Facebroke is a short story I’m currently involved in. Literally.

This story is an assimilation of various stories I’ve heard about, observed, or actually experienced. It’s kind of ‘my story’ if you like, but I’m not going to divulge any further details as to what parts were experienced or observed.

It’s a story that I never thought I would publish to be honest, but a recent turn of personal events have changed my mind and emphased to me just how important this story is. Not just to me, but to the countless others out there under the same influence of this cultural issue.

Facebroke Draft

I

I let out a sigh of relief as my muscles relaxed and body gave way, subduing me into a collapsed heap upon the kitchen floor. I remember how refreshingly cool the ceramic tiles felt against my temple shortly before the pool of lukewarm claret surrounded me. I could see ripples from my breath dancing on the surface shortly before the rays of sunlight silently merged into a blurry haze as I faded away into a placid sleep.

I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. A strange, cold, morbid sweat that now wafted over my body as the comfort of darkness fell across my eyelids. With one last glance I marveled at the inanimate razor blade lying before me.

How alluring it was. Its passage through my flesh had been so swift that it lay there pristine, with barely a fingerprint or smudge upon its surface. Almost as fresh as the day it left the factory floor. I’d driven it through my body with such maniacal anguish and in a moment of pure madness that I barely considered any consequences.

It wasn’t a fit of rage.

It was a lifetime of desperation erupting through one final slice of my flesh.

And the blade made such an innocent tinkle when it fell from my grasp and hit the floor. It was almost a giggle, which soon transformed into a soul-shattering scream of anguish from across the room when she eventually saw me. It didn’t take long for her to notice. I guess you can say that I was already on watch.

None of that was going to matter anymore as I prepared myself for the grey mist. I transcended into a world of shadows that scattered frantically before me, screaming and shouting. Their familiar yet hollow voices echoed with panic as they yanked my limbs about, wrapping them tightly as they danced about my lifeless body. I felt myself being pulled further downward before a sudden rush of adrenalin whisked through my body and I opened my eyes to meet the gush of turbulent wind thrown up from helicopter blades.

The medics called my name again and again. They lifted my eyelids and peered into my internal void, looking deep inside me for my lost soul. I attempted to avoid them but their recovery effort had already started to take effect. Even though I no longer cared and I didn’t want to be retrieved into their world, at that very moment, things were well out of my own hands.

The medics continued talking to me as they carried me away. ‘Can you hear me?’ He called out. I barely smirked in response and quietly wondered to myself.

I wonder if they’ll discover the pills…? 

I nodded off to my self-prescribed slumber.

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II

‘Is that all you remember of that day?’ Tracey asked.

‘Pretty much.’ I replied. ‘And after that, just I woke up here in the hospital.’ I bowed my head and looked at the compression bandages wrapped around my wrists. Running my fingers across them, I could sense my injury beneath was still so sensitive.

Tracey flicked through her notes, ‘You are a very lucky man. You know that don’t you?’

‘So you keep telling me.’ I replied.

‘Yes. I do seem to keep telling you that.’

‘Can’t be helped I guess. It’s your job to do so.’

Tracey paused for a moment to repel my twisted comment, ‘It might be my job as a therapist, but we’ve known each other now for long enough for you to know better.’

I apologized. She was right, yet again.

‘You are lucky to be here right now. And you’re bloody lucky that your GP didn’t allow a fatal dose of those pills to be prescribed.’

‘I guess so…’

‘You are lucky you just missed a major artery.’

‘Uh huh…’

‘You are lucky that you live in the country and a helicopter was called in. I doubt an ambulance would have got there in time.’

‘Hmm…’

‘… And you’re bloody lucky your wife walked in when she did to find you lying there.’

I didn’t have any decent response to her berating speech and selfishly slunk back into my chair, unimpressed with her abrupt and clinical assessment of my fortunate luck. She glared at me from across the room, her fingers firmly locked together across her lap.

Her silent pressure eventually pried a response from my lips. ‘I didn’t expect her to find me. She was supposed to have gone out for the morning.’

‘That makes no difference.’ Tracey replied. ‘Paula didn’t expect to find you like that either.’

Paula had left for town that morning, but her phone had run out of battery. She had only traveled five minutes down the road before turning around to retrieve a charger. Fortunately, the kids were still in the car when she discovered me on the kitchen floor.

‘You haven’t even asked Michael.’

Confused, I looked up at her and muttered, ‘Huh?’

‘You haven’t even asked why I’m here, and Paula isn’t.’

