Staying awake all night used to feel like victory. In my youth, I greeted the dawn with a clenched fist or a middle finger, awash in triumph.
For a time, at least.
It went away.
Hemingway had the right of it, about being stronger in the broken places. Its terse machismo kept me going even as my world then my body fell apart.
I was, in my bleakest moments, nothing but my broken places. If it led to strength, then it was a poor bargain.
The accident came because of the separation. She did not run me over although there were moments it crossed her mind.
I had brought my first motorcycle. 125cc. Japanese. I had taken it out on the A12. The speed gave me a febrile, hot humming energy in the base of my stomach. Freedom ran through my veins.
The car hit me from an angle, trying to swerve past me. It clipped my back wheel and sent me spinning across the road.
I broke my leg in two places and fractured my right shoulder.
Bones heal but the pain was constant. I spent my nights soaked in chemicals, choking down pills and risking overdose for the possibility of a night’s sleep.
Stopping made a bleak sense.
The justifications came in battalions, overwhelming the objections with the force of gravity. Planning it took on a quiet pleasure. I expected the relief with the quiet joy of seeing an old lover again.
I had enough pills to do the job. My resting place would not be the flat, but the woods a few miles west of home. I drove out, leaving the letters to my loved ones in the car along with my phone and house keys.
It was a beautiful evening to die. I smoked a cigarette and stroked the blister packs of pills in my jacket pocket. I had a large bottle of water with me.
The sun was setting. I put a pill between my lips and closed my eyes.
I did not hear it. No howls or barks, but the sound of motion, faster than any animal I had heard, its paws thumping against the forest floor.
Hot breath against my arm.
Teeth sinking into the meat of my shoulder. I spat the pill to scream. It pushed me to the ground with a paw and twisted its head to tear flesh from my shoulder.
There would be pain, even at the end.
It drew back and a brilliant flare of pain exploded in my skull. I had read that canines go for the stomach or the testicles next. My plan had been falling into sleep along a path of pills but the universe had other ideas.
Its eyes were large and bright. It licked its long white teeth with a rough, pink tongue. It scoffed and growled at me as I waited to die.
Staring into its eyes, I nodded.
It snorted, scratched the ground twice in rapid succession and then ran away.
I laid there, weeping and staring up at the night sky.
The changes began.
A brilliant infection.
A loving curse.
It was not the end of pain. It was acceptance.
I went home and burned the letters.
The cane lies, coated with dust in a cupboard. I am not broken.
I need to find whoever did this.
Offer them my gratitude.
It’s a short drive and a full moon. I don’t need to sleep.
Care to join me?