by Casey Wickstrom
Note: These pages were found inside a night stand drawer, in the hotel room I was staying at while on tour in California.
When I saw the hotel, I instantly knew. It was off of the 5 freeway, off to my left side, near the exit. It looked small and quiet and lonely. Set against the backdrop of sloping towering mountains, the sun was just beginning to go down. I pulled off onto the exit ramp and made my way over. I just felt in my body and in my mind that this was the right hotel.
I checked into this room at $125 a night, which is a little steep, I guess, but it won't matter much after the three days that I spend here. I paid for three days up front, cash. The outside swimming pool was covered with a blue plastic sheet, the sign on the fence said "Out of Order." My room is #132 on the second floor. The inside of the room is lightly quiet and smells old and a little dusty; the walls are brown paneled fake wood, and there's a picture of a farm above the headrest of my single bed, which squeaks slightly and doesn't feel all that comfortable. There's a small television that I turned on only for a minute, just to see if it works -- a reflexive habit that I have in hotel rooms. Next to the tv is a small table with a lamp above it coming out of the wall, where I put my typewriter and a stack of blank papers. Near the window, with the heavy blinds drawn, there's a wooden chair that I moved near the table, and I'm sitting here typing this into the typewriter now. I feel settled in already. No one knows I'm here. This is exactly as I planned; three days will go by quickly.
What am I doing in this small and lonely hotel off the 5 freeway in the middle of nowhere in central California? I'm here to kill myself.
I have a single travel bag, it's leather, with a toothbrush, and three bottles of pills. The first two bottles are a mixture of different painkillers that I hope to finish by the third day, when I'll take the entire contents of the last bottle, which has thirty five tiny white pills of pure hydrocodone.
I bought this typewriter because I wanted to document my final three days of life from the seclusion of this cheap little hotel room. I have thought of doing this for a long time now -- for a few years in fact -- and earlier this week I decided that I'd finally do it. I got in my car with my bag, picked up a typewriter from the pawn shop near my house, and just drove. I drove without aim or direction, in a completely random fashion, and I told myself that I when I found the right hotel, I would know. I drove around for about a day, although I was prepared to drive for however long it took to find the right place. I was actually pretty lucky to find a hotel that spoke to me so quickly. So now here I am in this room, writing this introduction. Tonight doesn't count as a day; tomorrow will be day one, and I'll take the first bottle and start the countdown.
I feel tired, so I guess I'll sleep.
. . .
day one: morning.
I have woken up from one of the best night's sleep ever. These next few days will be wonderful. Just writing, taking these pills, not leaving the room. Time alone.
Many people think that suicide victims hate themselves. I do -- I can attest to that. But there's something about suicide that many people don't understand: it's an act of love. You reach a point when you just simply can't suffer and hate yourself any longer, you reach the point of no return, and after years or decades of hating yourself, you decide that it's time to end your suffering. And ending your suffering is an act of love. No one else can save you. You have to save yourself. And you can rescue yourself, you can find peace -- you can finally, finally, be at peace with yourself. Having woken up this morning, I felt for the first time in how long I don't know, that I can stand myself. It was as if the darkness inside of me had reached a truce with the rest of me. It was a mutual understanding that this is the end; we can resolve our differences and be friends for these three days. I am able to find my own self-love, by freeing myself from . . . well, myself.
Staring at the ceiling for a prolonged amount of time, just feeling at peace with the world, at peace with myself at last. I am doing the right thing.
I don't understand gunshot suicides. It's too messy. I get it to some extent, because it means that you're serious. If you stick a fucking gun in your mouth and pull the trigger, then you're serious about dying. And how fucked is it when you hear about these guys that shoot themselves in the head and they survive? I mean, that's brutal. If you shoot yourself in the mouth with an AK-47, that's not a cry for help. You're aiming to kill yourself. And if you can't even do THAT, with an AK -- man, you thought you were depressed before? You can't even kill yourself right.
