The Ones You Least Suspect

January 30, 2008 at 1:17 pm (That's not funny...)

It’s sometimes hard to keep a stiff upper lip in these dark days of winter. It seems the sun will never come back, and with the post-holiday letdown a lot of folks get depressed.

I bring this up because I know of four people that have committed suicide this month. Friends of friends. A retired bus driver. One was a regular customer. While they are all sad, this one hit home.

He was a youngster at heart, a part of the local nightlife where I work. He held his 37 years well, seemed to be in good health, and, at least until recently, had a gorgeous girl in his life. While he wasn’t outgoing or gregarious, he was pleasant and not at all bothersome, as some of my regulars can be. He always got a hello, whether he was shopping or tossing fifty cents on the counter for a cheap brownie. I saw him and his girl almost nightly.

I got the feeling that things had changed between them over the last few months. He was still around, and I’d see her, usually with a couple of her artist girlfriends. They had a loft above the store, and I was like their kitchen. I kept them in beer, cigs and microwave sandwiches on their late-night adventures. Then, a couple of weeks ago, they all stopped coming in.

I heard from a local that someone had hung himself upstairs earlier this month. The description was spot on, except for the age, so I hoped against hope, but had a sick feeling in my gut. The girls had disappeared, so I couldn’t ask them.

Then, as I was reading the obituaries the other day, I saw it. It was all there; bike messenger, artist, etc… The birthday gave it away. I’d carded him for beer numerous times, and his birthday was a familiar one. His ID was from Maryland. The suicide was a Baltimore transplant. Damn.

The girls are nowhere to be found. Who can blame them? He made sure to do it where it would make the biggest statement: Here I am! See what you made me do? Sadly, his mission will be accomplished. While his pain, and I’m sure it was unbearable, is gone, those left behind will suffer indefinitely.

The girls will never walk our block again without thinking of it. Even those like me, who spent maybe five minutes a week with him, will hurt, because it was such a waste. Nothing would make me happier right now than to have him walk into the store and announce, “I’ve been back east for a couple weeks! Miss me?” I would give him a most awkward hug.

But that’s not gonna happen. He’s gone, game over. You don’t get another quarter.

There was a time in my youth I thought about ending it all. After a traumatic episode with my ex-wife, in a fit of drunkenness, I almost did it. But I made a wise decision. If, the next morning, I felt the same despondency sober that I felt that night, I would do it.

But it wasn’t going to be a drunk decision.

I woke up with a horrible hangover, and it was great! I reveled in my misery. Life may suck, but it was my life, and I’d been living under a cloud of religion-induced gloom for so long that I decided to fight. I would begin to live every day as though it were my last, and if my life were to end, I’d be comfortable knowing at least I tried to make it work.

I did live like every day was my last. I got drunk, did whatever drugs felt good, made poor sexual choices sometimes. I vowed to try not to hurt others, and maybe even make them smile if I could. It worked for me pretty well, until age 35, when hard living caught up to me. During the hospital episode it dawned on me that I may be committing slow suicide, which went against my beliefs. So I decided a healthy me could have way more fun, and I’ve curbed my bad habits considerably since them.

I think back to all the fun I’ve had since then. Of all the wonderful people I’ve met. Relationships with girls way out of my league. I’ve watched little people grow into fine young adults. I’m about to become a granddad. I’ve earned these gray hairs. Had I ended it all, my legacy would be a dark cloud, with the underlying hate and disappointment carrying me into the afterlife, whatever that may be.

So if life has you blue, hug someone. TALK TO SOMEONE. If you are all alone, call the suicide hotline. They do care.

Life does get better. I’m living, breathing, typing proof. Offing yourself will hurt many people, people who love you, people who will be angry when they miss you. Remember, somebody cares. Someone who may not even know you. (I’m writing this depressing missive in my fun time before work, so I must care, don’cha think?)

So now I’m going to take a cold shower, put on my game face and try to be a little nicer to the quiet people tonight. If I ask “How’s it going?” and you feel like dumping on me (verbally), go for it. I’m getting paid…

I say it and I mean it. Have a nice day.

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