Glory Hole Confession #17
By Ciara Aisling Conway, journalist
When I was seventeen, I tried to kill myself.
I’m not sure why but does there always have to be reason?
I was not really any more depressed than usual.
I wasn’t getting along with mum but what seventeen year-old girl does?
I wasn’t getting along with my stepfather but who would?
I was jealous of Fatima, that would be my half-sister, but all sisters are jealous little things.
We’d just moved to this town earlier in the year. I didn’t have any friends, really. But I don’t like many people anyhow so that was hardly a problem.
In the years since that night, I’ve been diagnosed by various doctors and other learned men with bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, social anxiety disorder, hyperactivity, narcissistic personality disorder, alcoholism, and a lot of other shit with fancy abbreviations and social stigmas. I should add that I disagree with at least ten of those diagnosises but I don’t remember which ten exactly.
Regardless, none of that would necessarily make me suicidal. Fucked up, perhaps but hardly suicidal.
Maybe it was because I’d lost my virginity two weeks before. The boy was Jeremy Porter who later joined the military and ended up getting killed in Panama in 1989. (I went to the funeral and I cried.) We were at a drive-in movie when we did it. The movie was Looker, which featured Albert Finney as a plastic surgeon, Susan Dey as a model, and James Coburn as a killer. The whole time Barry was groping me, he was pretending I was Susan Dey and I was imagining he was James Coburn and who would have rejected James Coburn?
My first sexual experience, as it turned out, wasn’t quite what I’d been led to expect. Painful in the beginning and messy in the end, I ended up not with pleasure and bliss but with saliva on my breasts and blood on my thighs. It was very disillusioning when you get right down to it.
(Barry later apologized by saying I was only his “third” girl. It didn’t really help.)
Some girls, once they discover that sex is rarely all it’s cracked up to be, start thinking about finding love or whatever it is that they identify as love. They tell themselves, “It doesn’t matter that he only fucks me once a month and when he does, it’s just a few minutes of missionary-style grunting and a lot of snoring after. It doesn’t matter because he brings home a nice paycheck and he parts his hair on the right side and he looks presentable out in public and he rarely says anything that forces me to think. It doesn’t matter because he loves me and I love losing my last name.” Me, I never believed in love so, once sex was out of the way, I didn’t really have anything left to look forward to.
Maybe it seemed that all the mysteries of life had been solved.
Maybe I slit open my wrists because I’m a Catholic. Suicide’s a mortal sin but then again, all the saints suffered and bled when they died. I grew up staring at images of half-naked men and women with all sorts of bloody wounds covering their flesh and their eyes rolling up in their sockets as they expired. Maybe I wanted to be a saint.
Saint Ciara of the Bloody Wrists they would call me. Patron saint of red-haired sociopaths. The prayers I would hear. The miracles I would perform. The paintings that would immortalize me, dead on the bathroom floor with my eyes rolling up to Heaven.
Before I actually did it, I made a great production of draping a St. Jude metal around my neck. St. Jude’s the patron saint of lost causes.
It must be rather disheartening to discover that Jude’s your patron.
I stripped down to my bra and panties and stood, half-naked with Jude around my throat, in my bathroom and I slit my wrists. I used one of my stepfather’s razor blades. I wanted a lot of blood. I wanted mum to find me in a pool of blood. I wanted it to look like some sexual deviant had slipped in through the bathroom window and had found poor, unsuspecting little me. He could have stalked Fatima or my mum but no, I was the one he came for. I wanted to look like a whore in a horror film killed for fucking and running around in her knickers. I imagined myself as a corpse in the corner of the room, with pale, waxy skin and my eyes open in death. I thought about the rumors that would follow my death. Was she raped? Was she degraded and punished and tortured? Did she scream in agony? Did she beg? The rumors would be repeated for years. My ghost would haunt every inch of this town.
St. Ciara Aisling Conway. Patron saint of the sordid urban legend. She had sex at the Drive-In so the Hookman killed her. Keep your legs closed until the wedding night or he’ll get you too. St. Ciara, patron saint of boring virgins.