But I think of Hemingway. I think of Kurt Cobain, in his loft in Washington, needles everywhere, dreary gray weather outside, maybe cold rain belting at his window, and he sticks the shotgun in his mouth and pulls the trigger with his foot, right? Something about that seems like it would be easy to romanticize, maybe the rain helps. I read that Hemingway shot himself with his favorite shotgun. His favorite shotgun -- he had multiple firearms, but he decided to use his favorite one to blow his head off. I can almost grasp the beauty in it, but I'll never know why people blow apart their skulls. Too messy. I want my body to be intact, a dead replica of my living body, everything that I was, except now it's free of breath, free of life, free of soul. Soul free. Cold stiff body of a stranger on the scratchy red carpet floor of a run down cheap motel in the middle of nowhere. Typewritten pages filled with words, and a leather travel bag full of drugs. Now that's romantic to me.
Slitting your wrists . . . Not my thing. I couldn't cut into my arms like that. Horizontally if you want attention; vertically, all the way down, if you're serious. That's the rule of thumb that I've heard from experienced cutters. I wonder, once you cut one arm, will your hand work to let you slice into the other forearm? Or will your fingers no longer cooperate once you sever the myriad rivers and streams of your veins and tendons; do you just wait until your life pours out of your one arm? A bathtub, lobster red boiling hot water in the tub, that's how I'd do it, if I had to. I don't like the idea of getting cold: I get the mental image of dried fruit, an old apple left out, shriveled and dry. What sound does the razor make when it tears its way through your forearm? How deep do you go, does it make a tearing sound, a rip? How much blood is there? Enough to drain you. Sitting in a tub of hot water as the water is dyed red, blood red (obviously), and you get cold. I don't like the cold aspect, and cutting is for high school girls -- that's my reasoning.
Christ, maybe. Getting warmer, at least. I've been choked before, once when I was really young: a girl at school grabbed the hood of my sweater, she was standing behind me in the auditorium, and she pulled it back and up in such a way that it began to strangle me. I couldn't breathe. And I didn't try to fight it; I figured eventually she'd let go. And then there was a hot fluid fire light-headedness that filled up in my skull, my body became weightless, it completely overtook me; it was a warm suffocation, and those dots that come after a flash photograph exploded in my eyes, and the music in the auditorium became muffled, like I was under water, warm water, or floating in space, the bright lights like stars, the warmth of it all. I felt euphoric, in a way, and I couldn't breathe. My thoughts came to a halt as the temperature rose in my face, the image of a thermometer rising until it bursts at the top, my eyes melting out of my skull in hot white light. And then, of course, the girl let go, and I could breathe again, and I came down. I liked it. Even then, as a little kid, there was something foreign, and slightly erotic to being choked like that -- although I couldn't describe it like that then; the words just weren't there. Autoerotic-asphyxiation was not in my vocabulary back then. Like the late David Carradine, all bound in leather, wrapped up in his closet, the closed back of the door splattered with cum, the collection of shoes beneath him covered in feces (you evacuate your bowels when you die, yes? Remind me to use the restroom before I go. I'd like as little mess as possible).
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, I remember reading the part where a girl hangs herself. The lady in the book said "I'm afraid she's hanged herself." Hanged. Not hung. I remember thinking how strange that was. She hung herself. No, she's hanged herself.
On hanging: there was a girl that I dated, and later on, she confided in me that at a certain point in her life, she was seriously contemplating suicide. She was going to hang herself, she said. She was living up in the Santa Cruz mountains, with three other people. Her roommates were all out of town, and she was going to hang a rope from the balcony, outside, looking towards the mountains. And she planned to put a tarp beneath her, she said, "in case she made a mess." And the other thing that she told me was that she was going to be naked. The mental image of this beautiful brunette girl, hanging by her neck, completely naked, outside and swinging off of the balcony, the backdrop of the Santa Cruz mountains, the grass, the trees, the dusk setting sun, it was all so poetic. It was dark and insidious and beautiful and poetic.
But I could never hang myself.
