A Simple Mistake
A Short Story by Kate Dillon
Written using the suggestion "Alaska"
Originally featured on 04-16-2009
As part of our series "Where the Wild Words Are (Words Gone Wild!)"

I wasn’t trying to kill myself. I really wasn’t. One second I was laying in bed, watching some god-awful Keanu Reeves romantic comedy, tired and delirious and miserable beyond belief, the next second I was rummaging desperately through the medicine cabinet, pocketing a cocktail of antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, painkillers, and sleeping pills. I took them all but the painkillers, only because by that point I was pretty sure I had done something I wasn’t supposed to have done. I just wanted to zone out, get some sleep, feel a little better. What happened after taking the pills, well, I hadn’t quite thought things out that far ahead.

The woman who answered when I called 911 was very polite. She asked me my name and what I took and how many, so I told her what I could remember and explained to her that this was NOT a suicide attempt, only a bit of an oversight and I just needed to know what to do to not die, please. When she asked me what my address was so that they could send the ambulance, I realized what a big fucking mess I had gotten myself into. PLEASE do not send an ambulance, I begged her. My parents are right here, they can fucking DRIVE me to the hospital, we don’t need to the WHOLE ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOOD to know how fucked up I am.

She asked to talk with my parents now, right now, just tell them what you did so they can get you to the hospital. I walked in dizzied, trembling steps down the stairs and greeted my parents as they sat with their coffee and the newspaper in front of them like any other Saturday morning. My mom’s was still wearing her pink robe and her brown hair was messy from the night’s sleep. My Dad wore a green Alaska t-shirt, his graying hair combed neatly to the side. He rubbed his stubble as I stumbled to the table. I took a few too many pills, I told them, watching the fear smack them in the faces. The lady at 911 wants to talk to you.

“I’m so sorry Mom, I really am. I didn’t mean to do it,” I mumbled in the car on the way to the hospital.

“What were you thinking? What were you trying to do? Were you trying to kill yourself?” She asked, frenzied. I felt like she was moving in fast motion and I was moving in extra slow.

“Nooo I didn’t, seriously, I just wanted a nice rest. Just a break from things, I didn’t think it through, Mom.” Objects were starting to swim in front of me, tree branches nearly blowing into the windshield and cars swerving all around us, the colors moving too fast.

“I hope you’re right. I hope that’s the truth,” she said. We pulled up to the emergency room door and she held my hand as we walked inside, like I was five years old or something, but I let her. She explained what happened and they asked me if I tried to kill myself. I told them no, I did not, at least seven times because they kept asking again and again, different people with different tones and voices.

I was in a room with my mom and someone else, a nurse, I think. She asked me what flavor I wanted and I couldn’t figure out what she meant, what flavor what, I asked over and over and she told me it was for the liquid charcoal. By that point the sleeping pills were kicking in and I couldn’t form my words into sentences to ask what liquid charcoal was, so I picked cherry because I could point to it. I gagged and choked it down and it tasted exactly what it sounds like, only with the addition of cherry-flavored high fructose corn syrup.

The next few hours were a blur of colors and sounds and gray medical equipment dancing around me, tempting to touch me if I moved. I talked to a police officer, investigating this possible suicide attempt. I did NOT try to kill myself, I assured him. We can be done here, I said as I turned my head and closed my eyes hoping he’d disappear. He asked me more questions about it and I answer them, but I cannot remember what was said. I only remember him finally believing me and leaving, maybe because he did believe me or maybe because he had no choice. I talked with nurses and mental health professionals while my mom sat in a chair to the side of me. I don’t remember her talking, but she may have. I fell in and out of sleep, mumbled incoherently to my mom, and eventually signed something that got me a trip to the psych ward for an amount of time yet to be determined. My mom nodded to me and said Mandy, I think it would be a good idea. I was just wanted to sleep, I was so tired, and I said OK.

Maybe it was because I was so sleepy, so damn tired and I couldn’t quite focus on anything, that the nurses put me in a wheelchair and took me up to the 5th floor. I don’t need a wheelchair, I told them, I can walk just fine. I stood up and began titling towards the wall, and they gently grabbed my shoulders and ushered me back to the chair. We took an elevator up and it let us out into a long corridor with white walls, walls that kept moving closer and closer towards me. I felt like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory before they entered the candy land. At the end of the magical shrinking corridor were big blue metal double-doors with the words PSYCH WARD stamped in white across the middle of them. Shit, I said, and they asked me what was the matter. I mumbled never mind, nothing, closing my eyes as they entered a code and wheeled me in, slamming the doors behind me.

My room was white, all white, with two beds and two dressers. It felt safe and clean and pure, and I lay down for a short nap on the crisp sheets. I felt the plastic mattress cover squeak and crumple underneath me as I feel into a deep sleep that lasted for what seemed like days. When a chubby blond nurse woke me up for dinner I told her I had been there long enough and it was time for me to leave now. Thanks for all the help, but I’m doing a lot better now, I politely informed her. She politely informed me that dinner was ready and that I’d be just fine soon. How long? I asked, but she only shook her head.

Read More By Kate Dillon

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