“We need to talk tomorrow”
“You know what we need to talk about. What happened at school earlier.”
My son lowers his head to shoulder-length, pulling his favorite green and blue blanket up over his head. His eyes raise to the video chat, wide, filled with a mixture of uncomfortable sadness and embarrassment.
I try to remain composed as my ex-wife explains the phone call from the school. My son, at six-years old, is saying he wants to kill himself. I try to focus on my breathing, fake smiling to the people passing by. I grit my teeth, asking what we do. She doesn’t has a clue. She’s ‘tapped out’, as she puts it.
What the fuck do you do?
She lets me know I can expect a call in an hour or so. I hang up before I lose composure. The next hour, the motions of work seem to drain by in slow motion. I’m here, but my heart is seeking out the murmurs of my son; trying to divine a connection from the many miles between us. Maybe if he somehow feels the thumping, through some cosmic miracle, he can unload whatever hurts; allowing me to carry his pain with my own.
My ringer goes off an hour and five minutes later. The social worker has a pleasant, calming, voice as she asks me if I am busy. She outlines what happened. My son had become fixated on a toy at school. The little magnetic ’T’, he, for some reason, had no interest sharing when the time came. As the teacher took the toy, he quietly said to himself, “I want to kill myself”
I try to wrap my head around it. I hear the social worker talk about risk management, this and that, I don’t know- I am not in this conversation. I’m thinking about my mother telling me how my sister is dead, via self-inflicted gunshot wound. I’m years removed, in the tufts of morning light with a bunch of pills and a bottle of Jack Daniels.
I try to bring myself back to this point. To my child with the infectious grin. The clever boy, who daily outmaneuvered his siblings using tact beyond his years. My gifted little artist.
The voice on the phone tells me she doesn’t believe he understands the concept of suicide. How he can be attention-seeking at school. I bring up his goodnight phone call a few nights ago to his mom where he mentioned being called a ‘loser’ by one of his peers.
She tells me of her extensive time in his well-supervised classroom setting. How she’s ‘NEVER’ heard the children behave that way towards one another.
I wonder if it’s my heart miles away, or my mind years into the past, but through the fog of not being here; all I hear is blame.
And I am angry as fuck.
My six-year old said he wanted to kill himself and you want to tell me he has attention-seeking tendencies? You want to talk about how he doesn’t understand what he was saying- he was just saying it to get a reaction. Didn’t you just tell me he said it to himself?
Rage fills me.
“I’m trying to tell you my son stated he was bullied. In today’s society, with how serious the repercussions of that are- you’re going to chalk it up to him being disruptive, minimilazing my concern because of how well-supervised he is?”
Minimalizing. I’m so angry, I know the word is wrong but I don’t fucking care. I’m aching sixty miles away. I need to hold my son. I need to protect him.
“I’m worried about my child’s mental health right now, you know, since he is six and saying he wants to kill himself.”
She backpedals, and I can hear that pleasant, calming voice, become exasperated.
I’m breaking. Rambling angrily at this lady through the phone. She tries to course correct, apologizing and promising there is no minimizing of my concerns.
twenty-seven minutes later, I’ve spent an hour and forty minutes torn between the here and now, and everything in between.
Bedtime rolls around, and I make my nightly call to say goodnight. Before I talk to my kids, their mother and I talk about what’s next. We don’t know.
Who the fuck knows?
My son is his usual cheery self. I tell him how much I love him and miss him. I place emphasis on loving him so goddamn much. I let him know I know and we will talk about it.
The drive home from work is about an hour of talking to myself and sad music. Forming what I will say to a six year old with the rest of his life ahead of him who said he wanted to kill himself.
I get home, grabbing a beer to decompress.
The crying begins
My six-year-old son sits on my bed, and I tell him a story he’s never heard about an aunt he never knew.