She thought it but dared not speak. Marie leered at her daughter instead. She loved Tammi, but at that moment, Marie didn’t much care for her. Her child’s actions angered her. They embarrassed her. They reeked of weakness, failure, and regret.
“Why, Biscuit?” Marie asked her daughter’s dog. The powder puff of a Pomeranian tilted her head after hearing her name, but dutifully remained on Marie’s lap, on guard and waiting.
Yes, there was hope, Marie reminded herself. The doctors said so. With that hope, a chance to make things right. Life is full of second chances. And every second chance has a second chance. Sometimes it’s at life. Other times, it’s for death. The scars on Tammi’s wrists and the fresh flesh hole in her skull reflected both.
Marie braced Biscuit as she carefully shifted in the vinyl chair. How many people, Marie wondered, had wept and slept bedside in this very chair, waiting for the resurrection of a loved one? Seriously, how many? Marie then realized that she’d been glaring at the symbol of sacrifice strategically hung above her daughter’s bed.
“Where the HELL were you?”
An inner voice then asked the same of Marie. Marie clenched her teeth.
“Do your Goddamned job,” Marie angrily whispered at the naked saviour.
“You first,” the inner voice replied. “He helps those that help themselves.”
Screw you, asshole.
Marie was livid. But deep down, she knew she was at fault. At the very least, she was an accomplice. She was the adult. She was the parent. The signs were there. She should have acted. Instead, she chose escape. In doing so, she abandoned a little girl’s cries for help.
Marie knew she shouldn’t have cheated. But she did. That was her escape from a stifling, suffocating existence. And then, her husband left. Had he not dramatically stormed out, blinded by fury and betrayal, he would’ve seen that train. Oh God, he would have seen the train! And Tammi would have never…
Oh, my sweet baby. I know you blame me, but please, PLEASE forgive me!
Marie began to sob. Hunched over, elbows on her thighs, with both hands she cradled her flushed face. Biscuit moved to the edge of Marie’s knees but never left her post. She didn’t let Marie’s meltdown distract her. After a few moments, Marie composed herself, straightened up, and tilted her head back.
“Pleeease, I beg of you. For her, not for me. Burn me in hell. I don’t care.”
This time, there was no inner reply—only dead silence leaving Marie’s toxic and troubled mind feeling abandoned.
Marie sat for a moment longer, trying her best to regain positive focus before one of the nasty nurse nuns returned. They said there’d be consequences if they caught that dog in the room again. But Biscuit is pure love. Why can’t they see that? And aren’t nuns supposed to be the tip of the spear, Marie wondered. Instead of preventing, shouldn’t they be professing the healing powers of unconditional love?
Well, shouldn’t they?
Answer me. Say something.
Marie wiped away the remaining tears from her face and shifted again on the slippery chair. Biscuit remained steady, standing guard by her friend while balancing on Marie’s lap. Biscuit was a good dog. A loyal dog. She adored Tammi and Tammi loved her as much, probably more than Tammi had ever loved anyone, including her own mother. Marie thought that was more evidence of this mother’s epic failure.
Marie then recalled a discussion from one of their family sessions. The counsellor said that sometimes people need to trigger happy to get happy, to be happy. The trigger could be a repeated phrase, smell or colour or just about anything that would trigger a positive shift from a self-destructive, mind-fuck situation. What a weird thing to say, Marie thought. She was now struck by the irony of the counsellor’s awkward turn of phrase. Did Tammi think that by shooting herself, her death would bring her happiness?
As a redirect, the counsellor also said that most jumpers regret their suicide attempt the instant they leap, and actually change their mind on the way down. They didn’t want to die, they just didn’t want to live the life they were living. They wanted a second chance. A new beginning. But when they couldn’t find that path or the strength to ask for help to make the necessary changes, they gave up. Jesus. Could that be true?
Marie’s contemplation was abruptly interrupted by her phone. It began vibrating in her pants pocket. However, she was slow to react. She was numbed by this tragic event, almost into silent social submission. She went dark. She didn’t want to talk to anyone. They all had the same well-intentioned but uncomfortable words. Marie decided she wanted none of that today. She ignored the call.
Ringer off, they demanded. Another nurse nun warning with an obligatory threat. A second warning would result in the loss of hospital cell phone privileges. They wanted it quiet, like a morgue. They said silence was in the patient’s best interest. Marie considered arguing the concept of infinite second chances, but declined, feeling some corrupted minds were long ago closed to any such debate. Marie hated nuns.
Unknowingly, with all this nun thought, Marie had been rubbing the knuckles on her left hand. The very hand the school nuns struck with the yardstick while trying to cast out this younger girl’s left-handed demons. Yardstick therapy, they called it. 'You WILL write the right way,' they repeated. They truly were evil creatures of habit. Marie shared that parting punny with them when she aged out of the facility. When they threatened Marie with leech therapy, she used her right hand, but only temporarily, for her survival.
Marie's phone vibrated again so she reached for her front pocket but realized that she’d placed her phone in her purse. It wasn’t her phone that was vibrating, it was Biscuit. And her little tail was slapping against Marie’s thighs. Marie then saw that Tammi was smiling at Biscuit, and Biscuit was dog-smiling back.
She looked at her frail daughter, and her newborn first smile quickly flashed before Marie’s eyes. It was almost too soon. Thank goodness it wasn’t over.
Except for the tapping sound of Biscuit’s tail, the room was calm. It was an acceptable silence. Behind the wrap of bandages and Tammi’s blackened and bloodied eyes, Marie witnessed a long-absent, long-overdue inner peace.
Marie quickly shoulder-checked for nuns before rising. She then discreetly placed Biscuit in her favourite sleeping position, facing Tammi while under the covers on Tammi’s chest. Biscuit closed her eyes and the exhausted guardian immediately fell asleep. As Tammi slowly stroked her little friend, she looked at her weary, misty-eyed mother. They smiled at one another and then they both began to cry. There was no need for words. There was no more anger. And no more hate. Only relief.