Alive, but barely.


Waking up was a painful business. My eyelids felt heavy, but I managed to keep them open this time, though the light was like daggers to my eyes and my head was pounding.

It was the worst headache of my life.

This time I won’t be sick. I won’t be sick. I refuse to be sick . . . 

Once my eyes focused and adjusted to the light, I looked around me and I saw that I had been wrong. It hadn’t been a dream after all—all that screaming, the oxygen mask, and the ambulance ride. It had been real. I recalled it and re-lived the grotesque nightmare.

Everybody was yelling at me. EMTs. Nurses. Then a doctor. They were talking, talking, talking. Yelling at me. Yelling at each other. Making so much noise. Why couldn’t they just shut up and let me rest?

That changed suddenly. I felt a strange surge and was sick multiple times. Clarity. Everything was too loud and clear suddenly.  And then I couldn’t catch my breath. Was I hyperventilating? I could feel my pulse. It was erratic. I couldn’t breathe. An asthma attack? Impossible. I didn’t have asthma. Was I drowning? No, only fish drown in the air. . . . The too-clear sounds and lights and voices began to grow distant.



Terror. Terror overwhelmed me then with the full realization that I was not some detached observer. This was for real. This was happening to me.



I don’t want to die!!

Please, God . . .  SOMEBODY . . .  I never meant to die. I swear, it’s not what it seems . . .  I never meant for it to get this far . . .

* * *

I was sure that I’d seen the end. But I had woken up.

I was alive, but I was so cold and wretched and alone that I wondered if I’d been granted mercy or punishment. I had tubes stuck to different places of my body. My mouth was dry and tasted gross. It hurt to move, it hurt to swallow, it hurt to breathe.

I shivered and was sick, but nothing other than a sickly substance came out. My sobbing sounds brought someone in eventually, but it wasn’t Mara or Julio or Zuri or anyone I knew. The nurse looked at me with contempt and berated me on the subject of choices and consequences. I didn’t care what she had to say. I curled up in my own vomit and began to cry.

It hurt. It hurt so much….

I never knew just how much it would hurt to live.

Part 23 – If You Only Knew

The Long road Back

Long Road Back

I sat listless on my pink couch.

“Tanya’s Couch”, they’d begun calling it.


It was so ugly, old, and repellent. The stuffing was coming out and it had questionable stains. It even smelled funny—no wonder they named such an object after me.

I sighed.

I had argued with Zuri in the car, and said some nasty things. Now I was only tired. So very tired.

Too tired to care anymore.

Too tired to make an effort and lie to Zuri

Too tired to fight with God.

I just stopped struggling.

With the acceptance that I was nothing short of a disgusting dumb animal—intelligent, but an animal nonetheless—I had given in to life and all it threw at me. I escaped my drab existence as often as I could, each time hoping I would never return. And when I wasn’t away, I was only . . . tired.

I continued going to the meetings. What’s more, I even talked a bit. I didn’t sit in their circle—oh no. But I participated from my seat in the couch.

True, I began by making questions meant to stir discord within the group and aim resentment at me. But they considered my questions seriously, which was actually kind of funny. In time, as they neither looked shocked or annoyed by what I brought up, I shut up. Or on rare occasions I actually asked questions in earnest.

But not often.

And during testimonies and prayer requests I told Zuri that if she could pray for my Cousin Eva’s health I was sure my prayer request would be more likely to be answered, because I thought I was already far beyond the reach of God.

And yet, I never imagined that giving up the struggle was the beginning of my healing, and the first step of many in the long road back to Him.


part 10 of If You Only Knew

Hounded By His Presence

That autumn I was nearly always upset.

I was broke.

I hated the cold and the rain.

I was still attending the church meetings—hating them, hating Zuri, hating God.

I hated myself even more, though. If only I’d been more careful this wouldn’t have happened. If only I could just stop, then I could go, bang on Zuri’s door and her to get lost with her church and her prayer meetings.

She was convinced that only with the help of God would I ever be free–How I wished I could prove her wrong.
But I couldn’t. I was only a dumb animal. I had no self-control, and no strength to refrain from destroying myself. The intelligence I had been given was absolutely wasted on me– Or so I thought.

“How long?” I’d asked that fateful afternoon she found me out
“Until you stop destroying yourself like this”
“How would you know that I actually stopped? I could just lie to you.”
“You’re right. I wouldn’t really know. You could lie to me. But in the end your life trajectory will show it. And besides, you could never lie to God.”

While on the subject of self-hate, I really hated myself for clinging on to my belief in God. Millions of people–indeed, whole countries–had abandoned the idea of a god. So why couldn’t I? Why?

And why couldn’t he just leave me alone? The knowledge of an all-knowing and omnipresent deity hounded and tormented me. Worse, He had begun to make himself present there on the bathroom floor in those moments when every thought or trouble should have been erased from my mind. My heartbeat and breathing could become dangerously faint, but even then I could sense it…

His presence, which had followed me down into my darkness.


part 9 of If You Only Knew

An Interlude of Misery

Things with Terry remained strained. On the surface He was pretty much the same as usual, only more quiet. I was the awkward one. I could not meet his eyes for the life of me. For two days we worked in that terse environment, until relief came through a bright-eyed perky freshman who volunteered to help after school.

