Carbon

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Chapter 68

I know I shouldn’t have been this way, but I was built in a particular order. All I ever wanted was to freaking die, and I still feel that way sometimes. Is God sick enough to put everyone through so much freaking pain and strife? God is supposedly merciful and so jovial to His children, but He sure has an eccentric way of showing it. Screw all of these meaningless, phantom affirmations the doctors had been feeding me. I demanded explanations. God supposedly gives us enough to handle, but I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t cope, and I still struggle. The emotional pain is controlling my life. All I thought about was all the lives I took. All the lives I ruined.

I had screamed so loudly for so long, but no one managed to hear a thing.

I cupped my face in my hands as I sat in the gurney in the ER once again. A police officer sat in a chair beside the bed with sympathetic eyes that lingered on me. He just observed me as I sobbed into my hands violently. All I want to do is just shove the window open and descend upon the concrete or one of the fans outside. Hitler was right; death is the Final Solution.

Finally, the police officer cupped my shoulder gently, leaning over the side rails awkwardly. “It’ll be okay, hun. You’re in good hands now.”

I peeled away from my hands and blubbered, “I just want to die.” That was all I could think about. I did not want to exist, and I did not want to burden anyone or anything anymore. I had been a mistake all of these years. God supposedly does not make error and never errs, but this mound of flesh and bone is a catastrophe. This had gone so far that He could not fix me, so maybe He is willing me to manage it myself. He needs an eraser, and I am a blemish upon the world. This blemish is massacring His The Starry Night and His Mona Lisa. I am ruining perfection with my existence.

The curtain peeled away, and Ned rushed into the room, staring hopelessly at me. He murmured, “Oh, Devin. Oh, Devin.”

I tore my gaze to the corner of the room and collapsed into myself. I grimaced, deafening the sound of a scream and sob. My hands gripped at my ears as I pulled into my chest like a small child. I couldn’t stand being so vulnerable, but all of these pent-up emotions I had been hiding in my chest managed to tear through my flesh. Here I was, falling apart.

The police officer glanced at Ned and turned back to me. “I’m going to be just outside.” He warily sauntered from the room, his eyes glancing at me one last time before pulling the curtain to a close.

Ned carefully sat at the foot of the bed. His beautiful eyes embraced me in warmth, and I almost felt alight. Breath flared through my nostrils as I bored into him. He murmured, “You are going to get through this.”

“I don’t think I can.”

Ned pressed his lips against my forehead and leaned back. His hand rested on my cheek. He whispered, “You are the strongest person I have ever met, and this is just a blip on your radar. You can do this, Devin. You really can.”

I finally murmured, “What about Mom?”

His eyes flickered to the bruising on my neck and then returned to my eyes. He shrugged and noted, “Don’t worry about her right now. You need to worry about what’s going on in that brain of yours.” He gave me a small smile—out of pity.

The tears collected in the corners of my eyes. I whimpered, “Please take me home. Just take me home. I can’t deal with this right now. Just take me home.”

Ned’s hand fell. His brows furrowed inquisitively. He slowly shook his head, analyzing my sudden wish. “Devin, you’re sick.”

My face stressed as I stifled a sob as the torrent began to descend from my cheeks. I whispered, “My brain is so fucked up. I don’t think anyone can fix it.”

Ned wrapped his arms around me, and I buried my face into his neck and just sobbed into him. Esther and Leslie made an appearance, but I latched onto Ned. I didn’t say a word for the rest of the time in the ER. I couldn’t let him go because I knew I would lose him. I would lose the only person I loved because of my own decisions.

Ned soothed me by rubbing his hand up and down my damp back, and I just withdrew into him. Part of me wanted to slither inside of him, wear his skin and be his thoughts. I longed to be someone else who could handle this. He was fine, so why wasn’t I?

After five hours in the ER, I was rolled across the street by an anonymous nurse to the Psychiatric Unit. I was done sobbing. I was done dealing and coping. I was just numb. I lazily glanced at the different wall paper and the rows of tiny rooms. It was around midnight when they shipped me to the place. All of my information was collected, and then I was brought into a bathroom and completed a strip search. The nurses gave me a set of scrubs because of my damp clothes and bagged them for later.

A nurse was forced to be by my side for the next seventy-two hours, just in case I lost it again, but I didn’t think their supervision would stop me. After all, they can’t stop me from biting the flesh off of the underbelly of my arm. They can’t force me to stop thinking this way. The nurse even followed me to my room, and she sat in a chair beside my bed. I lay there that night, staring mostly at the wall opposite of God’s eyes. I buried my face in the cool sheets as I thought of the lives I continued to ruin just by being here. How I disappointed everyone because I was weak. How I devastated Ned.

The nurse must have noticed I stiffened because she innocently cooed, “It’ll be okay, darling. You’re just reaping through a rough patch.”

