There were pants hanging from the ceiling. Shoes attached. Shirt resting above the belt loops, supporting a swollen face. The veins in his eyes protested this, and red bloomed like ink from beneath the hazel. He was not dead yet. He hadn’t even tied his wrists. I suppose he figured if he decided it wasn’t for him, he would simply step down onto the table next to him, take a shower, and go to work.
That’s what made him so logical in my mind–for him to keep his hands free. That’s how I knew he was still sane. I never understood this about people–I’d hear about them drowning, and they would struggle. But wasn’t that what they wanted? Feeling their heart knock on their lungs to start heaving, and it doesn’t. And they don’t want it to. Until their lungs start drinking. Then their mouths open wide and their eyes wring out the water from their lungs, as though they didn’t realize that’s what drowning meant. That’s when they struggle.
It’s only this way when they don’t want it.
Two minutes of this, or years of the same feeling.
That’s how I knew he wanted it. Because he could struggle if he wanted–his hands were free. He could stop if he wanted. But he didn’t. He was afraid of fish, so he wasn’t like the others. The ones I hear about on the news. The ones I see on the bridges, and then don’t see at all.
So he hung there in our basement. His back had popped. I saw him shift. He was aligned. Each vertebra tugging on the other. He’d never looked so tall. So poised.
He brought his wrist up to his eye and checked his watch. This was not very efficient. It’s taking him so long. I wonder how long it would have taken him to drown. I realized he would be dead already if he had decided to drown. But why would he want to die in fear? What if a fish swam up to him and caused him to surface in panic? He looked more comfortable here.
He blinked, dropping his hollow-looking hands. His lids lazily closed and opened, like a leach had attached itself to the top and bottom, making it difficult to move.
Saliva dripped from his mouth. I remember being at the dentist when I was younger, panicking because I hadn’t figured out how to swallow while the hygienist poked around with her tools. I learned to suppress the urge to swallow. He probably did too. He used that now. Everything in his life he had learned for this moment. I felt proud of him. He let his eyes shut.
And then there was a voice. A low, throaty type of moan. He opened his eyes, listening like I was. I could see his pulse in his crimson ears. I could hear it in my own. There was another moan. He shifted his eyes left and right. That’s all he did with them anymore, I noticed. He’s dying.
I felt the blood drain from my legs and wondered if he felt the same. Like he was slowly sinking into a cold pool. I heard the moan again. He swam in the air, using his free arms to turn his body, scanning the room. Why was he moving so much? His voice was distant. I looked out the window. He stopped, eyes focusing on the owner of the horrible moan. He was facing me again. I could see him. His face was sweaty and bruised. His neck was bunched up in rolls, mouth hanging open above one of his chins. His arms were pale and hung limply at his sides. His eyes were watering slits.
I wondered if he felt the blood pounding on his brain, behind his eyes, in his ears. If his fingers tingled. He watched himself in the mirror, moaning. He looked repulsed by his own image. His eyes closed and opened, each time catching a glimpse of himself, and watching himself fade.
I wondered if he placed that mirror there to watch himself die. Was he getting close now? I wanted to root for him. His eyes jerked open. He looked odd, like he was trying to swallow. I knew he couldn’t. He started to panic. I could tell. The muscles twitched in his arms. His hands lifted slightly, and then he dropped them back down. They remained at his sides. He stared hard into the mirror, moaning again. His voice was hoarse. I shook. It was happening. I felt proud that he hadn’t given up.
Hello, I imagined him saying to me. I imagined his tongue impulsively trying to move. His throat protesting in pain.
And then a thought entered my brain:
Hello, could you help me down? My hands aren’t being obedient. Just for a moment. I won’t stay, I promise.
What if that’s what he was thinking. But his hands were free. This is what he wants. He made noises. Like a volcano was brewing in his chest. He became uglier. A terrifying shade of purple. His eyes fluttered upward. Then back. I wondered why he groaned. Was he bored? I wanted to ask. I stared at him. He kept gurgling.
Hello, I imagined him saying again. Could you help me?
And then he looked at me, watching him. His eyes dripped, staring at me. And I watched them stop moving, fixed on mine.
And I imagined him thinking in that second before he died: My daughter let me hang myself.