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.
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.
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.
We stayed like this for 91 heart beats exactly.