The ringing from the crack of the gun is still in my ears.
According to the nurse that should go away in a few days – feeling in my left side should come back around the same time.
I’m on a diet of red jell-o and nutrients fed from tubes stuck in my arms.
They’re calling my survival an “act of God”. One in a billion. My face is all over newspapers and 5:00 television.
“Man Survives Gunshot Wound To The Head!”
“Modern Day Phineas Gage!”
“Luckiest Man Alive!”
Leave it to me to fuck up suicide so much that the whole world turns and laughs.
I got a text from Angie’s father when I was still out cold – just after all those photos of me hit the news-o-sphere. I met him a few times. Big tall guy with a bristly mustache and a crushing handshake. We talked about hunting trips and fishing, he offered to take me out on the lake at his summerhouse to catch bass and learn to gut a fish. I tried to impress him with the out-doorsy knowledge my father passed down to me, never letting on that I’d rather be inside with a good book than shooting deer or gutting fish. I thought I had to impress him. I thought he was going to be my father in law someday.
The text had no words. It was just a photo of Angie. Her face was all red and patchy and there were tears soaking her cheeks. Her nose was twisted and purple, her bottom lip was a mess of scabs and her eye was barely visible from under the mass of swollen black flesh.
I keep looking at it over and over again. I did that. Angie was the most beautiful girl I’d ever met and I did that to her. If there were a God, he would have gladly seen me die, not save me. “Act of God” my ass.
I survived because of some freak malfunction of the gun and imperfection in the bullet combined with the angle it was shot, you know. Literally one in a billion chance. The bullet ripped right through my brain, but it didn’t do any major damage, barely missing parts that would have killed or left me paralyzed. Here’s the kicker – the little fucker is still in there. A point-blank shot didn’t break through the back of my skull. That’s unheard of. It got wedged in somewhere at the back of my head in the perfect spot to stop most the blood flow that would have flooded my brain and killed me. It’s still in there, the floodgate to my own personal river Styx. The doctors say if they remove it I’ll die for sure, so I’m stuck being the guy confusing airport security scans because he has metal inside his head.
I pull out my phone and look at an old picture of Angie and I together. She took the picture of course – I was never good at framing it so our faces weren’t cut off at the top. She’s got this enormous grin on her face, her dimples are showing and her freckle-speckled nose is wrinkled at the top like she’s trying not to laugh. I love the way her nose wrinkles. I’m kissing her on the cheek and she’s got one eye closed and one looking at the lens. Her eyes are so beautiful – enormous and the warmest, most gorgeous shade of hazel with flecks of green. I look at her and I miss her. It’s a tug deep inside my chest.
I bring up the picture her father sent me just to torture myself. Beautiful eyes downcast, one swollen and black with bruising, perfect shaped lips scabbed and bloody, wrinkled nose broken. I don’t deserve to miss her. I did this to her. I hurt her. I could have killed her – she was nothing but a doe and I was a hunter and I took advantage of my strength and I hurt her. She thought I was going to kill her. No man could do that to a woman. I’m a monster – I’m nothing but a fucking monster. I never thought I would be this person, but I am and I hate it. Just a few minutes can change your life. I woke up the morning before I touched her a different man than I am today. I had goals and dreams and hopes but now all I want is to disappear. I want to be erased, I feel so guilty and sick and awful, I just want to die.
I stare into her downcast eyes, the pixels on the screen are bright and they hurt my eyes.
I think I saw a movie once where a man in a hospital wanted to kill himself so badly that he bit his tongue off and bled out.
I test my teeth into my tongue, biting down gently, and then gradually harder. I look at the photo again. At her bruised face and her broken nose.
I bite down as hard as I can and feel tendons snap and taste the salty tang of blood.
The pain comes a belated few seconds after the wound, searing in my mouth, making me involuntarily moan as the blood begins to pour between my teeth and dribble down my chin. I start foaming at the mouth, frothy white saliva mixing with blood to make pink bubbles around my mouth. I’m coughing as it starts to clog my throat, my tongue hurts so fucking much, its on fire. I hope I choke. I hope I fucking choke on my own spit and blood while I stare at this picture of Angie.
“Hey, do you know which way the bathroom is?” a voice comes from the doorway. Fuck. I try to ignore her, turning my head away.
“Uh, are you okay, dude?” I can hear her stepping closer, “Excuse me? Do you want me to call someone or something?”
“Gow awer,” I mutter, trying to pronounce ‘go away”, but the tip of my tongue is hardly attached.
She moves to the other side so she can see my face. I cover my mouth with my hands.
“Are you gonna puke? Do you want a bucket or something? You really don’t look so good.”
She’s skinny as all Hell and got short blond hair and round blue eyes with thick black eye liner all the way around them. It makes her look like a raccoon. She’s got a thick blue scarf around her neck, even though she’s in a hospital gown. I feel like I know her face but I’m not sure where from.
“No.” I snap, and glare at her. She backs away.
“Alright, fine man, just trying to help,” I’m almost home free as she turns to leave but she does a double take, her eyes wide in alarm, “is that blood?”
I look down and blood is seeping between my fingers and down my hand onto the sheets. Fuck.
“Wait!” I cry.
The girl runs out to call the nurses. In minutes I’m surrounded by aid. I struggle as they push a gasmask down onto my face and I feel my eyes roll back in my head.