My Unit and I enjoyed a nice, relatively quiet 4th of July yesterday. We worked on the house, going through the pile of items my parents brought with them 3 weeks ago ("you might need it!"). That took a couple of hours, complete with smoke/drink breaks. We tried (semi-successfully) to use our new charcoal grill (note to self: I am far too impatient for this charcoal nonsense; I miss my gas grill).
There were loud booms of fireworks, but it was so incredibly different from the city. Instead of a barrage of sounds for three days straight, at all times of day and night, things mostly started after 8 p.m. And yes, they were loud -- bigger, more professional grade pyrotechnics -- but also farther away. No one was shooting them right outside our house or in the dumpster in the alley. Our dogs didn't like the noises, of course, but it was much more manageable. Not the 75+ pounds of shaking, panting dogs like before. That was a nice change.
And now it's July 5th. I'm back at work. And it's been one year. Sometime during this day, one year ago, you went ahead and decided to pull the trigger. Literally. I don't know if it was during the morning (those are hardest for me) or during the night (those were hardest for you) or sometime in between, when you crawled into your bathtub, pulled the shower curtain closed, and put a pistol in your mouth. Pulling the curtain closed was so you; it minimized the mess for those who had to clean up afterward. Considerate to the very end. They told me you even left your laptop and cell phone on the office desk, passwords and things all organized and easily accessible. This was no rash act; you had planned.
I wouldn't find any of this out until late at night on the 6th. I had gone to bed ridiculously early because I was worn out from a doctor's appointment and blood draw earlier in the day. My phone kept going off, so finally, by around 10:30 p.m. I said, "What?!??" to my phone and looked at it. Looked at the flood of messages. "Do you know yet?"
"Are you okay?"
"Oh my God."
It took some scrolling to get to the heart of the matter, and I went cold with shock. Then I had to go to the living room, wake my sleeping Unit on the couch, and in a state of half-asleep, tell her that you had killed yourself. That you were gone. And she cried out -- literally cried out -- "Noooo!" in a high-pitched tone that she rarely uses because it's completely unfiltered emotion, almost keening.
And I just sat on the bed and stared later while she cried. "Why aren't you crying??" she asked me. I couldn't. Just shock. I couldn't even mourn until the next afternoon (July 7th). I made an emergency visit with my therapist and just sobbed on her couch. "I don't know what to do with this!" I said.
And I didn't.
Sometimes I still don't.
I don't know how to handle the weight of this information, the raw emotional burden of this act of violence, of desperation, of finality. Do I talk about it? Do I hold it close? "What am I supposed to do?" I kept saying over and over again.
I still don't know.
My therapist asked, in terms of "doing something," were there other people who might be affected that I might want to reach out to? "Are any of your friends a suicide risk?"
"Well, according to the messages I've been getting, it's me," I said with a tearful laugh. Gallows humor.
Thank you to the handful of people who texted me personally during the aftermath. "Are you okay?" and "How are you doing?" are code for "checking in on you." And I greatly appreciate it. One of the major triggers for suicides is...other suicides. So I know what you were doing, and I appreciate it more than I can adequately say. You know who are you.
I am not the spokesperson for depression, mental health, and/or suicide attempts. Not really. It's a burden I bear relatively quietly; transparency is all good in theory, but I don't do it a lot of it in real life. But it's here. It's me. Hello, my name is Leonard, and I'm mentally ill.
The evening of the 7th a handful of us closest would gather near, drink wine, and read over the statement to be released about your death. And I cried reading it aloud, but I was so very grateful that it acknowledged everything that had happened. It needed to be said aloud.
And then we heard the entire story, the process over three days of what had happened. No gratuitous, gory details; just the facts, ma'am, hard, cold, horrible facts. I needed to hear them. I requested to know the details; I needed to know to make sense of it all, and GFB obliged.
There would be more crying; not quite as much drinking as I would have imagined. And then, exactly one week later, a tree would destroy my house, nearly kill my Unit, and our lives would be uprooted and changed, again, forever. Was that you? I often wonder. You knew how we felt about living in the city.
And another week after that, six of us would get covered in sweat and dirt and dust while completely cleaning out your apartment.
Sometimes it's like you're not really gone. You still show up on m "On This Day" on Facebook: your posts with jokes about grammar and cats and knitting. I still remember your last text to me ("Fabulous job tonight, as always! Thanks for all you do," after last year's theatre crawl). And I swear, I could have rounded the corner into the office next to the dressing room just the other week and found you there, typing away. But you weren't.
I said hello to you anyway, just in case.
One year. 525,600 minutes (thanks for counting, Rent!). I don't have anything profound to say.