Copyright© 2021 by Mark Elias
“Alex, you listen to me. Don’t you do this to me! Stay with me, okay?”
She wanted me to stay with her. I tried to talk more, I really did, but nothing came out. Instead, I just watched her eyes, my favorite thing about her. She was crying. Was it for me? Why would she cry for me? Did she care? Was it a show? Maybe she was ashamed for all she had done? There were so many questions that went through my mind in that split second, but they would forever go unanswered as The Darkness fully encompassed me.
The next thing I remember was waking up with the sounds of various machines making noise, and some alarms going off around me. There was a woman standing over me trying to put something down my throat. I reached out of pure instinct to grab her arm. I was trying to shake my head. They were trying to save me. They were trying to pull me back from The Darkness. It had already welcomed me though! They couldn’t do this! They didn’t understand. I tried to yell at them to stop, but the only thing that came out was a grunt.
“Alex! I need you to calm down for me okay?” She seemed nice, and her rich ebony skin stood in stark contrast to the bright light that was over my head. Still, I couldn’t let her do this. Hearing her call for some sort of restraints was the last thing I remembered before The Darkness returned.
Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you againBecause a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remainsWithin the
sound of silence
I was awake, but yet this couldn’t be real. If I were truly awake, I should be in a hospital. I should have all sorts of tubes and wires sticking out of me, but I was standing in my house. It was dark outside, and a fierce storm looked like it was raging, but inside things were calm and peaceful. My parents sat at the kitchen table. Between them on one side was a place setting for where I usually sat, except on my plate was a simple card that read “Rest in Peace” and nothing else. Across from where I sat was another place setting where Allison was now sitting.
“Mom?” I called to her, but she didn’t respond. Instead, she looked to Allison and ran a hand along her cheek. “I’m sorry.” I expected her to be crying. I expected some sort of reaction, but she didn’t do anything. She didn’t speak. There was only Silence.
In restless dreams I walked aloneNarrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a
street lampI turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of
a neon lightThat split the night
And touched the sound of silence
And in the naked light I sawTen thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
Suddenly things had changed. I was no longer standing in my house, but I was standing outside the school. It seemed like my entire class was gathered around. The rain that I thought I had heard before was coming down in thick sheets. Suddenly the dark sky burst into a bright display of lightning. I waited for the rolling of thunder, but it didn’t come. Instead I heard only The Silence.
Mark was suddenly standing in the middle of the crowd. He was shouting down at someone. I could tell from his movements that he was kicking someone. Mark’s face was red with hatred. I strained my ears to hear what he was saying but I heard nothing. Only The Silence remained in my ears. As quickly as I could, I started pressing my way into the crowd towards Mark. I was shoving people out of the way, but yet no one seemed to care.
“HELP HIM!” I was crying to the students I saw standing around, but no one responded. “MARK! STOP!” I was yelling again as I made my way to where Mark stood, expecting to hear him yelling back at me, or down to whoever he was beating. Yet I heard nothing. His mouth moved but nothing came forth. Instead there was only The Silence.
When I looked down at who he was kicking my heart stopped. A tall kid with dark wiry hair lay naked on the ground. A few feet from where the body knelt, nearly lifeless, lay the clothes that he’d once worn. They had clearly been torn from his body and now were nothing more than bloody rags. I couldn’t see any features of his face, but I knew who it was. It was me.
“Please! Someone help me,” my voice was weak as I knelt down beside the body, crying over it until my vision merged with the body and again, I felt pain wracking my body. My voice was barely above a whisper as my pleas fell upon deaf ears. My vision was red as blood ran down my face and filled my eyes. I saw someone taking my picture and struggled to see who it was but couldn’t make out the face. I looked at them and pleaded, but they wouldn’t look at me. Instead they carried on a conversation with someone next to them as if nothing was happening.
“Fools,” said I, “You do not knowSilence, like a cancer, grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
echoed in the wells, of silence
“WHY WON’T YOU DO SOMETHING?!” I could taste the slightly metallic crimson liquid as it flowed from my face and onto my lips. The taste of blood was marred only by the salty tears that fell from my eyes. Why couldn’t they understand that if he did this to me, he would do it to someone else? When I was dead, he would turn his attention to someone else. All they had to do was help. Give me some sign of comfort. Give me a bit of strength, but they did nothing until even the sound of my tears falling down gave way to The Silence.