I considered telling her to go shove it, but I knew she had nothing to do with my bitterness and hatred and inquisition toward life, toward God. I bit my lip to silence any hurtful comments, and I sat in my misery.

The ambulance came and took her away, and I followed behind in my car. I expected the officers to want to put her in their cop cars, but they didn’t even attempt to pull her away from the EMTs. We all congregated at the ER, Leslie and Esther waiting impatiently as soon as I walked into the waiting room. The police officers waited with them, and I cocked a brow. Leslie immediately stood up and escorted me to the opposite corner of the room. Esther appeared broken and unresponsive, and I wondered if they told her what Devin had been planning.

Leslie murmured, “I think they’re going to admit her. Don’t tell Esther, but I think that’s the best thing for her right now.”

I froze, my eyes wildly absorbing him. I rushed, “I’ll watch her. I’ll make sure she doesn’t do anything to herself. I’ll stop my classes for next semester and just watch her. I can—”

He motioned, “If you could help her, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

I collapsed into myself and just stared at the blonde, petite guy before me incredulously. It was true. If I had been any help to Devin’s health, she wouldn’t have been so secretive and destructive during the summer. She wouldn’t have fallen to this state. She wouldn’t have regressed to a mental environment that consisted of an abyss. Even if my leaving helped her in the slightest bit, it was obvious that it didn’t matter. The stress of life just broke her, and there was nothing I could do.

I had to accept fully that I never had the capability of saving her.

My gaze fell to the floor in disgust. I clenched my fists at my sides and turned back to Leslie. I asserted, “You think they’ll take care of her?”

Leslie broke eye contact and murmured, “Better than any of us can.”

A person flew into my mind, and I asked, “What about Arianna? Is she going to be admitted, too? As God as my witness, I will—”

“She was arrested.”

“Did the police officers notice the bruising on Devin’s neck? That bitch strangled her, her own mother strangled her, Leslie. Who does that?”

Leslie nodded and murmured, “Someone as sick as Devin. Someone controlled by the same person who controlled Devin for eighteen years.”

Arianna Sebold was arrested for framing her daughter. The police investigated the noose and recognized a left-handed knot utilized by a nautical individual. Apparently she was once a worker at a marina in her teen years, and Devin’s right-handed. It was enough for them to unsettle the mother, and then she admitted the truth to the police officers. Arianna Sebold was transferred to a jail cell after further interrogation and may serve prison time for the false report and for trying to put this on Devin.

Devin was admitted to the psychiatric unit for suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. Her episode was just the tipping point for her hospitalization. My parents had considered it after the birth but were too afraid of how I would look at them if that was the case. They were worried I would feel as though they did too little to help her, and I guess they would have been right.

The first time I visited her, I don’t think she understood what was going on. It was her first full day in the unit. I sauntered into her room, and she was sitting on a pristinely made bed. She faced the window sadly, her chin dipped down and her serene eyes watching the rain droplets slipping down the window. Her chocolate locks cascaded down her back flatly. I perched next to her, and she didn’t even turn to face me. Her eyes remained like stone ahead of her.

I gently pulled a strand of hair behind her ear as I observed her pallor, wan face sicken under the fluorescent lights. I whispered, “How you doing?”

She shrugged nonchalantly.

I leaned back, putting my hand in my lap. “Are you mad at me?”

She nodded.

“Because I called the ambulance.”

Her lips barely moved as she murmured, “Because you saved me from myself.”

“Devin, it’s okay to feel this way. We’ll figure this out—”

“What if they don’t?”

“They will.”

She finally twisted her face to me. Her brown brows folded as her eyes gathered my features for what felt like years. She murmured, “I’ve been praying for years for these thoughts to stop. I don’t think they ever will.”

“I promise they will.”

Devin’s hand grazed the curve of my jawline, and her eyes recorded every flaw and feature of my face. Her plum lips parted as I noticed an epiphany slip across her sparkling eyes. She leaned forward and enveloped her lips over mine. She pulled away and smirked. “You didn’t kiss me.” It was an observation, not a declaration. She almost questioned my actions before she connected the dots. “Oh, I see.” Dejected, she folded into herself.

I patted her back. “I want you to focus on yourself first.”

She turned back to the window. “I’m not where I belong.”

“I know this is really alien to you, and I know you don’t want to be here. However—”

Devin shrugged. “I wonder if life is a lie.”

Stunned, I tried to figure out exactly what she meant, but that was damn near impossible. I just embraced her for the remainder of the hour and left reluctantly. I gave her a half-hearted wave, and she just stared at me over her shoulder, pleading to be back home.

With me.

