settle for only one?
Any number of things have been warranted for driving men to offing
themselves. Sometimes the reasons "why" dont tell
nearly as much as the act itself. It may be a rare instance, since
"why" is known to be the foremost of the six questions,
but here is a case in point.
Pillows had been diagnosed with a form of social ineptitude. I
dont know the specifics, but it should suffice to say that
he had a payee. He received a monthly SSI check from the government
for his disability and the payee was responsible for dispersing
that money as he deemed necessary.
By the time I met Pillows, he had convinced his payee to direct
those checks toward keeping him alive on the Greyhound bus system.
He would purchase an Ameripass for the maximum allowable of 60 days,
then stop by Chicago on occasion to refuel with spending cash for
food. By the time I met him, he was well into his third month living
on the Greyhound.
We swapped stories as we sat together for the drive from Denver
to Fort Collins. His was the more interesting.
Pillows told me he once gave serious thought to the subject of
suicide, so serious that he developed a plan and commenced with
it in the full intention of completing the task. His chosen route
was suffocation. The experiment was spread through a series of a
couple days. He was vague on the exact number.
Pillows didnt always approach things with a full pre-developed
knowledge, but he did have a determination in the method of trial
and error that any scientist could learn to appreciate. So his first
experiment was with a paper bag.
I dont know if he actually expected the paper bag to fully
suffocate him when he was in the act, but I do believe he was going,
at least, for some level of unconsciousness. Of course, it was never
reached. The paper bag simply wasnt enough to stop the flow
of oxygen long enough.
The next step was plastic. Pillows pulled a plastic shopping bag
over his head, held the opening tight around his neck, and waited
for the air to run out.
The problem, he told me, existed in the minds instinct for
survival. He found it impossible to hold the bag in place once the
body recognized the danger. He could get as far as dizziness, get
to the point where everything becomes dark and fuzzy, but his hands
would always let go, and his inhales would always find breath.
He tried doubling the plastic bag, then tying it at his neck, but
the knot wouldnt become tight enough to cut off air completely.
Finally, he decided to use a belt.
I didnt think the belt would work. Its difficult to
get one to fit snugly around a persons neck, snug enough to
make a plastic bag airtight. But Pillows had a long neck, and the
second plastic bag was enough to restrict the passage of air.
Here, again, the minds instinct for self-preservation overrode
his attempt. Pillows found that, rather than simply passing out,
then eventually passing away, his body instead reacted with violence.
His hands, with a will of their own, tore at the plastic until it
was breached and the body could breathe again.
He tried the same experiment a second time, just in case he could
still reinforce his will long enough for the body to give, and I
marveled at such determination in a young man. If everyone pursued
their dreams as adamantly as Pillows, I imagine the world might
see a vast difference. Still, however, his desperate clawing fingers
broke through and his will was overcome.
Pillows thought a while after this last attempt. I think this is
where the extra day came in. He wasnt specific, but it sounded
as if a period of contemplation was resorted to and he didnt
return to his execution until the matter was given some thought.
The bodys impulse would have to be overcome somehow. Obviously,
plastic bags were not going to be enough. After some large amount
of deliberation, Pillows decided to try pillowcases. It is for this
brilliancy that I give him his name.
He began with the plastic bags, two of them, then followed that
up with two sturdy pillowcases, sealing it all with a tightly clasped
belt. He waited for the air to run out, relaxed himself for the
period of recycling carbon dioxide and nitrogen while his body used
up the remainder of oxygen held within the plastic bags. When the
familiar moment of panic occurred, he resisted it as long as his
strength would allow. Once his strength ran out, conscious control
of the will was gone. But he never lost consciousness. He told me
that everything from this point on was enacted with a crystalline
clarity. He may not have had control, but his senses never lost
that acute focus.
First it was the hands tearing at the cloth pillowcases. Nothing
gave. Then it was fingers griping the belt. The fingers tried to
tear the belt from the neck. In their panic, they couldnt
undo the clasp. It was too tight. They pulled at the cases, trying
to bring them through the belts grip. Here Pillows had prepared
well. That belt was not letting go.
With a third-person, omniscient view, Pillows watched his mind
at work. The mind visualized the room with a picture from memory.
This struck Pillows as odd since he had never had anything near
a photographic memory. But here the mind took over. In this picture
was a dresser. On the dresser was a pair of scissors.
Without hesitation, without even the least bit of fumbling, Pillows
right hand grabbed the scissors cleanly and his left pulled the
pillowcase taut. The right hand began stabbing with a fanatical
madness. When the pillowcases tore, it didnt stop. The right
hand stabbed its way through the plastic bags as the left hand clawed
them from his face.
I saw the scars left from those scissors. I think it is absolutely
fascinating what the human mind can do under duress. With a hundred
guesses, Pillows could never have told that those scissors were
on his dresser that moment, but his mind had no difficulty finding
them on its own. Also, Pillows chose suffocation because he didnt
have a tolerance for pain. It was simply not in him to stab himself.
But his mind overrode that inhibition.
Here is a case in which I found the "how" forever more
enlightening than the "why" that preceded it. Of course,
thats probably only because there are so many whys carried
within. Why settle for only one?