My neighbor and friend "D" tried to kill herself last night.
She left a note on my other neighbor's door.
When "E" returned home from work, she found it, along with my note about the plumber coming between 9-11am, because our faucet was going to be replaced. "D" had actually slipped her suicide note under the plumber notice, as if it were less important than the water getting shut off.
From my kitchen window I saw "E" motioning to me with frantic arms, screaming, "D killed herself."
I grabbed Froggy out of her high chair and ran into the apartment. "D" was in bed, with headphones on, sprawled out, mouth open. She looked dead. Her dog kept jumping on her and looking up at us, like, "It's about time you got here!"
While "E" was on the phone with the paramedics I saw "D's" chest rise and fall.
I screamed, "She's alive, she's breathing!"
And I heard "E" repeat this to the paramedics like an echo, or dejavu.
Everything was in slow motion. People say this happens during a car accident, heart attack, or earthquake, and it's true. It feels like every second is distinct and a separate piece of time. It's as if the moment from here to there becomes jagged instead of fluid and you can physically feel the jerk and lurch of life. That watery feeling of losing time transforms into a painful recognition of the slowness of things. There are no transitions, just beats, like a cartoon strip, or film reel.
E and I were shaking, reading suicide notes, looking for pills, trying to keep Froggy calm, who kept repeating "D's" name.
I held Froggy in one arm while listening to "D's" heartbeat. It was fast, like the baby rabbits my sister and I saved from the lawnmower -wild, frantic, and alive. I could hear air going in and out, sometimes with ease, sometimes like a snore in the lungs; her breath hovering above her body. And then there was nothing. I yelled to E, "Tell them to hurry!"
"E" called the paramedics again and again.
A firetruck, ambulance and two police cars were there in minutes. And if time is relative, it could have been three weeks of repetitive sentences, "D, can you hear me?," D, hang in there, D, you're going to be okay."
The paramedics were extremely calm, as if they were in slow motion too, and understood this weird new world of taffy-stretched time.
Questions flew at us.
Did she leave a note?
Does she take drugs?
Are there pill bottles?
Was she depressed?
When did you last see her?
Has she attempted suicide before?
It became painfully clear how much I didn't know about my neighbor, even though we chatted nearly everyday. But how often does a conversation about dogs, family, and life drift into questions like, "do you do drugs, have you tried to kill yourself before, do you have an HMO or PPO?, What's your relationship like with your mother?"
We talked about Froggy's teething, a good veterinarian for our pets, the mailman, other neighbors, shopping, picking up dog poop in the yard, but nothing like this.
We were helpless as they took her away in the ambulance. We read her suicide note to see who to call, find her mother's phone number, find a reason for this.
She had been in physical pain for years and couldn't take another day. I knew this, but didn't realize it had come to the end. When the EMT's carried her out, I wondered if we had betrayed her.
She wanted to die, to be out of the physical and emotional pain. And I couldn't help but imagine what it would feel like to wake up knowing that you had tried so hard to die. Would she be thankful for life, or angry that she'd failed at death?
We stayed with her for five hours at the emergency room. After a CT-scan, the Dr. assured us, she would make a full recovery.
We are taking care of her beloved dog, and are waiting to hear what happens next.
E and I, along with other friends visited "D" tonight in the psych ward. It was like a chapter out of the book, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Men were wandering the halls in diapers, asking us for candy or spare change. The nurses' aides seemed shady and incapable of real care. "D" was drugged and angry.
I'm terrified for her, and wondering what we actually saved her from. Maybe death would have been better than this?
Or maybe we all are now completely aware that she needs more than what she was capable of asking. I feel guilty, sad, so afraid for her. It will be such a difficult recovery, and nothing will ever, ever be the same. She has tempted death, and no one can forget that.
For four years, Froggydaddy and I have lived in this apt, and "D" has always kept her living room window open. Yesterday it was closed. And I didn't notice.
We are all so connected in this world. We are all family. We are all responsible for one another. Our neighbors, our friends, everyone we meet.
Now I see the signs, the closed windows, and I'm sorry our help came so late.
Please say a little prayer, chant, sing, send love to "D". She is a lovely person, who deserves better than the life she tried so desperately to escape. Thank you.