Lights flashed red and white. I shut my eyes to their dizzying effects and the surreal dream-quality of all that had happened and was happening. Two medics whisked me on a gurney toward the opened doors of the ambulance.
“I’ll follow you to the hospital later,” my husband told the men. “our two sons and their cousins are due back any minute from the 7-11 down the street. I need to find someone to watch them. I recognized the familiar signs of anger, disgust, and heartbreak on his handsome face. As he held the glass storm door of our yellow house before him like a shield, I wondered if he was guarding those hot emotions not just his well-built physique.
“Did you jump off a building to get into these pants?” The medic good-naturedly asked as he helped me to pull them off. I smiled and nodded, but the question and the removal of my jeans ticked me off.
The antiseptic odor of the emergency room–like smelling salts–burned me awake to the consequences of my foolish actions. The pale walls, white ceiling tiles, and bleached bedding drove the point deeper. I didn’t deserve to cry! Frustration escalated, rising in my veins. My breathing erratic, like the thumping of my heart.
The beat of my life.
I pat-patted the blankets. Mind racing. Emotions–like a pinball–pounding the edges of my thoughts.
Did I really want to die?
From behind the curtain, hushed voices talked about picket lines, derogatory name-calling, and how the medical center scrambled, searching for temporary staff to fill shifts. Strangely, knowing regular employees weren’t on duty, comforted me.
One on-call nurse entered in her scrubs, her honey-gold hair and lithe form somehow intimidating.
“I’m sorry you have to do this.” I said softly.
Although she acknowledged my words, I saw and felt no compassion in her icy-blue stare or brisk movements as she took my vitals.
She handed me a bedpan. “We’re going to give you charcoal to absorb the pills from your overdose and to aid in forced vomiting.” She said, her tone flat.
The large clock ticked. The black hour & minute hands rotated at a snail’s pace past the seven and beyond as the red hand looped over and over. A reminder of former school days, nearly a decade gone.
I counted the tiny holes in the drop-down ceiling tiles, and waited.
Another nurse, similar in coloring to the first (but older, no-nonsense, and stockier), slid the curtain aside. The metal ball chain attached to the ceiling rails scraped an irritating protest.
She looked at the silver vessel, eyes narrowed. The shallow receptacle cold, heavy, and empty in my hands. She took it from me shaking her head.
“We have to pump your stomach.”
“Why?” I said.
“The charcoal’s not working. We have to rid you of the contents. Unless…”
“I make myself throw up?”
I knew something–too much–about that.
I hung my head, defeated, and nodded back.
All through the night, she brought me two-liter-sized bottles of a thick, clear liquid. At first, eager to help and not wanting to waste her time, I gulped down the offerings. After the third round, I stubbornly shook my head.
With a stern gaze, she delivered granite truth.
“You have at least five more of these to drink. If you don’t, your kidneys may be permanently damaged.”
Still, I hesitated.
“You have a family, right?
“Maybe it’s time to think about them.”