And then there's gas. If it wasn't for the drugs, and the hotel room idea, I would choose gas. Sylvia Plath, with her head in the oven, breathing in the gas stove until she just fell asleep. That's the way to do it. In the garage, you start the car, crack the windows, and just breathe. Play some music on the stereo, you could even make a playlist for the occasion. Simon & Garfunkel, some Beethoven piano sonatas as you relax and let the carbon monoxide take you away to dreamland. You just get tired, your eyelids get heavy, things get surreal, thoughts slow down, the warmth of the softly rumbling engine lulls you, its mechanical drone soothing you to sleep. Why not?
Throw some pills in there, and you're fucking golden. A handful of hydrocodone, let it sink in, the car running in the garage, the music playing, and you're rushing on the painkillers and relaxed and sleepy, so just let go. Just let it go. Just let it go. Just . . . sleep.
Man, if it wasn't for this strange obsession with a hotel room, I'd be in my garage right now, just chilling in the cloud of carbon monoxide, stoned out of my head, no longer living. I just saw this hotel in my head; not this exact one, but close. I had a hotel archetype, and once that thought got in there, I knew I just had to drive until I found it. Time was on my side, because I wanted to do it all right. For some reason, dying in some anonymous hotel room off the highway, where no one knows you from Adam, and no one will ever know you, something about that just made sense to me. This room is perfect.
Not a good night tonight. The first bottle is gone, a high wine in my ears, a heavy dull rush that I know very well, but after ten pills you're just not high anymore. And the ten that you take after that, it's like each pill eliminates your high even more. I can't sleep. This room feels closed up, like it's underground, and I'm hearing things.
hours into the night.
I hear the roar of a chainsaw ripping through the darkness of my room. The screams of children, high pitched and terrified, bright in my ears. Hot bursts of industrial light tear and explode behind my eyelids, the sawing and grinding of deadly machinery splits my skull in half. All of this in the next room, by my head. An ocean of fear engulfs my dark single room entirely. The wired galactic dendritic maze of my brain snaps and pops in electrical flashes, overload, blown fuses, crackling hot wires, fried and charred and smoking thin snakes of electricity.
day two: morning.
I woke up on the second day, in my bed, the sunlight filtering in, creeping in through the opening on top of the heavy closed blinds. It cast angled reflected lines of light on the ceiling. It could have looked creepy, but I think it looked beautiful. I glanced over by the old television set and noticed that there was someone else in my room. My heart didn't skip a beat, like that falling drop in your stomach -- no fear to instantly suck the wind out of me, fight or flight mode. I was still high from the night before.
The shadow looked like the figure of a man at first, and we just sat there in the silence of the room, with the lines of white sunlight streaked open on the ceiling. The shadow was smoking a cigarette; the smoke rose in a twisted fluid stream, rising upward until it dissipated close to the ceiling. The silence was heavy, although I could hear cars out along the freeway. Maybe even a few birds. The figure that looked so much like a man slowly and gently morphed into the dark silhouette of a woman. Like a camera lens shifting into focus, her body image became clearer and clearer, and I saw that she was a very beautiful woman. Wearing a light brown skirt, her legs were crossed. She looked older, her face was not as tight as a young girl's might have been. Her lips were full and sensual; she might have been in her early forties. Her hair was auburn and rested easily on her wide shoulders. She just stared and stared at me for a long time, saying nothing, the smoke of her cigarette rising into warm heavy silence.
I felt that I had to break the silence.
"Are you real?" I asked. I was still high, but I also had the feeling that I was dreaming, the subtle breaths of phantasmagoria and sleep still had me in its clutches.
"Yes." She said, and her voice was quiet but full, sexy.
"That's good," I replied, feeling confused, but playing along, like you might do in a lucid dreaming state. "Can I help you with something? I think you might have the wrong room."
"I don't think you can help me," she said, her dark eyes never leaving mine, she never blinked. "You can't even help yourself."
"Oh. How do you know that?"
She said nothing, just stared. I began to feel very uncomfortable, and a little impatient.
She finally blinked and turned her head up and away to the side, as if examining half of the room for the first time.
"Pills are such a weak way to die." She said. The mechanical wheels in my mind churned to keep up with her statement.