I wish I could say I understood what happened that day, but I don’t. It just did. The doctors assumed it was just the overwhelming stress of the whole situation sent me into a tail-spin, but I’m not sure that’s right. Frankly, if I had that whole persona trapped inside of me, it would have come out much sooner than it had if it was based on stress. I guess all I really have to say is I’m happy, sad, hurt, devastated, exasperated, and elated all at once.

And I’m still trying to figure out why or how that is.

The doctors were really nice to me for the first week, and they didn’t say or ask much about why I wanted to kill myself. I guess it was their job to ask, but I think they were just trying to make sure I stabilized first. When they did finally ask what motivated me to my state, I couldn’t really pin-point it because it honestly felt like I had been in that mind-set for nearly all of my life—at least since I can remember.

I thought it was perfectly normal to feel suicidal every day. I thought it was normal to think about it and want to do it, just to end things. The doctors tried to dissect the whole trauma of the childhood abuse, and I didn’t think they understood the whole gravity of the situation either.

The doctors tried to unwrap the whole issue around Heath and why I felt so guilty about his death, and I couldn’t help but wrestle with the desperation to be rid of the haunting truth. I couldn’t bear to deplete the whole weight of the guilt because it was and always will be partly my fault—even if it wasn’t voluntary. The doctors continued to wonder why I felt such an attachment to Heath, and I couldn’t answer them either. They thought it had something to do with my childhood ending or something like that, but I think it was because he was the first person who really listened and understood. And sometimes, I feel like he’ll be the only one who ever does.

Holden was another fixture they wanted me to overcome and accept. They thought it would be smart for part of my rehabilitation to volunteer at a local animal shelter, but I don’t want to be that close to another dog again. I’m too scared to become attached to someone who’ll leave me.

And I guess that’s another thing they want me to overcome.

I was properly diagnosed with alcoholism after I exhibited withdrawal seizures after the first day in the hospital. I was totally shocked, and I guess so was most everyone else. I had made a habit of hiding my alcohol consumption for nearly four years, and I guess I did too well of a job. The doctors slowly weaned me off the sauce, but I was also worried I wouldn’t be able to stay away from it when I got released. I was allotted a shot twice a day at the beginning, but then I eventually was able to stop taking it all together. Along with the depression support groups, I attended the in-patient Alcoholics Anonymous class. I even got a token once I was a day clean.

Just because I’m clean doesn’t mean I don’t miss it.

The doctors keep trying to figure out an answer as to why I am the way I am, but I don’t think that will ever make sense to anyone. It certainly doesn’t make sense to me.

A part of me recognizes that this part of me will always be a phase, but I don’t want it to be. I don’t want it to be the case because phases tend to come back. They’re like cycles. I don’t know if I could ever handle another episode like that again, and I was lucky Ned found me before I drowned myself. And I was lucky my epiphany of selfishness struck when it did. And I guess I learned that being selfish every once in a while is okay. Sometimes it’s necessary.

Of the whole situation, I’m angry, frustrated, and terrified that my mind can follow down such a dark path and not be able to fight back the shadows. I have no control over my mind, much like I have no control of my body. Dr. Haven actually took me off my medication and put me on another one, so I hoped and continue to hope this will change things. But I’m doubtful.

Esther and Leslie both came to visit me, and they are expecting their first child. They both apologized profusely about not letting me know the details of their wedding or that they even had one; they said they didn’t want me to get upset that Ned and I had a falling out and they were getting married. I hadn’t heard from Mom since the Day happened. Everyone told me not to worry, but I still do.

It’s just how my brain works. I still love her, too, despite her own imperfections and misjudgments.

The one person I thought would abandon me during my stay at the hospital managed to be one of the most supportive people I could have. Ned visited me as much as he was allowed to based upon visitation hours regarding friends, and he visited me on the weekends when his semester started back up again. I know his family wanted him to change his major to Psychology because he was so interested in my recovery, but I’m glad he’s following his own dreams and doing what he wants to do.

I could tell by the way he looked at me some days that he still loved me, but he would suddenly pull himself together and continue to talk to me. It was like he reevaluated the possibility and abandoned it because he knew I couldn’t do anything about it if he wanted something from me. In a weird way, it made me love him more.

As far as my recovery, I don’t know how long it’s going to take. A lot of the people in my group therapy had been battling depression for over twenty years, and I’m sort of scared that I won’t be able to deal with all of this shit compounding in my life. I won’t deal with all of it like a human being. I’ll deal with it like I’ve dealt with nearly everything in my life—with alcohol and self-harm.

I was released from the hospital seventeen days after I was admitted, and part of me was so excited to be out of my tiny prison. The other part of me was terrified I would relapse soon after. Ned even skipped some of his classes when they released me and took me to my old house and ordered pizza. Instead of beer, we had apple juice. At first I was concerned the familiar state would make me paranoid and anxious, but it was nice to relive some of my favorite moments with Esther, Holden, Heath, and Ned and reminisce. We came back to his house, and I fell asleep on the couch while everyone watched a sitcom. Jennifer joked that I just had too much excitement to function that day.

