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I lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, wishing I could fall back asleep. Itís late, my floor is finally quiet, but Iím left awake, feeling like Iím the only one in the building alive. Itís a disturbing feeling, this...aloneness. I am restless, antsy, yet exhausted. I flop around, trying to find a comfortable position, but am unable to. I find myself getting irritated, even a little angry. Why does it have to be this way, damnit? What did I do to deserve this? What the hell is wrong with me? Then loneliness overwhelms me, and I feel tears seep into my eyes. They donít fall. My sister e-mailed me from Momís office this afternoon. Itís Take-your-Child-To-Work day. She gave me a quick update on all the pets, gloated about getting to skip school, and said she was sorry she hadnít called, and that she would definitely call tonight. A short, three-line message; it made me smile. I waited for her call. I missed band because I fell asleep, so I never left the room all night. The call never came. Sighing, I try to turn off my thoughts, and the mixed feelings that are floating around. The things I talked about in counseling that afternoon...only that afternoon? It feels like itís been so much longer. Time has become unpredictable of late. I breathe a deep sigh. I feel somewhat abandoned, a tad unloved, but I push the feelings aside and roll over, trying to go back to sleep.

My thoughts wander as I stare into the darkness, starting with my grandmother, drifting again through her life, her death, funeral, and the weeks after, the incredible emptiness, the loss. Tears come again, but I push them away. The thoughts continue, landing naturally on the events of the past few weeks, the things uppermost in my mind; this wild flailing decline. The mounting pressures, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Grades, GPA, scholarships, a job, family. A career. My future... my future. I try to imagine, like I have so many times before, what kind of a future I might see. Staring into the darkness of the room, like staring into a movie screen, I try to call up images. I try to picture myself in front of a classroom, conducting a school band. The image will not come. I notice a faint ache in my chest. I try again. A teaching job in a nice school, both band a choir...nothing. I think the word: Future. My mind gives me blackness. Blackness, a growing ache in my chest, and a spark of anxiety. Then it gives me doubts. You canít hack the classes here, youíll never make it to a teaching job! Did you really think you could do it? Ha. Youíre nothing! Nothing but a big fat failure, and thatís all you ever will be. I put my hands over my eyes, willing the thoughts to stop. They donít. They go back and forth, around and Ďround, berating me, mentally bashing me just the way my mother used to verbally, though they are worse. The internalized abuser. The ache in my chest has become a palpable pain, and now I recognize it for what it is: sadness. The word ďheartacheĒ floats to mind, and I realize that it has validity. It really does feel like pain.

I flip positions again, flopping onto my back. ďI donít want to think anymore,Ē I whine out loud. Gripping my head between my hands, I squeeze, and my fingers snag in my hair, tugging painfully. Pain...physical pain. A distraction. I grab fistfulls of hair and tug, pulling until the skin stretches, pulling hard, until pain shoots from the roots. Pain. My face twists in a grimace. It hurts, but it helps...I can focus only on the pain. I lie back. The thoughts are quiet for the moment. I relax, and simply lie there for several minutes. Soon though, I can feel the focus and the calm drifting away, being replaced by an even more intense restlessness, an anger, and even some shame. Tears prickle again behind my eyes, and I sit up, rocking back and forth slightly. Iíve got to find something stronger. I crawl out of bed and turn on my light. My gaze drifts around the room until it lands on the open pocketknife on my table, the knife that I had used to open my mail earlier that day. I pick it up and run my thumb along the blade. Yes, itís sharp enough. It will cut. I rummage in my basket of medicines until I find the little bottle of disinfectant spray, then carry it, the knife, and a paper napkin back to the bed and sit.

I roll up the left sleeve of my flannel pajamas, and gaze at my bared flesh. After selecting an area, I pick up the disinfectant and carefully douse my arm in it, then rub some over the knife blade. After Iím sure it is clean, I set the blade to skin. My heart beats loudly in my chest. Donít think, just do. I focus on the reflection glinting off the metal until it is all I see, until the vision consumes me, the blade becoming my entire being. My mind is still. Slowly, I drag the metal along my arm. The skin gouges slightly, and that first wave of pain sends shivers up my spine. Tiny droplets of blood appear along the faint line. I set the blade again, and press harder. The cut widens, more blood welling up in it. My teeth gritted in concentration, I must make a fearsome sight, but I donít think about that. I am completely consumed by the act. Over and over again I press the blade in, until the cut gapes. I watch the blood trickle down my arm, catching it drop by drop in the napkin, wiping away the red lines only to have more appear. The pain throbs, warm, burning, but it does not really register as pain. It hurts but it doesnít...

Slowly, a powerful calm drifts over me. My mind is quiet, empty. I no longer feel hurt, or overwhelmed. The sadness has retreated. I lean back against the wall and close my eyes. Many minutes pass, and eventually I sit up. Sighing a deep sigh, I stare at the wound. The bleeding has nearly stopped. After a long moment, I rise from the bed and grab a clean napkin, placing the blood-soaked one in the wastebasket. Gently, I spray on some disinfectant, wiping the dried blood from around the cut, cleansing it several times. From a small bag that once belonged to my grandmother, I remove sterile gauze pads and bandaging material. Lovingly, I tend the wound, placing gauze over it and wrapping it tightly with a clean bandage. I admire the neatness of my bandaging, so straight and even. Carefully wiping the blade clean, I place the knife and all the bandage materials back into the small bag and close the zipper. Putting the bag away, I take my toothbrush out of the drawer and head for the bathroom with a small smile of relief on my face. The gentle, numbing calm stays with me until I fall asleep.