I hadn’t even thought of that. Everything was happening so fast it was surreal.

‘Okay then, why?’

‘Paula asked me to come in because she’s afraid.’ Tracey replied, ‘She’s afraid of you.’

A cold chill singed my shoulders as the words came out of her mouth. I didn’t expect that and shame finally showed its presence through the form of a tear that gently ran from the corner of my eye.

Tracey’s locked fingers eased a little as she observed me for a moment longer. ‘Should she be afraid?’

I pushed my fingertips into the corner of my eyes, wiped them dry and sighed, ‘No.’

‘No, Paula doesn’t need to be afraid.’

‘That’s good then.’ Tracey stood up and walked over to me, placing the palm of her hand upon my hunched over shoulder, ‘I’ll tell her to come in then.’ She walked away to leave the room, informing Paula that I was ready for her at the door.

I wasn’t quite ready for her though…

Paula hesitated for a moment before coming into my room. Her eyes scanned the walls and window first before finally looking at me, briefly. She looked down at the ground to compose her thoughts and looked back up at me.

I could barely stifle a smile to diffuse the tension between us. I feared her response, and although I had obviously survived my self-inflicted ordeal, I wasn’t so sure if I’d survive what she could deliver. My selfless actions were completely unacceptable, and in what seemed to be an eternity, Paula finally began to speak.

‘How are you Michael?’

‘I’m ok…’ I replied as a lump appeared deep in my throat, ‘…and I’m sorry.’

‘It’s okay. I’m not concerned about that for now.’

Wow!

I expected more fireworks than that. Her response caught me completely off-guard, but I guess the whole event had taken more than its toll on both of us. She looked exhausted having spent the entire night pacing up and down in a worried frenzy.

‘Michael, this has finally made me realize something so important, you know that, don’t you?’ She reached out and held my hand before continuing, ‘All I want is you.’ She appealed, ‘You. That’s all. I don’t need, or want, or wish to have anything else in my life but you.’

‘I didn’t rea…’

‘No.’ She interrupted, ‘Don’t say anything right now, because I need to tell you that when I thought I was going to loose you, it was the absolute worst moment of my life. Nothing else could possibly be worse than not having you in my life.’

Both of us were in tears by now. I was trembling with sadness when Paula pulled herself closer and held me tight until the Doctor arrived to discharge me from the hospital.

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III

The scent of coffee and bacon woke me up the next morning. I grabbed my phone to check the time but paused when I saw the bandages and realized that it wasn’t a bad dream. I was running my fingers across the bandages when Paula entered the bedroom with my breakfast.

‘Morning babe.’ She greeted me.

‘Breakfast?’

‘Yes, if you’re up to it.’ Paula replied, ‘I’ve taken the day off work, so I figured, why not?’

I smiled uneasily. No doubt that decision would unravel around me in some distant future. Our income was totally dependent upon work attendance and we could only barely afford a couple of days off work per year. But in my condition, all I could do for now was grin and bear it, and remain well prepared.

‘I’ve booked us in to see Tracey this morning too.’

‘Okay. Sound good I guess.’ I knew my attendance wasn’t optional this time.

‘It was her suggestion. She doesn’t want to risk having anything lost in those memory banks of yours right now.’

‘That’s fine hun. Whatever needs to be done.’ I started to eat my breakfast and Paula turned to leave the bedroom. A short-lived sense of relief entered me as she turned to face me at the doorway.

‘I’m sorry Michael. I’m sorry for everything that I may have done to make you do this.’

What?’ Her apology took me by complete surprise. ‘Why on earth are you apologizing? I should be…’

‘No. I know you might think that, but Tracey and I had a good talk about this before I saw you yesterday. She made me realize that we are both in this together. You’re my husband Michael, and whatever trouble you’re in, I’m in it too.’

‘I don’t know what to say Paula.’

‘Just nothing. You don’t need to say anything to me right now. It’s all fine, and it will be fine if we tackle this together. Now eat your breakfast and get ready to go. We’ve got a lot to do today.’

Paula left the room, taking my argument with her. I didn’t know what to make of her statement. It left me feeling emotionally empty, as if I was lost within myself, once again.

Tracey’s occupation was a ‘life counselor’ and she had been recommended to us a couple of years earlier. In her previous career she was a guidance counselor for displaced employees and individuals with post traumatic stress syndrome but now freelanced to work alongside couples with marital problems and individuals for any particular form of stress.