"Okay. So, what? I'm weak?"
She turned her head back to face me. "No, you're not, you're just having a moment of weakness. There's a difference."
"There's not enough difference for me. I'm here to die, and that's what I plan to do, tomorrow."
She shrugged. "Suit yourself. But I think that you should know that if you follow through with your plan, you'll miss out on the party."
"What party?" Images of floating balloons and confetti exploding in a brightly lit room expanded inside my mind briefly.
"The one that we're all having." She said ominously. And then she sat there in silence again.
"Okay, this is getting weird. I think you need to leave."
Then her voice went low, very low. Way too low. It slowed in time and dropped to a heavy and deep bass octave that sounded like a vinyl record being slowed down dramatically.
"The party we're all having . . ." she said, and she stood up and rushed towards me in a snap of motion like a wild animal. In an instant she was next to me. My mind popped in terrified panic, sheer high pitched terror, the snap of fear was almost audible. I lifted my hands up in reflex, covering my face, like a petrified child. If you don't see it, it's not real, right? The thoughts that go through your mind when you panic: I thought of my eyes being gouged out, my face scratched, completely vertical pinstripes of red, a bloody jail cell on my face. A choked scream, a nightmare, underwater, quicksand . . .
I woke up in my bed, my heart laboring much too fast, covered in cold sweat, my head spinning, it felt light, disconnected, like it might just float off of my shoulders like a balloon. So it was a dream. These pills can do that to me. It was a long time before I felt better again. And even then, I didn't feel better, really.
This typewriter was a bad idea. It's killing my fingers. I just thought that it would be classy, a romantic thing; I had a mental image of the cleaning lady opening the door to the room, seeing my body lying stiff and motionless on the rough thin red carpeting, the typewriter on the table near the television, papers strewn all over with ink and words; a hurricane-aftermath-like feeling. It seemed right. Nothing written in a laptop could achieve that kind of thing. A notebook would be close, but that would be too neat, too easily preserved. I want scattered, unorganized papers, these typewritten pages accumulating. Put the pieces together -- you figure it out.
Of course, I'm pretty sure that no one will read this. Police evidence, maybe. Most likely to be thrown into the trash afterwards. Room clean, next guest. I wonder how many people have died in this room before me?
So the typewriter stays, and the pages keep coming, but fuck, these keys are heavy, stiff. Even with the drugs, they hurt my fingers.
The second pill bottle is almost done, completed. Like a level that I must beat to progress to the next one. Reactions are slow, heavy, deliberate, drowsy, but I can still type on this thing. The heavy keys of this typewriter click and clack in analog archaic rhythmic sounds. Bukowski did this. Mark Twain did this. And now, my second to last night of life on this planet, I do it too. I take drugs and write. Not that I'm in any way comparable to Hemingway and Bukowski -- that's not what I'm saying. It's just the typewriter, you know? I write for no one, but I'm writing nonetheless, rambling in a near incoherent state of being.
Talking in the room next to me, through the wall behind my head:
"I don't think we can do this tonight."
"Really? Why not?"
"I just don't think that it would be right."
"Wow. Well, okay. If that's how you feel."
"I'm sorry, but it is."
Then there's the loud deep blast of a shotgun that rockets through the room, it explodes in my ears, a bomb, a flash of white light, instantaneous panic, it takes the breath from my lungs. I jump up out of my bed, an animalistic reaction -- I crouch down beside the night stand before the sound of the shotgun blast even fades, huddled in primal fear. I wait a few moments for a reaction from the other rooms. Phone calls, police sirens in the distance, getting closer and closer until the wailing sounds and flashing lights engulf and circulate the world around you; I wait for the banter of other hotel residents, screams and reactions. After the blast there is only silence. I've been getting scared like that these past two days. Dreams, violence, hallucinations. Like the lady earlier this morning, how do I know that this is real?
