A Leaf on the Wind
: Time To Get Help by Sasha
“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.”
As soon as Richard left, I walked down the street to the liquor store on the corner. I bought a bottle of rum and a six-pack of coke. Within a few hours, I drank half the bottle. Feeling no pain, I curled up on the bed and fell asleep.
* * *
The fire department determined old, faulty wiring caused the fire. The investigators found evidence that years before we bought the house, there had been another fire in the attic. In addition to everything else that needed repair, the house would have to be completely rewired before I could move back in. Thus began the war with my insurance company.
While we fought, the house sat empty, slowly rotting from the water damage. Mildew, more than an inch thick, grew on every wall in every room. The wooden floors in the living room, bedrooms, and bathroom, buckled causing the carpets to split. Vandals broke most of the windows and wrote vulgar graffiti on the sides of the house. A large dumpster sat in the middle of the front lawn filled to the brim with ruined clothing, broken household items, and rotting furniture still wet from all the water. To my complete amazement, my neighbors rummaged through the debris looking for things they could use.
Although there was nothing I could do, I went over to the house every day and sat on the front porch trying to figure out how I was going to get my life back on track.
No one offered any help. No one, not even my mother, tried to contact me. I was completely on my own, and, as each day passed, I sank deeper and deeper into a world of depression.
Nightmares and hallucinations plagued me. Every night, alone in my motel room, I drank myself into a drunken stupor just to be able to fall asleep. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night to a room full of strangers. Never sure if they were real, a dream, or just another hallucination, I pulled the blanket up over my head until the mysterious visitors disappeared.
Occasionally, I found myself sitting at the table in the motel talking to someone who later turned out to be a figment of my imagination. Sadly, I began to look forward to my imaginary companions just to have someone to talk to. The loneliness was pushing me deeper into a depression that had begun to consume me.
Richard decided to take the girls on a vacation. With more than 120 days of unused vacation time, he took two months off from work, bought a new truck, and set off on what the girls called a grand adventure. I found it interesting that during our 12-year marriage, we never took a single vacation and never had enough money to fix the broken window in the den. But one month after our divorce was final, he was able to afford a new car and a two-month cross-country trip.
I was happy the girls were not going be around to see me slowly deteriorate. I was constantly terrified they would catch me talking to someone who was not there. They had been through enough. They lost their home, saw me drunk most of the time, and I knew they were tired of seeing me always sad. They knew I had become withdrawn but had no knowledge of how bad things had really gotten.
* * *
The whistle on the tea pot signaled the water was boiling. I dropped a teabag into the cup and reached for the kettle. Then, without thinking about what I was doing, I poured the boiling water over my hand. Oddly, I felt no pain. Within a few minutes, a huge blister formed across the entire top of my hand and the pain I had not felt a moment earlier was excruciating.
Fear engulfed me. I could not explain why I had done something so insane. The pain continued to get worse, and I knew I should see a doctor but I stayed in my room hoping that at any minute I would discover this was just another hallucination. However, it wasn’t. The pain was so severe, I began to shake from head to foot. The room began to spin and I suddenly felt nauseous. I was having a seizure. A moment later, the room went black.
* * *
Mom, Teresa, Denise and Bill, my brother-in-law, were sitting on the couch staring at me. I had no idea how much time had passed since my seizure, nor did I know why they were there. I wasn't even sure they were real. The pain of my hand reminded me of what I had done. The blister had broken and despite a thin crust that was beginning to form around the edge, a thick yellow puss was dripping down my fingers. Trying to ignore the pain, I stood silently staring back at my family.
Mom spoke first.
“Okay, now that you’ve got us all here, what is it you had to say that was so important?” Mom asked.
I had no idea what she was talking about. It was obvious I called them, and I had apparently pushed all the right buttons, because they had actually shown up.
“Valerie, we are all worried about you,” Mom moaned. "This leukemia thing was really the icing on the cake. You have been acting very strange. I think you need some serious help.”
My response was immediate and filled with anger.
“How the hell would you know if I was acting strange or not? None of you has called or bothered to visit me for months. You obviously had better things to do than check on me.”
Mom shook her head and said, “Come on, Valerie, that’s not fair. You’ve made it very clear you want nothing to do with any of us.”
“So what the hell are you doing here?” I snapped back.
“You called us and threatened to kill yourself if we didn’t come,” Mom explained. “You said you had something important to tell us.”
I had no recollection of calling any of my family.
Suddenly Mom noticed my hand. “That looks infected. What happened?”
I looked Mom straight in the eyes and said, “I poured boiling water on it.”
“Why in the name of God would you do such a crazy thing?” she asked.
I chuckled and said, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
I knew my sarcasm wasn’t helping, but it gave me a false sense of control over the situation. I hadn’t seen my family for several months and suddenly having them in the same room, filled me with a frightening sense of claustrophobia. I desperately fought the urge to open the door and run away. Instead, I felt myself start to shake, and, as the room slowly began to spin, I heard myself say, “SHIT!"
Then the room went black.
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