Summer of ’99

Summer field by Theophilos Papadopoulos
Photograph by Theophilos Papadopoulos

I had a headache, so I grabbed a bottle of Tylenol.
The instructions suggested two pills, but my head
really hurt so I grabbed a few more—I took forty,
but I still couldn’t sleep. They fell out my mouth
before they could work. The doctors smoldered
me with charcoal, threatened me with catheters.
Three days I lay undead in a hospital bed,
wondering why I even tried. I wanted life
outside of dreams in which I couldn’t move or speak
and thought I’d wake up if I pinched hard enough.

Comparisons to the incontinent in convalescence
convinced me to give life another try. I could walk,
talk, think, dream. I just couldn’t speak, but maybe
I’d find my voice if I continued the effort.
Prozac, Paxil, Wellbutrin never helped; surely Zoloft would!
I left that hospital with newfound appreciation for life,
ready to write, make new friends, find true love.
All I had needed was a more positive attitude spiced
with courage to sweeten my dull days, and I finally found it!

Three days later, I lost it, but I couldn’t try again.
Plan B already failed, and I couldn’t experiment.
I was just a teenager without a car, without a gun,
afraid of the world, afraid of trains, afraid of razor blades.
That summer of ninety-nine, I gave up on death
and spent the rest of my time in bed listening
to my thoughts as the Cure sedated me.


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