Something happened this evening. After the shock of the gun blast in the other room, I turned on the light next to my bed, finished the second bottle, feeling much too warm and fuzzy, itching and scratching long thin red lines all over my chest and upper back, scratching my shoulders raw, and I got up from the typewriter for a moment to look in the mirror. The mirror is in the main room, outside of the bathroom. The bathroom is tiny, with only the toilet and the small shower, and the mirror and sink and the small coffee maker and some bars of hand soap rest on the sink counter in the main room. Anyways, I was much too high -- which I can easily distinguish when I am -- and I began to look at myself in the mirror: the dark drugged despair bags beneath my eyes, my hazel eyes looked like circles made entirely of sharp tiny broken glass shards, millions of slivers exposed in my dilated pupils that shone in the mirror with microscopic clarity, even in the low and dim yellow light above the mirror. I saw into my eyes, like I was seeing myself for the first time, and I know that this sounds stupid, but I saw myself as a kid, in the reflection of my eyes. It sounds strange and corny, but I'm already onto the next line in this thing. Time is short -- my time is short, anyways -- and this is more of a stream of consciousness thing than any kind of serious writing. No one will know that someone spent three days and nights in here, slowly and methodically killing themselves, writing in an old typewriter, chronicling the last days and hours and moments of his life before he finally seals the deal.
Back to my eyes. I started to cry. I felt it coming on, looking into my eyes, the same eyes that I had when I was a child, the eyes that I was born with, the eyes that saw the world through my sad and broken mind. I fell into the round pools of hazel colored kaleidoscope broken glass shards and I just let it go. I didn't cry very loud, or even very long, but it was a deep cry, a despairing sob, tears fell into the sink, sobs racked my shoulders. I felt completely alone, as I've always felt. I turned my head away, and when I looked back into the mirror, my eyes were horribly bloodshot and cashed out, my face was streaked with tears, snot ran from my nose, I had a hard time breathing, my breath caught and my face tingled. And then, as my eyes regained focus into themselves, a comforting warmth that I had never felt before completely wrapped around me like a warm blanket during a snow blizzard, all encompassing and true: it was the knowing that I was going to die, and the comfort that came with that. The supreme knowledge that my life was my own, to have and to hold (in sickness and in health), til death do us part. There was a grounding feeling of closure, something indescribable (though I'm trying here, really trying to describe it). It was the calm in the storm, the breath of peace before the plane crash, the feeling of salvation, the embrace of a loved one in the midst of tragedy; it was safety and it was resolve. Resolve, that's a good one. Knowing that I was going to be ending all of this, the gravity of my decision had finally sunk in with a heavy and sure finality. I knew, I felt it, and it will soon be over.
But the hallucinations keep coming.
After I had stopped crying, I still heard soft thin sobs, like far off ocean waves. They persisted, and I realized with some confusion that they were the quiet sobs of a child, in my room. In the reflection of the mirror, I saw a small dark human figure sitting on the floor, the shadow of a child, head and shoulders over their knees, it's arms wrapped around them, slowly rocking back and forth, sobbing quietly, alone and sad. I waited for the figure to dissipate, but it remained, the sobbing continued, in a very human way; it ebbed and flowed, still quiet, but varying in it's rhythm. My heart hurt. The pills had their grip around it, but it was also something about this small human sitting on the floor, crying, all alone. I could see the metaphor, surely. I slowly turned around, thinking that once I left the view of the mirror, the mirage would disappear. And yet, when I turned around, the figure was no longer a shadow, it was an actual child, a small girl, twelve years old, maybe, I don't know. But she was still THERE, crying, her sobs were softly shaking her small and feminine frame, her dark brown hair hung over her knees as she continued to weep. I stood there, waiting for the next move; waiting for the nightmare part to take over -- like the woman in the morning, or the shotgun blast; this time I was ready to be taken aback, scared, horrified. But none of that happened. The girl lifted her head from off of her knees, and turned to look at me.
