Did you know that I was there too?
No, I wasn’t the one listening to Creed.
I was the one who suggested we leave Leah be and go get coffee.
It was May of 2000 and I was in the middle of a three-week tour of Hell.
I had just finished my 3rd, and very trying, year at the University of Iowa. The day after moving home, my sister’s future in-laws came to town for her wedding the next weekend. My maid-of-honor dress came in and was the wrong size.
In the middle of everything, I had to leave town for a training session for my summer job
, which was a 3 hour drive away, and mostly on back roads. Throughout the entire drive I managed to miss the tornado warnings that were issued in nearly every county around me. As I pulled into Cedar Falls, my final destination, I was nearly put in the ditch every time the wind picked up.
After a day and a half at training, I had to drive back to Des Moines
the day of the rehearsal dinner. I was home that night, the day of the wedding, and then had to go back to the training session the morning after the wedding.
From training I had to leave to go to Colorado for a conference where Girlface and I were giving an hour-long Powerpoint presentation. We were going to prepare the presentation when I got to her house.
Two days after getting home from Colorado I had to be ready to leave for 3 months of life in Stuttgart, Germany, working on one the US Army bases there.
Add to the mix, one suicidal friend.
Leah’s antics had started several months before. One night she said she wanted to kill herself by going for a swim in the river and then disappeared for several hours. (There was a dam right across from our building, making death by swimming in the river very likely. In fact, a few years before my time, people on our floor had used the damn as a place to stage their own death in an attempt to escape credit problems.)
Leah had also tried to shave her head with a regular razor that spring. Her scalp still had battle wounds.
Leah’s roommate, who’s father had killed himself, moved out and to another floor because she couldn’t deal with Leah any more.
There had been some discussion as to whether Girlface’s roommate choice was a wise one.
But they had moved in together anyways.
I had planned to leave Cedar Falls in the morning, but I needed out of training. I called the head people and said that I needed to go to Iowa City to prepare our presentation because all the saved computer information had been lost. We needed to start over from scratch.
No one argued.
WhenI got to Girlface’s, I asked why the smoke detector was laying on the floor. She told me she didn’t want to talk about it.
We went for coffee that night largely because I needed a trip to Perkins and because I could tell Girlface needed to get out. Leah was too much for me to handle at that point- she had been drinking.
We left her there because you should be able to leave your roommates alone when they are in no shape to be out in public.
Coming in the apartment it was clear something was wrong.
Another friend had been out for coffee with us. She went straight for Leah’s room, Kat went into the kitchen. I stood in the living room, ready to get some sleep.
These are not words you want to hear called out from the room of someone with suicidal thoughts.
My mind raced- I instantly conjured up an image of Leah laying lifeless in a pool of blood inspired by watching too many after-school specials.
Kat ran from the kitchen into her room. Not hearing any screaming, I decided it was OK to check on the scene. Leah was incoherent in her bed, an empty bottle of Advil on top of a notebook, opened to a page of chicken scratch. Creed was playing on repeat.
Kat ran to call 911.
We repeatedly tried to get Leah to come to, shaking her, calling her name. By the time the paramedics arrived she was already pulling the Advil out of her pocket, one by one.
They walked her, barefoot, out of the apartment.
We pulled ourselves together and went to the conference. Being familiar with Boulder, we cut out of the festivities early the first night and went down to Pearl Street. We spent the weekend not worrying about things.
We got in to Iowa City late at night, and I was going to crash at Girlface’s place and then drive home in the morning. Girlface decided to call her apartment before we left the airport to see if Leah was home.
“Hello?…who is this?…what are you doing in my apartment?…you broke in?…and you broke the window?…”
Girlface was livid. Leah was still in the hospital, and Christina had been planning to stay with at their apartment that night. Unaware of the events before we left, Christina assumed we were out. She decided to help herself in through the window.
Upon returning home, Girlface informed Christina of Leah’s current place of residence and then proceeded to kick Christina off of the air mattress where I was to sleep. She told Christina she was to leave in the morning.
Christina decided to leave that night.
I saw Leah once before I left for Germany. She needed some things from her apartment and Girlface didn’t have the time to go. We gossiped about all the crazy people she was now living with.
When I returned in the fall, Leah was my next door neighbor. Although she had been in the hospital for quite some time and the fact that she was now in therapy, her cries for help continued.
I came home twice at 4 in the morning to Public Safety and our RA trying to get into her room. It wasn’t more than 5 or 6 weeks into the semester before the Administration made her leave school.
Her parents wouldn’t let her come back to visit. She wasn’t even allowed on the premises of our building.
I haven’t seen her since.
I got an e-mail last summer from a friend saying that Leah had been in a car accident. She had fallen asleep at the wheel, crossed the median, and flipped her car. If she hadn’t been wearing her seat belt she would have died.
Instead she was just paralyzed.
For a long time I only heard about how Leah was doing through mutual friends. She was doing well, had found God, and had a wonderful attitude.
Nothing like a little near-death to cure a person.
A few months ago, right before I moved away from Iowa, I got an e-mail from Leah. She was truly doing well. Her rehab was progressing, and the distance she could walk at a time was continuing to increase with progress measured in inches and feet. She was moving back to Iowa City to start school again. She was confirmed in the Methodist Church (or was it the Catholic?).
She wants to be a vet.
Shortly after posting this, vilk pointed out that it was posted almost exactly two years after the origional, only off by a few hours...I assure you that this was completely unintentional.