And the people bowed and prayedTo the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway w
allsAnd tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence.
I watched Mark one last time. My class had all turned towards him and began patting him on the back. I couldn’t hear anything but felt the praise being lauded upon him as if he had done something good. They were fools. Every damn one was nothing but a fool. I couldn’t help but wonder who would be the next person they would throw down as a sacrificial lamb upon the golden altar of Baal. One day they would learn, but for now. There was only The Silence.
If this had been a movie I would have suddenly bolted up in my bed as I was suddenly thrust from my nightmare, but this wasn’t a movie. My eyes were closed, and my breathing was shallow, aided by a tube I could feel in my nose, but I was conscious for just a moment. I was aware of someone near me as a hand was pressed to my shoulder, but I didn’t have the energy to turn to see who it was. The moment of consciousness was brief before I gave way to The Silence once more. How much longer would I hold on before it was over? I had given myself to The Darkness, and The Silence had led me through my final goodbyes. It was time to let go, yet something kept me tethered to life.
“It’s been hours now! When will he wake up?” The voice I began to hear was my mom’s. She had been crying, I could tell. It was her voice, but there was a raspy tone to it that came from long bouts of crying.
“Mrs. Jackson you have to realize that Alex’s body has been through a lot since yesterday.”
“Will he ever wake up?”
“He’s not in a coma. He’s just sleeping. Some of that comes from the sleeping pills he took. They were absorbed rather quickly by the body and with the amount he took, it’s no wonder he’s still sleeping. Part of it is also his body’s natural defense mechanism. His body took a lot of abuse yesterday. First from the pills and then from all of the treatment we gave him to reverse the effects of the acetaminophen in his body.” I didn’t recognize the voice, but it was clearly a nurse or a doctor. How was I still alive?
I tried to open my mouth to speak, but there was something in my throat. My heart raced as I began to panic. I was reaching for something, anything, to be able to breathe or talk, but my hands were bound by some sort of restraints. I heard an alarm bell go off as I had managed to knock something loose. This all happened in an instant, and before I knew it there was a nurse at my bedside.
“Alex? I need you to calm down. Don’t try to talk or move. You’ve got something in your throat to help you breathe. Will you calm down for me?”
My eyes must have been as wide as saucers and the nurse knew I was scared.
“Don’t worry sweetheart. Your mom and dad are here. They are just outside the room. If you will calm down and let me check a few things I will get them to come in, is that okay?”
My parents were here. Why were they here? Why was I here? I was supposed to be dead! Apparently, I couldn’t even get that right. I felt the tears falling down my face only to stain the pillow beneath my head. The nurse was a black lady who looked to be in her mid-fifties and had lots of gray in her thick black curly hair. She was gentle as she went about checking my vitals in order to make sure I was okay.
“We had to restrain your arms so you wouldn’t do anything in your sleep. I can’t take them off right now without the doctor’s release, so please don’t strain too much against them or you’ll hurt yourself. Will you be okay while I go get your parents?” I nodded my head and looked away from the door in shame. I didn’t want to see the look on my parent’s faces. My dad was already disappointed in me before I did this. The fact that I couldn’t even do this right would probably make him pissed at me. It would have been better if I had died.
“Alex!” My mom was rushing to me, massive tears were running down her cheek. She wasn’t giving me the opportunity to look away from her, she was right in my face showering me with kisses. “My baby! I’m so sorry.”
She was sorry? For what?
My dad’s voice wasn’t angry. It was soft and I could hear a slight quiver in it as if he were just barely trying to keep himself from crying. I turned to look him in his eyes.
“We love you. No matter what, we love you. We are going to get through this. It’s all going to be okay.” I could only nod my head slightly.
“Do you need anything?” My mom was now trying to smooth out the blanket and adjust my arm so that the IV they had in me wasn’t pulling.
