base of her throat.

They were too hard, too heavy, and too painful. Far too painful. So instead of speaking, she began cleaning. She freshened up and tidied up until the room looked untouched.

Until the bathroom appeared “un-lived in.”

But the room was lived in. The house was lived in, and that was the problem.

Living was a problem.

Make no mistake: the girl didn’t want to die. Not exactly. Not entirely. But she didn’t want to live anymore. She didn’t want to think anymore. She didn’t want to try or fight anymore, and she didn’t want to feel or hurt anymore. She didn’t want to hurt anyone anymore, but she would have to. This very morning proved she would have to, because she woke up alive.

“God damn it,” she said. “Why am I still alive?”

And the truth is the girl didn’t know. She knew the logistics, of course. She didn’t drink enough alcohol to die. She didn’t take enough ibuprofen to die. But the reason — the actual reason — she survived alluded her.

For thirteen years, it has alluded her.

Because the truth is she didn’t survive because she should have. She didn’t survive because God had some great plan for her — or because God still has some great plan for her — she survived because she was lucky.

Plain and simple: I was lucky.

That said, I won’t tell you it will get better because I can’t. I won’t tell you not to harm yourself or hurt yourself because it would be hypocritical and glib. But I will tell you that I know how you feel. I empathize. And I understand.

I will tell you that no matter where you are or how downtrodden and desperate you may me feel, you are not alone.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts — or know someone who is struggling –  visit Suicide Help or call 1-800-273-TALK.

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