I could feel the needles hugging into my bloodstream. I could feel my panic slowly dissolving to a bitter sort of stress, a harsh dreamlike foamy murmur sorting my mental pain into categories; the supposed triumph of my Asperger’s’ willingness. What I was waiting for was an end to my grief. Not death. I was praying, against all else, that I would not die today. I would beat them, the odds. Despite all the chemicals and the legal matters, I wouldn’t be given this sentence after all. My hope had always been my benefactor; my ecstatic resistance to the negative world that was a barrier to my life.
I knew that soon, the first presence of the first injection would begin. And I wouldn’t be dying yet, but I would be reminded, “Yes, Arthur, the death is coming.”
In spite of my pain, my hope clotted my throat and caused tears in my eyes. I wished I could just make one last word be true. One last thing right.
I decided that since my hands weren’t exactly free to scrawl in the walls with my own blood my dying words, I would think my way through my life. The last parts mostly because adult life seems to be so much more detailed and monotonous yet tragic all at once.
Our relationship had begun not unlike a romantic writer’s initial debut novel. Excited to be published, he pulls out all the stops. Stuffing up his work like some taxidermy rat. Too thick and big for a flush down the toilet pipes.
She had been Rachel. Rachel Willows. Young, fine-tuned, atheist, abrasive but smart, brunette, the love of my life. I had loved her for every moment. I had. I wish that if I had been good enough before her, I would have remained that way with her. But my fatalness was caught up in her beauty, I suppose. And I lost myself in the present to the self I was in the past.
Our first date, we’d gone for a walk in the cute part of town. As cute as Havre, Montana gets. She’d held my hand, telling me I smelled like the wine from our dinner but that it was sweet of me to not act it. I told her I was thankful that she was around me. We’d fallen for each other so early, so heavily. Why had she? Why had she let me get so close to her?
My eyes fluttered, feeling something new begin to fill my veins. I waited for sleep but it wasn’t hitting me. It was the saline. I thought about the Rachel I missed most, the one I didn’t know that well.
Our first kiss. The way her skin was some purged satin to my heavy hands.
I thought about our first time. I felt the tears begin to feel gravity, sliding out of my reddened eyes, tracing my cheeks.
I’d never thought of last words before. Sure, when I had been younger, and more reckless, shoplifting and roaming around like the nomad without a home I was, the idea had come to my mind, but now, it was just a ghost, patting my back, assuring me it was okay to think of him now.
“Rachel,” I mumbled. The cement walls the surrounded me said nothing. Well, they were silent. That was sort of saying something. All the silence in the court room had been like shouting to me. Hearing the cruel way they had told me I was guilty, and then I could say nothing in return, only feel every ounce of blood in my body turn putrid with fear and shock. Hearing them tell me I was going to die.
I couldn’t have done anything but be horrified in that courtroom, and be horrified all those days in prison, leading up until where I was, my final minutes. I could only wait, then, and be so stupefied I couldn’t cry, couldn’t think, couldn’t be.
I wondered if anyone else in that room but my lawyer and I had thought to charge me as not guilty. If anyone could tell that on the inside I wasn’t the ungodly thing they thought of me as.
I cringed at the memory of Rachel’s face that day in the courtroom. It had not turned up from her lap to greet mine. Not once. I thought how evil it was of her to be so barren, even then. She had told me not to remind her of her problems during our time as a couple; of what she told me was not a sickness, not an issue. What I learned later was her Borderline Personality Disorder. I had kept that promise dearly. I had only ever spoken of her mentality to myself, in my sickly poetry, in my thoughts. And now I was dying, for her. I wasn’t dying, though. Oh right.I wasn’t dying.
I breathe in shakily, wishing for more thoughts to come, to cut my head out of the present and steal me to a better place. But none do. I was given my last dose of Lamictal the other night. Some sort of coupling with my last meal, I had guessed upon first sight of it. How thoughtful of them to do a dying, retarded man such a service.