I continued to attend my Alcoholics Anonymous group and therapy twice a day for the first month I returned home. Familiar faces faded out of the spotlight as new ones shuffled into the room, and every once and a while, I would notice someone had been missing for a while. I would ask the group leader about it occasionally and she would get this really solemn expression.

I guess that’s how I knew someone lost their battle.

I did end up volunteering at the local humane animal shelter and actually received a job after a few weeks as a dog trainer. Unfortunately, my heart fell in love with nearly every animal I came across, and watching them be adopted was bittersweet. Sometimes I would have to leave the adoption center so I could sob in the bathroom, but Dr. Haven said he was relieved I was still willing to become attached to animals as well as people. I ended up adopting a mutt of my own, and he’s beginning to recognize some of my auras before my seizures.

Ned was actually the one who persuaded me that I needed to adopt him. The little guy is named after F. Scott Fitzgerald—Fitz. Heath would be proud of this crazy dog; Fitz is apparently a mix between a standard poodle and a golden retriever. He’s still not as smart as Holden. Holden knew not to take up the whole bed when we slept together.

Fitz really helped me survive the first few weeks without constant therapy. He gave me something to distract myself with, and he was someone I needed to take care of. I did not have to focus on myself when I was with him, and it was a wonderful reprieve.

I also began coaching soccer at Lex’s soccer club, and I think the heads were impressed that I managed to coach teenage boys without putting up with their shit. I guess I was just so used to Heath and Ned bothering me constantly that I became immune to it. Coaching was definitely one of the things that kept me alive during my dark days. I couldn’t let the boys fuck-up. I eventually stopped calling them “shitheads” and “wankers” when I got a little soft-spot for them.

Ned took me out every Saturday night while he was in college, and sometimes it would be to dinner or to a movie. Then sometimes we would just go to the park with Fitz and people-watch while Fitz ran around aimlessly.

I remember one distinct Saturday I was feeling so deep in the dumps that I had remained in bed the whole day. Ned knocked on my door and came in. He sat on the foot of my bed as I stared at the blank wall, lost in nothing. I pulled the comforter over my head to hide from him, but he patted my leg anyway. “Hey, we’re going to miss our reservation.”

“I don’t feel like it today. I can’t do it today.”

I heard him stand up, and I gently untucked myself from the comforter, peeking around the corner. He grasped my ankles and yanked me out of bed, and I howled. He barked, “Come on, you’ve been in bed all day. It’s time to get some sun.” He managed to drag me to a patio in my sweats at a fancy restaurant. He smiled and finally asked, “You know what day it is?”

I sadly shrugged.

“The first day I met you.”

“Really?”

“No, it’s the first time you farted while I was in the room.”

I would give a sheepish smirk and realize that Ned didn’t do this for himself but brought me out because he knew it would make me feel a little better. God knows why this kid would spend his weekends at home with his ill friend, but I appreciated every moment he managed to make me smile and realize I still had some worth, even if I had to realize it after a relapse.

Ned took me to a tattoo parlor one time on one of these Saturday nights, and he offered to pay for a cover-up of the tattoo Jude gave me. I glanced at him and slowly shook my head, my hand tracing the keloid stretching in the middle of my back. I admitted, “I don’t think I want to.” We began to walk away from the tattoo parlor, and he asked again what my original tattoo meant. And I didn’t know anymore.

And I guess that made me question my whole identity again.

One weekend, I took a bottle of pain killers. I woke up in the hospital again, and this time I was not the one sobbing. Ned was by my side in the ER, and I think he must have thought I was still asleep because we never mentioned it. It was nearly a year after the Day, and I guess no one was expecting it. It was kind of a spur of the moment act that I regretted heartedly once I absorbed Ned’s distress.

I have my bad days, and I have my good days. There are days where I only think about suicide occasionally, and then there are days when I don’t think about it at all. Days where I question why I would ever feel that way and days where I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. Either way, I’m glad what happened to me did because it’s still a part of my identity.

I’m still trying to figure everything out, but I guess all I really have to say is I’m happy, sad, elated, depressed, dead, and alive all at once. And I’m just trying to figure out how that all can be.

I visited her nearly every day I was home for winter break, and I visited on the weekends when I returned to school. I was worried she was not getting any better, but then she would have her days where I could tell she could be happy one day. Those little moments would give me hope that maybe God put her in my life for a reason, that maybe she was the one I was meant to be with for the rest of my life. And then I would come to my senses and realize my mother was right.

Devin never needed a lover. She needed a friend from the very beginning. But I still have hope that maybe we’ll one day be okay again. I just want us to be okay again.

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