Hidden Faces is a story based on real events. It follows Jasmine through her journey after a suicide attempt and the death of her friend. Falling into substance abuse, her mental health declines rapidly and only she can save herself. This is an excerpt from the manuscript.
There can be no creation without destruction, just as there can be no destruction without creation. I stood there. The balcony, six floors up, where the wind moved against my body in a gentle current. Around me stretched the horizon of the sky, a cityscape ocean stretching for kilometre after kilometre. Navy was the sky, smeared with dark plumes of cloud, few stars twinkling against the backdrop. It was a stark comparison to where I had been just a few weeks before. Pale walls covered in scars, the stories they could tell a fleeting thought; the blurred lines, the needles, the blood pressure cuff constricting. Machines around me singing harmonious screeches, signaling tachycardiac heart rates and dipping oxygen saturation levels. In layman terms, my body – one of the many in that intensive care unit – had been fighting. Had I been conscious enough, perhaps I would have done something. Anything to prevent recovering from what had landed me in that hospital bed, so far from home, in the first place. Perhaps I’d have wrapped the cords around me, suffocating, the machines screaming as my vision blurred and lips turned blue; the opportunities could have been endless, had I been able to keep my eyes open for more than a split second. I hadn’t. I survived. I suppose if there’s any time to start telling my story, I’d say we could just as well start here.
those worse than scars
Seven in the morning rolled by, the sky pale and the basement apartment darkened by the blinds that hung in the window. I rolled over in my make-shift bed, bringing my hand to my head. A dull throbbing focused behind my eyes. I yawned, stretched, and wondered where the Tylenol was; a night of tequila rose and Jager Meister had led to a morning where my entire body became encased in imaginary concrete. Despite this, stretching my arms and a plan to pour myself a coffee, a lurking thought echoed in my mind, like a bouncing ball against the insides of my skull.
I scratched at my face where the imprints of the make-shift bed had left cushion imprints. No one else was awake, judging by the cacophony of snoring and occasional groans. I ventured into the kitchen – white walls stained with years of nicotine smears, cupboards of stained wood that looked ready to fall should they be moved in just the wrong way. I pulled out the sugar and coffee pods from the one cupboard that no longer had a door, the hinges rusted and long since abandoned. I poured myself a hot cup of creamy coffee. I leaned against the counter and held the steaming cup up to my face. It all felt pretty clichéd. The morning was a slow echo as the others I had spent the night partying with slowly began to emerge from underneath the jackets they used as blankets, moving their faces away from the bowls of spit and gargled vomit. Burnt out cigarette butts littered throughout the house in whatever could be justified to use as an ashtray. I felt bad for the party host, slightly. Judging by the structural chaos of the doors and walls, however, the girl had done it before.
“Hey, you’re awake early.” I looked to the left of me as the drifting sound of someone’s voice came through the silence. There beside me stood a guy with a black eye and disheveled hair, pants hanging loose and t-shirt rumpled. He was my best friend. “Feeling okay?” I looked at him and said, “yeah, Finn.” I knew it as the words drifted past my lips, the way his eyebrows pulled together slightly, that it was a lie. It was a bald faced bullshit story I’d begun to spin by such a simple response.
“A’ight,” he said as he moved toward the counter.
“We can suggest that you’re not alright,” I said, debating on burrowing into my purse for a cigarette. “What happened?”
“What do you mean?” He pulled a shot glass toward himself and poured some alcohol into the tiny glass. It looked like it was from a partial empty mickey of vodka. He looked at me, shrugged, and poured another that he shoved my way. “Cures the hangover.” “Your eye,” I said, knocking back the shot in a quick swallow.
“What?” I pulled out my phone and showed him his reflection in the camera application. “Oh. I don’t know.”
“Justified,” I laughed.
“What are the plans for today?” Finn put his hands behind him and stretched, cracking his arms and fingers. I shivered at the sound. “I think I’m babysitting my brother.”
“I have to go home and walk the dog,” I shrugged as I spoke. Something in my body felt hot and tight. The partial lie I had told him was painful. I did have to walk the dog – and I would, of course, but there was another aspect. Another choice.