“Alex,” The nurse began as she finished making a few notes on my chart. “Now that you are awake, we will get that breathing tube taken out. That way you can talk. When we do take it out, your throat is going to be really raw. I’ll bring you some water and some ice chips to help sooth it.” I nodded in response. “I can’t do anything about the restraints right now. We have to get an okay from the psychiatrist. We have to make sure you aren’t going to hurt yourself again, okay?” Again I nodded. “Let me get some water and ice and I’ll be back to take your breathing tube out.”
It was about fifteen minutes later when the nurse returned with two cups. One of ice water with a straw in it and the other ice chips. And they had the good kind, like you’d get at Sonic. At least there was something to look forward to.
“Okay. Now when I count to three, I want you to cough for me really hard okay?” I nodded as the nurse came over and raised the bed until I was able to sit up and lean forward. “One ... two ... three!” I coughed and felt the strangest feeling I’d even known, that being a long plastic tube being pulled from my throat. It felt like the tube had been long enough to reach my stomach. I coughed hard but even after it was gone I kept coughing. The nurse was on one side of me and my mom on the other. “That’s okay buddy. Like I said, your throat is going to hurt for a few days. Here drink some water.” She pushed the straw to my lips and the cold water indeed helped quell the fire in my throat. When I had stopped coughing, she put the stethoscope to her ears and asked me to take some deep breaths. I couldn’t do it without coughing some more and she finished up by giving me some more water.
“Now before I go, I need to ask you a couple of questions. I can ask your parents to step outside if you’d like.”
“No!” I was surprised how quick and forcefully I answered that question.
“Good. You need people around you to support you. Alex you came to the emergency room yesterday because it looked like you tried to take your own life. Is that what happened?”
“Yes.” I said. My voice was raspy and sounded like I had gargled with a dozen hundred penny nails.
“One other question, and this is very important, other than Tylenol and sleeping pills, did you take anything else?”
“Okay then. I’ll let the doctor know you are awake. It’s almost 3:00 now. I’ll try and get the psychiatrist to come by soon to give you a release on the restraints.” She then looked to my mom and dad, “You can talk to him, but try not to overwhelm him, right now. Don’t get into too many hard questions until after the psychiatrist has come by. And please try to keep his replies to as few words as possible for a little bit. At least for the next few hours. Give his throat a chance to relax a bit.”
I wasn’t sure if all those instructions were medically necessary or the nurse was just trying to help me out by keeping my parents off my back for a little bit. Still she handed my mom the two cups and allowed my dad to take her place by my side. Then it was just the three of us.
“Where?” God it hurt to talk.
“Shh,” My mom wiped away an errant tear that was falling down her cheek. “Don’t try to talk right now. Just relax and get some rest.”
“You are at South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta.”
That wasn’t the question I wanted to ask, but I knew my dad was just trying to help. It had to be awkward for him right now. I knew there were a million questions he had, but he was told not to ask them at the moment.
“Alex, baby” I looked back to my mom who was half laying on the bed with me. I leaned by head to her shoulder and struggled not to cry. “I want you to know something. It doesn’t matter what happens, or what you do. Nothing ... nothing in the entire damn universe, will ever stop your father and I from loving you. When you don’t have anyone else, please remember that you still have us. Okay?” I nodded, unable to stop the flow of tears. “It’s okay, baby. We are here, now. You’re safe.”
It was an hour later when we got a knock on the door and in walked a goddess. I was guessing, based on her features, that she was of some sort of Russian descent. She was tall and lithe. Her face was angular and her eyes a bit narrower than you’d see on my other European women.
“Hello, I am Dr. Markov.” She immediately walked to my father first and held out her hand.
“I’m McKenzie Jackson, and this is my wife Teresa.” She turned to shake my mom’s hand before looking at me.
“And this handsome fellow must be Alex.”
I nodded, not able to get enough blood flow to my brain to formulate a response. It seemed all the blood in my body and traveled south. Thankfully, I had the hospital blanket over me to cover the painful hardness I had decided to sprout at the wrong moment in time.
