Rosaceae

2009
Jayarajan, Meera

The baby belonged to her uncle. There were rumours of an overdose, a failed hanging attempt and a newly discovered pregnancy. She was circling the drain at 22 - what the hell could I do? She had come in early this morning and was waiting to see me. There was a “rose” in her name, but surely she was no longer pure, or smelling of love and promise. In fact, she smelled like stale alcohol and dried vomit and my stomach turned as I entered the room. There was no real feminine beauty there, no expectant glow, just a puffy face and a barely audible voice. When she did look up, her gaze was piercing - dark hard eyes that had seen enough hurt for two lifetimes, hers and mine. Her story seemed simple, a suicide mission gone awry thanks to unreliable rope - the irony. Here was a woman who couldn’t rely on anyone or anything. Even her rope, her key to salvation, had failed her in the end.

There was a look of pain in her face that I mistook for regret, and a slight tremor betrayed her fear of this place, and perhaps of me. Her belly heaved with what could only be despair and her muscles shook from pure exhaustion. But it wasn’t the brush with death that continued to torture her mind and body. The seductive lure of white powder had overwhelmed her young senses long ago and what she was feeling now was real and cruel. Her body was craving more powder and her suffering was palpable. This was not her first attempt. Her history was riddled with suicide missions - the occasional overdose, slashed wrists, and finally the rope. She seemed to be getting closer, and it would only be a matter of time before the rope would hold.

I started with her past, Freud urged me on. It was the same story - one of 6 kids, raised by her grandparents while her parents roamed the small town young and drunk. She didn’t need to go to school - no one cared where she passed her time and so she spent it avoiding unprovoked outbursts of physical violence and verbal slayings. Any wells of love and support dried up early on, and her childhood balanced delicately on shards of self-preservation and survival. Alcohol was her way out. At 12, it provided her with the warmth she had lacked and the numbness she now needed. It dulled her senses and her painful memories and made her giddy and falsely happy. Or perhaps it was during her drunken moments when she experienced true happiness.

The first time her father raped her, she didn’t think that she deserved it. Somehow at 15, despite life trying to beat it out of her, she had managed to salvage what was left of her pride and dignity. She did the unthinkable - she told. In a close knit community where blood runs thick and is shared by most - this would be unacceptable. Her cries were silenced with physical brutality and any shred of identity and childhood innocence would be lost. The ravaging continued, but something had changed - she now deserved every hard thrust and cold touch. The first overdose quickly followed and would be the first in a long, unsuccessful line. I asked her what she wanted or hoped for each time she swallowed her handfuls of pills, but she could only shrug. Maybe it didn’t matter anymore.

Her first child was born 5 years later. Following a sick prophetic cycle, he was born to an alcoholic, psychologically devastated mother and would be raised by a grandmother who had graduated to her early thirties. Enter white powder. Though she had lived her entire life in a “dry” community, by 20 she was a certified alcoholic and addicted to heroin. She was well known to the hospital community and her name sent shivers down the spines of all who knew her story. Her very existence reflected the on going failure of those around her to pull her from a hopeless world. Not that they hadn’t tried - they had - several times. But how do you break the hold of a lifetime of neglect, disappointment, and misery? How do you restore a young woman’s childhood, and with it her sense of self? How do you undo years of physical abuse, brutal rape and the damage done by drugs and alcohol?

She had found the answer - mortality. She wouldn’t be alone in her death - the child she was carrying in her womb would go with her. She had only recently discovered the pregnancy and was sure that the child belonged to her father. It was this revelation that had pushed her to use the rope. And so here she was, still alive, still pregnant, and in terrible withdrawal. She wanted to leave, desperately needed her next hit and looked at me as if to say, “What would you do?” Only one thought came to me, “Buy a stronger rope.”

Theme: Death and Dying | Décès et le mourir
Theme: Family | Famille
Theme: Patients | Patients
Theme: Physicians | Médecins

Stories in Family Medicine | Récits en médecine familiale [Internet] Mississauga ON: College of Family Physicians of Canada. 2008 --.

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