You’ve got to be a bit of a masochist to commit suicide by slitting your wrists. I could have taken some pills and gone to sleep or I could have hanged myself and asphyxiated myself to sleep or I could have shot myself in the mouth and instantly gone to sleep but instead, I took a razor blade and I pressed it into my skin and I felt the edge as it sank through each layer and I sliced open my veins and I actually did quite a good job of it.
Blood spurts. We all know that but you never really notice how much blood really does spurt until it’s shooting out of your own wrist. It’s an amazing thing to watch really. With each heartbeat, a new stream shoots out. And it is so incredibly red. It amazed me to discover that my blood was the exact same shade as my hair. Until I saw my wrists opened up, I never thought about how quickly a human body can be drained out.
I slit both wrists. The second was harder than the first if just because my hand would not stop shaking (my heart was racing at this point and I was feeling a bit ill to my stomach) and the blade was getting incredibly slick with blood. It was quite a bit messy and perhaps that OCD diagnosis was correct as I remember getting quite upset that the blood was gushing everywhere as opposed to just pooling around me. It was spilling out onto Fatima’s toiletries and I felt bad about that which was bizarre if just because I didn’t really like Fatima all that much.
After the second wrist, I dropped the blade and I stumbled back until I hit the wall and then I slid down to the floor and I looked down at my wrists and all that blood just kept coming and it did eventually start to pool. It pooled underneath me. I could feel it cold against my ass as it soaked through my panties. That’s the main thing I remember. I don’t really remember what the pain exactly felt like but I know what that blood felt like as it pooled around my ass.
I was lightheaded.
I may have been crying. My cheeks felt wet but that could have just been blood.
I lifted up my left arm and pressed my wrist up against my throat. I lowered my arm and, from the floor, I caught my reflection in the bathroom mirror. It looked very much as if my throat had been slit.
Poor Ciara, I heard the world whispering, the pain and the terror that poor girl must have felt as she died alone on that bathroom floor. I wish I’d been nicer to her, the girls at school would say. Check out the rack on her! the boys would add.
I blacked out.
I guess I was expecting not to wake up, to end up either in Hell forced to lose my virginity to Barry over and over again or in Heaven listening to Jude prattle on about lost causes. I’m honestly not sure which I would have preferred. Perhaps Purgatory. Everything’s quite out of your hands in purgatory, isn’t it? It’s up to you to pray for me while I just sit back and watch movies in the shadow of the Valley of Death.
I won’t keep you in suspense.
I did not die.
Instead, I woke up in an ambulance and some paramedic with bad teeth and rancid breath was in my face, asking me if I’d eaten (I had) and if I was on any drugs (and I was not) and he held up some fingers and asked, “How many fingers am I holding up?” and I weakly held up a finger of my own. He asked me if I was on my period and I said, “A girl can’t ever do anything without you accusing her of being on her period, can she?” and then I passed out again.
Things didn’t go black.
They went oh so very grey.
When I opened my eyes, I was in a hospital and a female doctor was stitching up my arm like a seamstress while a nurse looked on and mum was there demanding to know why I’d done what I did and Fatima was there, yelling at me because I’d gotten blood on her things and I said, “Sorry, I tried not to.” At first, everything seemed to be bathed in this reddish yellow haze and when things finally did come into focus, I realized I was still only in my underwear and my panties were so soaked with blood that they had turned pink and I was suddenly oh so very thankful that the doctor sewing me up was not a man.
Then I saw my stepfather in a corner of the room, silently glaring at me. I could feel his hateful eyes on me and I tried to roll away from his glare. As I moved, the nurse grabbed my shoulders and I promptly threw up on the doctor.
“Jesus, Ciara!” mum yelled.
“Gross,” Fatima added.
“Sorry,” I said.
“Lie down and don’t move,” the nurse snapped.
“Why do they always vomit on me?” the doctor muttered.
