Chapter 43. Discovery and Rescue/Crystal
Crystal was disgusted; the van taking her to Cabrillo Beach and Museum had broken down just a mile from campus and after waiting an hour, the professor told the class to walk back, that their field trip was cancelled. Luckily, it had stopped raining so she could take off Marianne’s red poncho. It had made her feel like a steamed lobster. But the backpack was heavy with clothes and books, and she felt put upon as she walked back.
She had really wanted to see the tide pools. Strangely, she’d lived in Los Angeles all her life but never been to the ocean at all. The other students who had gone on this trip said they’d seen octopus, sea urchins, star fish, limpets and other things. Marianne’s group had even seen a gray whale spouting offshore. They said it was fantastic. Maybe she could get Jason to take her to the Cabrillo Museum over the Christmas vacation, she thought.
As she turned into the campus, Crystal felt tired, and she stopped by the snack bar to pick up a cup of latte on the way to the dorm. She sipped the hot liquid as she walked, thinking she would be glad to get rid of the heavy backpack. She unlocked the door and went in. She saw Marianne sleeping under her comforter, but didn’t feel alarmed. She knew her roommate had been sleeping a lot to escape her misery lately, and hoped she could be quiet enough not to wake her up.
Then she sat at her desk and saw the note to her. Even before she opened it she felt a cold chill emanating from it. Why would Marianne write her a note? She ripped open the envelope and read the sad message. What had she done? She looked peaceful but she must have taken something that she hoped would kill her. Crystal took out her cell phone and dialed the help number while she walked quickly over and felt for a pulse. There was one, slow and faint but noticeable, so maybe it wasn’t too late.
“Don’t let it be too late,” she prayed out loud waiting for someone to pick up the help line. Finally, Don Clark, the assistant dean of students on duty that weekend, came on the line.
“Sorry to be slow, I’ve been taking a shower,” he said.
Crystal said, “My roommate has taken something and left me a suicide note, please send help fast to Room Garvey 210!”
Don said, “Whoa! I need to get a pencil and write this down.” He was gone for a few minutes, and when he came back he asked,” What is your roommate’s name?”
Crystal answered all of his questions, wondering why he didn’t have a sense of urgency. Finally she said, “I think speed is important. Can’t you get an ambulance here fast and ask me all this while they come?”
“Good idea,” he said. Give me your phone number and I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”
“310 667 6702, please, please hurry,” she said, and hung up. She clasped her hands together and bent her fingers back and forth. She couldn’t sit still, so she got up and walked around the room.
She saw an open bottle of pills sitting on the shelf above the sink. She looked at it carefully. It was marked with the pharmacy logo, the name of Dr. Chitz, the number of pills, 24, and the instructions, to take only one a day. Crystal had never seen these before, and she could tell that it contained nowhere near 24. As an avid mystery novel reader, she knew better than to touch the container. No need to confuse things if…. She couldn’t let herself finish that sentence. Marianne couldn’t die, she wouldn’t! Don would get moving and get help here fast, she hoped. Why was it taking so long?
Just then, she heard a siren down the street, coming closer. Normally she hated that sound because it reminded her of the shootings and riotous disturbance in Altadena that her family had to live through, but this time, she welcomed it. She opened the door so that the least possible time would be wasted. Soon, the siren stopped and two men arrived wearing emergency gear and carrying equipment. They showed her their ID as they ran to Marianne’s bed. They checked her breathing and her heartbeat.
Crystal said, “I think she took these pills,” pointing to the open container. A third man, who had come in after the other two, went over and looked at the bottle, pulled out a notepad, and wrote down the prescription details.
“Looks like she took a lot of sleeping pills,” he said. “This one needs a stomach
pump fast.” There was no response for a minute, then one of the two working on Marianne said, “Smells like alcohol too. Damn.”
“May I go to the hospital with her?” Crystal asked.
“No, we’ll pick up Don from the Dean of Students’ office, and take him. You
could only go if you’re related to her.”
