Published by


by: Dakotah Patnode 

All I remember thinking: Do it.  Do it.  Do it.  Do it.  Do it.  Do it.  Do it.  If I don’t do it, I’m going to die.  I have to do it.  I have to do it.  There was a quick moment of relief as I slipped the knife between my fingers and snuck quietly out of the kitchen.  Nobody noticed.  I pulled the little silver paring blade out of my sweatshirt sleeve and locked the bathroom door behind me. I held the knife in my shaking hands and tried to rationalize what was happening, but all I could think was that I had to swallow something. I wanted it to be this knife.  

The thoughts were still there: I have to do it.  If I don’t do it, I’m going to die.  The incessant ticking in my brain was pushing me further and further into hysteria.  I closed my eyes only to open them just as quickly.  I looked up at the cracked ceiling paint and winced.  

If I didn’t swallow this knife, I was going to have to claw my heart out of my chest with my own fingernails in order to relieve myself of the very real weight that was crushing me.  I was still thinking: Do it. Do it. Do it.  I let my mouth open no more than an inch, and slid the little knife down my throat as I stared at one particularly out-of-line crack.  I felt the cold blade glide over my wet tongue and halfway down my swollen throat.  At first, I was overwhelmed with relief.  Swallowing the blade felt different than swallowing bobby pins had.  It felt better.  It even felt better than swallowing those miniature golf pencils that I used to steal from my grandparents’ house.  Then I started to gag.  That initial relief, that crack-addict high, was quickly ripped from my hands and replaced with fear and shame and of course the ever-present, reorganizing thoughts.  


Someone rattled the rusty bathroom doorknob from the outside.  I jerked my head sideways in surprise and felt a sharp twinge in my neck.  I swallowed once, twice, three times.  The knife hadn’t completed its journey; it stood suspended in my esophagus.  The pain was persistent – dull and aching when I was still but demanded to be felt every time I turned my head.  I unlocked the door and forced my eyes to meet my mother’s.  ‘I’m sorry’ I tried to say. ‘I had to do it, I don’t know why; I just had to do it.’ I didn’t recognize the voice that came out; it was frog-like, barely-there – not mine.  I felt the wet blade lodged in my throat.  I tried to take a deep breath but I could only grab half of it, like I was breathing through a straw. 

I blacked out.  The next time I opened my eyes I was staring at the bright fluorescent lights above a hospital bed.  The sharp pain in my throat had been replaced with a sour soreness and constant tickle.  The nurse in the room gently placed her hand on my shoulder, smiled, and said ‘try not to talk’.  I’m sure she thought she was offering a friendly gesture but her hand felt like a lead weight pressing down and burning my skin.  I did not want to be touched.

Across the room my mother sat stiffly in a hospital chair, her arms and legs both tightly crossed.  She would not look at me.  Instead, her eyes remained glued to an old edition of People magazine that was draped over thighs.

I stared at my mother for exactly seven heartbeats- she had never liked People.  For one heartbeat, I thought that maybe she hated me more than she hated People, and so she chose to be in its presence over mine.  I felt like a child; like I was in trouble and I knew exactly why.  Then, just when I needed my mother most, she looked up and met my tired eyes, breaking the looping thought that was starting to brew inside me.  We both started to cry.  My tears were a result of exhaustion, embarrassment, and relief, while hers I knew were full of guilt for burdening me with this sickness.  

We stayed like this for 91 heart beats exactly. 

Different Themes

Written by Dakotah Patnode

Raised at the base of Mount Mansfield, Dakotah Patnode is a true Vermonter. The majority of her time is spent reading, writing, hiking, and appreciating trees, good food, and occasional solitude. Dakotah is a Sophomore at Champlain College, and can be reached at


Leave a Reply

Blog at