“Well, Alex, I am Dr. Victoria Markov. I am the psychiatrist on call. In a minute I’m going to ask your parents to step out and give us some privacy.” She looked at them both, “It’s standard procedure. This would be a good time to step away and maybe make a few phone calls or get something to eat.” She then turned back to me, “Alex since you are now my patient, I have to make sure that both you and your parents understand doctor patient confidentiality. Even though you are a minor you still have a reasonable expectation of privacy. That means anything you tell me in confidence I am legally bound not to tell anyone, not even your parents, except for a few circumstances. Those exceptions being if I feel your life or your health are in danger, or if I feel someone else’s health and well-being would be affected.”
“Even though he is a minor?” my mom was asking, her voice had a slight tone of annoyance in it, but I could also tell she was more concerned than angry.
“Yes, Ma’am. Even though he is a minor and has admitted to suicidal tendencies, he has the right to privacy in terms of his mental and physical health. He can waive those rights and allow me to talk to you about his care, but I cannot just tell you what’s going on. To do otherwise would mean I could lose my license.”
My mom just nodded, “Okay.” She leaned in and gave me a kiss on the forehead, “I’m going to go call Debbie and let her know what’s going on. Allison was here almost all night last night. She’s been worried sick.” My mom ran her fingers across my head, “I know you don’t want to talk to her, and I won’t make you. But I do think she needs to know you are okay. When the time is right, and you are ready, you can talk to her.”
My dad leaned down, put his forehead on mine, and whispered to me, “Don’t worry, Son. Everything is going to be okay. We are just so glad you are alive.”
When my parents had gone, Dr. Markov closed the door and pulled up a stool to sit near me.
“Alex, do you understand why you are here right now?”
I only nodded in reply.
“I’m going to need you to actually talk to me so that I can understand you.”
“Talking to people is hard for me.”
“Has it always been that way?”
“Tell me about that.”
“I try to talk to people, but for some reason I get too scared.”
“Are there people you do talk to? Outside of your parents I mean.”
“What happened to them?”
“It was just one person.” Dr. Markov looked at me in silence and just waited for me to respond. She wasn’t going to make this easy on me. “Her name is Allison. We used to be friends. She was really my only friend.”
“She’s the one your mom said she was going to call?” I nodded in response. “Why don’t you want her to know how you are? It sounds as if she really cares for you.”
“It’s all an act.”
Dr. Markov reached over to one of the tables where she had placed a file folder. She opened it and pulled out a sheet of paper.
“Alex, do you know the circumstances of how you got to be here today?”
“A little. I remember some things.”
“Tell me what you remember.”
“After I took the pills I sat on the floor and waited to die. Then Allison called me. I remember trying to talk to her, but she wasn’t listening to me. The next thing I remember is her being in the house. Then I was here.”
“Let me fill you in on a few things, okay? And then I want to ask you more about Allison.” I nodded as she didn’t even wait for me before she began. “Alex this is a copy of the police statement that we were given. According to this, Allison called you yesterday afternoon because you didn’t show up for school. She got concerned because she could tell you had been crying. She also said that she could barely understand anything you were saying. You said you kept trying to talk to her?”
I nodded, “But she wouldn’t listen.”
“According to this statement your words were slurred like you were drunk and she couldn’t make out what you were saying. She said you kept saying ‘Saw We’ which she interpreted as ‘Sorry’. When she asked what you were sorry about, the only things she could understand were the words ‘don’t hate.’ She said you then started to yell at her and kept saying ‘no choice’ over and over again. At some point she got her mom’s attention and her mother called 9-1-1 while Allison kept you on the phone. They went to your house and that’s where her mom found the bottles of Tylenol and the sleeping pills on the kitchen table. When the ambulance got there Allison refused to let go of your hand and rode in the ambulance all the way to the hospital with you.” Victoria put down the paper and set the folder aside again, “Now tell me, Alex, does that sound like someone who doesn’t care about you?”
“It’s a long story.”
She only nodded, “I’m not expecting to cure you of anything within fifteen minutes. We can talk about that some more later. What I do need to do is determine if you are going to be a danger to yourself. Tell me why you tried to kill yourself.”
“Didn’t seem like I had a choice. I’ve been constantly bullied at school and beat up. I’ve got no friends. My mom hated me. My dad was disappointed in me. And the only person I had ever called a friend hadn’t talked to me in two years. So yeah, didn’t seem like there was much of an option.”
