By: Linda Barrett
Thalia had everything ready for the last night of her life. While Hurricane Denise poured gallons of water down on the small New Jersey town, Thalia prepared herself for her suicide. She bought the sleeping pills from her pharmacy and a bottle of vodka from the grocery store. Dressing herself in a long white nightgown, she entwined fresh flowers in her hair after dousing each strand in curl relaxer. She even opened all the windows and the doors to let the flood waters into her apartment. The news warned everyone to grab their belongings and evacuate to the local Red Cross station in the middle of town.
Thalia switched off her television and prepared herself for bed.
Her doorbell rang as she downed a sleeping pill and a shot of vodka. Emitting a curse, she stormed down the stairs.
The old lady next door peered into the door’s screen.
“You’d better be ready for the flood!” the woman said, clutching her umbrella. “It’s raining cats and dogs! The news said you should get your pets and go to the Red Cross area across town! My, you look lovely with those flowers in your hair,”
“I’ll get myself ready,” Thalia said and closed the door on the old woman’s face.
She rotated up the apartment’s winding staircase and glided into her room. The satin sheets on her bed glowed under the light of the scented candles. She chose sea and water related odors to accent her death by drowning. Thalia made sure of everything.
“I’m going to go out like Ophelia in Hamlet and like that guy in the Rolling Stones like Mike said at the support group. No more taking pills to control my bipolar,” she said to herself.
“I’m going to make the 27 Club,” she spat, pulling back the sheets on the king sized bed.
“Thalia Seaman,” she murmured, “Your time is up!”
Another pounding at the door disrupted her ritual of taking one sleeping pill and one shot of vodka on her suicide journey. She jumped off the mattress.
“Who could it be now? That damned little old lady?” she muttered to herself.
Running down the stairs, she nearly collided with a man in a knee length yellow rain coat and a flashlight. He stood on her doorstep, whistling at the water rolling down the street. He resembled Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island with his rain hat down to his eyebrows.
“What’s going on?” Thalia managed to keep a sane appearance.
“We have enough room in the car for you,” the man said. “Mrs. Obanski told me a few minutes ago that you didn’t want to come with us to the Red Cross center but I don’t see you in your car. Do you want to come with us?”
“Uh, I have to get my suitcase ready,” she forced out a laugh.
“You look like you’re going to a wedding. Are you the lucky bride?” he asked.
“I’m waiting for someone to pick me up!” she laughed and shut the door.
She stepped up the stairs and climbed back into bed.
“Can’t a woman kill herself around here?” she muttered, shutting her eyes.
As Thalia slept, the water poured into the bedroom window. The dirty water with leaves and twigs filled up the room. The mattress rose from the duvet and floated in a gradual motion towards the sliding glass door. It bumped against the balcony’s railing and the overflowing water pushed it and Thalia into the river which rolled past the apartment complex. An overhanging pine branch swatted her in the face.
Opening her eyes, Thalia sat up and looked around her.
“What’s going on here?” she asked.
The mattress flowed along trees and buildings. The dark water roared in the dusk. Thalia found herself going towards the athletic club with its chain link fence surrounded tennis court. A tennis racquet slid its way onto the mattress. She picked it up and started to row with it. It brought back memories of when she was in Girl Scouts before the bipolar changed her life. The Girl Scouts sent her to camp where she learned how to canoe. They were the best times she ever had, especially with canoeing. Killing herself seemed to have erased itself from her mind.
She sang old songs she learned around the campfire.
“Michael row the boat ashore,…..Hallejuah!” she sang with her head raised. She sang seven choruses of “Row Row Row Your Boat”. Tears ran down her eyes.
“Help!” Someone screamed.
Looking around her, she glanced up at the trees. Only the tallest trees seemed to have escaped the flooding. She squinted in the darkness to see a small boy hanging from the sprawling branches of an elm tree.
“What are you doing up there?” she shouted, “Shouldn’t you be at the Red Cross center?”
“My foster mom pushed me out of the car. She said she had too much baggage already!”
The boy said, “Can you put me on your raft?”
Thalia paused for a moment in her rowing.
“Do you think you can come on my mattress?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” the boy said and wrapped his arms around the trunk. Thalia rowed her mattress towards the tree and steadied it with her arms. Her legs hugged the mattress to make sure it didn’t slide out from under her.
“Climb on down,” she breathed.
The boy scrambled down and stepped onto the mattress. He fell onto his side but the mattress stayed afloat. He only had on a short sleeved shirt and shorts with plastic clogs.
“Are you going to a wedding?” he asked her, “You have on a white dress and flowers in your hair.”
“No,” Thalia laughed, “I’m trying to escape something bad.”
“What bad thing are you escaping from?” the boy asked. He held out a small hand for her to shake. “My name’s Trevor. What’s yours?”
Thalia found it odd that such a young child would reach out to shake her hand. She held onto the tennis racquet in one hand and shook his with her free one.
“Thalia,” she said.
They floated past the ruins of the neighborhood. A white trailer home lay on its side, its form shining dimly in the dusk. Trevor pointed at the structure.
“That’s where I used to live with my foster mom and her other kids!” he shouted.
“You couldn’t even fit a rat in that thing!” she muttered, dipping her tennis racquet into the rolling waters. She noticed all the junk floating around the turned over trailer home. “Come to think of it, only a rat would like to live in that place!” she said.
Trevor ran his hand in the water.
“I don’t know what happened to my mother,” he mused. “They said she gave me away because she couldn’t afford to have me.”
“So, she gave you to the foster care system, huh?” Thalia grunted as she pushed the mattress to the left.
Trevor looked over his shoulder.
“You’re a nice lady,” he said. “You look like an angel come to rescue me,”
“You might say that,” she steadied the mattress. “An angel with bipolar who can’t even commit suicide right,” she murmured in bitter tones.
“Maybe you were meant to save people,” Trevor looked at her.
That set Thalia off. Tears rolled down her eyes. She turned her head away in order that Trevor wouldn’t see her.
“Yeah,” she emitted a laugh. “Maybe that’s right,”