Last Exit on the Left

I keep my wounds without a bandage.

I spent the larger part of this weekend at a funeral in upstate New York. A friend of mine killed himself earlier this week. I spent a lot of time in the car, listening to Get Hurt and watching the exits roll by. Moving between destinations and trying to occupy my mind with thoughts outside of grief, disbelief and rage.

My friend sat next to me at work. For more than a year I spent the majority of my time within five feet of him. I saw him more often than I saw my girlfriend, my family, and my dog. Combined. We ate lunch together most days, went to the gym, and did a daily walk around the city where we worked. And we talked. About everything. Everything except what was apparently going on under the surface.

Why don’t you lean on me for a while?

It’s a sad pattern with depression that no one notices it; that the person being crushed under the weight of it can mask the pain so completely; that they don’t speak up except in a last letter home.

It didn’t seem real. He was 30. Healthy. Strong. Handsome. Endlessly kind and larger than life. We cried at the closed casket. We laughed at the old stories. We stumbled back to the hotel. We tried to lean on each other for support, but our legs were shaky and unstable. We slept little and woke early.

Come on and grieve for my disease.

I got to the funeral alone. I sat in an empty pew. I listened to Catholic platitudes that rang hollower than I remembered. I suppressed tears and smiled at the fragments of stories that drifted into my head. They sang “Be Not Afraid” and I broke in half. The weight of realization. This was reality in all its cruel, malicious brutality. Its senselessness and unanswerable questions. Its pain. Sharp and piercing. Dull and lingering.

Be not afraid. Not me. I’m shaking with terror and grief. I’m crying and my body’s convulsing and there’s hands on my shoulder, trying to help but I’m a million miles away.

And nobody knows what trouble I’m in. Ain’t that a shame?

They refer to it as “Darkness;” this nebulous entity that can’t be held, or pinned, or defined, or understood. Its incredible ability to consume. Slowly or immediately. Encroaching “Darkness.” It lived in the biggest, most boisterous, sweetest, most genuine human being I ever met. It lives in all of us. It lives in me. We go to these Dark Places to try and shine a light on it. But the Darkness returns whenever the light recedes. It’s always there.

Every little moment of doubt is another stone. I watched this man bench-press over 300 pounds. I saw him lift over 400 pounds off the ground. There didn’t seem to be a weight he couldn’t move. And finding him crushed under this other weight, immovable… goddammit.

Me? I’m a tomb. Just a corpse in a suit, trying to look a little alive.

It was a long drive home. I thought about my parents and my puppy waiting for me at the other end. I thought about the road. I thought about the Exit. I thought about the brakes that needed fixing, the house that need cleaning, the laundry that needed to be done, the errands that needed to be run. I thought about the weight. I thought about the Darkness. I thought about the fragility of mortality. I thought about how anyone could be next, because fuck if you can tell what’s going on inside someone even when they’re standing right fucking next to you every damn day.

If I had known you were going to jump, I would’ve tried to catch you. All the times I spotted for you; all you had to do was ask and I would’ve helped you lift this weight, too.

I’m so sorry. I’m so very, very sorry.

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National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

 

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