Five years after his father’s death by accidental overdose, my son attempted suicide.
I was on my way to pick up a few groceries from the market down the street. James never liked going to the store with me and I was always comfortable leaving him for ten minutes. At his age, I was alone with my sisters all the time, and I trusted him. It’s just me, James, and our dog Troy. Just us, living life in this beautiful condo in the outskirts of Denver hugged by the Rocky Mountains.
James said he had an excuse. He said he was tired and asked to stay in bed. I left him alone promising to return with a ginger ale to help him feel better. Ginger ale always made me feel better and I knew he liked the fizzy taste. I squeezed his face and told him I loved him, just like any other time.
The store is two blocks away, in that short drive my mind went to a weird place and I thought to my self what would my life be like if I didn’t have a son. My mind took me into a strange scene. Spain flashed in my eyes, and then death.
I quickly fanned the idea from my head, but the feeling remained eerie in my heart. Suddenly the two-block drive felt like an eternity. As I rummaged through the tomatoes squeezing them for quality, I received a text from James. I knew it was him because the special ringtone he assigned himself one day while I didn’t notice. It made me giggle thinking how ingenious he is always thinking of ways to prank me. Just like his father used to. He didn’t text me often so I quickly pulled my phone out of my purse wondering if he was okay.
“I am throwing up a lot. This is too much.” He said.
I replied with a quick I’ll be there soon, I am so sorry you don’t feel well.
“I love you, I am so sorry.” He replied.
I didn’t reply. Instead, I wrapped the tomatoes in a plastic bag and continued shopping for ingredients to make salsa for my tacos. I had been craving tacos since the last time I had tacos a week before. I didn’t care if I had to clean up puke when I got home. How bad could it really be, James had only had cereal for dinner earlier. His usual dinner, nothing new there.
Ten minutes later, I arrived at home groceries in tow and ran upstairs quickly to check on my puking boy. I expected his bathroom to be messy given his apologetic text. Instead, I found a clean toilet and shiny sink. Like nothing had happened. I quickly opened his bedroom door, the lights were off and the sun was setting, its cotton candy reflection smeared in the windows. It was a beautiful pink and purple sunset. James was laying in his bed, quiet and steady with a thick gray blanket over his head. It was May and the air conditioner hummed loudly. I felt bad for keeping the house so cool during the summer, I didn’t question his blanket choice. I touched his head and slid the blanket down. He was pale, eyes closed and lethargic. I felt a heavy energy around him and ignored it.
“How are you feeling, papa?” I asked him tenderly caressing a long curl off his face. His hair had grown so much and he refused to cut it. It was the style for most people when the Covid Pandemic first began a year before. I squeezed his cheeks again, gently always wanting to freeze his tender youth. “Stop growing so fast.” I say to him often. Like all mothers do.
“Not well, but I think I just need to go to sleep.” He replied almost asleep, his voice dreadful.
I patted his head, it was warm, warmer than usual. I immediately diagnosed a fever and went to my medicine cabinet. Earlier that month I purchased a 100 pill bottle of Tylenol for my painful monthly cramps. It was my way of avoiding ever running out.
I grabbed one pill and asked James to take it. He swiftly obliged and I told him I would check on him later. I promised that if his fever had not let up, I would take him to the emergency room. A visit to the emergency room was not something I took lightly, but for some reason I felt a strong sense to take him. James fell asleep before the sun had completely fallen and the night danced in with the moon in tow. We didn’t say I love you like we usually did. I closed the door behind leaving him to the quite of his slumber.
I went downstairs, suddenly I wasn’t hungry and the salsa would have to be made another time. I placed the groceries in the fridge and grabbed a bottle of white wine sitting on the top shelf. I opened it and poured myself a small glass. The smell was sour and I was suddenly overcome with emotion. I drained the glass in the sink, rinsed it and walked away from the kitchen.
I sat on my couch with the lights off and the house silent. I was grateful for the quite evening. Even our dog was asleep for the night next to James’ feet. I sat there taking the day in and wondering why all of the sudden the night felt heavy. I let the moon shine through the window while I rested in the silence.
I didn’t know it then but at the time, my son had taken multiple pills with the intent to end his life, including the pill I gave him. My son had no idea he attempted to end his life the way his Father, five years earlier, ended his.
I didn’t find out my son attempted suicide until two months later when he told me. When my world changed completely. Again.