As Finn hopped in his car half an hour later, saying goodbye to the host who sat in a chair with a pipe and no urge to clean the chaos of her home, I followed him. I found myself lost in my calm yet frantic thoughts. Our brief conversation harbored the beginnings of the first lie. However, the first mistake was when my eyes fluttered open and I stretched my arms above me. I had known the night before, I had decided days before, but something about that morning… it clicked.
While I considered waking up that morning to be my first mistake, it was admittedly one of the many. It was, instead, the final switch being flicked. Perhaps induced by the night of karaoke, vomit, and cocaine.
I waved off Finn as he dropped me outside my apartment, his car thunking and thumping as he drove away. I waved a little longer than normal, watching him with the knowledge I was not ready to face. When he was gone, I returned to my apartment, locking the door as I closed it behind me. I contemplated the option of barricading the door but ventured to my couch instead, dropping into the cushioned furniture. I sighed – not out of boredom, nor the need to catch my breath but because I was exhausted.
After a moment on the couch with my hands held against my forehead while I leaned forward, I walked through my apartment, trailing my hand along the surfaces of the dining room set, the living room, tracing the wall itself.
My dog came bounding toward me, tongue lolling and tail wagging. She partially jumped on her hind legs and whimpered with excitement. I reached down to pet her, knowing it would be the last time. Her fur was soft and the flick of her tongue against my cheek made my sorrow grow three times larger. It hurt what I was about to do; it hurt that I was about to leave her.
Not less than twenty minutes later, I hadn’t bothered to count. I looked at the bottle of pink pills, my mind swirling like a tide pool. Every thought was thick, a deep memory buried in my imagination. Nothing seemed to stay in place and every passing word that was formed in my mind evaporated before I had a chance to grasp it. I knew I felt ready to cry until I became a barren desert; I knew my heart raced in my chest, screaming its own panicked tune. I knew there would be no turning back.
It was twenty minutes later, the bottle emptied and the pills dissolving within my stomach, that I walked out of my apartment. I left my dog behind and locked the door.
“I love you, baby girl,” I whispered as I pressed a hand to the door. A single tear rolled down my cheek.
The sky was a deep blue smeared with streaks of white clouds, a single plane soaring with ease as it roared in the sky. At its peak, the sun beat down on the world, the roads ahead blasted with heat, radiating a wobbly reflection. If one looked close enough, it was as if the air had become a strange mirror.
I continued walking down the side street lined with old homes, my feet carrying me with determination, but my mind sluggish and sad. I didn’t know where I was going – I had no chosen destination. Somewhere, at least. Anywhere that wasn’t the blue walled bedroom where I’d been shot up with dope a few days earlier.
I’d never done it before, crystal meth. My experience with drugs had been prescription overdoses and messing around with my pain medication. Marijuana was barely in the picture. But the ice had wrapped itself around me, constricting faster than a snake, and far stronger. It lingered in my mind as I continued down the sidewalk. Trees of vibrant green lined the concrete pathway, the pockets of grass just as bright, if a hint darker. It seemed almost comical that the ever shifting world around me was so calm, the breeze gentle, people passing by me with their dogs as they chattered. A man jogged past me with white headphones dangling from his ears, beads of sweat dripping down his tan skin. It reminded me of how silly and small I was to the world. How easy and how proper of a decision it was to do what I’d done. My stomach ached and a tingling nausea rolled across my abdomen. I couldn’t keep my hands from shaking as if I’d stepped into the tundra. Was it panic, or was I running out of time? I continued walking.
Out of the corner of my eye, on a small alleyway between the hair stylist and the tattoo shop on my street, stood a couple fighting. I knew them. One, a childhood friend of my brothers who had survived his traumatized childhood through heroin. The other, his girlfriend, who had been the first to ‘properly’ introduce me to drugs.
