“Did you filter out the paracetamol?”
Her response scared the shit out of me. I don’t hesitate. I call the ambulance.
Donnatella took an over the counter pain killer. The type that has codeine in it. That’s what she wanted, the codeine. She didn’t want to kill herself. That was not the aim. She just wanted to stop feeling. She wanted relief, a break, from all that emotional pain. That’s all, just a break. A safe high dose of codeine can definitely help with that. If there is no tolerance, it can give a mild euphoria, a weightlessness, a warmth, a sense of calm, a sense of confidence, even a sense of hope. All this, without losing your faculties of mind. It was why it was her preferred drug of choice. It was why she stayed away from the crap her Dad and his buddies were making, some nasty home cooked shit. Sweet girl thought she was being responsible. She didn’t bother to check what the other active ingredient can do.
Apart from helping with a headache, or a fever, paracetamol has zero recreational benefits. This means that it doesn’t matter how much one consumes, there will be no high of any sort. In fact quite the opposite. In high doses, paracetamol will literally eat away the liver, causing excruciating pain before leading to eventual death. A real shitty way to die, and you would want to die, because if one happens to survive, you will likely be shitting and pissing into a bag for the rest of your life.
She took sixteen of those fucking pills. When she told me she took them at the start of lunch, I realised there may still be time.
I stand outside the cubicle, hands and ear to door. I don’t hear her vomiting, only crying. That’s not going to help her.
“I can’t do it” she desperately yells.
I don’t blame her. It’s not easy to put your fingers down your throat.
I’m conscious of time. I slowly push the door open and see her sitting bum down on the stained toilet floor, with her back against wall and one arm resting on the toilet seat. She’s a mess. Strands of hair are in her mouth, tears are still racing down her cheeks, and I notice saliva dripping off her index and middle fingers. She definitely tried, but her body language says it all, she’s given up.
I walk into the cubicle, the door closing behind me by itself.
“Don, I’ll do it for you okay.” I said reassuringly.
With both sleeves, she wipes her face, clearly trying to motivate herself to do what she knows she must. Just as soon as her face is dry though, fresh rivers of tears re-emerge, following the same previous route. Bravely however, she nods her head in agreement.
“It’s going to be uncomfortable”, I warn, “but it won’t be for long, and Don, just know that you survived worse than this”
She nods again, as she peels herself off the wall, getting on her knees, readying herself to give it another try. Then, the cubicle door is slammed open.
I whip my head around and see Mrs Lauder, the librarian. Her eyes are firmly fixed downwards on Donnatella, who is on her knees, still in tears. She then snaps her eyes on to mine. There is fear in those eyes, yet there is disgust in her expression. She takes a step towards the cubicle, slowly extending her arm towards Donnatella.
“Come with me honey” she quivers, urging Donnatella to come out, to get away, to get away from that predator.
I look down at Donnatella, kneeling before me.
My eyes return to Mrs Lauder. Those eyes. This is what it must look like, to see a monster, standing right in front you. I don’t blame her, but I don’t have time to explain everything either.
“Ambulance coming. Pills. Hold forehead.”
Mrs Lauder is not stupid. From those few incomprehensible words, she was able to piece together what was happening. She did as instructed, the rest was up to me.
The tips of my fingers dive deep into Donatella’s mouth, quickly finding the back of her tongue. She immediately protests, trying to push my arm away. I’m forced to push back, and Mrs Lauder is impressively holding her head in place. Even though my heart has joined Donnatella’s protests, my fingers do not abandon the mission, remaining firmly pressed down on tissue so vulnerably soft, in an atmosphere so incredibly humid.
In the midst of this madness, I feel a deep sense of admiration for Donatella and Mrs Lauder, not just for their bravery, but for the honour of experiencing what strangely feels like a shared spiritual experience. Strange, three people, from different walks of life, not really knowing one another at all, but together, in a toilet cubicle, which seems so appropriate, for its essence is not shame, rather, a cleansing, a place to rid ourselves of the toxins we no longer need, a place that makes one realise, to get clean, one must fight dirty, and fight we did, together. Fighting the pain of watching this innocent girl struggle, fighting the pain of doing what needs to be done, fighting the pain of not knowing what will come from all of this, fighting the pain of never being able to explain any of this.
Excitement and anticipation overwhelmed me when I felt Donnatella begin to convulse. My hand remained where it was, determined to not leave until the job was done. Then, only seconds later, a warm gush of confirmation showered my hand, at which point I quickly remove it from her mouth, not bothering to shake the vomit off, for my interest was below, in that toilet bowl.
Normally, the sound of someone vomiting is discomforting to say the least. On this occasion, it was as pleasing as listening to Bach Cello Suite No. 1 in G – Prelude.
While the splashing made it difficult, I desperately scanned the water below, much like the focused eyes of an eagle scanning for salmon, only, I was scanning for pills.