If You Really Want To
The little old ladies at the condo whisper every time I walk past—
her husband left, did you see his face on TV, he's in some kind of trouble, I wonder
what their problem was, he always seemed like such a nice guy, maybe
he left her for someone else, maybe he's gay, maybe she cheated on him
and he found out, the police were at her door asking questions, the mailman
heard he was some kind of white collar criminal, I heard he beat her,
the doorman told me she was crying…
The whispers get so bad that I'm afraid
to go to the local hair salon to tend to my wiry roots, my stress-straw hair,
so I can go back to work. I ask for the earliest appointment, climb into the chair,
looking past myself in the mirror to the ladies who file in behind me. I'm ready
to be asked, ready to tell my story, the one-sentence version I've practiced—
I'm going through a painful separation. The sentence is designed to gain pity,
to stop the questioner in her tracks.
As Mildred foils my hair for highlights,
I notice the group of old women decidedly ignoring me, huddled around
the coffee pot, crying. Their friend has jumped from the 26th floor. She was depressed, one
says, and I told her, honey, get your medicines checked. So sad, so sad for her husband who
knew something was wrong when he woke up and felt the breeze
from the balcony. She'd opened the sliding glass door and pulled out a step stool
so she could climb over the railing.
Imagine, just that step stool and her glasses
on the balcony tile. When her husband looked down, the maintenance men
were covering her body with a tarp. If you really want to kill yourself,
the most stooped lady says, no one can stop you. It had been a long month of threats,
my husband's suicide posts on Facebook. Someone (my old student) actually wrote
on his wall, If you really want to kill yourself, take all your pills with milk
so you don't throw up and then tie a plastic bag over your head.
stung my scalp. I guess my student thought my husband was joking around.
Maybe he was joking, a sadistic joke to make us all worry. Don't do it!
We all took turns writing to him. Get to a hospital! The lady who jumped was 80
and jumped naked. Mildred shakes her head and says that suicides tend to take off
their glasses before they kill themselves. Maybe that's because
it is like they are going to fall asleep for the last time
and they're used to leaving
their glasses on the nightstand. Maybe it's because they don't really want to see what
they're doing to themselves. Maybe they're afraid their glasses will shatter.
The old ladies feel guilty. The husband feels guilty. The children and grandchildren are
on their way. I feel guilty myself. When I wouldn't take him back,
my husband asked me to send him a warm coat. When I wouldn't take him back,
he asked me to send him his glasses and the rest of his contacts.