The Would-be Plan | Renee Soasey

First, there would be a clawfoot tub. This tub would live in a boutique hotel in an artsy boom town, the kind of town that was birthed by a lumber mill or a textile factory or some industry that sucked minerals out of Mother Nature’s teats. Those reasons for being would be long gone, so the town would serve up tee shirts and taffy or winery tours or outdoor adventures in ransacked nature.

This clawfoot tub in the small hotel would have a lovely view of mountains or ocean waves or pastoral rolling hills. The hot bathwater would steam with the fragrance of sea salts and essential oils. A bottle of wine would breathe on the windowsill next to a waiting goblet next to a waiting razor blade. The loved ones would have been spoken to, told how much they’re loved in a not-too-obvious-this-is-the-last-time-she’s-gonna-say-it way. They would think she’s on a getaway, a needed break from the routine.

This would certainly break the routine.

She would slide off the fluffy, white, boutique-hotel bathrobe and slide into this tub. Carefully. Old bodies are stiff and weak; bathtubs can be treacherous. The water would be so hot it would send a shiver up her spine. She would ease herself back, admire the view, take a few sips of wine. Then she would pick up the razor blade. Carefully. Old skin is tissue thin and easily cut by the most mundane objects: an envelope flap, the plastic edge of packaging. She would have doubled-up on Xanax to ensure the incessant mind chatter is mild and muffled, unable to interfere with the calm procedure she has planned. She would grip the razor blade between the thumb and forefinger of her right hand—wait a minute. Since she’s right-handed, it might be wiser to make the first cut with her left hand while all her faculties are functioning. She would switch hands, turn over her right palm, observe the few spidery veins crisscrossing the tendons that start at her wrist and disappear into the flesh midway up her forearm. The veins look far too inconsequential to produce enough flow. There’s some juicy-looking veins in the crook of her elbow. Wouldn’t that be a better place to start? That’s where the medical technicians draw blood. But she’s never heard of anyone slitting their inner elbows. She ponders the hushed tones at her would-be funeral: “They say she slit her inner elbows.” Ridiculous.

She knows if you’re serious about getting the job done, you slit lengthwise, not crosswise. Crosswise is for sissies, the ones who don’t really want to die but just want to be found. She wants to be found, but not until tomorrow morning by the hotel maid when it’s too late. She would feel sorry for the unsuspecting hotel maid. She was a hotel maid once, and every Friday she cleaned the room of the man who owned the local funeral parlor and lived in the hotel after he separated from his wife. It was eerie and sad in that room. Nothing ever changed from one Friday to the next: the position of the chairs at the side table, the little pile of coins on the dresser, the toothbrush next to the sink. He lived like a ghost in his own space. It gave her the creeps. And then one week she had Friday off, and the maid who went in to dust and vacuum and change the sheets found him hanging in the bathroom. It would have been her walking into the bathroom. It should have been her.

And now she would inflict that rude, unforgettable image on some innocent stranger just trying to put food on the table. She would feel bad. But a lot less bad than if she inflicted that image on whichever family member came to check on her when she didn’t answer the phone. Not to mention they would have to clean up the mess, scrubbing all that blood out of the tub and off the floor amid sobs of grief and anger. So there you have it: an innocent stranger must pay.

Back to this question of where to cut. She has low blood pressure. Maybe that’s why the veins at her wrists look so puny. They’re so puny she doesn’t think she can manage to cut one lengthwise. Of course, she’s far-sighted, so she can’t see details all that well. But her glasses would be on the nightstand by the bed, and even if she manages to get out of the tub and cross the tile floor without slipping and breaking a hip—she has osteoporosis; for frail white women with osteoporosis, breaking a hip is a death sentence—when she got back in the tub with her glasses they would steam up. She would be looking through a fog. Or a veil. Darkly.

There’s always the jugular. That would be a sure thing, except she’s not entirely sure where it is. She could feel for a pulse, but again, she has low blood pressure, so her pulse is hard to find. She could try slicing her neck with the razor blade and hope she hits something big, but what if she faints due to the pain and doesn’t cut a vein? That would be embarrassing. Although if she faints, she might sink and drown. That way there would be no mess to clean up. Kinder to the maid. But if her head falls back over the edge she would lay there, exposed and vulnerable, while the water gradually cools to chilly. If she spends hours in chilly water, she’s bound to get pneumonia. Pneumonia is a shit way to die, slowly choking on your bodily fluids while lying in a narrow hospital bed in a hideously green room, tubes intruding and extruding your flesh, whirring machines gnawing your ears and little fists of bleached decay pummeling your nose.

That would never do.

Renee Soasey is finishing a creative writing degree at Portland State University and has been published in Ekphrastic Review, Entropy Magazine, and Oregon Humanities Magazine. She keeps trying to live in an off-the-grid home in the middle of nowhere Oregon while trying to finish her memoir.