Skip to content

How Far One Can Go | 2009 | Thanks Having

11.13.09 2:54 p.m.

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live.  

-Norman Cousins


The Other Option


"I'd rather be her best friend," Melanie says after I shut the door. "That Melissa is pretty cool."

Melissa had come over partly to reassure that she still cared about me and that we were friends, despite the edicts of her sickness, but mostly because she was freaking out (in part because of a justified fight with an inadequate guy) and didn't want to be alone. "Rather than what?" I ask Melanie.

"Rather than Melissa killing herself."

I was not certain before this comment that Melanie had heard Melissa say that she was worried that she would go home and do something regrettable, as Melanie had been typing an email to a professor and seemed focused. (I asked Melissa if her roommate would be home and, though Melissa said she wouldn't wake Krista if she decided to end her life, she would be home.)

Before she left, I suggested that Melissa think of self-destruction as the other option rather than something she would eventually be forced to do. In college, I had a friend who had suicidal thoughts frequently. She eventually controlled these by making them an odd motivator. She could have breakfast or she could cut her wrists. She could go to class or she could drink bleach. She could go on a first date or she could take all the pills in the medicine cabinet. Everything, all the little daily dreads that weighed her down, became optional. If just out of curiosity, she kept going, kept choosing not to end it, until finally she ceased to need suicide as a crutch.

On the hand, I also had a friend in college who, after pestering all of his friends with suicide attempts, finally shut up about it and was found hung by a bedsheet after a party. Melissa, too, had a friend who ended his life before hitting twenty. For some, this other option never abates until it finally becomes the only option.

Melissa is now in intensive, out-patient therapy (which doesn't involve coloring as a psychological distraction). Today is Friday and she lamented her homework for the weekend, to go somewhere public on her own and count how often she thinks about suicide. She acted as though it were a forgone conclusion that she would blow it off and I let this be, as there are clearly bigger fish to fry.

Using a twisted logic, one can almost see why suicide seems reasonable. Melissa has hated and currently hates a number of people. She raises this hatred almost to an artform. However, the fire of these grudges nearly extinguishes when compared against the contempt her sickness makes her feel for herself. No amount of argument with citation can begin to touch what the sickness assures her is the truth; why are you defending her greatest enemy anyway?

I want to say that I know this will end well, that she will begin to heal her psychic rifts and will quickly regain all that this year seems to have taken from her. I want to say that I haven't considered eulogies and that I have every faith that she won't ever need to exercise that other option. I want to think that, somewhere inside her mind, Melissa is already staring down her dragon and stealing back her treasures. Without hyperbole or euphemism, without deception or colorful phrasing, I want to know she is going to survive herself. I want to believe her suicide is not a foregone conclusion I manage to postpone. I want a cure, not weekly chemo to maintain remission.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job, parties, Ilana, Tom.

last watched: Stardust
reading: Howl's Moving Castle
listening: Imogen Heap

How Far One Can Go | 2009 | Thanks Having

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

eXTReMe Tracker