The Month of September is Suicide Prevention Month. I wrote this fictionalized piece in honor of the friends I’ve lost.
She was headed home from the store when she got the news you were gone, through a numb phone call from a family friend. There was a dead weight to the words as they slouched through the phone, as if your dying breath had been in service of giving the news. A new runner from Marathon with no good tidings to share.
She pulled over to the side of the road and looked up the last time you had sent her a text, a few days earlier. It was a .gif of a drag queen in full regalia, snapping her fingers and shouting “GUUUUUURL”. She wrote back YES. I miss you! and you wrote back Can we get together soon?
But with one thing and another, she hadn’t written back. She thought there was time. There had always been time.
She looked at that text, hard. She looked at it the way she looked at impossible things, with the hard, disbelieving eyes of someone already in the throes of mourning. In her back seat, the lacinato kale bunches were beginning to wilt in the May sunshine.
Still she sat, staring. Not comprehending.
When she finally made it home, driving slowly because her fingers were too numb to work the wheel, she got out of the car and spent about twenty minutes staring at the giant tree on her front lawn. It takes up most of the patch of grass at her house and was starting to near the end of its two-week cycle of blossom. The flowers had pooled in soft pink and fuschia puddles around its giant trunk. She looked at the sunlight as it shone in fragments through the leaves.
It was the kind of spring evening poets write about in earnest, the kind of rose gold light people yearn for in the dead of winter. She had fallen in love on a spring night not unlike that one. He had tentatively kissed her against the bumper of her Lexus, and then kissed her harder in the back seat. She had seen forever in his eyes.
Nothing lasts. Nothing holds. In those moments after your death she came close to the center of what it means to feel chaos in the soul.
She looked at that light coming through the leaves and hoped you were in it. That you were feeling that light now in ways you couldn’t here.
She spent a good deal of time that year thinking about you and turning over your loss in her head, rolling through it like a wave on a beach that has no choice but to come in every year and remind me that you’re not here.
Maybe you were tired of holding on and just wanted to let go. She will never understand people who say that this act is selfish, because it isn’t. We never know what’s going on in the mind of someone who has officially had enough.
Every once and a while, she’ll pull out that old text message from you and she’ll remember that sunny day when she stared at the leaves and wondered why even the smallest moments of light can’t penetrate the darkness.
You pop into her head when certain things happen, like when she falls in love or has her first child. Like when the trees get fuller and those flowers pool on the ground. The feeling of change and renewal. The feeling of what would happen if anything were possible. If the possible were allowed to birth the probable.
If you were still here.
We are bodies, shuffling aimlessly towards Calvary. Some of our bodies want to get there at a dead sprint.
Our souls continue on.
She sees your soul in everything. Thank you for your soul.