Deterioration

By , Grove City, OH
Prologue:
My name is Scarlett Watson, and I am a worthless piece of nothing. A miserable burden to anyone brave enough to get close to me.


Nobody really has much nice to say about us. Suicidals. They say that we’re cowards, and that we give up too easily. They say we don’t know how to fight, and that we don’t know about life.
I agree. I am a coward, and I did give up too easily. I may not know much about life, but I do know that I want mine to end.
My name is Scarlett, and my problem isn’t that I don’t know how to fight; it’s just that I’m tired of fighting.

One:
“It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” That statement is meant to console those who have gone through an unpleasant break-up, or are having a difficult time dealing with the fact that they fell out of love. These people can still see their lost lovers from time to time, if they so desire. But Ryland and I never broke up. We were still very much in love the day that our relationship came to an excruciating halt. And I will never, ever, see him again. Not here, anyway.
I wouldn’t say the day that I met Ryland was the day that my life changed forever, and it wasn’t love at first sight.
I remember how he used to purposely sit next to me in our psychology class our sophomore year of college. And the way he would ask me questions with obvious answers, just as an excuse to talk to me. The anxiousness that saturated his voice when he finally got up the nerve to ask me to dinner.
I remember his warm hugs and tender kisses, especially that first one. More than anything, I remember the exact moment I realized that in the months of easy conversation and the days I’d spent getting lost in his eyes, I’d fallen in love.

During our senior year, we lived in a little off-campus apartment. It wasn’t much, but it was all that we needed. I can still hear the apprehension in Ryland’s voice when he tried to casually ask, “Want to get married sometime?” And I had to bite back tears when he offered me his grandmother’s engagement ring, and it fit perfectly.
I argued with my sister, Sara, for hours because I didn’t want to wear stiletto heels when the train of my dress covered my feet, anyway. I had to give it to her, though; she could plan one
amazing wedding.
The bridesmaids wore silk dresses that were a faint green in color, celadon actually. And my dress, oh, I loved my dress. It was pearl white, with lace just to about my hips, and silky the rest of the way down. The train was long enough that Sara would have to hold the bottom as I walked down the aisle, but not ridiculously long like some that I had seen.
The night before the wedding, when the bride and groom are supposed to sleep apart, was miserable for me. I gave up at about eleven-thirty. When I rolled out of bed, crossed the room, and opened my door, I fully intended on sneaking my way across the hall and into Ryland’s room, but he was already waiting outside of my door.
I smiled at him. “Couldn’t sleep?” I asked
He reached out and cupped my face in his hands, then planted a soft kiss on my forehead. “Not without you.” He whispered, and I could feel his warm breath against my skin. He snuck out of my room before six a.m. the next morning, more for my sister’s sake than for anyone else’s. She had taken that wedding so seriously.

I cried when Ryland said “I do,” and I laughed when the pastor said “You may now kiss the bride.” I’d never been so happy.
We graduated soon after that, now officially psychologists. Ryland moved us up into a much bigger house that God knows I didn’t have the money for.
About seven or eight months after we were married, Ryland started getting sick. He lost weight, fast, and said he had bad abdominal pain. His skin looked almost yellow. I tried for almost three months to get him to go to the doctor, but he kept putting it off. When I finally did get him to go, he wouldn’t let me go with him. Once he got home, he was very vague about what had happened at the doctor’s office. All that Ryland let me know was that his doctor had run some tests, and would call in a week or so with the results.
I knew that keeping things from me was his way of protecting me, but I didn’t want to be protected at the point. I was terrified for him. The doctor called five days later and asked Ryland to come in to get his results, which worried me even more, because if nothing was wrong, they could just tell him over the phone, right?
Ryland didn’t let me go to that appointment, either. My heart sank when he walked through the door with red-rimmed, puffy eyes and a sullen expression. At that point, I knew the news was bad. “What did they tell you?” I murmured. He shook his head pulled me onto the couch beside him, his lips remaining in a tight, straight line. I looked into his eyes and saw nothing but fear and sorrow.
“Ryland,” I asked again, slowly, “what did they tell you?”
He shook his head again and stared off into the distance. “The yellow tint to my skin,” he whispered, “is called jaundice, which is sometimes caused by liver failure.” I took a deep breath to clear my head. I decided to just give him half of my liver. Problem solved. “But in my case,” he continued, and my heart stopped, “is caused by the stage four pancreatic cancer I’ve just been diagnosed with.”
I drew my hand to my mouth. Cancer. I considered for a moment. “It’s okay.” I told him.
He raised his eyebrows. “I don’t think you-“
“You’re young and healthy,” I reasoned, desperately, “and people beat this stuff all the time. You’ll have to make sure your insurance is in order. Are they going to give you chemotherapy?’
I continued on with my mindless prattle for a few minutes. “Scarlett,” Ryland said, but I was too deep in denial to pay attention.
“And we’ll start eating only organic foods, and-“
“SCARLETT!” he yelled. I snapped out of my trance and looked over at him. I hadn’t realized I’d been pacing across the living room. “I’m dying, Scarlett. I’m dying, and there isn’t anything anyone can do about it.” He said in a gravely tone. “They caught it too late and they put me on the transplant list, but there’s no way I’m going to get a new pancreas in three weeks.”
I swear my heart stopped again. Three weeks? He crossed the room and reached for my hand. “I’m sorry,” he told me, “I’m sorry that we can’t grow old together, or start a family, or,” he trailed off, and the fact that I was going to lose my husband sank in.