Oddly, the next thing I wondered was of whom else like me had been here. Not in this gurney, with these leathers binding them despite their panic; who else had been sentenced to death, with no real reason behind it? I wasn’t guilty. I knew that better than I could say to myself in all my dying truth than I knew anything. It had all been a series of mistakes.
Rachel coming home upset. Me asking her the matter. Rachel telling me she was leaving me. Me grabbing her arm. My fingers are hard around her skin because I’m also upset. I think she’s been having sex with other guys. She’s never home. I want to shout at her about this. I never get my chance to. She never tells me why she’s crying, and I feel like I have a right as someone who loves her to know, especially if she’s lying about her long nights and late afternoons.
Then, Rachel slapping me across the face. Me being stunned and letting her go. Rachel going to our room. Rachel packing up her clothes. Rachel shouting, Rachel furious. Rachel. Rachel. Rachel.
I sob once. Allowing myself that pitiful thing, that ungrateful tremor of my chest.
“I won’t let you hurt me anymore!” she’d said. “You druggie, you filthy addict! You selfish, narcissistic, asinine retard! Go jump your therapist and her fucking cunt.”
“Rachel!” I’d shouted, like I was calling to a friend on the edge of the bridge’s railing, about to jump. “I am not trying to hurt you!”
“I know what you are, you monster. You filth fuck! You can’t hurt me anymore, I won’t let you.”
None of her words make any sense. I had been only this way emotionally once before, and that had been on an awful night, when I had mistakenly gotten drunk, and taken my meds twice rather than once in one sitting. Every other second of our love had seemed so… fine.
Rachel getting a lawyer, Rachel accusing me of aggravated sexual battery, Rachel taking me to court, Rachel winning.
And now, I couldn’t believe it had come so quickly. My punishment. Well, it was so much more than just that, but what other words could I use? I had always thought that death was peaceful, and then you get makeup put on your corpse, and then you’re either burned or buried. Not this. Not dying for a reason you know is wrong. Not leaving the world a man who knows that he is leaving it for the wrong reasons.
Suddenly, the black wall in front of me retracts. I had not noticed it different from the other cement walls, so it surprises me, and my heart gains its vigor again.
In the room beyond the glass, I see chairs, mostly empty. I see a guard dressed in our countries uniformity. I see…Oh.
I see Rachel.
I have no family besides her. Or what she used to be. I do not know how to respond to this. Do I be still, do I do nothing? What could I possibly do?
She is alone. In the chair at the center of the small, lowly lit room. She looks at me. I wonder if she’s thinking what I am. If she knows how terrible and wrong this is. Probably not, but I suppose I have always known how to overextend my hope with fucked up people.
Her eyes say things I wouldn’t be able to know if I tried. They well over and cry. I look away.
I begin to feel the dizzying feeling of the second injection. The needles hang off of my arm, kids on their mothers at the dinner party, shy at the taller grownups, wanting to never let go of their sweet protection.
What had I ever committed to, besides hiding behind myself, hiding from the reality I wanted to never be the way it was. Trying to do things that were wrong, right. Asking a woman with a personality disorder who refused to go on medication or go to therapy to marry me, someone also with a personality disorder. At least I took drugs to be somewhat normal.
“What do you mean, marry me?” Rachel had asked as I looked up from my unsteady position on one knee. “I’m not ready for that.”
“I love you, Rachel. I want to wait if you do. I want to.”
“You’ll wait for me?”
“I will. I swear.”
I hadn’t done a lot in my life. I had loved, I had lost. I had been an unplanned pregnancy; I had been the “retard” son of a Montana mother who never showed me kindness. I had no father. I had only a high school education, but I had never enjoyed much more than that. I had liked writing, and had succeeded, but knew I would never take it very far.
I had loved Rachel. I had never married. I had been convicted a rapist on the worst terms.
I had been given the anesthetic before the final injection.
I had been myself. And now, I was going.
I wasn’t dying, though. No. I wasn’t dying.
I was just getting dizzy. I was just sleeping…
“I’m not dying,” I said as all faded out.