Authors: Victoria Christopher Murray
n all my years of practice, I had never had to face this.
I was trying to save a child's life. A child who had tried to commit suicide twice.
“Doctor Harrington, do you think she's going to be all right? We're not going to lose our baby, are we?”
As I'd been doing from the moment I arrived at the hospital, I reassured the Millers. “LaTonya is going to be fine,” I said to Mr. Miller and his wife, who was sitting right beside him.
Mr. Miller shook his head as if my assurances weren't enough. “I just hope she didn't stab herself too deeply.”
I tried not to cringe, but it was difficult not to, with the image of what LaTonya had done fresh in my mind. Mr. Miller had told me the moment I rushed into the emergency waiting room.
“LaTonya stabbed herself with scissors. She said she was trying to get all the blood out of her body so she could go to heaven.”
My whole body had started to shake then, and still shook now. How was I supposed to handle a child wanting to commit suicide, who didn't even understand death? There had been only one lecture
on this subject in schoolâthere were so few cases on record, certainly not enough for any case studies.
Mr. Miller asked, “What's taking them so long?”
“Well, you know she needed stitches,” I said, giving him another fact that he already knew. “It won't be too much longer.”
Mr. Miller nodded, then stood, though he didn't move too far away from his wife. “I don't know why LaTonya keeps doing this. I don't know why we can't get her to understand.”
I'd been at the hospital for an hour and I'd repeated myself countless times. But I would tell the Millers whatever they needed to hear to keep them calm, to keep them collected for their daughter. “You know she's not really trying to kill herself. She's just trying to be with LaTrisha.”
“What's the difference?” Mr. Miller asked me again.
“Intent. We know she doesn't understand the concept of death, so she certainly doesn't understand suicide.”
“I can't understand any of this. She's just six years old.”
“That's the point. She's six and she's grieving. And she's grieving her twin. They had a psychological and physical connection that we may never understand. So, she doesn't really know what she's doing. She's just trying to get to her sister.”
Those were my professional answers. But on the heart level, the soul level, I was at as much of a loss as the Millers. I'd thought talking to LaTonya and helping her work through this would be enough. My plan was to engage her on a regular basis, the way I did with any of my clients. We were going to talk, read, draw, everything to pull out her feelings and help her to understand.
Now it looked like she'd need twenty-four-hour care, at least for a couple of days. The thought of her being institutionalized and away from her parents frightened me on so many levels. But right now, that was the only way to save her life.
I watched Mr. Miller reach for his wife's hand and squeeze it, and I wished that Jamal was sitting here next to me. I'd never doubted my skills, but I'd never been in this situation. Right now, I needed Jamal to tell me that I could do this.
“Mr. Miller, Mrs. Miller.” Dr. Caster, a pediatrician I'd worked with before, came into the room and the three of us stood as he entered.
Mrs. Miller said, “My baby. Is she going to be all right?”
The doctor nodded. “She just had flesh wounds. Thank God, she wasn't strong enough to cause too much damage.”
I exhaled at that news.
He said, “But we're going to keep her here.”
“Keep her?” Mr. Miller asked as he looked at his wife. He seemed to hold her hand tighter. “For how long?”
The doctor took a quick look at me, then turned back to the Millers. “We're not sure yet. She's resting now and with the sedative we gave her, she'll probably sleep for most of the day. But we're going to keep her for observation.” With another quick look in my direction, the doctor added, “It'll just be for a couple of days.”
“I'm not leaving my baby here. If she's staying, so am I,” her mother said.
“Of course. I can take you to LaTonya now.” Then the doctor said to me, “Doctor Harrington, would you mind waiting? I'd like to speak with you.”
I nodded, then said good-bye to the Millers before the doctor led them away. I sank into my chair, knowing what Dr. Caster wanted to talk about. Dr. Caster and I would have to place LaTonya on a seventy-two-hour hold.
I'd never had to do this before. I didn't want to do it now.
After I met with Dr. Caster, I wanted to consult other psychologists
before I came up with a plan. But before any of that, I needed my husband.
I wondered if Jamal and Miriam were still at lunch. It was just a bit after two. Pulling my cell from my purse, I pressed Jamal's number and after four rings, I sighed. “Hey, babe,” I whispered to his voice mail, “just checking in. I'm still at the hospital, but I'll be leaving here in a couple of minutes. I was going to try to catch up with you and Miriam. Where are you? Call me back.”
Then I clicked the icon for my contacts and hit Miriam's number, but her cell went straight to her voice mail. “Hey, Miriam. Where are you guys? Call me.”
I thought about calling Miriam's house, but if they'd been there, they would've heard their cell phones. They had to be in some loud, crowded restaurant.
Well, it was probably for the best. I wasn't up to going out now. I just wanted to be with Jamal. And have him hold me, and love me, and assure me that this was going to be all right.
I leaned back, letting my head rest against the wall. My job was to put LaTonya's heart back together. And I would do that, but right now, all I wanted to do was go home.
I felt his
touch on my shoulder, I heard his whisper in my ear, “Emily.”
I crawled toward consciousness and my eyes slowly opened. “Jamal.” My voice was filled with sleep, and with the tips of my fingers, I massaged my eyelids. I felt like I'd been asleep for hours, and the dim light that came through the living room windows told me I was right. When I'd lain down on the sofa, the day had been bright. But now the sun had almost fully taken its place beyond the horizon.
I said, “I must've fallen asleep,” as I focused my eyes on my husband crouching in front of me.
“You must've been really tired to do that,” he said.