She had an office in her home. It was a spacious two-story building with a garage outside on the driveway. Her gardens were perfectly manicured and everything had its order, as if the property was for ready for sale. Inside was the same, with beautifully arranged ornaments placed around the room and immaculate carpet lining the hallway leading to a door, which was always closed.

I often wondered what kind of normal-life chaos, if any, existed beyond that door.

Tracey met us at the front door and greeted us in her perfectly scripted manner. A big smile followed by a hug and courteous gesture to invite us inside – I thought she must’ve been an actress in her previous life.

‘I’m so pleased you felt like coming in today.’

‘Not a problem.’ I lied. Every single “visit” to her office equated to more money being spent from our rapidly shrinking bank account.

‘Well, we felt it was important to come in as soon as possible before things were forgotten.’ Paula replied, casting an endearing look towards me in the process.

I shrunk within my seat in preparation for the inevitable inquisition.

‘I understand you had quite a couple of days Michael.’ Tracey began, ‘You gave Paula and myself quite a fright.

‘Yeah… I don’t know what to say I guess. Sorry probably doesn’t cut it.’

‘Thank you, and if that’s all you can manage for now, then I’m happy. I’m just pleased we are all here now to talk about what happened.’

A lump loomed deep from my stomach and I no longer felt prepared for what was about to come. I could feel the pulse within my neck becoming stronger as the pressure grew.

Then Tracey leaned forward in her chair, ‘Why?’ She asked, looking at me with such genuine concern in her eyes.

‘Why did you do it Michael?’

I shrugged my shoulders, but that only seemed to dislodge my now overwhelming urge to break down. I desperately tried to keep it together and wiped my cheek once again.

Tracey calmly stood up, approached me, and knelt down before my feet before cradling my head to comfort me with her shoulder. Her compassion eroded my resolve and I literally poured down upon her burgundy jacket in a sniveling mess. I was spoiling her immaculately groomed jacket, but I didn’t care. Besides, I was certain my payments would cover any looming dry cleaning fees.

A moment passed by before I looked back up at her. By now both of us were in tears and I was trembling in my own fear. I had been so bottled up inside and now I felt as if I may finally let my problems out to this woman. Even though Tracey been my personal confidant over these past few months, she still hadn’t been able to penetrate my world of solitude, until this very moment.

I took a breath and began to explain just as Tracey interrupted me.

‘You do realize how much your family loves you, don’t you?’

I shook my head, ‘Yes, but…’

‘Especially Paula.’

I glanced over toward Paula who now had a mass of tears crawling from her eye. She shied away as I looked at her, leaving her grief to hit me.

No longer could I hold back and like a broken dam I burst open, soaking them up with my tightly bound bandages. ‘I don’t know why I did it. For God’s sake, does anyone who tries to kill themselves know why?’

‘I honestly don’t know Michael,’ replied Tracey, ‘But we all love you and need you to stay with us.’

‘It doesn’t feel like it.’ I replied.

‘Feel like what?’

‘As if I’m loved.’

‘Seriously?’

‘Yes. Seriously.’

Tracey was disheartened, as if all the months’ of progress she’d made with me had vanished.

‘I thought…’

‘You thought what?’ I snapped, ‘Look at my wrists! Of course it is seriously! Why else would I do this?’ My simmering emotions boiled over, I stood up and paced across the room, but something stopped me from leaving.

Maybe it was the rush of blood to my head…

Maybe it was the calming interior of the room…

Maybe it was just plain, good old common sense…

I took a moment and glanced over to Paula who was sitting quietly in the corner with a sodden tissue in her hands. Her eyes were red and swollen from weeping.

Something snapped inside of me in that moment. Paula’s desolate face tore my insides apart and I realized this problem wasn’t going to remain hidden for much longer.

‘Keep going Michael. Tell us what’s on your mind, please…’Tracey appealed to me.

I dug my fingertips into the corner of eyes and across my brow in anguish, searching for the right response. The answer was sitting on my tongue. It was obvious, yet so ridiculous.

Could it be as simple as.. Surely not…?

‘Michael…’

I let out a huge sigh and glared toward Tracey and Paula from across the room. ‘This is crazy. You guys are going to think I’m absolutely bonkers if I tell you.’

‘No, we won’t. I promise.’

I closed my eyes in an attempt to hold back my tears, but it was useless. I sat back down in my chair as Paula placed a sympathetic hand upon my shoulder and she pleaded with me, ‘Tell us Michael. Please, tell me all about it.’ I looked up from the floor and into her eyes, ‘Why don’t you start at the very beginning for us?’