The floor was cold as I lay there, unable to move. The marble tile felt wet and somewhat sticky. I couldn’t figure out why. My brain had kicked into a different gear, and I was in a world where time seemed to stand still.
Tears. I tasted the salt mixed with something else as I lay on the bathroom floor. Why were there tears, and why was the floor so wet? I don’t remember getting here. I don’t remember much, like why am I lying on the bathroom floor? It feels good to my fevered skin, scorched from …what? I can’t remember.
Somewhere in the distance, words float in the air, “I don’t want to die.” It was a whisper, barely audible, but there, in the distance, I could hear it. A child crying out. “Please, I don’t want to die.”
The mirror divulged my tale, yet I could not fully process what my eyes saw. I stared, trying to bring the image into focus. Suddenly, I was at the circus in the hall of mirrors, trying to find my way out. “I see you.” It was said with pity and disgust. “You lay there in your own filth, waiting to die. Get up!” My reflection yelled back at me as I ran from one distorted image to the next. “GET UP!”
I struggled to move but could not. The floor had swallowed me. I became one with the tile and started to sink into a liquid pool of nothingness. Soon it would devour me whole, and there would be no evidence I was ever here, except for the wet, acrid mound of liquid on the floor. What was it? I couldn’t remember.
I tried to focus, but my consciousness failed me repeatedly. All I knew was that here, in this moment, the tile felt cool on my skin, and so I closed my eyes. I remember thinking it was a good feeling, this cool mixed with wet.
The image changed, and I was standing at the beach, the warm summer wind mixed with the spray of the ocean salt air, caressing my face. The ocean was one of my favourite places. Something about the smell of the water, mixed with the sound of waves lapping the shoreline, brought me peace. I could always relax at the ocean no matter how bad things were.
I walked to the edge, where the water met the shore, and lay down. The sand was gritty and smooth all at the same time. Shells mixed in with the sand. They held the scent of a thousand tumbles across the ocean floor; a dance with seaweed, algae and fish as they tossed and turned with the ocean tide that brought them here to me. They smelled of fish.
The water was cool and calming. I could lay here forever, but I knew the tide would come in. The water washed over me, soothing, lulling me into a false sense of security. Swim with the mermaids, it beckoned. It was wet and salty, like my tears.
I blinked, and once again, I was in the bathroom. Tears. Salty, wet tears stained my face and gathered in a small pool on the floor, mixing with the sand. No, not sand and mud mixed with shells, but vomit. I saw it clearly now and closed my eyes in shame.
They would find me like this. Someone eventually would come for the rent or because of the smell. Then they would look for my family, a family that no longer existed. Parents who died, brothers and sisters who gave up on me long ago. For many years, they had tried to help, but I would have none of it. It was my life, after all, and I could choose how to live it.
Well, a fine mess I made. Moving from one place to another after being evicted for not paying rent or passing out in the hallways. Occasional outbursts at innocent children had caused more than a few evictions.
Looking in the mirror, I realized this would be the last place I ever lived. A small, dingy one-bedroom apartment that smelled of cheap wine and cigarettes.
The voice was louder now, “I don’t want to die.” I tried in vain to lift my head and search for the child who repeated these words. They kept coming, louder and louder, until I realized it was me. I was the child wanting to live.
I was not a praying man. I had quit talking to God the day he took my parents. Everyone said it was an accident, but in life, there are no accidents, only occasions and events that God chooses to ignore. This is what I believed. My anger grew over time until I found that I could numb the pain with a drink, then two, then a bottle. The problem was the pain always came back, so I kept trying to numb it with different things. Booze and pills seem to have the longest lasting effect, but I wasn’t picky when I was on a binge.
I never was one for confrontation. I would rather walk away than fight. I spent my whole life walking away rather than confronting my emotions, my pain. From one place to the next, I fled until there was no more running.
“Please, God, I don’t want to die, not like this.” My voice sounded strange. “Please, God, help me. Please, God, I don’t want to die.”
It was the last thing I remembered saying until I woke in the hospital. The doctors said I was lucky to be alive. I heard the all too familiar ‘pills and alcohol are not to be mixed’ line. It wasn’t the first time I overdosed, but I knew it would be the last.
They told me a pastor happened to be walking by my building and heard me yell. He rushed into the building and woke the Superintendent, forcing him to open my door. I remember nothing of it.
I met the pastor a few days later when he stopped by to check in on me. I was surprised he came. No one ever cared enough to stick around, let alone come back. Well, not since my parents died. He explained that he usually wouldn’t be walking the streets in the middle of the night, but he had been calling upon a sick friend, and his car had broken down on his way back to the parish around the corner. He had been walking to the parish when he heard me cry out.
We talked for a while, and he asked if he could pray for me. Suddenly, I found myself spilling my life story. For the first time in my life, I felt a weight lift, and the possibility of joy filled my heart. I can’t explain it other than to say God heard me and sent a pastor to help me get back to myself, and Him. We talked and prayed for a very long time that day. I let go of my pain and reopened my heart to God.
I have had many conversations since with the pastor and have been sober now for ten years. I attend church regularly, and the pastor and I help others in the neighbour who are struggling. I have also reconciled with my family and some friends. I’m amazed at what people can forgive when they know you are sincere. They never stopped caring but being around me was too painful, so they distanced themselves. I was surprised to find out that my sister kept an eye on me from a distance even when I didn’t know it.
I am thankful most of all, that God never abandoned me, even when I abandoned Him. I know God didn’t cause my parent’s death but welcomed them home when they died. It is because of God that I can now help others and find peace in my life. He heard my cry and answered, and because of His grace, I am here today to tell my story.
If you liked this faith story you can find others on the Faith Stories link of Leslie’s website.