(Her eyes are going to be bleeding, I told myself. She'll have no eyes. Something. She's going to scream and it will set this room on fire.) My heart pounding in anticipation of the fear. She looked up at me, and her eyes were bright, beautiful, young, a darker brown than my own; they were shining and wet, and our gaze met. There was a locking connection between us. The pain that this small child was feeling was also my own; she was weeping for me -- somehow I knew this. She was sad that someone had to die, that people die, everyone dies, and she was so little that death still seemed so abstract and unreal to her, but she knew that I was going to die. Tomorrow, I was going to die. And so she was crying. I didn't know this girl -- she wasn't even really there, I reminded myself. I'm just losing my mind a day before I kill myself. Simple. But we looked at each other, and I was so overwhelmed that I slowly walked the four or five steps over to her, and she didn't move away; I didn't scare her. I knelt down beside her as she continued to sob, a little louder now that I was right next to her. I didn't know what to do at first; I felt awkward, like the wrong movement would cause her to evaporate back into the ether of the room. Yet she was real, this little girl, and I touched her left shoulder, and that was real, and her dark brown hair was soft and real, and I felt her shoulders shaking softly. My hand stayed on her shoulder as I knelt by her on one knee; an infinite amount of time passed, and then I knelt down beside her on both knees, and slowly wrapped both of my arms around her. She didn't disappear. Time stood perfectly still, it lay heavy on us as I held her, and her small and frail arms, soft and hairless and warm, reached up and cradled my arm in a soft and intimate connection, (she was real, she had to have been, I could smell her hazelnut hair, I could feel her breath shaking her shoulders). I held her in my arms, comforting her, both of us alone in this world, all alone, so sad and alone. I held her and whispered words of solace to her. We slowly rocked and swayed as she cried, my chin and mouth rested on her head, the scent of her hair filled my nostrils, and I felt beautiful. I held her until she disappeared.
. . .
final day, morning.
This is the last day. I don't really have a time table for how I want to do it, although I know that I'll just take what's in the entire last bottle and call it. Man, my fingers are killing me. This typewriter is the real deal, heavy metal machine contraption, working it all out in clicks and dings and crunches. My fingers have blisters, dull and throbbing pain, what pain there is left to feel. Not to brag, but I've taken two bottles of pills in two days. Thirty each. That's right. Sixty pills in two days. I'm not dead; I'm writing this all out, because I'm a professional. Thirty pills a day is excessive even for me, but these are not the killer pills, not really anyways. These are just a combination of norcos, vicodin, percoset, a little morphine, some dilaudid. A cocktail of pills. It's the bottle today that will seal the deal: thirty five little white dots of pure hydrocodone. No acetaminophen in those babies. That's a guaranteed overdose, boys and girls. And I know that it will feel great going out. A heavy, heavy drop into sleep. I haven't decided if I'll lie on the bed to go out, or just swallow the whole fucking bottle and write into this thing as long as I can before I just keel over and fade into black . . . Probably the latter.
I wish there was something that I could write, a final goodbye, something deep and profound, a prolific quote that would make the literary world stand on its head. But I have nothing. Besides "goodbye," and how fucking stupid would that be? I could apologize to my family, but I'm not sorry. I'm doing what must be done, what's right for me, and I know it, I know in my heart that this is what must be done.
. . .
I just took the whole bottle. Just seconds ago. Start the countdown. A mouth full of pills. Like candy, they begin to melt; I keep them in there for a minute until I think I might start to choke, then I down them with a little water from the paper cup at the sink. I think I'll place these pages in the drawer near the bed. A secret stash of suicide letters.
Maybe a flash of insight before I leave. I'd say I have a good ten minutes -- fifteen at most, before it takes hold and stops my heart. Fourteen minutes now. I feel like an astronaut, preparing for takeoff. A really fucking high astronaut. I want to write faster, but I can't.
Fuck, what to write when you only have minutes to live?
. . .
I have it.
I want to end with something, it just came to mind.
It's nothing amazing, but I do think that it's beautiful. It's the words I said to the little girl that I held in my arms, in my room last night. Comforting her, I held her in a warm and loving embrace, and as we slowly rocked back and forth, I was her solace in this dark and sad and lonely world, and she was mine. As I held her, I whispered something softly to her.
"It's okay." I whispered to her, over and over again. "It's okay."
Like poetry to me.