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Wednesday, July 16

Something Terrible Almost Happened Tonight

Suicide is like a virus - negative emotion ferries the contagion - irrespective of age, gender or financial stability; for god knows we none of us have our lives tastefully arranged on a silver platter these days (if indeed we ever did). I participated in the online rescue (for rescue I hope it was) - and I was reminded of an essay I wrote in remembrance of my sister. I'm posting it here - because maybe, just maybe - someone somewhere needs to stop what they're doing and look around. Life breathes. It there's a tomorrow - then there's a chance. I believe in that tomorrow.

A Tale Told by an Idiot

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

By William Shakespeare

It’s true, you know. Days do creep by in stunning anonymity, only to snuff themselves out in a brief flash of prescience before turning into dust. And it truly signifies not a god damned thing. We are born alone and we die alone – in the end, life offers up little more than that. Not much to recommend it – wouldn’t you say? And when exactly does life become simply about breathing? When there’s no sweetness left to serve as balm for interminable ennui? When every day looms as dark and dank as the one before? Life morphs into an absence of death – nothing more. It becomes that ‘walking shadow’ Shakespeare spoke about. How can that be preferable to blank nothingness?

So I look out into the whitewash of day and note how harsh the light is. No euphemistic glow, this – just heat bearing down like mountains – smog reflected, surrounding like sound. No direction, no pulse – summer’s heartbeat gone all flat and tinny. I am, I want, I wish, I need. I am tired. I want to be left alone. I wish I it would rain. I need a reason. People have children to gain purchase on immortality. In a hundred years some fractured version of their face will be staring back at itself in a mirror. Oh look – how like great-grandmama – same jaw, similar eyes – I am, I want, I wish, I need. I heard the other day that various geneticists had traced a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. Does this man now harbor the seeds of conquest? How ‘like’ is he? How ‘like’ are any of us really? So we share bars on a helix? Does that mean we pre-dispose ourselves toward one kind of behavior or another?

The weight that is the world can so easily overwhelm. Unfortunately – it is not possible to take a break. This is an all or nothing proposition – you’re either in or you’re out – as Heidi Klum so breezily puts it. 40 odd years ago my oldest sister opted for ‘out’, I’m afraid. I was 7 the summer she committed suicide. It was hot then too. I wasn’t told about it until I hit my teens. I just thought she’d left me. I was told that as well; that her absence was my fault – the result of my inherent ‘bad character’ – hers too. And I believed it – I believed it because my mother said it was true. Unstable they called her. Maybe she was. All I know is she was the only member of my family I loved and who loved me back. Red hair in a leopard print coat. More than 20 years my senior – she shone like a star – beautiful, warm. I’d wait at the window every Sunday for her to come see me; to come rescue me - until one Sunday I waited till dark and she never came. Her name became anathema in our house. I wasn’t allowed to speak of her – my mother pretended she had never been born. My brother used to encourage me to commit suicide also. He’d tell me the family discussed it – decided I was just ‘like’ her, and like her I needed to be dead. But death isn’t a reality show. There is no turning back. ‘Out’ is just that - ‘out’. And those genes she and I shared didn’t extend quite that far.

I’ve always wondered - what if she later decided she wanted to be ‘in’? That sudden burst of ennui - of depression - what if it passed moments later? What if she didn’t want to be dead? Her choice became irrevocable, I’m afraid. You can’t rent a timeshare on eternity. But what if you could? What if it were possible to shuffle off this mortal coil and suck up some of that oft touted and much desired peace? But only on the installment plan. Rent to buy, as it were; with a fully cancelable contract. I hereby revoke my former agreement on account of I don’t like being dead any more. Would there be some kind of penalty do you think? A forfeiture? Say – 10% of the rest of your life. Would that make any appreciable difference? Would Patricia come back to me? Put her arms around me and say, ‘Sorry, kid - I didn’t really mean it – leaving you all alone like that. It was just a mistake.’ You know - somehow I doubt it. Dead is dead – in any dimension. So goodbye sweet lady. I hope wherever you are – you finally found your peace.

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