My stepfather shook his head, obviously disappointed.
I looked over at him and said, “I don’t want him here.”
“Oh, yeh don’t?” mum started up. I could tell mum was mad. She’s like me. Her native accent comes out when she’s upset.
“Tell him not tae fuckin stare like that then.”
“I need everyone to stay calm,” the vomit-stained doctor said.
But I was mad now so I shrieked, “MAKE HIM GO!”
I heard the doctor, under her breath: “shit.” Then, “Nurse, sedative!”
I felt the ping in my arm. The world went grey.
The last thing I heard was Fatima crying.
She was the only one crying.
When the world came back, the world was a white room and I was lying in a bed behind a curtain and I was wearing a white hospital gown with my ass hanging out of the back and my arms were covered in bandages and my wrists ached and machines beeped around me. I was alone. He was not there. He was not glaring.
I lay there alone for a while.
I lay there until I decided I was ready to go home.
It was when I tried to get out of bed that I discovered I was actually strapped down to the bed. That’s when I started screaming and cursing. That’s when I started thrashing about in the bed, trying to rip apart those leather straps. That’s when I wanted my mum to come.
The curtain was pulled back. The doctor and the nurse stepped up to my bed. The doctor had changed clothes but I could still see a few traces of half-digested food in her hair.
The doctor told me I was being held overnight for observation. “I don’t know if you realize how close you came to dying,” she told me.
I begged her to loosen the straps.
She told me to relax and rest.
I spit at her.
The nurse jabbed another needle in me.
Don’t remember much else about the hospital, really. The stitches hurt worse than the blade. As I lay in that bed, I could feel my skin trying to split back apart. A policeman and a therapist stepped behind the curtain and asked me why I’d done it and I said, “Fuck off.” “Tell me why!” they demanded and I smiled at them and said, “I don’t like Mondays” and I felt oh so fucking clever and proud of myself. The nurse washed my arms with cold water and it felt like blood pooling around my ass. When the doctor wasn’t around to hear, the nurse leaned forward and asked, “Why would a pretty young girl like yourself want to throw your life away?”
“It’s my life tae throw away,” I hissed back.
“You don’t get along with your father, do you?”
“He’s not my father.”
“Does he hurt you?”
“Everything hurts,” and I meant it to be so defiant and angry but I started tearing up after ev and hurts just came out as a collection of snot-filled sobs and I begged the nurse to loosen the straps.
And she did.
I asked her if she could be my mum.
She smiled, told me things would be better, and left.
I never saw her again. Never caught her name, either.
When my family did finally come around to visit, Mum cried. My stepfather said, “Obviously, you’re mother has failed.” Fatima silently sat in the room alone with me and glared with his glare. Finally, I said, “D’yeh hate me then, Fatima?” and she started crying and said, “I love you! You’re my sister! Don’t ever die!” and that left me feeling rather guilty.
I spent two months at a place called Springlawn, which doesn’t exist anymore. Springlawn was a building with sterile walls down in Dallas. It was two hours away from town. Springlawn was filled with young people in need of professional help.
My roommate was a girl named Amy who had been committed after her parents caught her sticking pincushions into her arm. Perhaps our shared history of self-mutilation was supposed to give us something in common but Amy had little respect for me and the pretty little pink scars on my wrists. I was only a novice compared to her and her talent for hurting herself.
“I wasn’t trying to hurt myself,” I told her one night, “I was trying to die.”
Amy sighed and rolled her eyes and I added, “Why would I want to hurt myself?” Amy started to shake her head at me.
I made a decision to not spend much time with Amy.
