I pushed send on my cell phone and turned to the machine. I attached the pressure regulator and turned on the gas to test it. "Fuckit!" I cursed; the valve was leaking. This process was supposed to take five minutes so that it could not be foiled. I'd practiced this. I grabbed for some plumbers tape, unscrewed the valve and added a layer of tape before replacing it. That fixed the leak, but now nothing came out the front nozzle. "Poes! Tit! Prick! Cunt! Moer!" This worked before I hid it! I'd practiced this.
I'd put my phone on silent and I saw it flash. It was my shrink: one of the recipients of my SMS.
I picked it up and said: "this fucking machine won't work. It's leaking gas!"
"That's probably a good thing", she said.
"No, it isn't", I weeped.
"Lindsey, I've called the police. I called them a while ago."
"Noooo", I wailed. "I've got to go, I have to get this machine working!"
There wasn’t time to hang up, I dropped the phone and repeatedly pealed the tape off to find the valve leaked and then added tape only to find it blocked. My finger started to bleed. I knew I was pressed for time. The police would leave if you were cognisant and there didn't appear to be any danger, they had visited me enough times, but this time they wouldn't find it to be so. There was a chance that it wouldn't work if the gas outflow wasn't regulated, but I was emphatic about this: I unscrewed the pressure regulator and put the oxygen tube directly onto the valve. I'd practiced this: it was fucking up! The other side of the oxygen tube was stuck inside the bag with medical tape. There was a drawstring to pull the bag closed so that I couldn't pull it off in panic. I'd also tied cable tie around each of my wrists. There was another cable waiting to tie my two hands together for the same reason: in case I changed my mind. I'd practiced this. I didn't want to back out. I had the presence of mind to hide the pressure regulator inside an old Walkman before I turned the gas on, waited for the gas to fill the bag, breathed out, pulled the plastic bag over my head, and breathed in when the bag was full of gas. At the same time, I pulled on the cable tie after I pulled the drawstring. I had read that I would fall over quite soon so I didn't lean up against the wall. I lay down and breathed. There was no pain, in fact, I could feel myself going numb from head to toe.
I couldn't move although I was quite cognisant of my surroundings. I heard voices. I heard banging on the window. I didn't respond. I couldn't respond. I had no concept of time. I started to heave and at the same time heard the window smash: again and again. After two heaves someone pulled the bag off my head. I heaved three more times and then lay there: unable to move or respond.
There was mumbling. There were more voices. I felt a banging on my sternum. I gasped.
"Lindsey!" someone yelled, "open your eyes! I know you can open your eyes, they are fluttering. That means you are conscious. Open your eyes!"
More banging on my sternum. I gasped again. There were more orders to open my eyes, that I could do so as I was conscious, a reminder that "this is a crime!"
I could hear everything and understand it all, but it wasn't true: I couldn't open my eyes. Someone scraped the bottom of my foot with something sharp, it felt like glass and I involuntarily jerked. They saw this as more proof of the fact that I was conscious.
"Lindsey! Open your eyes!"
It seemed that the gas has rendered me paralysed, but breathing oxygen gently edged me back from the comfort of death.
Someone opened the front door and the alarm went off. My little dog barked at the intruders. It seems more people were coming in.
More yelling: "Lindsey! What is the code for the alarm? We can't help you with this noise."
I was waking up, coming back from a welcome paradise.
I struggled to articulate in a whisper: "button".
"Yes, what is the code for the alarm?"
"Button", I tried again. They didn't get it. "Remote".
Who has an alarm without a remote control? They understood and deactivated the alarm.
Someone started tapping me on my left arm: a pet peeve - there is very little I find more annoying. I couldn’t move, but I could feel. I remembered the way my mother used to tap me with her centimetre long finger nails to drive home a point.
I struggled to say: "stop!"
"Stop what Lindsey?"
I heard them talking. A friend was coming from Constantia. They had told her to drive carefully. That would be Niki. She is a trauma counsellor for the police and I hoped she would be the least phased by my dead body. She was also a potential surrogate mommy for my toy dog Macro. They looked at my phone to see messages and missed calls.
There were more questions:
Did I tie my hands together? I said I did. They cut the cable ties.
What was in the canister? Helium.
Where did I get the idea to use helium? Exit International.
The paramedics were clearly not versed in the art of death-by-helium. It was supposed to be fool proof. That’s if the pressure regulator works I suppose.
"It's helium. We weren't sure what kind of gas it was or whether it would be safe for us to enter the room".
"Lindsey, do you have medical aid?" Affirmative.
"Lindsey, your little dog is very worried about you". Macro started to lick my face. My little therapy dog had licked my tears away many times, now she was trying to wake up my lifeless face. They asked if it was annoying me. Niki laughed and said it didn't bother me.
Slowly my body came back to life.
The plan was to take me to False Bay Hospital. They had spoken to my shrink. They knew there were no funds for private, but the state hospital would admit me. They were worried about carrying me down my very steep 50 meter driveway, which might put them at risk. I said: "it's been done before". One paramedics said: "yes, I was here that time!" That time I woke up in a strange hospital after being unconscious for a day or so.
Niki packed an overnight back for me and I asked what to add: blankie, pillow, gown, face cloths. Didn't I like more than one? Charmiane asked. I whispered: "Niki, don't pack the blue one – that’s for the loo". Ah, an important point considering my profound OCD. The one paramedic told me she had used the loo, "I hope that is okay". Niki knew the answer and erm-ed; I said it wasn't okay, but I would sanitise it. A new germ phobia I developed this year was finding it untenable for people to share my toilet.
My body wasn't hundreds, but I was able to chat. There was good humoured banter. No matter how crap the situation, my sense of humour never evaded me: I always presented well.
I looked at one of the paramedics and said :"I'd say thank you, but that would be disingenuous".