I didn’t pause in my steps. I kept walking, knowing they were too involved in their fight to notice me. I was unnoticeable as I wore a black dress, carried a pink and brown patterned bag that wrapped over my shoulder, and my black hair was flat and oiled from weeks of buildup. My headphones, black as well, sang the music I couldn’t express. I wasn’t noticeable.
It’s funny. The dress had been intended for my childhood friend’s funeral the next day. I had chosen it to be the outfit I would die in, instead.
Within a matter of twenty to thirty minutes I had made my way to the river, my legs dangling above the water as I sat on a block of concrete. It was one of the many pale, white blocks that lined the side of the waterway, the grass scattered in patches as it grew through the gravel parking lot. The river was calm, just as everything else seemed to be, all stemming from when I swallowed the first pill.
In the time I had been walking, I had sent a message to a friend, a friend who was rarely accompanied by her cell phone.
I wanted to thank you for all your kindness these past weeks. I had written in the message. It had been rushed, the words a quick scramble. I’ll miss you. Goodbye. I had expected that to be it. After all, she lived in a city a few hours away, she never had her phone on her, and I really just didn’t think anything of it. But on the walk to the river as my legs ached and grew wobbly, my phone exploded with calls and messages from Finn, looking for me. When I answered him, I didn’t respond with kindness.
“What?” I snapped.
“Where are you?” Panic filled his voice.
“What did you do? Where are you?” Hurried, had I not been so annoyed I would have felt a twinge of guilt for what I was putting him through.
“I’m walking to the river.” I hung up before he could respond. I returned to my music, blasting my favourite artist, LIGHTS.
It was ten minutes later that the sound of crunching gravel alerted me to the arrival of the police. I had watched them, just moments before, drive past me. They hadn’t known. If I had kept moving, had the strength to carry myself further, maybe they wouldn’t have found me.
“Are you Jasmine?” a man’s voice spoke from behind me, where the car had pulled up, and I turned to look at him.
“Yes.” I responded slowly.
The next bit was a blur. The officer, asking questions. A tall white man, buff and bald. Me, stumbling to my feet and struggling to stay standing. The back of the police car. Every item in my possession removed from my person, including my cell phone.
“For protection,” the officer claimed.
The drive to the hospital was like walking through sludge. I slumped sideways in the back seat, limp and weak. Awake.
“How are you doing back there?” asked the officer. I garbled a response of strange words. When he pulled me out of the car I stumbled into a wheelchair, struggling to keep my fluttering eyes open as he pushed me to the triage area of the local hospital.
I remember the nurse, clapping her hands in my face.
“Hey, wake up,” she said. Everything blurred. I couldn’t make head or tail of anything around me. I was just so, so tired. “Wake up!” I was consumed by the warm embrace of unconscious stupor. I reopened my eyes moments later, the walls whirring past and the lines on the floor like paint smears. My eyes couldn’t focus. I gave up the fight.
The whirring of the helicopter blades deafening, the chatter of the people in the helicopter with me lost to my ears. I saw nothing but darkness and shifting shadows, a glance at a pale woman’s face by the lights of the rooftop helicopter pad.
I tried to open my mouth, to ask where I was, what was happening. All I knew was the loud noise, the shouting, the blanket of black consuming me again as my words were stolen by breathless panic. The next time I opened my eyes, I was in a bed somewhere. The machine beside me wailed with its readings. My heart rate sat at two hundred and twenty beats per minute. There were wires attached to my body, an intravenous site placed in my arm. I couldn’t feel the burn of medication or the coldness of saline. I closed my eyes another second later. I opened them again, a strange feeling occurring between my legs, as if I was peeing. I looked down and saw a woman crouched by a tube.
“I’m sorry,” I tried to say, “I’m not in control.” I didn’t know if she heard me, I didn’t know if I made sense. It all went black again.
Kilayla Diana Irene Pilon
Kilayla is a 25 year old author. Her first book was released when she was 15. Since then, she has written five books and continues to work on more projects. She is also an artist on the side, a big cat lover, a mental health advocate and more. She has lived with mental illness and chronic physical illness her whole life. She is a native born, disabled asexual Canadian.