Fifteen Inches

Let's talk about suicide.

The last time I seriously considered suicide.

It was June 2019. I'd just quit my job and I was feeling more alone than I'd felt in a long, long time. My family had gone out somewhere; the movies, Walmart, I don't remember; but I was alone with my thoughts and the darkness of my room, which did not feel like my room, and which as the minutes passed by, suffocated me more and more, until tears flowed down my eyes and my throat began to hurt.

I couldn't get up. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't talk; and something inside me, a little string, was fighting to stay whole, unbroken. Taut? As time went by that little strung began to quiver, it began to sweat; marred by the thoughts running across it: ugly, dangerous thoughts that immobilized my eyes and mouth. My hands and feet. My shoulders and eyelashes.

And I began to make plans. (and) I was serious about them, too. More serious than I'd been before. More serious than I'd been when I was sixteen. and seventeen. and eighteen. and nineteen.

And then my dog barked. And I burst into tears.

Frustrated, angry tears.

How dare he interrupt my moment of sadness, of hidden weakness? Why couldn't he, a 15-lb dog, take care of whatever the fuck it was that he needed? Why couldn't he leave me alone; to be sad and miserable in peace? Why, at fifteen inches, could he not jump up to retrieve the food he so desperately wanted? Why couldn't he, unlike me, have the strength to not need anyone? Why did he, unlike me, have the strength to seek help when he needed it?

Why? Why did he need me?

Why did he need me to be there for him, even when I struggled to be there for myself? Why, at fifteen inches, was he so selfish, so self-absorbed? A robber, a thief, who took and took from me without consideration or gratitude. I was strong and he was weak; a stupid, dumb, silly little dog, that...desperately needed to pee.

I need to get out, he said. His eyes twinkled as he moved in circles, his little nose pointing to the walking leash in the corner of my room.

I cried and I screamed, but like the slave that I was, I obliged.

I put on my shoes, a shirt, and pants. I begrudgingly did as I was ordered, but I was angry. I was hurt. I was confused and slightly hungover. Paranoid. Upset. Jaded and exhausted.

But off I went. Out into the open; the sun was setting.

Muscle memory brought us to a little field, a little playground, a little school; a thirty second walk alone, yet an oasis of reflection with him.

Birds chirped, and the sky swarmed with orange, red, and yellow. A glint of purple and a dash of blue. White was not allowed, and black had not yet come; an imperfect balance of the muddled thoughts in my head.

We walked through a small garden, full of wonderful gifts half-rotten. The heaviness in my chest remained, yet I still wanted to do it, and as I watched the sunset, I remember thinking how good it would feel to not feel anything anymore. To let go; to give in. To not be here; to not suffer.

And then a little ball of white crashed into me.

And I honestly don't remember how it happened, but I was smiling, I was laughing and talking with a woman who was standing next to me. Same height, same eyes, same hands, yet so much older than my twenty-one years. She was happy and whole; she seemed content. She spoke about her children and her past. Of her dog, who refused to listen, and her husband, who knew better than to leave the door open for her 'kiddo' to escape.

Nervous. I was nervous; yet I was talking to this woman, and I was feeling hopeful, and Max, who is afraid of dogs big and small, was having the time of his life; off leash, chasing her kiddo, who refused to be caught.

Out in the open, his ears swayed in the wind; his tail spun so hard he almost flew. He barked and pounced and smiled. He looked at me for a brief second and rushed over, her small dog chasing after him.

This woman and I, we spoke for ten minutes, if that, but it made all the difference. Her words about the mundane and uncomplicated steadied the rope. They shifted things both known and unknown. They did so much I am still struggling to comprehend it.

But I am grateful; eternally grateful to her, for her kindness, to Max for asking to pee despite not actually needing to; to God and the universe, for everything both good and bad; but most importantly to myself, for my willingness to listen. To both the good and bad; the ugly and beautiful.

The sky was fully purple now, and black was beginning to set; yet my mind was white. White with relief and exhaustion of the good kind.

Saying goodbye we parted ways, and as Max and I walked home I realized now was not the time. Perhaps later, but not now.

I needed to see another sunset. And he was hungry.


C. W.