2010–2023 Writings
by Michelle Margaret Fajkus

death by dr. pepper

Written in


He was Christian; I was a budding Buddhist. Because of him, I had reopened the file on Jesus. I reconnected with my Catholic roots in a roundabout attempt to sink my hooks into him.

I boiled my spiritual belief system down to these eight bite-sized points:

  • awareness (all we have is now)
  • compassion (all we need is love)
  • peace (live and let live)
  • being (i am.)
  • spirit (the holy spirit is beyond us and within us.)
  • unity (many paths, one truth)
  • destiny (everything is meant to be. let it be.)
  • joy (neither cling to nor reject. no attachment, no aversion.)

Didn’t work. His scripture was set in stone. We broke up.

During my Christian summer romance, I stupidly allowed myself to lose control of my finances. God doesn’t pay the bills, unfortunately. I was sinking further and further into debt, which is not hard to do in the San Francisco Bay area. I had to surrender my fancy-free “entrepreneurial” lifestyle for a salaried post. I landed an advertising gig at a small media firm in Potrero Hill. I was commuting from the peninsula to the city for at least an hour each way each day on the 101. First week on the job, I’d leave the office midday and crawl into the backseat of my car. Unable to rest, I’d shift positions, angrily throwing my body against the seat back. Second day on the job, I got behind the wheel, turned the ignition and stared blankly ahead. Going back inside was unimaginable.

No one knew me. They couldn’t care.

On the way home, I bought an eighth of Sky Vodka, a Baby Ruth, a liter of Dr. Pepper, and a box of over-the-counter sleeping pills at Safeway. The cashier didn’t seem to think anything of these purchases.

I’d had problems with suicidal thoughts before, when I was working in Austin the summer after graduating from college. That melancholy July, I began to spend all my free time slumping from room to room, lying down on the nearest bed or couch. I’d watch TV without watching, pick up a book and glaze over on the second sentence, toss fitfully all night. When I could attain it, sleep was my favorite activity by far. I wanted so badly to experience every millisecond of the darkness. It was the only reprieve from my cyclical, cynical thinking. Like clockwork every morning, two minutes before the alarm was set to go off, my eyes would pop open and the heat of dread would creep into my shoulders and neck. I’d think of what an ungrateful piece of shit person I was.

I didn’t care if the glass was half empty or half full; I just wanted to throw it across the room and hear it shatter.

At one point, I stayed awake for four days in a row, consumed by worrying and wallowing. After ninety six hours without sleep, I was out of my mind. I visualized myself drowning peacefully in the hot tub. I was 22; I was afraid I’d never experience normalcy again. On my lunch break, I’d leave the ad agency, beeline it to my apartment, wrap a scarf or belt around my neck, and hang in my closet until I’d get panicky and lightheaded. No strangling. I’d turn on the oven and breathe in the fumes. But then I’d chicken out and take a stroll around Town Lake. No carbon monoxide poisoning. I realized later that my stove was electric anyway; I am such an idiot.

That day in California when I left my new media job unannounced, I drove from Safeway to Palo Alto. Stanford University. I parked in a vacant lot and walked around a soccer field. I sat down on the grass. I didn’t actually want to die; I just didn’t know what else to do. I was broke and broken. Professors and students emerged from distant buildings. Couples strolled arm-in-arm. Life went on all around me. I rose to my feet abruptly and drove home. Only it wasn’t my home. Since my lease had ended a month prior, I’d been couchsurfing. Unrooted. Now I was housesitting for a friend who was vacationing in Argentina. I deliberately left my phone and purse in my car. If I stopped too long to think about how my parents or friends would react, I would be overcome with guilt. I didn’t want to hurt them.

I did not relish in the fact that they would mourn me.

I turned on the bathtub faucet and stripped down to my bra and underwear. I swallowed twelve sleeping pills with big gulps of vodka and Dr. Pepper. I sunk into the steamy bath. Using my foot, I turned off the flow of water once it reached a sufficient depth. I ate the chocolate bar. My empty brown eyes did excrete some tear-like liquid, but my sobs were silent. I positioned myself facedown in the tub. I hoped death would happen painlessly, like drifting off to sleep.

I woke up, face up, in a pool of tepid bathwater, chunks of vomit floating around me. I was alive—and drunk. I staggered to my feet. It was four o’clock in the morning. I peeled my bra and underwear off, drained the tub, stepped back into the shower, rinsed myself with hot water, soap and shampoo, wrapped my body in a white towel and crawled into bed with my sopping hair. I fell back asleep, facedown, until 7:20 a.m. Still dazed and groggy from the pills, I somehow dressed myself and got in the car to go to work.

I fished my phone out of my purse. Seven missed calls, all from my mother. She’d uncharacteristically left three voicemails. I started the car but didn’t shift into gear. I called my mom and, between gasps and sobs, was able to form one sentence:

“I need to come home.”

That’s how I left California. That’s how I exited my lovely life on the West Coast. I then had the rare opportunity to recreate myself. To be born again. I didn’t think about my ex-boyfriend once when I was in the bathtub of doom. I thought of him incessantly upon my return to Texas. About us. About our perfect shattered future. And—Jesus Christ!—it was driving me mad.

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