“What words are good enough to convince someone not to kill themselves?”
Shit. That’s how I started – with shit.
My jaw was raw when the words slipped out. One by one, they stumbled, tripping over the syllables of another. I stuttered. I coughed. I waited in silence for the echo to fade. Silence waited for me to speak again.
It was a Friday; I think it had to be. A Friday like this could only exist in the summer when the night rolled onto day and day moved into night and one could be awake to witness the limbo of it all, the red then yellow then gray then black then red again.
I found myself in this black waiting for the living sun to lick my skin. As I stood there in the silence of the night – the creeping and creaking of the house, the tap, tap, tapping that never seemed to shut off, and the thoughts burrowing and sliding and slipping in my head – I was hoping that a bit of the red would brush off and colour me. I was hoping for change.
A single, artificial light was all I had. It spread between us, golden rays shone towards the ceiling. Dust danced in the spotlight, moving slowly, carefully, gracefully for anyone who cared to look. My fingers ached. My eyes shook. And a golden roar of electricity spoke all the words I couldn’t and hadn’t since when I was younger. A shadow in the air, a ballerina who couldn’t get down, blocked much of the illumination.
My mind wandered and I thought again about the sun. This summer I was darker than all those previous. From white to pink to brown, I had become tender flesh and bones and fat, and in a way, it was funny: I was a meat slowly cooked and on that day I was to be cut, spread, and eaten alive.
If I could’ve laughed I would’ve. Maybe I should’ve. Instead eyes as wide as dinner plates looked at me from above. A chair laughed for the two of us.
I try to open myself up. One word quakes in my throat but it dwindles there. My tongue wiggles trying to find another. I hunt all the words I know but they don’t seem fitting. So instead, I say all that can be said during the end of the world; I say, “Shit” and like the cliché says about poop and walls, I wait until the words stick to either of us.
The lamp continues to purr. My skin still tingles. I look to my fingers and they are more battered than I remember. The skin on my cuticles is tattered and flayed; they hurt to touch. A few scabs bite the edges of my nails. Blood paints a finger. I must’ve picked off a patch of dead flesh when I walked in.
The blood interests me and I look at it as if I haven’t seen it before. As far as I can tell, I haven’t. I hadn’t really bled until that day because only then, when the blood continued to drip from a worn, healing injury, did I notice that I had died sometime in between the start of the day and where I was right then.
I was dead.
My heart still beat and my brain still thought – hell I wrote this after all – but I was no longer alive. I was kaput. Gone. No more. What was left the lingering smell of shit – my words, myself, and everything else in front of me – after the toilet had already flushed.
I look back to that night and I know I can say that it sometimes takes the life of one person to save the life of another. I can try to argue that I died in order to preserve the sanctity of my life. I can say a whole lot of shit. God knows I did. That’s how it all started.
But I won’t. I’ll say that I died because I had to, because after the eyes stepped down from the comedian chair, after they looked at me again, and after they looked back at the chair to see if it was still laughing, there was no life again. There was no going back. A world had been destroyed. A universe had collapsed. And everything had perished, everything except for us of course.
So how do you tell someone not to kill themselves?
You tell them that they are your hero even if they are drowning in the open air. You show them the world that perished the moment they tried to. You show them how you did too. You hold their hand as they step off the chair. You try not to shake. You try to balance for the both of you. You look at them, see yourself, and hope they do too. You say what you can even if it is shit because sometimes, that’s enough, sometimes, its all there is, and sometimes, in those rare instances where the day blurs with the night and you find yourself awake wondering where everything went, yourself included, shit is golden.