Content Warning: Chronicling always deals with the difficult topics of abuse, domestic violence, and depression/mental health; this chapter, in particular, also deals with suicide
I was supposed to be searching—out, walking the streets of this city, still so foreign to me—hunting for an apartment, for employment. Instead, closed off inside our temporary residence while he was away at class, all I could think of searching for was escape. It was a relief to be without him—a fleeting sort of faux freedom—while he was at the university for at least a few hours. Yet, as wonderful as it was to be by myself, the sense of isolation—of being in a city of millions and yet being completely, entirely, on my own—was an ache unshakeable within my core.
In a way, it was easier to experience the isolation, the loneliness, the transparency and the anonymity, in a place where I truly was foreign, truly was an out-of-place piece of the greater puzzle of humanity. Tongue tripping over native phrases, falling into a silent language of gesture or avoiding interaction altogether where possible; easier to feel as though I didn’t belong where it was so blatant—irrefutable.
Fantasies that filled me equally with self-loathing and despair, for even as I dreamt them I knew I’d never follow through. I could leave—could hail a taxi, could with halting words and gestures convey my destination, could literally take flight from here and leave him to fend for himself. Head out and just be gone. I could. I wasn’t truly trapped—or, rather, what held me was not lock and key, incapability, lack of resources or resourcefulness. No: what trapped me, instead, was a snarl of emotions too hopelessly interconnected to detangle and resolve. My fear, my insecurity, my self-loathing, my stubbornness, my pride, my love, my loyalty, my anger.
I ached, constantly, in every way possible. Bruised, beaten, convinced so deeply of my own worthlessness while equally deeply resentful of what he was doing to me—was it any wonder that I came to the point of wishing for another sort of end? An escape where I no longer had to suffer, where I didn’t have to answer that most difficult of questions: what next? An escape where, in some small way, I might have vengeance—he might finally value me if he missed me. At the very least, he’d be inconvenienced. He’d have to do something for himself. It would be his turn to be on his own.
I only had a small, travel-sized bottle of generic acetaminophen, and this already small portion of pills had been diminished still further from more appropriate (more intended) use. Still, maybe what was left would be enough. Whatever the case, it was something against the inertia, against the stale uselessness of fear so frequent and so deeply-ingrained as to be exhausting rather than stimulating.
I swallowed them dry, the chemical taste of the white pressed-powder pills sticking stubbornly to my tongue, and the memory of the shape of them within my throat briefly stopping my breath however much I tried to swallow it down.
I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to not exist. I didn’t want to have no future, no hope, no chance to experience something—anything. Yet, I was so tired. I was so tightly bound within the decisions the both of us had made, I couldn’t see my way out—however clearly I could fantasize about it, the possibility of leaving didn’t feel real.
Even as I was struggling to breathe around the lump within my throat, I was torn between the fear that it would work—that the handful of pills would be enough—and the fear that it would not. Immediate regret intermingled with a shameful hope that this, at last, was an attempt to leave him from which I couldn’t turn back—a decision I couldn’t take back, even if I’d changed my mind.
How many times had I left, only to return? Even knowing that things would be worse, only worse, for my having even tried to go, still I returned—each and every time. I left for myself, I left for him, I left in anger, I left in fear, I left in despair—and it made no difference. The most I’d stayed away was, what? One day? Perhaps two? Pathetic. Insignificant. Insufficient for anything but digging deeper into what would surely be my grave, one way or another.
That day, I learned that a travel-sized bottle of pain-reliever is not enough for anything except inducing an incredible amount of pain. I can still taste it, can remember so vividly the hours of vomiting that progressed from the more normal consistency through a vivid yellow bile that burned, and on into dry heaves so fierce as to tear my throat so that all that came up was saliva streaked with crimson.
I’m unsure whether he suspected the cause, but for once even he could not deny that I was ill. He didn’t care for me—was more upset at the inconvenience to himself than anything. Was angry and on edge, as usual. Was dangerous, as always.
I nursed myself to a shallow sort of wellness and called myself ‘recovered’ by the next day. Deep within, I also nursed my shame: for having tried at all, and for having failed so miserably.