To Terry went the job of training her, and she was so eager and willing that she eventually she took my place in processing books and shelving, and other librarian duties. Meanwhile I fully devoted my time to the after-school tutoring services—rightly so, for my grades were the best. When I’d first came to the job of tutoring at the library, I was more advanced than most high school applicants, and even though I had technically been a sophomore, I was already in Pre Calculus and had been planning to take the AP tests for French, Spanish, and Physics.

At home, things were the same drab monotone–and only because Zuri had not disclosed my secret.

Why she chose to strike a deal with me rather than tell mom I didn’t understand then. But now I know that if she had told Mara, I would have felt as threatened as a cornered animal, and who knew what kind of outcome that would lead to? The only chance to keep me pliable, I think, was to let me think I was still in control.

October. The Indian summer left me. Autumn rains came in earnest.

I gave up the struggle one of those gloomy days–and then was so sick I missed school the next day. After that, my money ran out so fast that I considered contacting my father (I quickly squashed that idea, though). Instead, I asked my brother for a loan, then begged mom to give cash as a Christmas gift—and to give it to me in advance.



part 8 of If You Only Knew

Negotiating a Miracle

I began to contemplate having a relationship with God for entirely selfish purposes. But what does it matter to Him why you come, as long as you come to him?

Wretched and feeling incredibly lonely, I was sobbing in the restroom after having been sick. I looked at my face in the mirror.

Oh, man…

I’d only lasted two weeks.

“How pathetic,” I said to the bloated face that stared back at me, “if things are like this, who would ever come to love you?” I splashed my face with cold water, and dried it with a towel. Then I trudged on to bed.

“Who would ever love you?” You say? Idiot. Terry said he liked you.

Yeah, but Terry—come on! Terry?

I thought about my good friend of almost two years; saw his crooked smile, and the awkward gait of a guy who is still trying to get used to a considerable growth spurt. Gone was the pudgy boy of my childhood, and in its stead was a guy who was not at all bad-looking. I remembered the long afternoons at the library as we processed books and chatted about life. He’d never judged or said an unkind word about me or about anybody—but then I’d never really told him everything.

My face crumbled, “Oh, Terry. If you only knew…”

It wasn’t that I liked him and I regretted turning him down. Romance was unthinkable. I was more upset about the things I’d said, and the friendship I’d lost. How great it would be to have an undo button in life. That’s not possible, or won’t be until some genius invents a time machine. To end it all is also impossible, as I said before.

Then, is it possible to wipe everything clean and start over?

I thought about it. Once in my life I’d been granted that wish. Can a miracle be repeated more than once in a person’s life? Could I somehow negotiate a miracle, the way I negotiated…other things?

It was then that I prayed for the first time in years.

And I think I was still under the influence.


part 5 of If You Only Knew

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If You Only Knew – Part 5
Wednesday Word Count: 354

If You Only Knew

I lay on my back on the linoleum floor, unblinking and unfixed eyes staring up at the stained white ceiling of my bathroom.

The house was silent.

Minutes—or hours—later, I came to myself again, feeling that overwhelming feeling of nausea and guilt that always overtook me back when I was an addict and the buzz inevitably ended…

God, I did it again… I can’t believe I did it again…

I believed I’d gone far too deep for remedy; I no longer even cried. There was only an immense disappointment. I hadn’t even lasted a whole month before relapsing…and I had tried so hard…

I cleaned up the mess as best as I could and jumped in the shower, trying not to wince was the scalding-hot stream punished my body. Then gasping as I finished it up with a blast of cold water.

Smelling clean and feeling fresh, I brushed my teeth and combed my slick, long, black hair. I put on clean clothes—a tee-shirt, shorts. My glasses.

By the time my mother came home and the slanting rays of the summer afternoon filtered through the tree in the front yard, I was already clean, sober, and sleeping. I was the typical 17-year old loafing around at home during the summer.

And no one who knew it. Not even the one person that knew me best, suspected what my mother and father could never guess at…

That I wanted to die and end my sorry, good-for-nothing, disgusting, worthless, life.

* * *

When I was nine years old it began: the self-hate. Early in my sophomore year I’d talked to the school shrink, and she’d explained it all without much success. What I did know was that it had its roots in my childhood, and that it was somehow all tied up with an unabated appetite.

Mara, my mother, had seen the early signs when I was nine; children are so transparent. Furthermore,  it takes time and practice to be able to hide things from your mother and to lie successfully to your family. At nine I could not explain away the stray slip of paper and the black writing it contained. She gave me a good and long talking to, and that was the end of it.

But not for me.


part 1 of If You Only Knew

– – –

~ 300 words for Wednesday’s Word Count. Don’t really know where this story will lead…