Because it’s mine

29 December 2008 by Mike Gogulski
Posted in diary, people | 10 Comments »

She throws off my attempt at a warm embrace, gets up from the bed and goes into my kitchen, where — for perhaps the fifth or sixth time this weekend — she retrieves the sharpest knife.

I’ve seen this before, once, a long time ago. I know that it’s one part plea for attention, one part cry for help, one part attempting to manipulate me, and still one more part the expression of a real desire to die.

Naked, she pulls the knife from the drawer once again. This time, unlike before, she’s closing the drawer, and as she was walking from the bed to the kitchen I could hear her saying, “Mike will survive; Mike will be all right.”

So this go around it’s time to leave the bed. I start getting up and call her name, but she doesn’t respond, closing the drawer. I approach her swiftly, from behind, infer from her posture which hand holds the knife. I wrap my arms around her shoulders and seize the hand with the knife, a bit too slowly, as she brings the other hand up to clasp the blade before I can catch her wrist and hold it.

Now I’m in a rather odd spot. There’s someone suicidal in my kitchen. Not only would I prefer she live, not only do I believe in her and care for her, but I’d also not like to face the calling of the authorities to remove my dead friend’s body. I’d not like to face cleaning up liters of blood. I would not like to see her die. I would not like her to die.

At the same time… what am I doing? She’s a couple inches shorter than me, not an athlete but not out of shape. I probably have more physical strength than she does, but it would take only an instant’s slip, a brief failure of attention or a poor judgment of her intent or capability for this momentary standoff to escalate into something more — a seriously cut hand for her, a high-pressure test of my rusty Boy Scouts of America and American Red Cross first aid knowledge, a massive injury to myself or her, a successful suicide… even my own death at her hand.

She has few choices, and it seems I have fewer. She could surrender, release her grip. But my repeated pleas for her to let go of the knife are met with refusal. She could struggle and try to wrest control from me, but she doesn’t. Perhaps she doesn’t really want to die or cause injury to anyone, perhaps she thinks she can’t win such a contest. She could try to cut herself, as she is already clutching the bare blade of the knife in her left hand, and able to apply force along several different vectors to the goal of self-injury here if she decides to. But she doesn’t do that, either.

Minutes pass. Repeated requests to release the knife, delivered by me in tones ranging from pleading to command to beseechment to threat. Finally, her blank resistance melts a bit, and she asks me, “why?”

“Because it’s mine,” is the only thing I can think of to say.

“No it isn’t,” she retorts, turning her body such that I’m now between her and the counter with the drawer where she got the knife. I follow as gracefully as I can, maintaining my grip on her hand and her wrist as she maintains her grips on the knife’s handle and blade.

“Yes, it is. It’s my knife, and I don’t authorize this,” I tell her.

Now she is pressing backwards into me, her legs bending slightly. I struggle a bit to maintain my balance against the sudden shift and to keep my hold steady. She’s not fighting, though, she’s falling, down to the floor in a sitting position. Her hold on the knife relaxes, she drops her left hand off the blade, and I take it from her.

I gather up the other stabby and pointy things, wrap them all in a towel and stash them in the best place I can think of as she sits naked on the kitchen floor, head in hands, silent. After two hours of intermittent vomiting — and a substantial getting-my-shit-back-together period for me — she sleeps, now, more or less peacefully.

I don’t know if I’ll ever sleep again.

  1. 10 Responses to “Because it’s mine”

  2. By Kent McManigal on 29 December 2008

    Wow. Intense.

  3. By Cork on 29 December 2008

    This sounds pretty serious. It might be a good idea to talk to one of her friends or family members about this (if you haven’t already). Scary stuff.

  4. By Seth on 29 December 2008

    I began reading this hoping it was some fictional tale meant to convey a libertarian morality dilemma.

    It does appear do be a real life episode however.


  5. By Mike Gogulski on 29 December 2008

    True story, unfortunately, and contemporaneous. Friend has been contacted.

    I finally slept, and she finally left. Suicide watch is over, at least for me.

  6. By Anthony on 29 December 2008

    Another life saved by anarchy.

  7. By John Simpson on 30 December 2008

    It’s good that you stopped her in time. I can tell you from direct personal experience that the alternative is a lot worse than just having to contact the authorities to remove a body, or cleaning up some blood.

  8. By Aaron Kinney on 30 December 2008

    I cannot believe you didn’t call the authorities. How is any suicidal person supposed to get better without being cast into the mindless paperwork and rubber-room filled gauntlet that is the state’s social services system?

  9. By Nicole on 30 December 2008

    I know this might sound dumb, and I don’t want to trivialize what happened. But, when I see this I wonder: Is it associated with her getting sick and vomiting?

    I know from my own experience, and from stories other people have told me, that whenever people get sick with ordinary viruses, they sometimes have what seems to be an emotional breakdown at the same time. Lots of crying, feeling hopeless, feeling as though everything is “boring” and the time passes too slowly and nothing can entertain or distract you from your misery (that’s my own experience with nausea and vomiting).

    Anything at all that makes a person physically sick can also make them seem to have an emotional breakdown or suicidal moods/attempts. If they are interacting with other people, minor arguments get much worse than usual.

    That’s one reason not to just throw someone in the mental hospital, because the suicidal mood can go away on its own when the sickness passes.

    But that is all that I can observe without knowing the whole context of what is going on in her life, whether she had used drugs recently, whether you two were in the middle of an argument or whether any other important events were going on (aside from your becoming stateless – and yes, that is a very big deal). The observation about sickness might not be helpful at all – it could be irrelevant. Also, that doesn’t tell you what to do about it if it happens again.

    Is she the one who has legal authority for you, for signing papers and all that?

    Nothing can destroy your right to belong to yourself.

    I hope she stays safe.

  10. By Mike Gogulski on 31 December 2008

    Nicole: Thanks for your concern and your insight. I must, however, leave this story behind at this point. It is something of a breach of trust to have posted this story at all, and I would not wish to further expose the details of a person’s private life here. At the time, the story begged to be poured out in words, because it was my story rather than hers.

    No, she is not my attorney-in-fact. And I hope she stays safe, too.

  11. By Royce Christian on 31 December 2008

    That was an extremely well written piece. The fact that it’s autobiographical just makes it more powerful. I loved it.

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