[Trigger warning: suicide]
I received a text message from my dad 2 months ago:
Dad: “Do you remember Shawn (lastname)?”
“Of course I do”, I thought. Shawn and I lived together as roommates for a few years. We met in high school. We picked up odd jobs together with my dad, who is a general contractor. We screwed together. Not like that. Like this:
Of course I remember Shawn, Dad. Then I thought: “Why is he asking if I remember Shawn?”
I haven’t talked to Shawn much in the last two years. Maybe dad bumped into him at a store. Maybe he was in the news. I hoped he wouldn’t tell me what I feared.
Dad: “He killed himself.”
I didn’t feel stunned. I thought, “that figures.”
Of all the ways for Shawn to die, this way sat at the top of the list of probable causes.
Over the next few days, I thought about him a lot. I wondered why I wasn’t upset. I felt nothing – the way you feel when read the news and some celebrity you’ve never heard of has died – you might feel a pang of sympathy, but don’t cry. If you dwell on death at all, you don’t think of the bereaved – you relate by thinking of your friends and family and how you might react if they died.
I started to wonder why I wasn’t upset.
Shawn was one of those guys who was a great friend but a bad roommate. He was a fiercely loyal friend and would basically travel to the end of the earth to defend you. We had tons of fun together. One winter while we were both unemployed, we invented a gamed called “unemployment ball”. The rules: sit at opposite ends of the house on the floor. Bounce a ball back and forth to each other. After the first bounce, your partner has to close his or her eyes and try to catch the ball, using only the sound of the ball as tour guide. Another time, we were driving back from a friend’s house when we spotted an orange a-frame traffic barriers assembled in the middle of the road. I said, “I want that.” He said, “stop the car”, got out and put it in my backseat. I have tons of these stories of him. I also have stories of him threatening to throw my friend’s dulcimer down the stairs if she didn’t move it out of the living room.
Once, we made a pact together: in the dim light of his bedroom, cuddling together, we promised to call each before taking action to kill ourselves. The dude had a lot of issues with anger, depression, loneliness, employment, parents, and relationships. His family has a history of suicide.
I felt angry that he broke his promise. I called him a bastard and a fucker. I was angry at him for taking himself away from me. Angry at myself for not calling more, inviting him over, making him more a part of my life. I felt sad that his life got so bad he needed to make it stop. I miss him. I keep remembering events from our lives that feel long forgotten and buried.
I decided at some point that I am being selfish. Being angry at him is the wrong choice. Who am I to say that he didn’t make the right decision? He probably wanted everything to stop – and everything stopped. I’m glad he is no longer tormented.
I forgive him, but here’s the thing: There is no one to forgive. There is no one to be angry at. When I talk to him, I’m not talking to anybody. He isn’t listening. I’m just listening to myself.
I may as well be trying to ascend the stairs of a razed building.