I walked into the apartment I shared with Tara to find it unusually void of any sounds, not to mention she’d promised me cupcakes for my birthday. Knowing how lazy she was, I figured she’d gone out to get some instead. I was going to freshen up in case we decided on festivities for the night so I headed into the bathroom.
I can still see the scene, so vivid in my memory box. There was an empty prescription bottle lying on the bathroom floor next to a half empty fifth of vodka and a bloody razor. Sprawled on the floor was a naked, wet, and bloody Tara, tangled in the curtain.
I screamed and then froze. I had criticized plenty of movies for how the characters dealt with shock; I just didn’t know what to do next. I remember battling with the decision of running for my phone to call 911 or trying to stop the bleeding. I called 911 and still wonder what the outcome would have been if I’d chosen otherwise.
As I waited for the ambulance to arrive, I cried. Everything around me blurred and all I saw was her. That was last year. Tara came out last year. Tara was discarded by her family last year. Tara tried to kill herself last year. This is how I remember my birthday, last year.
There was an ambulance ride that would have been exhilarating if there was no real danger. The commotion of beeping machines and an obnoxious siren were heightening my already exploding anxiety. My best friend lying on the stretcher with her bloodshot eyes glued to the ceiling, hopefully filled with regret. As the nauseating ride came to an abrupt stop and the doors flew open, I remember feeling relieved. Now she was safe.
As I sat in the hospital room, Tara was lying in the bed, tubes in her arm and my heart was breaking. The strongest person I knew gave up on herself and I could only wonder what I could have done better. What did I miss? I didn’t know who to call. The mother who’d abandoned her? The father she despises? I mean, if the woman could desert her child in her most imminent time of need, why would she care that her child almost died? I called anyway.
I could hear my heart beating through my ears as I listened anxiously for an answer on the other end. “Hello?” said the person on the other end. “Umm Good Evening could I speak with Michelle please, it’s Kasey…I’m Tara’s friend and it’s an emergency.” I made sure to put as much information as I could in there. She’d decide if that was enough to come to the phone.
“It’s Michelle, what kind of emergency?” she said in a stern, unwelcoming voice. I cleared my throat and clearly said, “Tara tried to commit suicide and she’s in the hospital.”
I still remember the gasp on the other end of the line and then the phone hitting the floor “Hello? Michelle? Hello?”…call dropped.
While I was sitting at Tara’s bedside I thought back to the the pride she had when she decided to share her liberation with her family. It was early May and I’d documented it in my journal, she wanted a reminder of her progress.
“As the door slams shut and the echo of heeled footsteps comes strolling down the hall, I can only hope good news comes with it. I turn around to see normally bright eyes now filled with tears and a cheek scarred by violence, I am enraged. Tara had come with overwhelming optimism and walked out with a broken spirit and heavy heart you could see from a mile away. A horn honks explosively somewhere down the block and is comparably as loud as Tara sobbing on the steps next to me. I’m no good with showing emotions, so I’m equally as bad at empathizing with them. I feel useless. I gather our things and gently tap Tara’s arm to let her know we should get going there’s nothing here for her anymore. As we walk slowly to the train and I’m attempt to comfort Tara, she freezes. She looks back only once and we’re gone.”
“It has been about 4 hours since Tara told her family she was in love with a woman. She wasn’t crying anymore but there was emptiness in her eyes that frightened me, she’s changing. I made her promise me that nothing was too much to bear and she would ask for help if she couldn’t handle something, no matter what. She said with a shaky voice, “I promise I’m not going to do anything stupid Kase, I’m good.” I knew she wasn’t in the best shape but I believed she wouldn’t do anything stupid. She was the stronger of the two of us, always has been. With her head on my shoulder we drift into much deserved sleep, it had been a long day.”
I’ll always remember how somber she could be in the passing weeks after her coming out. I think I used to ask Tara everyday if she’d heard from her family yet and the answer was always the same, “They hate me, when they do call you’ll probably be setting up funeral arrangements.” This is something that I didn’t find funny at all but Tara had gotten really comfortable speaking that way.
She had changed a lot.
She was no longer the fun and confident girl I’d met at orientation, now she found comfort in pessimism and it scared me. She had started taking pills to sleep and was rarely awake. I couldn’t get her to eat much and leaving the house was a constant struggle. Summer school was starting in a month, how could that work if she was like this?
I had to do something, and since I was not an expert I consulted some, thanks to Google. I posed as Tara and signed up for quite a few open chats about the hardships of being neglected by family after coming out and I had the discussions and wise words sent to her phone. Granted I got my ass chewed for that stunt. However, I think she secretly appreciated the help. I just wanted her to know that regardless of how anyone felt she always had me.
I remember one specific day, she was sleeping like a log (thanks to her pills) and her phone rang. She had that annoying fire truck siren and it just kept going so I yelled, “Answer your phone it might be a date.” Ignoring my joke she let the phone ring out and then turned it face down on the table and said “ugh if anyone’s calling it can’t be good news, no thanks.” She just closed her eyes and went back to sleep.
I became accustomed to watching her and wondering if I would ever get my best friend back to the days of liveliness and hope. I missed her laughter, her quick wit and her smart mouth and honestly I was so afraid she was giving up.
I never would have thought that she’d go this far.
Her mother walked into the hospital a day after I’d called her. It was time for me to go. I remember stopping by Tara’s bedside and with a kiss on the cheek I whispered “I love you T.” I wanted to tell her that I’d be watching her closely from now on. Instead, I let her mother have the space to do battle with her moral structure. I closed the door hesitantly behind me and walked away.
Tara’s been out of the hospital for 3 months and she acknowledges her incident everyday. She seems lighter now and she’s working so hard to heal. I still find myself uncomfortable when she wants to discuss what we’ve labeled “her darkness” but I understand how important a listening ear can be.
So right now, Tara is giving me a list of better steps for next time she’s feeling overwhelmed. She says with a smirk, “I’d hit the bottle really hard, probably that cheap shit and then probably go entice your neighbor. She wants me.” I tell her, “girl, I’d much rather be picking you up off of that old lady than the bathroom floor so DEAL.”
We laugh and continue talking about things that eventually lead off of the subject. I still don’t know what happened in that hospital room with Tara and her mother and I guess I don’t really care. Right now, we’re all we got.