This piece grew from a writer prompt in WRITING CREATIVE NONFICTION by Professor Tilar J. Mazzeo.
I’m Ellie Smith and I wish I was dead.
Twenty years ago, I met a man who I thought was the last good man on the planet. Nineteen years ago we married. Thank God we haven’t had any children!
A short time ago (what feels like forever) while sorting the dirty clothes, I found lipstick on one of his undershirts.
I only wear lipstick, or eye makeup, for that matter, on special occasions and there hasn’t been one of those for a couple of months
our anniversary, to be exact. I know I’ve washed that piece many times since then.
I cried half the day and wanted to die.
The other half, I raged about him, cussed him, wanted to kill him. If only I could find the right way.
Then one day it appeared in front of me. His mom called and asked if I could come by and help out a little with her preparations for an entertainment event she wanted to host. “Of course,” I said.
I drove right over. Mom Smith was one of the reasons I’d married him. She was a real “ginger” sweetheart. But, a neat-freak, she had overdone it and tired herself out. “Ellie, honey,” she said to me, “I’m almost finished, but I still need the hall vacuumed and the guest bathroom cleaned and I’m afraid I’m worn out. I need to take a shot of insulin, eat a bite, and lie down for the afternoon, so I can be at my best when our out-of-town company arrives.”
I hoovered the hallway, even though I couldn’t see a hair on it. The loo was spotless, but I waved a feather duster around and checked the liquid soap dispenser anyway. Taking a peek in the cabinet over the sink, I saw a couple of hypodermic needles. A light flashed in my head and, while Mom Smith was eating a tuna salad sandwich, I slipped upstairs. It the medicine cabinet of the master bath was a nearly full box of syringes. I took two and shoved them in the pocket of my sweater.
Back downstairs, I told Mom that everything was ship shape and went to the refrigerator. As I helped myself to a glass of 2% milk, I checked, and sure enough, there were two bottles of insulin, one full and one a quarter full. The label read, Mrs. Ellen Smith. Yes, we both shared the same first and married names.
A few weeks later we were flying to the San Francisco Bay. It took a lot of screaming and forced tears to get him to take me along on his “business trip.” I had a note in my purse stating I wanted my ashes scattered by the Golden Gate.
The movie was old and most of the passengers seemed to be napping. The flight attendant was taking a break after strolling the aisle, pushing the drink cart. I told my husband I needed to powder my nose. He stood as I rose and walked to a restroom.
“Okay, here goes,” I said to the mirror as I filled a syringe with insulin. I braced myself for the discomfort and injected a full cc into an area I won’t name, but where I was 99% sure a medical examiner would overlook, especially with what I had in mind. I had been careful not to touch any part of the prescription bottle that couldn’t be wiped clean, scrubbed my fingerprints from the rest, and dropped it back into my purse. I removed the needle from the syringe and dropped in into the loo. Then I wiped the syringe, stepped on it, and broke it up before flushing all the evidence. I hurried back to my seat. It was imperative that I make it without fainting.
Safely seated, I whispered to my husband that I was feeling off. “I think I need insulin. Will you inject me, please?”
“Oh Dear! I’ve never done that. Is it that blood sugar thing you told me about?”
I nodded. “It’s in my purse.” I handed it to him.
“How much?” he turned the vial over.
Good, I thought, get your prints all over it. I ran my fingernail from the tip to the highest mark on the syringe.
I nodded and closed my eyes.
I pointed to the spot on my arm where I’d seen his mother inject.
Just then, the woman behind me leaned over my seat and said, “Is your wife diabetic?”
I felt my blood boil.
“Yes, she is,” he answered.
“Oh . . . ” she sighed and I felt my seatback move as she lowered herself slowly to hers.
But she arose again, saying, “Hey, you know I think she’s got low blood sugar.”
“Mind your own business,” he snapped at her.
Thank you, I thought, if she butts in again, I’ll use my last drop of strength to pop her on the nose. He injected the insulin, his hands shaking, and I passed out.
Why is that light hurting my eyes? I thought. A split-second later, why does my torso feel like I’ve been stabbed over and over? Is this honest-to-God hell? Then a familiar voice spoke softly near my ear.
“Try to relax, Ellie. You’re in a hospital in Denver. You’ve been through the wringer, I’m sure. And I’m sorry, but you’re stable and in good hands now. It’s me, Dr. Jones. Yes, your physician and your mother-in-law’s. I was on the same airplane with you, and boy, was I surprised when I saw who the crew had asked for help with.
“This is hell,” I mumbled.
“No, don’t try to talk. I’m sure just breathing is hard enough. I had to perform CPR on you. A flight attendant and I took turns for over a half hour until the plane landed at Denver International, where the paramedics gave us a break until we got you here. I had them give you a mega-dose of Glucagon to bring you out of the hyperglycemia.
“Can you tell me why you had your mother-in-law’s Apidra, insulin, in your purse?”
I think every muscle in my body tensed, which hurt more, so I took his advice and willed myself to relax. I whispered, “I didn’t.”
“But it was still there, and your husband said you asked for an injection.”
“No, I didn’t. Why was it there? Last I remember, I’d begun to nod off and I felt a pin-prick. What did my husband say?”
“Never mind for now. We’ll give you something to let you sleep more.”
I drifted away again.
I was awakened by someone shaking my shoulder. “What have you done!” It was my mother-in-law’s voice.
I opened my eyes but the lights made me slam them closed again. I remembered I was in a hospital, an i.v. in my the back of my hand. “Uh, what do you mean?”
“My son has been arrested and charged with attempted murder. They say he injected you with my insulin,” she glared at me, “but you were the only person who’d been in my house between my previous injection and the time I discovered it was missing.”
I felt as if a winter draft had run up my spine. Oh, crap, I thought. “I wanted to kill myself because he cheated on me. I’m sorry, Mom Smith.” Yeah, I was sorry
sorry she’d put two and two together and came up with me.
“Oh, my.” Her frown turned to sadness, then back again. “What makes you think he cheated on you?”
“I found lipstick on his,” I cried real tears, “his undershirt.”
I had to stop and think. “A few months ago. Let’s see, our anniversary is Valentine’s Day, so mid-April?”
“You fool! That was my lipstick. You know I always wear makeup because of my freckles. He stopped by to clear my kitchen drain and took his dress shirt off. When he got the sink emptyI hugged him, then apologized for messing up his t-shirt.”