I debated writing this.
I considered not posting an installment of “Midol” at all this week, but I made a commitment to myself when I started this series to adhere to a weekly deadline and to write honestly. If I couldn’t do that, then there was really no point.
I had a couple of ideas for a topic bouncing around in my head that I’d been considering since earlier in the week, but the words weren’t coming. I knew why. I didn’t want to write about those ideas anymore. Knowing what I truly wanted to write, I still hesitated for fear that it would be uncouth somehow to write about tragedy so soon. And yet, here I am, writing about suicide.
The Fiancé and I just lost a friend to suicide. We found out about it through Facebook, so when we first saw the “Rest in Peace” messages, denial naturally kicked in and we assumed, or more accurately, hoped that it was a really bad joke. But as the moments ticked by, and posts went up and calls got made, it became more and more evident that it was not, in fact, a joke and that Our Friend had taken his own life.
Our Friend and I hadn’t been all that close. We’d hung out and talked a few times and I certainly liked and respected him, but we didn’t call each other to talk about our day or anything like that. The Fiancé was closer to him as they’d been fraternity brothers, and of course, still are. But I know I owe one of the most significant moments of my adult life to Our Friend.
The night I met Our Friend was the night I met The Fiancé. Little did I know, while I was up in my apartment getting dressed to go run and play in the nastiest thunderstorm of the summer, that just across the street Our Friend was running around the fraternity house looking to see if some of the guys wanted to go and do the same thing. The Fiancé was one of the guys to take Our Friend up on the offer and I met them only moments later. It’s a story we love to tell, and Our Friend will always be a part of it.
So there we were, in front of our computers trying to wrap our heads around what happened. Finding out that a friend just jumped off of a parking garage put a hiccup in our ability to think. We collected ourselves and decided that the most logical course of action at that point was to pack up and make a trip back to the town I call home.
My hometown is a college town. I went to school there. The Fiancé went to school there. A whole lot of people went and continue to go to school there. I just happen to have really lived there too. The town, being a college town for a party school, has its concerns about the amount of drinking that happens. A kid getting drunk and falling off of or out of someplace is not necessarily a common occurrence, but it or something like it happens often enough that we had a very rational fear that Our Friend was going to be written off as “another drunken college kid” and would forever be portrayed as such. After all, we were convinced that he had to have been drinking. We knew he had been out earlier in the evening, and we just couldn’t fathom that someone, anyone could jump to his death without having had a drink.
I cannot speak for The Fiancé, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the blow of hearing that Our Friend was absolutely sober at the time; that the tests had come back and he was clear. We knew he didn’t just fall; that he’d done it on purpose, but finding out that he had been sober at the time chilled me.
A friend and I were talking about it and commenting on the fact that depression is a beast of a demon and unless a person has fought it, there’s no way to really understand it. And that’s when the question occurred to me. Was it scarier to me because of the degree to which I could understand or the degree to which I clearly couldn’t understand at all? I have been through serious depression. In fact, Our Friend and I had a doctor in common; a shrink I didn’t particularly like. That said, I have been to some very dark places in my life; places I don’t ever want to go again. But no matter how dark and desperate it seemed, it was never dark enough for me to truly consider jumping off of the parking garage. I thought about it once or twice. I even indulged in a morbid fantasy or two about it. But in all of my darkness, suicide was never something I truly considered a viable option. I cannot imagine how much pain Our Friend must have been feeling to have gone through with it. I can’t stop thinking about the desperation in that moment or the final thought that tipped the scales in favor of death rather than life.
And of course, in situations like these, we all try to think about what might have changed it. In more than one moment of anger, I thought back to that doctor. I indulged the thought that maybe if Our Friend had been treated like a patient rather than a business opportunity, things might have been different. But then, people do tend to look for someone or something to blame when tragedy strikes whether blame is due or not.
The bottom line? Is there one? I suppose if I had to choose a bottom line it would be that Our Friend is dead because he was in pain; a pain I hope I never have to feel, a pain I pray to never have to truly understand, a pain I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I am so sorry that he had to feel it.
I searched for a way to end this piece. As a writer, I like to have a distinct end. But an end seems wrong somehow. How do you sum up a person’s life? Will the words I choose do anything to comfort his family or ease the pain of his friends? Ending a piece eloquently won’t bring him back. It seems more appropriate to end this piece abruptly, in essence, too soon.