“We can talk about that later. Tell me why you decided to take pills instead of a different method.”
“We don’t have any guns in the house, so even if I wanted to do that, I couldn’t. I thought about cutting my wrists, but I didn’t want to do that to my parents. I wanted them to have as little work as possible. That’s why I packed up everything in my room. I didn’t want them to have to clean up blood.”
“You cared about them, even though you thought they didn’t love you?”
“And what do you think now? Do you still think they don’t love you?”
“Your parents are going to be back in a minute, so I’ll just ask one more question. If I order the restraints taken off, are you going to try and harm yourself again?”
“No. I’m done trying to do that.”
“Okay then. I’ll let the nurse know it’s okay to remove the restraints.” Dr. Markov went to the door and found my parents waiting outside. “Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, you can come in now.” Victoria stayed at the foot of the bed allowing my mom and dad to take up position on either side of me. “I’m going to allow the nurses to take off the restraints. I don’t believe that Alex is any longer a danger to himself or anyone else. I can’t release him from the hospital by myself. He’ll need to get clearance from his doctor for that. I am going to order a few tests to be done while he is here. Once he is released, and the test results come back, I will get in contact with you and we can schedule a time to come in. I would suggest Alex start seeing a therapist as soon as possible. I have room if you’d like to keep working with me. If not, I can recommend someone for you, but it’s going to be vital that Alex continue to get help, at least for the time being, so that he can work through the issues that got him to this point.”
“Can we know what those issues are? Does it have anything to do with bullying at school?”
Dr. Markov looked to my mom, “Since this is an issue that I do believe could mean potential bodily harm to Alex, I can tell you that one of the reasons is indeed being bullied in school. However, that is not the only reason.”
“If he’s comfortable with you then I’d like to have him keep seeing you.”
“That’s good with me. I’ve got your number in his file. As soon as the test results come back, I’ll have my office call you and set up an initial visit. Then we will set up regular visits.”
It was about fifteen minutes after Victoria left that a different nurse came in to remove the restraints.
“Alex how are you feeling? Does anything hurt?”
“My stomach feels weird.”
“Weird how? Does it hurt or do you feel like you’re going to throw up?”
“Maybe throw up, but I think it’s because I’m hungry.”
“We gave you some activated charcoal to help clear some of the poisons out of your body and we also pumped your stomach. So it doesn’t surprise me that you’re hungry. I’ll get you something to eat. Let’s keep it light right now and if you keep this down, we’ll move you on to something a little more solid. The doctor will be by before the shift change to go over everything with you so far.”
My mom reached for some of the ice chips and let me feed myself. My throat was still very raw, but the ice did help. Twenty minutes later the nurse returned with some soup that was mostly just broth and a few other things I could try and eat. It was all bland, but then again, that’s hospital food for you. My stomach kept bothering me and the longer things went the more uncomfortable I got. By the time the doctor came by to talk to my parents I was losing control of the mask I was trying to wear. I didn’t want my parents to know I was in pain. They had seen me in enough pain, but I wasn’t able to hide it now.
“Alex, what’s wrong, Honey?”
“My stomach. It hurts!”
The doctor came over to me quickly, “Tell me where it hurts.”
He pressed lightly on my stomach and I yelled as loud as I could. It felt like my stomach was about to burst.
“Nurse!” He called and immediately asked my parents to step out of the room. The doctor immediately went to my gown and started pulling it away. “Shit!”
Was my stomach supposed to be a dark red, almost black color? It’s never a good thing when a doctor starts cursing. Maybe my mom should wash his mouth out with soap as well. I was starting to laugh at myself when I felt the first surges of nausea. This wasn’t just something that disagreed with me. This was going to be more along the lines of puking up everything you’ve ever eaten type nausea.
“I ... I...” I couldn’t even warn him. The nurse was coming in just as I began to projectile vomit. She managed to get a trash can up to catch most of it, but both she and I would need to be cleaned up soon. I didn’t think I was ever going to stop throwing up, but by the time I did the doctor was laying the bed back down and bringing up the sides of the bed. “We’re going to the OR. Get him prepped for surgery and meet me in OR 2. Let’s get a CBC and Chem 7. Get me an X-ray of his abdomen as well.”