Cut Me to the Quick

Cut Me To The Quick

We gathered all the prescriptions in the house. Robert bought a lockable file cabinet which we put it in our walk-in closet, storing the drugs there. Even veterinary medicine. Tylenol and Advil as well. No guns in the house to fret over. Robert and I don’t drink so we didn’t worry about booze. Alcohol, drugs, would we need to lock Emery in her room? Should we buy a baby monitor? These are the questions you ask yourself after your child tries to commit suicide.

Anyway, we locked up all the medication. We were taking Emery to counseling every other day. Well, honestly, we were all in counseling; it wasn’t just for her. We were all broken. Even Harvey, the cat, could sense the discord. He had never been a snuggly, but those days, every time someone sat down, Harvey jumped onto their lap. It’s true of course; petting a cat greatly reduces anxiety. We watched Emery’s face as Harvey burrowed next to her on the sofa. Each time she stroked his fur, we hoped to see the smile our child used to radiantly bestow so freely. We hoped Harvey’s unconditional love could coax our sweet Em to return to us. Robert and I agreed that if she went back to college, she should get an apartment, one that allowed pets. She couldn’t take Harvey though; I needed him. We would get her a cat of her own.

It didn’t come to that. Emery wouldn’t return to college. We had thought about the obvious vices. We even took away her hair dryer, afraid she might bathe with it. We just never thought about the knives.

It was terrifying. Walking into the kitchen and finding Emery seated at the table, every knife we owned laid out before her. I dropped my coffee, the mug shattering. I remembered thinking I would never drink coffee again, that the taste, the burnt velvet of it, would never be the same.

What happened next though – how could I have ever been prepared? Months of counseling and pleading. All the conversations with her therapist about finding a purpose, developing an interest. The sleepless nights. The mornings Robert and I would wake only to discover we had shared the same hopeless dreams in which we asked ourselves how our bright, engaged girl had dimmed her own light so low.

Emery picked up the paring knife and my child, my only child, my daughter, my life’s work; she looked at me saying, this is the one I will start with. I will peel the apples with this one. I’ve been watching YouTube videos and you need killer knife skills to embark on a culinary career.

That moment. I relive it all the time. At night when I lie next to Robert in bed. Mornings when I drink my coffee, absentmindedly stroking Harvey’s coat. That autumn, as friends plied their cars with secondhand furniture, suitcases, bundling their children off to campuses. Our first visit to New York, when Em became sous chef at Coteau. With each forkful of silken tagliatelle or rich gribiche she makes for us when she visits. That moment when the glint of a steel knife reflected in my daughter’s eyes, and I recognized the flicker of redemption.

A version of this piece appears in Passengers. I am honored they chose to publish this piece. Please visit to hear an excellent reading by the talented John E. Brady.

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