The irony wasn’t lost on me: Mere weeks following my debut in these pages, the alternate title to which might have been “In Defense of Suicide,” I almost died by my own hand.
I don’t remember much, admittedly — although history would suggest alcohol, anger, being of Irish descent and a general disillusionment concerning most matters, as the things that moved me once again like so many marionettes.
The little I do remember has me in front of a wooden door with two rectangle panes of glass, poised to throw a punch, thinking you’ve broke your hand twice, try something different. Thus, the glass.
The victor was showered in a parade of bloodflowers, at some cost to me. Thereupon, I made the first good decision in quite a while and cried out for my girlfriend, whom no one would’ve blamed if she had left me to drown in my own blood. Thankfully, the bull was showed mercy and rushed to Christ.
I don’t recall much there either. Except for feeling as pathetic as one could possibly feel. Hell, it had to be 5 a.m. and I was still in my softball uniform.
Would I ever suit up again?
I glanced at the doctor who was attempting to repair the two arteries that I had severed and doubted as much.
It was hard to fathom the high ransom a little broken glass could exact; then again, I am naive and occasionally lack common sense. The glass I had chosen to vent upon — had in fact chosen over all the drywall, wood, concrete, brick, rock and pillows in the house — was no more tempered than me, and, as such, the cascading glass guillotined my forearm, opening up a gash the size of a softball, ostensibly to match my sad ensemble.
My arteries fused, it was decided I would be transferred to University Hospital, at which point some poor guy’s phone rang to tell of the latest impetuous ass to recently discover he wasn’t bulletproof.
I waited there for the hand specialist while slipping in and out of consciousness.
The latter I welcomed, for when I was awake, I experienced the most overwhelming thirst imaginable. Whatever the risks of drinking liquids before surgery are, I would have gladly taken my chances if faced with so much as a toilet bowl.
While inventorying all my various missteps through time, I noticed some patterns. First, it struck me that I did something monumentally dumb every five years: In 1995, I broke my hand by banging it on a bar in protest of some lousy cover band that had the audacity to play a Bush tune. In 2000, I shattered my ankle after overturning a golf cart I was driving while mildly inebriated and wildly enraged by my inability to hit a decent ball. In 2005, I cut a tendon in my pinky finger while attempting to open a frozen pizza. Suddenly, everything I had ever done — every massive high and crushing low — was game for questioning.
I apologized to the surgeon when he arrived, then all but broke down once he removed my bandages. Somewhat sober, the sight was even more ghastly, reminiscent of something out of Aliens, but with more teeth. The surgeon was as kind as he was quiet, saying only “It is what it is.” And he was right.
My thoughts turned to those who hadn’t chosen to inflict themselves with wounds, to soldiers, to children who lucked into land mines. I felt ashamed, spoiled.
“What is the worse-case scenario here?” I asked.
“You lose your arm,” the doctor answered.
I tried to think of famous one-armed writers but came up empty-handed.
Later, I surmised I was almost as lucky as I was dumb: Surgery wasn’t warranted. Infection was our primary foe and, as such, the doctor doused my wound with gallons of some solution as if I were an empty reservoir for antifreeze.
Then, I chewed on the buttons of my uniform while he stitched me up. After that, he fitted me for a cast. Soon, I was released. I didn’t have my phone, or the wherewithal to remember anyone’s number. I would have taken the bus home, but I didn’t have my wallet either. That was when I saw it: my girlfriend’s number written on my hospital bracelet. The sight of which was not unlike a tall drink of water to me.
A few days later, I found myself back at the University Hospital, thoroughly depressed about my situation. I wasn’t sure if I could look anybody in the eye again. Wasn’t sure about anything, really. I just didn’t know — the extent of my injury, the breadth of my wake — and not knowing was what ailed me.
I was there to retrieve my X-rays. My order in, I waited in the lobby with the others, all of whom had their particular crosses to bear. Sitting there, I understood that I was supposed to be humbled by my experience, that there were things I needed to glean from it. All the same, I looked around the room — in particular at an elderly woman with impossibly bowed legs and crutches at the ready as she rifled through a bus schedule — and I remained strangely defiant. I realized: I liked myself.
And suddenly I didn’t care if by end I was as scarred as a member of a Norwegian Death Metal band and I had only one arm with which to pound my drum, I still liked my chances. Even if I were forever to remain the type that could lead you to the ledge, but never back: I still liked that guy.
CONTACT MARK FLANIGAN: firstname.lastname@example.org