Two:
No, the day that I met Ryland wasn’t the day that my life changed forever; the day that I lost him was. He actually lived for five weeks, although I don’t exactly count that last week as living. I watched my husband deteriorate, becoming progressively more sick, until there was nothing left.
He spent his last six days in the hospital. Ryland collapsed in our house on a Thursday, and was coughing up blood by Monday. Two days after that, he looked up at me desperately from that hospital bed. He told me he was sorry for putting me through this, I told him not to ever apologize for something beyond his control. “Did you have dreams when you were younger, about how your life would be as an adult?”
I bit my lip, but vowed to never let him see me cry. I nodded solemnly. “Well, I don’t want to take those dreams away from you. Just because I can’t be a part of them anymore, doesn’t mean that I don’t want you to live a long, beautiful, happy life. Promise me you’ll get out there and find someone that can make you happy. But never forget that I’ll always love you, Scarlett.”

That was the last thing that Ryland ever said. I held his hand as he took his last breath, and I felt the life escape his body. Only then did I give in to the tears. Widowed at twenty-three.

Today I sit on my couch and spin what’s let of my coffee around the bottom of the cup before bringing the mug to my lips and downing the now cold remnants. I run my hands under my eyes to dry the tears. I pull myself up off the couch and pad down the hallway to my bedroom, dropping off the coffee mug in the kitchen on my way.
Once I enter my bedroom, I cross the floor to the bathroom. The master bathroom is bright and spacious, and there is a gorgeous claw foot bathtub in the center. I once told Ryland that I loved them, and he made sure that I had one. Now I can’t even use the thing; it reminds me of him.
I step in front of the mirror and begin the most crucial part of my routine. My hair and make-up have to look perfect because no one can think, even for a second, that I have begun to let myself go. I use an expensive concealer under my eyes so they don’t look red and swollen.
When I am positive that I look presentable, I smile at my reflection. I have perfected the art of the fake smile.
On my way out the door, I unhook my cell phone from the charger. The screen flashes on, indicating the date and time: 7:27 a.m., March 23. I knew it was today, I just hate seeing that date. Ryland died two years ago, today.
I feel a familiar sting in the back of my throat and my eyes begin to water, but I don’t have time for this right now. I have to get to work.
I see Jana, my assistant, waiting anxiously as soon as I step into my building. She knows as well as I do what today is. “Hey, Scarlett, come here!” she says from behind her desk, speaking quickly as she always does. She’s so excited she’s almost bouncing.
I walk over to her desk. “We’re going out tonight!” she tells me.
“’We,’ as in, you and who else?” I ask, skeptically.
“Me and you, silly!” she tells me and grins widely.
“No way, Jana.”
“Scarlett, you have to! I’m not letting you sit in that house all night by yourself.” I consider for a moment, but I really don’t feel like going anywhere tonight.
“Where are we going?” I sigh.
She claps her hands with enthusiasm. “This great club I found. And I bought you this dress. It’s to die for!”
I hear the bell on the door jingle and silently thank God for eight a.m. appointments. My patient this morning is a recently divorced mother of twins named Tara. She wears a green sweater with jeans and tennis shoes. I notice that she cut all her hair off since that last time I saw her, which automatically rings a bell in my head. A sudden change in appearance. I recognize that as being one of the signs of a suicidal person.
I greet Tara and take her back into my office for our session. I have to admit I don’t recall much of what she, or any of my patients, said. I was too focused on what was going to happen tonight. I really hate social events.

