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September 9th, 2010 - Robert Thomas Atwood

The sweet surrender of self-deletion: I diverted the exhaust fumes from my automobile into the cab of my 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. I had spent weeks researching the quickest ways to go, the most pain-free way. I researched how to make it look like an accident so my family could collect the insurance money. I didn’t want to die, and the thought of driving my car Old Betty in front of a train seemed horrifying—besides, she was a perfectly good car. I just wanted the pain and the depression and the feelings of inadequacy to stop. I was tired, but sleep eluded me. “Not too much longer,” I thought to myself.

I had written a note—even labeled it “Suicidal Asphyxiation by Inhalation of Automobile Emissions.” I left it on the counter for my wife to find. I went to the car and allowed carbon monoxide to fill the chamber of my entire existence.

But Old Betty ran out of gas. I couldn’t even get suicide right. Instead, I lost consciousness and woke up in a long-term inpatient psychiatric care facility.


Nearly 80% of our heavier elements come from supernovas. Metals such as chromium, cadmium, iron, and even lead, all created at the moment of destruction. These metals, all found in my anti-psychotic medications, came from the fusion of hydrogen and helium.

I worry about how, for me to take medication now, a star had to die in the distant past. Sometimes I stare at stars in hopes that, if I stare hard enough, they won’t go supernova. I find myself worrying about the planets a cosmic explosion could destroy, trillions of lives snuffed out in the blink of an eye. I wonder about their civilizations. I wonder about their likes and desires. I worry about their wars. Is a supernova and total destruction the only way to bring about peace? What if I could travel there and somehow get them to talk to each other, teach them to love each other as I have loved them from afar? I will never meet them. I will never learn their names or the names of their children. Instead, I hear the screams of the trillions as I take my pills.

Swallowing nightly star dust brings a lot of ambivalence. Though cosmic explosions are at the back of my mind, I also rejoice that I carry these civilizations with me everywhere I go, how, every time I take supernova pills, I am honoring their memories. This very fantastical scope of emotions also makes me wonder exactly how well the medications are working.

Even still, I continue to swallow tiny bits of star dust. It’s a strange feeling to hold the amazing power of a supernova in your hands every night. Then down the black hole they go.

Outside, I notice stars fading, a dimness so low as if it iwasn’t there are all. I can see the star if I squint, but barely. There’s a part of me that connects dimming stars to the pills I am prescribed. Another part reminds me the star exploded long ago. Perhaps the star dust I consume tonight is from a star I tried to save. I swallow the memories of hydrogen and helium and mourn the trillions of lives that I couldn’t save.

l still struggle with depression and suicidal ideations, but I am no longer afraid or ashamed to talk about it. Talking about my pain has given me an important outlet. It has opened up a whole new world of people who love and care about me. I live life moment to moment, one supernova at a time.


Robert Thomas Atwood is a line-editor for Typically Unusual Magazine, and a contributing editor for Girls, Inc. His work can be found in publications such as: Amoskeag Journal, Insight, The Skinny Poetry Journal, Alaskan Review, and Taps Magazine. After a parachute accident ended his military career, Robert studied at Southern New Hampshire University where he earned an MFA in Fiction. He is currently an MFA Nonfiction candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Robert lives in New Hampshire with his wife Katie and their children.


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