by Eireann Corrigan
When you first wake up and the one good eye focuses on my face, I only ask if you understand where you are because that’s how they handle comas on M*A*S*H - I don’t expect to see your eyes travel across the white room, squint under the long tube of fluorescent light and decide heaven. You say, You swallowed the poison and I took the dagger and now we’re two pillars in heaven. And I put my knuckles in my oath and press the button that will summon the nurse. When you say, You drank the poison and I had to follow, I argue No. You shot yourself and almost died. You would have left me behind and I would be so angry. This is the hospital where people will help you get well. And you say No. This is a play. This is when we stand together in front of God. You look beautiful.
Right now, I weigh eighty-four pounds. My skin is yellowing again and each morning my hair fills the shower’s drain. Later, I will look back and wonder who let me in that room, but at this minute, I’m remembering our first date, how you told me you couldn’t imagine marrying anyone who wasn’t Jewish and I told you, just as earnestly, as gently, that I couldn’t imagine getting through high school without killing myself. And you said, Well that gives us three years. Now I’m wondering who let me near you in the first place, why no one noticed me careening towards you and pulled you out of harm’s way for a talk. What was the student council president doing with the girl who ate sandwiches at the civil war graveyard?
Back then, when you ran after me every time I tore from a room, I saw you taking care of me. Here you are bandaged. Here you are with your scalp stapled to your skull. Explaining you were only following me. Later, I’ll understand the chemistry of mania and delusion. We’ll blame all of this on LSD. And once I start eating again, I swear I’ll began sitting at the table again for you. We’ll promise I’ll live if you live. I’ll tell the story and say I couldn’t watch him working so hard toward his old self without wanting mine back too. Couldn’t watch him fighting to recognize the alphabet only to head home and ride the treadmill back to eighty pounds. But really, you did the thing I did other things in place of. You slid open a cardboard box and placed a bullet in the chamber. You found the way to hold it and then fired. The thing I couldn’t do. And rendered my smallest gestures smaller and somewhat pointless.