Sunday Sampler: A Near Life Experience by Bobbie Cole

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In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Sunday’s Sampler features an excerpt from A Near Life Experience by Bobbie Cole. It’s the story of a woman who doesn’t know if she wants to live or die. Then she stumbles into a meeting of cancer survivors whose courage, determination and unquestioning acceptance give her a new perspective and a new hope

As one reviewer said: This book offers a refreshingly different twist on a story of self-discovery. Ms. Cole’s unique blend of irreverent humor laced with unexpected wisdom will have you laughing and crying all at the same time.

The Story

Mary Jo is not much good at anything but computers, but she has a bucketful of lies and a heart full of hope once she’s released from the psych ward after a suicide attempt.

While searching for coffee and donuts, she inadvertently enters a meeting of cancer survivors. Loathe to admit she’s made a mistake, she stays…and keeps going back.

Their lessons and friendships feed her lonely, hungry soul, and there’s the problem. Continue lying? Or come clean and risk losing everything?

The Sampler

Bobbie Cole
Bobbie Cole

Nobody in their right mind wakes up saying This is a good day to die, think I’ll swallow some pills, jump in front of a bus, or slit my wrists. Or in my case, inadvertently draw blood with a butcher knife.

I screamed and picked up Mom’s fur baby from the lavatory then set her on the floor. “I’m trying to kill myself here!” Immediately, I took a couple of deep breaths and calmed my nerves. If I was going through with this, I wanted a minimum of hysterics. No need to piss off the cat.

This was my first attempt at suicide, and it sooo was not going as I’d planned. Not like I’d expected tragic Wagnerian opera, but it’d have been nice to have a radio handy. Some sort of soothing music to calm fractured feelings and jerky motions. Nerd in me surmised surely somewhere there was a manual on how to do this with finesse.

I’d gone to the second-floor bathroom of my mom’s dilapidated Victorian has-been with the intention of cutting myself, armed with various instruments to do the job…scissors, a small box of razors, and the knife. But after spending several minutes staring at the Betty Boop bobble-head I’d placed on the shelf above the lavatory, I couldn’t go through with it. Something stopped me. Not Betty. Not Mom’s damned tabby, Chloe, who had nearly tripped me twice by twining around my ankles. Not a desire to live—God knows I hated my life.

With each snip of the scissors, I cut away at my reflection, furiously demolishing what was left of my shoddy self-esteem. A big nobody of nothingness with a misshapen past, ugly present, and no future. And now…the shittiest hair on the planet.

Okay. Not exactly what I intended, but I wasn’t bleeding.

When I finished, I looked at the pile of tresses and freaked. That’s when I shoved the scissors back into the bag—I am nothing if not neat—and reached for the butcher knife, panicking at the thought of what my mother would say about my hair. Pentecostal holiness folks are keen on long hair. Hair is a woman’s crowning glory, remember? Cutting it is a sacrilege. So is suicide, but if I was going to hell, I might as well go all the way.

“What do you think, Betty? Scissors? Blade? Knife?” Sucking in a few deep breaths, I told myself I could do this. At least, if I could quit waffling and just get on with it, I wouldn’t have an open casket. There was no way my mother would allow her friends and church congregation to see me like this, so score one point for the shiftless, no good daughter, who thought funerals and embalming an abomination anyway.

I glanced at my watch. I’d taken a handful of muscle relaxers fifteen minutes earlier. I’d researched the time it would take before they’d kick in. I still had a few seconds to put the icing on the cake. Pills, followed by bleeding. If one didn’t take me, surely the other would.

One minute, I was ready to roll up my sleeves—the next I had yet another bout of second thoughts, coupled with shame, and if I’m honest…probably a humongous fear that I’d truly fuck things up, not do the job well enough, despite my intentions. You know, wind up a vegetable or some pathetic, disfigured shell, the kind of person people pass on the street with averted gazes. Partly because they fear or don’t understand what they see. Partly because they connect and don’t like identifying with a loser.

With heart racing and tears scalding my cheeks, I stuffed Betty back into the over-sized shoulder bag that was always with me and plopped down onto the closed toilet seat, shakily clutching the knife. Once again, the desire to commit the act I’d contemplated for weeks dissipated. Now I was not only in between life and death, I looked like a scarecrow whose straw stuffing was coming out. A still-living, breathing, hapless manifesto of true mania. Should I call 911 and confess, or let time sweep me into la-la land?

That’s when the goddamned cat intervened. Chloe grew impatient for pets and suddenly clawed my ankles. I shrieked and sprang to my feet, the startled cat jumped onto the lavatory, and while I stood staring at her, the knife slipped. Arrow straight, it landed with the blade implanted into the top of my foot…smack onto a vein.

 

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