“No, I just care about her. Where will you take her?”
“Angel’s Rest Hospital. It’s the emergency room Carson College uses.”
They got Marianne into a wheel chair and took her out to the ambulance. It
It seemed like they had barely been there and they were gone. Crystal felt at loose ends.She thought about calling Marianne’s parents, then thought that Don would have taken care of that. She didn’t know what to say to them anyway. She called Sharon Chang and told her. Sharon thanked her and said she’d call the hospital later on.
Crystal wondered why Marianne had done this. Just Professor Sandstrom’s death wouldn’t be enough. She had been so withdrawn lately. Crystal wondered how she was doing in her classes, and if she was really happy here at Carson. She noticed that there were no library books in the bottom shelf of Marianne’s book case, which was very unusual. Marianne practically lived and breathed books.
Crystal reread the note. It was touching that she had wanted to spare Crystal from thinking it was her fault, that she couldn’t have done more to help. But she knew she’d never asked Marianne about it when she stopped getting library books, never realized she was this desperate. She had mainly been worried about how little she was eating, not about her feelings. Could she have gotten Marianne to talk with her if she had been more open to discussing sex and the way the Bad Project had gone wrong? They had connected deeply earlier in the semester, but lately she felt more like she was mothering Marianne in the physical sense. No conversation about feelings at all.
Crystal remembered seeing the play “Our Town” about a dead girl who tried to speak about her feelings but no one would listen to her. Maybe Marianne couldn’t say anything unless Crystal was willing to hear. And she hadn’t been. She sat on the edge of her bed with her head in her hands, feeling like she had absolutely failed Marianne when she most needed help. And it might be too late. She might be dying right now.
That thought galvanized her. Crystal looked up the hospital on the internet and dialed their patient information number. “This is Marianne Wu’s roommate at college. Can you tell me how she is doing?”
“Let me check.” Minutes of loud cheery music occurred, jarring to listen to, then the voice came back on the line. “She has been sent to the emergency room, and we have no information yet as to her status. You can call back in about an hour.”
An hour sounded like eternity to Crystal. Her phone rang, and she answered. It was Don Clark. “Hello, Crystal. Are you doing alright? Do you need anything? We can provide you counseling if you want, or call you when we hear something.”
“Yes, please do let me know. I don’t want counseling, but thanks.”
“Are you sure? Losing someone like this is quite traumatic. Grief can really upset your life in ways you may not know about. Give it some thought, and let me know if you change your mind. Okay, must be going, I have another call.” He hung up.
That was bad. Don was evidently assuming the worst. But the hospital hadn’t sounded like she was already too far gone to help her. She decided to think positive thoughts.
Crystal thought more about her relationship with Marianne. She prayed again for her recovery, and made a commitment to talk about her feelings with her if she lived. She felt bad that she had shut off her communication just because of something that she had experienced three years earlier. Grandma said it was not her fault. So had Marianne, and she worked with Project Sister so she should know. Crystal told herself that she was getting over the rape, letting loose that strange guilt she had accumulated, and that she could just stop obsessing about her own problems and take care of Marianne. But she wasn’t sure that was possible. Her rape and her father’s situation having to work three jobs still formed a black hole for her mind. When she opened herself to thinking about that event, time stopped and she wasn’t able to function. Maybe she did need counseling.
“If that’s what it takes, I’ll do it. I can’t have it creating a barrier between me and people I care about,” Crystal said out loud. But the thought of counseling was not welcome to her. She didn’t trust psychologists any more than Marianne did. She thought they were peep and pry specialists, looking to know others’ secrets. She didn’t feel that they were motivated by a desire to help people, more that they were motivated by the desire to get power over them.
She wasn’t ready to change her mind about counseling unless she had to do it. This situation had pushed her to that point. She was serious, now she had promised and she would have to follow through WHEN Marianne came back. She shivered thinking about what Don had said, but again, told herself it was important to think positively about recovery.