I did make some friends though no one that I felt the need to keep in touch with once my stepfather got tired of paying for my therapy. There was Kara who was bulimic and who taught me how to binge and purge and quite a helpful little lesson that was. Suzanne was a very meek girl who suffered from terrible nightmares that she would vividly describe to me and it was like having my own personal horror movie, a new atrocity to visualize every morning. The best of them was a 16 year-old sex addict named Megan who would insert plastic spoons into her vagina during lunch. I told her about losing my virginity and how uninspiring the experience had been. “What did it look like?” she asked, “Was it big? Did it have lots of veins on it?” I wasn’t sure as the front seat of that car had been rather dark and she told me, “You’re thinking about this the wrong way, babe. Don’t think about it in terms of good or bad. Think about it in terms of power. You make it big. You change its texture. When it’s in you, it’s yours. You control it, babe. You control him.” It was good advice. Megan and I used to make out during recreation time. I’m not attracted to women but Megan was desperate and I felt I owed her that at the very least.
Every other day, I had an individual therapy session with an ugly woman named Dr. Stenman who wanted to know if I had dreams of any members of my family molesting me when I was a little girl and I told her, “No,” and she would ask me again and I would keep saying no. I told her I felt guilty for even existing. I told her I felt like I didn’t know how to be a happy person. I told her I didn’t feel like I could ever understand the whole concept of having a home. She asked me, “Were you molested?”
On the days I didn’t see Dr. Stenman, I had group therapy with Dr. Thompson who would yell, “Why did you cut your wrists!?”
“I don’t know,” I would reply.
“THAT’S BULLSHIT, CIARA! BULLSHIT! YOU’RE FULL OF SHIT, CONWAY! ADMIT IT! SAY IT!”
“SAY THAT YOU ARE FULL OF SHIT! BE HONEST FOR ONCE!”
It went on and on as these things tend to do.
“YOU ARE SPOILED! YOU ARE A SELF-CENTERED SPOILED LITTLE BRAT!” he would scream.
Every session, I would enter that windowless room and I would swear that I was just going to sit silently and glare at him. Every session, I left in tears. He made me cry but he never made me say I was full of shit. He never got me to say that I was a spoiled little brat.
Most nights, one of the guards would slip into my room and we’d fuck while Amy hid underneath her covers and tried to dig her fingernails into her arms. His name was Sid. He was thirty-five. He was a dirty old man but he knew how to do it. Compared to Barry, Sid was James Fucking Coburn.
I would think about control.
After I came back home, Fatima asked me if I was feeling better. “Yes,” I said, “I’m all fixed up now.” My stepfather said he hoped so. My mum never mentioned it again but Fatima would tell me that she was worried I was going to try to kill myself again. I would smile and say, “I’m not going to.”
Often, Fatima would ask me, “Are you really okay now?”
It surprised me, it did. Fatima was worried about me. Fatima loved me like a sister. And she was my sister even if only halfway so. I would smile and I’d promise her that I was okay.
Once, Fatima started to cry.
“What are you crying for?” I asked, “I told you I was okay.”
“How do I know you’re telling me the truth?” She kept crying and the way the tears streamed from her eyes made me think about the way the blood spurted from my wrists. “I’m the one who found you!” Fatima said, “I thought you were dead!”
“Did you?” I asked.
“I thought someone had broken in and hurt you and I thought they were going to hurt me and Mom and Dad and—“
“How did I look?”
“How did I look dead?”
“I don’t know!”
“Did I look good?”
“Ciara, I thought somebody had broken in and cut your throat open—“
I smiled and enthusiastically explained, “That’s exactly the effect I was going for!”
“You don’t sound like you’re okay, Ciara!”
“Fatima, listen – I’m okay. I swear it, I’m okay.”
“I’m in control now.”
I repeated it for her. “I am in control now, Fatima. I’m in control.”
She stared at me and I knew my words didn’t make a lot of sense to her but at least she had stopped crying. Finally, she just begged me to promise not to hurt myself.
“I promise,” I finally said. “Don’t worry. I’m in control.”
I still have the scars. Scars are supposed to fade with time but mine have not faded. They’re long and pink and you can see where the stitches went into my skin. They’re actually rather attractive for scars. Nice and straight, like pink zippers imbedded in my skin. Not jagged at all. I did a good job controlling that razor.
Fatima still loves me.