“I was exhausted.” My thoughts went back to this afternoon. How I'd signed the paper to commit a six-year-old to a seventy-two-hour hold. How the doctor had said that she'd be kept right there in her room since Children's Hospital didn't have a psychiatric ward. And how her mother had sobbed hysterically, and her father kept asking, “Why, why, why?”
I raised my arms above my head to stretch and get away from those thoughts. At least for a little while. “You're just getting home?” I asked, as I took a look at my watch. It was almost seven. Without waiting for him to answer, I added, “You were out to lunch with Miriam all this time?”
“UhÂ .Â .Â . yeah,” he said.
“I tried to call you, and Miriam. But you didn't answer.”
“UhÂ .Â .Â . yeah.”
“I figured you were in a noisy restaurant or something.”
Still kneeling in front of me, Jamal lowered his eyes. “That's probably what happened. We wereÂ .Â .Â . out. And weÂ .Â .Â . talked. You knowÂ .Â .Â . about Chauncey.”
“Was it goodÂ .Â .Â . to talk?”
He shook his head slightly. “It was hard. It was really, really difficult.”
His voice was so low and so sad, and now I was sorry I hadn't been there with him, for him. “I wish I could've gone with you, babe.”
“Oh, no,” he said. “You had to work. LaTonya is blessed to have you.”
It was his voice, his words, his expression, that made me want to throw my arms around him and pull him close. I needed to hold him and have him hold me. But just as swiftly as I made that move,
Jamal gently grabbed my wrists and pressed my hands down before I could embrace him.
I tilted my head, then looked down to my lap, where he still held my hands.
He explained, “When you got that call today, I knew it was serious, and I just want to make sure that you're okay.”
This was why I loved this man. It was clear he hadn't had the best of days, but he was more concerned about me. “I'm okay. And I knew I would be better as soon as I came home to you.”
He nodded and pushed himself up from the floor. The leather couch squished when he sat next to me. “So, is there anything special that you want to do?” he asked, though his eyes were on the window.
Just how tough had their afternoon been? Just him and Miriam. Doing all of that talking. I put my hand on his arm. “No, I just want to stay home. I just want to be with you.” When he faced me, there were tears in his eyes, and I scooted over to be closer to him. Resting my head on his shoulder, I said, “I know you're sad, but tonight, let's just focus on each other. And how blessed we are. And how we'll make it through anything as long as we have each other.”
I felt him nod.
We sat together as the clock on the wall ticked seconds away. After a while, I said, “I promise you, time is going to make it better.”
“Yeah,” he whispered.
Lifting my head, I asked, “So, do you want me to order in for dinner?”
“You can get something; I'm not hungry.” Then he stood. “I'm going to take a shower.”
“A shower?” I frowned. But maybe that's what we both needed. “You know what?” I said as I stood up. “I'm going to join you.”
He spoke quickly, “No, no. I just needÂ .Â .Â . I just needÂ .Â .Â .” He
put his hands up to his head. “Babe, I just need a little while alone. To get over, get rid ofÂ .Â .Â . the talkÂ .Â .Â . all the talk about Chauncey.”
“OhÂ .Â .Â . kay.” But he was already walking away from me, and I studied him. His head was down, his shoulders were slumped, and I realized the mistake I'd made by leaving Jamal and Miriam alone. Now the hope that he'd had this morning was gone. I wondered if Miriam was feeling the same way. Probably. The two of them had talked and talked and talked themselves right back into their grief.
Well, I'd just have to pull Jamal back. At least to the point where he was this morning. We'd start tonight. We'd relax, watch our favorite movie, and then we'd have dessert, which for me meant making love all night long.
That's the therapy Jamal needed, and I couldn't wait to give it to him.
hardly closed my eyes last night. Not because I couldn't sleep, I just didn't want to. If I'd slept, I might have woken up and discovered that my day had been a dream.
Finally, at just a little before five this morning, the weight of exhaustion had forced my eyes closed. But now I was awake once again and I couldn't help but smile. It hadn't been a dream.
I'd made love to Jamal Taylor.
Rolling over, I stared for a moment at the pillow on the other side of the bed. Then I reached out and smoothed my hand across the pillow whereÂ .Â .Â . Jamal had laid his head. I didn't know how I felt about all of this. Honestly, I was still in that state called shock.
The first time, anyone could understand. It wasn't our fault; it had started with a tear, a hug, a kiss, and then we were on the couch. Some people might say that was accidental.
But then Jamal had guided me into my bedroom. And the accident turned into a purpose. By then, we were both in our right minds.
And inside my bedroom, it was magic. From the way Jamal kissed me, gently this time, to the way he slipped the straps of my
dress from my shoulders. Then, as I hurried over to the bed to hide under the covers, he had undressed and met me on the sheets.
When we made love again, Jamal had taken me to the moon. And afterward, I'd felt like I was floating among the stars when we just lay together.
I'd been sure that Jamal was going to roll over, start convulsing when he realized I wasn't his wife, and then jump out of bed and into his clothes, all the while making plans to move himself and Emily out of Los Angeles so that he would never have to see me again.
But he had stayed. And held me. And talked to me.
“I hope you know that I didn't mean for this to happen,” he whispered, even though we were alone in my home.
“I know,” I said, and then held my breath, waiting for him to tell me all of his regrets.
“I guess it's just that you're so easy to talk to.” I exhaled and he kept on, “You're so easy to be with right now.”
“I know what you mean,” I said. “I try speaking to other people, but I don't feel like they really hear me.”
“And if they did, they wouldn't understand.”
“Or they expect me to just move on, and I'm not ready to do that yet.”