You’re pissed. That’s the first thing.
A few weeks ago a guy we used to go clubbing with, killed himself. I found out on Facebook.
Unfortunately, he’s not the first person I’ve known who has committed suicide. I lost a mentor. A cousin. A close friend. A lover. And I knew these people were troubled. I just didn’t know they were that bad.
You’re always pissed. You’re pissed at yourself for holding back on them. You ignored that last call, you saw that last cryptic message they posted and you were too into yourself for that couple of seconds to push yourself into asking them what was wrong.
It’s narcissistic to think you can save someone. Especially when no one else could. But you sit there inside your head wondering if any piece of your limited wisdom could have been offered up in just the right way.
All the good times run through your brain. Not the bad ones. People are like, no, don’t speak ill of the dead. They can’t defend themselves. But that’s not the reason. You don’t speak ill of your friend because when you remember the good and forget the bad, in a way it’s like you’re giving them a better life than life did.
You’re pissed at your friend too. They took themselves away from you. No matter how close you were or how not close, there was some little link you had on this planet that made this one person matter to you.
Although people phase in and out of each other’s lives, no one clicks with you in exactly the same way anyone else does. Like a one-of-a-kind DNA sequence. And this one’s broken. Forever. Maybe things would have changed between you. For the better. But now they never will.
Five years ago Alistair crashed his car into a tree. We didn’t know if it was intentional. Everyone was talking about it and I reached out to his friends, who’d never had much good to say about me. He was going to come see me again. Fuck you Alistair, I thought when I saw his memorial group. I should have known you’d let me down.
You learn things you never knew about your friend. Especially at the funeral. Other people saw a different human being in your friend than you did. It’s interesting. And ironic. And sad. You know someone better once they die than you did when they were alive.
Everyone’s perceptions of your friend get hashed out and pieced together, the stories fused into a kind of Frankenstein memorial version of your friend. You talk and talk and talk to people you couldn’t give two shits about otherwise. Because every time you share your feelings about your friend it might make them a little less dead.
You feel guilty when it doesn’t hurt anymore. Because now they really are gone.
Did you ever notice how it’s the larger-than-life personalities who kill themselves? It’s always those people who subtly or overtly take up more importance around them than other people know how to claim. That makes death less scary, less alien. If it was good enough for such an indispensable person before their story was over, then it’s good enough for you.
After Alistair died, I went to the bar and got drunk as shit and the room was spinning, Someone drove me past the tree on the way home. It was raining hard, so hard that his car really could have hydroplaned.
The streetlights blurred the water on the road like a Gogh painting. I watched it, part of me wanting to learn what he learned when he collided. For those first few days the line between life and death is so close it feels bridgeable.
Alistair’s death caused a spectacle in town. I was proud. He deserved it. Nothing less would do. But I was also jealous. There were like three hundred people at his funeral. You’d be jealous too. You’d wonder, how many people would mourn you? How many sad, empty people do you need to leave behind to justify your existence? You resolve to touch more lives than you have so far and you hope you can sustain that drive.
My friend Vala’s death had less fanfare. It made me angry. Why do some people seem to matter more than others? What missteps do you have to take so that few people care that you’re gone? I loathed every evil cunt out there with a better life than she’d had.
Good people fuck up. They’re not always loved. Sometimes they don’t treat people well during their spiral and everyone who’s less patient than you are falls away. There’s little justice in the world. One false two-second step; a few days of feeling hopeless and you’re gone. You feel terrified and alone in this world where, biologically at least, there is very little forgiveness.
You want to give your friend’s life meaning. If there’s no meaning in life, which it seems there isn’t – seeing as it can be so carelessly snuffed out – you have to give it meaning. You will never understand that better than now.
You think of all the things your friend will never get to do. You think of all the things you’re scared of, all the people you don’t want to laugh at you, and all the ways you don’t want to look lame in front of people who have it all figured out much better than you do.
You envied your friend. They were huge. Now they’re dead. You’ll never know how much unspeakable pain someone else might be going through. You’re less scared of people now that you know that.
Everyone is human and fallible and we’re all going to end up in the same place. You’re not there yet. You have vitality. And hope. Your friend’s death made you feel more alive than you did before. But you know that feeling will fade. Things will go back to normal.
Don’t let them. Don’t forget this. You are fucking alive. Don’t be fucking scared to give it meaning. Take your fears and your paranoia and everything you don’t want to try for fear of failure and smash it with a ten ton sledgehammer.
Celebrate the fact that you are completely in control of your thoughts. Your self-awareness. Understand your desires. Complete things. Everyone, everyone could be so much more than they are if they weren’t so fucking scared.
Don’t be scared.