Three:
After work, I drive to Jana’s house so she can help me get ready. The dress she bought is something I would never, ever wear, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings, so I wear it anyway. It’s black and way too short.
Jana tells me that my heels aren’t high enough and forces me to wear a pair of her stilettos. I am going to break my neck, but first I’m going to kill Jana.
I feel uncomfortable in this dress, so I grab my cardigan out of the back of my car. Jana throws me a look, but I glare back fiercely enough for her to let it go. It’s dark outside by the time we pull into the parking lot, and I don’t want to go inside the club. It looks dingy.
Jana doesn’t notice my distress, or at least pretends not to, and pulls me into the little place. The light coming from inside looks almost like a strobe light. The music is playing so loud, I can feel it. Inside, the place is completely overrun. Jana heads straight for the dance floor, but I can’t dance. I opt for a stool next to the bar.
The bartender is older, and she has crow’s feet, which means she’s enjoyed her life. She asks if she can get me anything, but I decline her offer. I see Jana dancing with someone, and feel glad that she’s having a better time than I am. Someone sits in the stool next to mine and I look over at him. He smiles at me. That smile. It reminds me of Ryland. I smile back.
“I’m Cade,” the man says, “it’s nice to meet you.” He offers his hand to me.
“Scarlett.” I say. We shake hands. I smile again.
Cade and I talk for a while. It’s that kind of easy conversation where the other person tells a story from their past and it reminds you of a story from your past, which reminds them of another story from their past, and you never seem to stop talking. It feels nice to have a friend that I can share things with.
At one point, I begin to absentmindedly twist my wedding ring, which I still wear. Cade looks down and my hand.
“You’re married?” he asks. This is usually the part where I let men walk away. It’s actually the reason I still wear the ring; I prefer to be left alone. But something makes me stop Cade. That smile.
“No,” I answer, “I’m not. My husband died, actually.” He looks uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry,” he tells me, “I didn’t know.”
“No, no, it’s fine. I really should take the ring off, anyway.”
Cade asks about Ryland, and I tell him. I’ve never been able to talk about him before, and I like the feeling it gives me to let it go.
Jana finds me around two a.m. and we leave the club. “Did you have fun tonight?” she asks.
“I actually did. I’m glad you made me go, Jana.”
I drop her off at her house around two-thirty and am back to my place by three. I kick off Jana’s shoes and leave them by the door. The television is still on from this morning, so I turn it off. I have an urge to clean my entire house, so I do.
When I am content that the house is clean, I call Jana to thank her for being such a good friend, but she doesn’t pick up, so I leave it in a message. I think about Cade, and how great it felt to let out everything I had to say but never could.
I realize that this is as happy as I’m ever going to get, and I know what I have to do. I’ve contemplated this before, but obviously never acted on it. It’s time.
I walk slowly into my bedroom, and then into my bathroom. I stand before the claw foot bathtub and take a deep breath, and then turn on the faucet. While the bath is filling up, I rummage through a desk drawer and find a lined piece of paper and a pen, and scrawl “I’m sorry,” onto it.
I fold the paper neatly, label it “Jana,” and set it on the bathroom sink. I turn off the faucet and step into the tub, still wearing my pretty black dress that Jana bought for me. My entire body fits easily into the bathtub, so it isn’t hard for me to lie down. I take another deep breath and grasp the sides of the tub, then force myself under. I breathe in the warm water, each breath helping me lose contact with reality.
I force myself to keep breathing in the water until I become numb. I think of Ryland and force out all other thoughts until everything goes black. I feel nothing.





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gymbabe This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 15, 2010 at 7:46 pm

This was extremely well-written!  Very flowing, imaginative story line, dark and sad but understandable.  Great job!

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