Wednesday, August 24th, Mid-Morning

My mind has an amazing ability to be rational while behaving completely illogically all at the same time. Maybe it is that tug-of-war previously described. The battle between an emotional desire for death and a natural wiring for self-preservation. And maybe exemplified as powerfully as ever the morning when my thinking seemed to come completely unhinged.

I was ready to run. But how?

The simplest option was my vehicle though this carried a couple immediate downsides. First, highly traceable were anyone to actually start looking for me. Second, I didn’t trust myself. My most common form of suicide ideation has always involved a death while driving. Head on into a tree. Or the cement post holding up an overpass. Or maybe even other traffic. The problem being I wasn’t ready to die. Not just yet. I had some things I still needed to take care of. Important things. I needed more time.

Commercial flight was another option. With an active passport even flight out of the country. I knew this would cover the most distance the quickest. There is an airport in my hometown, and two larger ones roughly an hour away. Again, immediate downsides. In today’s age everyone would know when I got on, where I got on, and where I was getting off. I could run, but I couldn’t hide. And things would move way too fast. My plan was still unfolding.

Then it hit me. A train. Trains move slower. However, here was the greatest benefit…they stop. A lot. And as far as I knew, there would be no record of when I got off and didn’t get back on. Disappearance was totally within my grasp. So I got online and bought a train ticket. From the nearest Amtrak station, roughly 70 miles away, to somewhere in the state of Washington more than 2,000 miles away. I can’t even remember where.

I do remember that it would not leave until roughly 1:30 in the morning on Thursday (more than 14 hours later), would require one train transfer in Chicago, Il, and a second in Sacramento, CA far from where anyone would be looking for me. If I found the stamina and willpower to stay alive, I would be buying almost 60 hours to tie up loose ends, finalize any communications that were important to my peace of mind (an ironic thought, I know), and finally have achieved the isolation and distance necessary to end my life.

I purchased the ticket on a credit card that I was confident my wife had forgotten about, and even more confident she lacked the information to access online. I would later learn I was wrong on both accounts.

Almost three months later, the processing and logic seems all so clear. As if it was yesterday. It has not always been so. It wasn’t that day. It was almost as if all these thoughts took place in a hidden part of my mind and the actions simply followed. As if my desire to die couldn’t shut down the natural wiring to keep me alive. To buy time.

Getting on the train gave me a 12 hour goal to stay alive for. Being on the train gave me a 48 hour window of anonymity.  The self-preservation part of my brain won this tug of the rope. And in many ways pulled me into an almost trance like state that would dominate my psyche for the following day and a half.

Thursday, August 25th, 10 a.m.

He said my name. My legal name. A name I have never truly gone by for any extended period of time, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s still my name. So the natural reflex was to turn towards him. To make eye contact. It was a quick glance. I immediately turned back away. And immediately regretted having every looked.

I had seen him a few moments earlier. As I came off the Amtrak platform into Union Station he stood in the middle of three uniformed officers. They had an appearance that they were waiting for someone. For whatever reason, it never crossed my mind that I could be that someone. I was multiple states from home. I am a nobody. What could they possibly want with me. I merely kept my place in the masses, made the turn into Union Station, and headed to my left.

That is when I heard my name. That is when I made the turn. The glance. That is when my plan came to an end.

He called my name out a second time and I knew my options were few. I could run. I had more or less been running for the better part of 24 hours. However, the lack of food, liquids or sleep were clearly taking a toll on me. I could just act like I wasn’t the guy. Like I had just turned out of curiosity. But something told me they had already seen it in my eyes. That these were professionals, and they knew I was their man.

So instead, I turned to them and pleaded, “Seriously? Here? In front of everyone? You’re just going to embarrass me like this?” As if there was some form of embarrassment taking place in front of the passing throngs of people who wouldn’t know me from Adam…less a person or two who had been with me on that god forsaken train for the past 9 hours and might recognize and gawk.

“No. We don’t want to embarrass you. We just want to talk to you. We can go in here.” And they led me through some glass doors clearly etched with the words Amtrak Police Department. With full uniforms including badges, tasers and guns, they were daunting enough. Amtrak police have the full authority of local police. I was more or less dealing with Chicago Police officers. Chicago. Not Po-Dunk USA. Real cops in a major US city. And the only real thought going through my head was, “How am I ever going to kill myself now?”

They asked if I had any weapons on me. They asked if they could search my duffel bag. They asked if it was okay to contact my wife and let her know they had found me. They asked if I needed anything to eat…maybe some McDonald’s. I just stared. Stared off to nowhere. Because all I wanted was to go to sleep. And to never, ever wake up.