Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Coastal Drive (4/8)

To outside observers, Maryanne returned to work seemingly without a hitch.  If you were to ignore the slight limp in her gait, it was as if nothing had happened two weeks prior.  And when I write to outside observers I mean of course everyone except Maryanne, including myself.  I had no clue whatsoever that Maryanne’s “accident” was a suicide attempt.  In retrospect, I should have read the runes.  I knew she had been having family difficulties and the poor woman seemed to blame herself for everything that was going wrong in her life.  And John Eilers, the real estate agent she swore was her soulmate?  I knew he wasn’t good for her from the outset, but I’ll come back to him in a moment.

Maryanne resolved to go on with her life.  How could she not?  Perhaps Mark Denison and his van at the vista point were divine intervention.  She didn’t know for sure.  Sitting in a hospital bed for three days and staying at home for nearly two weeks of leave gave her precious time to think.  The respite did her good.  Working in her flower garden, a chore long overdue, worked wonders for her, even if she was beset by an indefinable emotional numbness.  The thought of suicide at least was no longer at the forefront of her mind.

Kirsten's presence at home and overall concern for her mother were additional solace, never mind that Jenny had to encourage her niece to be helpful.  Though Maryanne still didn't approve of the decisions that Scott had been making and was continuing to make, all seemed to be forgiven.  For what it's worth, her Ex, Chuck, had called a few days after the fateful day from Arizona or wherever the hell he happened to find a woman he could leech off.  Of course the louse called when she was already discharged from the hospital.

As an act of sheer willpower, she opted to be her cheerful self at work; some members of the hospital staff—and I’m talking about Siebeck Veterans Hospital where she works as a nurse—couldn’t believe Maryanne had been in such an accident.  What was going through her mind after a failed attempt at suicide is difficult to say.  I mean, it's not as if all of her problems went away.  Still, her attempt to kill herself was an act of passion, a hasty decision from a woman who saw no way out at the time.  Clearly, those anti-depressants had also an ill-effect on her.

When people come close to death and live to tell about it, they often have a feeling of redemption, a sense that they’ve been given a second chance in life.  Those who try to take their life and don’t succeed, however, don’t have this same outlook.  Despite the comfort of family during her convalescence, Maryanne felt that aforementioned  emotional numbness.  Everything around her seemed surreal.  One thing she knew for sure: she would take her secret with her.  There was only one problem: Mark Denison.

Leave me alone and let me die!  Maryanne mulled over these words.  Did she really say this?  She didn’t remember saying these words, but surely this guy Mark would not lie about it.  Why would he?  And the more she thought about it, the more she wondered why he wanted to tell her what she had said.

Eventually Maryanne shared with me what had happened, but I'm getting ahead of the story.  I’m not much of an omniscient narrator.  No, I’m a nurse assistant and had known Maryanne for about two years prior to the incident.  Truth be told, I also have aspirations of being a writer some day.  I hope to write a novel about my experiences at the Veterans Hospital.  Believe me, those hospital shows on cable TV don’t really give the half of it.  But I thought Maryanne’s situation, which I hope to unravel for you in due course, demanded a narrative.

Henceforth I shall refer to myself in the third person to avoid confusing the role of omniscient narrator with a periphery character such as myself.  But let me first clarify something about Maryanne, at the risk of showing my bias.  She’s one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.  When I found out she was in the hospital, let alone finding out almost a year later that her accident being the result of a suicide attempt, I was heartbroken.

I get along well with the hospital staff, and I wouldn’t consider any of my colleagues “homophobic,” with the possible exception of Neil Stafford,  the head pharmacist, who’s otherwise “old school” and not very talkative.  Still, when my long-term relationship fell apart after I caught Dan cheating on me, I was devastated and didn’t feel comfortable sharing my grief with anyone at work.  Frankly, I felt so alone in the world and withdrew into myself.  Then came Maryanne, with her hugs, good cheer, and infectious smile.

She listened to my lament and saw my tears.  She went out of her way to spend time with me in those initial weeks when I was struggling to put my life back together.  Hurting from my own situation and knowing something about Maryanne's search for love, I had hoped she had truly found her soulmate.

In perhaps an unguarded moment, Maryanne once described John as the “love of her life.”  John Eilers had much to recommend himself, and it’s not a mystery that Maryanne fell for him.  He is handsome, charming, and the kind of guy you wanted to hang out with at a pub.  No doubt these qualities made him one of the most successful real estate agents in Oregon.

He called Jenny, once he heard about the accident, a few hours after she was admitted to the hospital.

Maryanne’s sister knew that the relationship had been going through some hardship, but she was unaware that John had called it off.  He arrived at the hospital with flowers in hand.

“Hi, Maryanne,” he said softly as he entered her hospital room.  With Maryanne unresponsive to John’s arrival, Jenny took the flowers and thanked him.

“I would have come earlier, but I was…well, it doesn’t matter.  What happened, Maryanne?”

Maryanne slowly looked up at John with different eyes than those before the day of her accident.

“I don't know,” she responded without emotion.

John looked at her with a mixture of suspicion and guilt.

“I was looking for some papers in the passenger seat and wasn't paying attention to the road.”

“Uh.”  John looked at Jenny.  “Do you mind if we have some time?”

After Jenny closed the door behind her, John turned to Maryanne.  “I am so sorry.”

“For what?”

“For what?  For this.”  John gestured toward Maryanne's bandaged arms.  “All of this.  I mean, for wanting to end our relationship and...  I could have handled things differently...”

“What are you talking about?”  Maryanne knew very well what he was insinuating.

“An accident?”  John shook his head slightly and wore a skeptical face.

Conflicting emotions were swirling inside Maryanne's bandaged head ever since John entered the room.  She realized deep down that if he told her at that very moment that he reconsidered and was a fool for breaking off the relationship so abruptly, she would take him in her arms, cling to him and never let him go.  Why not?  That’s what she had wanted.  Yes, if he were to express his desire to get married and spent the rest of his life with her, she would succumb.  But of course no such words were forthcoming.  Despite her strong feelings for the man who stole her heart, for the man she was convinced was were soulmate, at the same time she hated herself for wanting to regain “paradise lost” so readily.  After the accident, things were different.  Did she want to be with John again?  Before she rammed her SUV into a white van on the edge of a precipice, the answer to this question was clear as day.  Now, she was emerging out of a haze, not quite the same as before, about to embark on a journey to heal body and soul.