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Flirting: a Retraction | 2010 | Soulmates or Bedmates

07.08.10 8:51 p.m.

When we fall on the ground it hurts us, but we also need to rely on the ground to get back up.  

-Kathleen McDonald


All Rise


One of Melanie's associates - not the sort of person who was a friend, but someone with whom she had partied - turned up dead for reasons unknown. Melanie guesses an overdose. Jinx wondered if it might have been a car accident. I've heard whispers of suicide. This marked the first death of a peer that Melanie has experienced in a while and possibly the closest. It is a situation that cannot help but shake one's certainty of safety (Jinx wrote a song All Rise about this). Yesterday, this girl was doing any number of perfectly ordinary and forgettable things that she will never again do. Someone whom Melanie had touched, whose hospitalities Melanie had accepted, ceases to breathe and will now to put in the ground.

I tried to console Melanie in the most naturalistic way. Death is rather the only thing about life that can be guaranteed.

I was reminded of Todd, my friend who killed himself when I was 20. At the time of his death, Todd and I had not been close, though friendly enough to have earned a blanket invite to his going-away party (as I have come to call the last party he threw). But I didn't see us ever being best friends. I didn't have time for his pain, given that I was mucked up in the end of my relationship with Kate and the beginning of mine with Emily. Also, though the excuse feels weaker the more I state it, I was still a little irritated with him for having shoved a sponge full of Lysol in my mouth because he thought it would be funny. Sans the sponge, I think Melanie's acquaintanceship with the girl was similar. They knew of one another, but the girl was not someone who Melanie would insist upon visiting over the summer.

Coupled with an anonymous body having been pulled out to Tivoli Bay near Melanie, I half-joked that these deaths tend to come in threes, a concept that Melanie abjectly discounted not as failed pattern recognition, but because she felt they tended to happen in more even groupings.

As such, I ignore the message that Jamie posts to Facebook, saying that she is finally getting the help for her depression that she needs. I think this means a therapist. Jamie seemed a little stressed and burdened under her parents' expectations for her, but not depressed. If anything, I thought she had impressive self-esteem. I post a message saying that I am glad she is getting help (some of my best friends have been or are in therapy).

Later, her mother posts details in reply, which I will neglect to provide out of respect. Suffice it to say, Jamie was a little more than depressed but ostensibly realized that she had hit her rock bottom and wanted to arrest further descent.

I've known Jamie for about a decade and have attended a few parties at her house. She came roller-skating with me once. But I had no idea things were so dire and am not sure I have anything like the right to know that. But I do know that the idea of her no longer existing saddens me deeply.

After Todd's suicide, I experienced guilt and some regret. I had consoled him over his issues with his sexuality and the typical post-adolescent falderal that infests most. I remember his teasing me over my new relationship with Emily. I think I recall him saying I was twitterpated, but that could just be the ostentation of memory. I recall a day of sunshine and spring grass when I ignored work to enjoy a few hours next to him and a girl named Idania. But nine years later, I don't think I wanted to be a closer friend to him.

I wish he had not died, that he could have stayed his hand a little while longer until his mind was less clouded. There was a study done of people who were stopped from committing suicide off one bridge. Of those followed, only six percent had gone on to kill themselves. For the vast majority, being stopped once was enough to keep them alive. I have those subjunctive thoughts, what if I had called Todd at the right moment, what if I had been there? Immediately after his death, I experienced horror that I had blown off his party to meet Emily's parents for the first time, though I later found out that the party was apparently the social event of the season and I was one of the few invitees who did not attend. He didn't die from a lack of attention.

This makes me realize that I care about Jamie more than I previously realized, which feels as stupid to write as I am sure it does to read. These trying moments shouldn't have to occur to bring one to the truth, nor do I think that Jamie requires such a realization from me, though she may need to know how she is important to other people. The thought of how the world would have changed had she been successful startles me, because I had no cause to prepare for that possibility. With Todd, I had known he was suicidal for almost the duration of our friendship but, having had friends and girlfriends who pled self-destruction for attention, I didn't think much of it. And in the month before he died, he'd been the happiest I had even seen him, a fact that I realize in retrospect is because he had finally made his decision to die.

Had Todd lived, he might be a Facebook friend now, but I don't think out connection would be any more profound than that. It makes me wonder how many people orbit my life who are aborted suicides or who are thinking of their coming funeral while reading this. This isn't a matter of guilt and - I would hope - they don't need to hear my attempt to talk them out of it.

My father once told me that the point of suicide isn't to kill yourself, but to kill the rest of the world. No suicidal person really wants to die, they just seek the quickest destruction of the world in which they lived. This slakes the survivors' guilt with a frothy shot of indignation, but is specious.

Dark as Jamie's path to here was and though this cannot yet be considered a happy ending, it allowed Jamie her moment of clarity. It is an indelible and necessary point on the continuum toward her happiness, I hope. I would prefer to believe that it is uphill from here and that, now that I realize, Jamie has yet another set of hands to help clear this boulder that is before her and can rise.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job.

last watched: Secretary
reading: Swann's Way
listening: Jinx

Flirting: a Retraction | 2010 | Soulmates or Bedmates

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.

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