How many stories start out with, “my name is…”? I think about it because my name is all I have left and it becomes more important to me with every breath, every blink, every thought. Erica, Erica, Erica. I can’t forget it because if I do, I’ll have nothing left. Worse, there’ll be nothing left of me…
It was a perfect moment; the kind you want to capture as a keepsake and be able to take out and experience in the face of every bad thing that happens, every bad day you have.
I was taking a bubble bath: steaming hot and smelling of lavender. I was relaxed; body, mind and soul. I thought if my responsibilities and activities could end, that was where I’d want to stay forever. To languish eternally in a sweetly-scented tub, no house-keeping to attend to, no job to hate, no college to stress over, no baby demanding my attention, no relationship falling down around me. Nothing except the feeling of being calm and clean as my skin began to turn pink.
I thought it-wished it, I suppose. I’ve heard the worst punishment anyone can receive is having a wish granted. It’s certainly true for me. Can you imagine the agony I’ve endured-of timelessness, of a life and world unchanging? How could something like this happen, anyway?
I look out the doorway of the bathroom. It remains open, as I can’t change anything about how the world was around me in that moment. I wish as fervently as ever that my husband would walk by. I want it so much more dearly than I wanted one seemingly perfect moment forever.
Even more than my husband-who was losing love for me or I for him, I fear I’ll never know-I want to see my baby. I want him to crawl by and catch my eye and just sit there giggling because he’s happy to see me. I want to see his face again so I’ll know it. Perhaps then I’ll remember his name.
I stopped trying to gauge time when I realized it didn’t ever intend to move forward again. That could have been a hundred years ago, or even a thousand. How much time do you think it would take until all that was left of you was your name and a few memories without recognition or surety attached to them? Did I have a son? Why can’t I at least remember his face?
The lavender scent is cloying now. It sticks on my tongue and in my throat and I hate it. The water is still so hot that steam rises around me, but my skin has not suffered. I do not thirst, nor do I hunger. I mourn that even these things have been taken from me.
I decide it suddenly, with no real thought process to take me from the formation of the idea to the acceptance of it. Before I lose the last of me, I will try to escape this hell. Screaming has never worked, nor beating the walls, the tub or the parts of the ceiling I can reach.
I decide this moment-which never stood a chance of being the perfect eternity-will be the moment of my death.
Erica, Erica, Erica. I am still me. I am still something that I know and it is enough.
I slide beneath the hot water, closing my eyes as I do so. The scent of lavender is inescapable: it fills my nose before the water does and I’m trapped with it inside of me as I become submerged. I don’t care. Soon I’ll never have to smell it again.
However long this solitude has lasted, it has forged within me a calm and unyielding will. I breathe deeply. Now decided, I will take this plan to fruition. Nothing that comes after can be worse than this.
The water fills my mouth, my throat, my lungs. I suddenly remember I used to fear death by drowning most of all. No longer. The escape offered by death is a welcome relief, no matter its form.
I keep my eyes closed and silently repeat my name to myself as I die. I will not relinquish the last of me until the rest of me is gone.
Erica, Erica, Erica, Erica, Erica, Erica…
I’m awake. I’m not hot; I’m freezing cold. I’m not in my tub. I’m in a room I’m unfamiliar with. I can hear people speaking in hushed voices all around me. I remember drowning, but not the drowning in the tub. I fell under ice. Deep water. Cold water. Water so cold, it felt burning hot. But now I’m awake.
My husband brings our son over, and I weep when I recognize his face. A doctor joins them and quietly explains that my prognosis was never fair. I should be dead, but I’m alive.
I’m alive, and when the doctor asks my name to begin testing my how my mental capacity has faired after being under the ice for ninety minutes I am able to answer, “my name is Erica.”