by Nicholas Siegel
I tried to leave this place once, but I’m as much a part of it as the musty air or the cement in the walls. This storm cellar has feelings, but I’m not sure if they come from me or from something much older than me.
Let me tell you how I did it.
I first considered shooting myself with my father’s gun. A bullet to the head, as cliché as it seemed, would more than likely get the job done. But, I’m a worrier. I didn’t want to mess it up.
I thought about lying on the train tracks, or overdosing on Advil, or letting the riptide take me. This was the most stressful part of it all—the decision. Once I settled on cutting my wrists, I calmed down a bit.
I did this, of course, because of my father. I don’t know why he hurt me, but I assume my mom wasn’t enough for him anymore. I assume I reminded him of her when she was younger. That’s what I’ll always be the most proud of—that even a drunken, angry monster like him could see how much I had in common with my mom.
Down here in the cellar, there’s a drain the size of two queen-sized pillows, and it seemed like a convenient place to do it. A girl at school told me that’s how her uncle killed himself, and that you had to cut down and not across.
The key to the cellar was on a thick, metal ring hanging next to the light switch by our breakfast table, so I slipped it into my pocket. There was a knife block on the kitchen counter, and I went for the second biggest knife—the second to the left. Something about it seemed right. Maybe it was because it wasn’t so obvious, or maybe it was because I was so small. It felt good in my hand, like my fingers merged at the ends and came to a sharp point. I held it downward as I made my way through the back door, although it didn’t matter much.
It was raining that night, and as I tried to get the key to turn in the rusty lock hanging from the storm cellar doors, I could feel water soaking into my shoes from the mud. Finally, the lock gave, and I threw it down and swung the double doors open. The stairs were dark, but I didn’t need light to feel my way down. We’d used the cellar many times during twister warnings, most of which happened at night. None of us ever knew where the flashlights were, so we managed without them.
A chain hung from the ceiling in the center of the room, and I pulled down on it to flip on the flickering lightbulb. I sat with my back against the wall near the drain and ran the knife up and down my wrists a few times just to appreciate the sensation of it—almost like waking up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water and knowing you’d be back in bed soon. Knowing that once you fell back asleep, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy it, so you should enjoy it then.
The cutting wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It felt like the rain.
Before long, like going under anesthesia, I began to fade. The room got blurry, then dark, then black.
Then I could see myself. Or, not myself, but my body. It’s not here anymore. They already took it.
I watched as they took it; they carried it out in a bag.
My father was the one who discovered me; he must have realized the key was missing. I didn’t leave a note. I knew he would understand.
When he knelt down next to my body in the blood, he cried. He held my head to his chest, but I couldn’t feel it. I ran my hand, or what should have been my hand, along his forearm, and his head tilted in my direction, but I’m not sure if he could feel me anymore than I could feel him.
That’s when I tried to leave. He felt familiar, and I didn’t want to be alone anymore. He stood in the dark, my blood soaked through the knees of his jeans, and he retreated to the stairway. I followed him, but as I got to the opening, where the sun hit the musty floor, I stopped. It wasn’t a feeling that made me stop, and it wasn’t a force. It was the simple fact that a place can’t leave itself, and I am a part of this place now more than I was ever a part of my own body.
I still think of my family. I think of them eating dinner and of the empty chair at the dining room table. I wonder if they think of me as often as I think of them—if their lives even allow them to think about me as much as I think of them. But, then again, the mind is complicated and it never stops moving.
I still wonder if he regrets what he did, and I wonder if it even matters. Not much matters down here, and after awhile, I’ve started to wonder if much matters anywhere.