Say Anything

You really have to admire anyone who kills himself with a knife.

I mean, sure, I suppose you should pity them and mourn the fact that a fellow human being sank to such a miserable state that the pain caused by their life exceeded the pain of death. And yeah, as I surveyed the blood-spattered domicile in which my latest death investigation took place, I was utterly astonished at the level of self-loathing my decedent had to have in order to inflict such violence upon himself. The place looked like two four-year-old kids had been let loose in the house… with a bulldozer at their disposal and wielding water balloons filled with blood.

The scene was almost magnificent in its chaos. Chairs were overturned, the refrigerator had been pulled lose from the wall and was standing idly in the middle of the kitchen as though it had gotten lost while heading for the living room. Every drawer had been opened and dumped the floor. Half rotted food had been yanked out of the fridge and joined the array of forks, knives and other utensils that lay scattered, hither and thither. Medication bottles lay askew with their contents sprinkled throughout the residence like a mind-altering confetti. And on top of it all was blood… soooo much blood.

As I wandered through the melee, coming at last to where the dead guy lay in a back bedroom, I could track his progress throughout his final few hours? Minutes? It was hard to say how long the whole scenario took. First he had tried to cut his wrists. But like most people who attempt this final exit, he apparently underestimated how truly un-fucking-comfortable it is to slash your wrists. His arms both bore the tell-tale signs of hesitant, superficial lacerations that conveyed intent, but not conviction. After coming to grips with this unfortunate truth, my decedent then meandered throughout his home for a bit, probably throwing shit around, bleeding liberally on the floor and going all Incredible-Hulk on the fridge. At that point, it looked as though he decided to go for the gold and apply that knife to his throat instead. But in an effort to make the cutting easier, he tore through the kitchen drawers and found the knife sharpener. He took some time sharpening that knife, judging by the puddles of blood he left beneath the device on the kitchen counter… an obvious slow, oozing flow from the mediocre cuts to his wrists. When the knife had what our decedent believed was a sufficient edge, he put the blade to his throat and… really made a valiant effort. A couple of cuts on his neck looked legitimately severe, but none of them really made the grade, so to speak. I mean, one in particular might have been lethal if our guy had waited around long enough to let it really flow. But by that point, the decedent was on a mission. Now, bleeding profusely from the neck… and still sprinkling from the wrists, I can only surmise that our decedent felt as though the universe was laughing at him. Because there was nothing bashful or tentative about his following actions. With the blood pouring out of his body at an unsatisfactory rate. He simply grabbed the butcher knife and began sawing at his legs like they were a couple of redwoods. He managed to lay open each thigh as efficiently as if he was shucking oysters. Both femoral arteries were severed and obligingly gushed forth whatever blood this guy still had in his body. I imagine this is about the time the universe stopped laughing and gasped in horror instead. He collapsed forward from the edge of the bed where he had sat down to perform this, final act. Face-down, he vomited once or twice and spilled his life out on to the hardwood floors of his mother’s house… where he had been living since he got out of rehab. There he lay until his mother came home from a friend’s birthday party to find this spectacle waiting for her. She had called the cops and I had arrived soon after.

As I mapped out and documented the synopsis of this drama, I was absolutely filled with sadness for anyone who was so tortured that they felt compelled to so such a thing… But more importantly, as I tip-toed through the debris and body fluids, I couldn’t help but feel a modicum of admiration.
Damn! I thought, This shit took COMMITMENT. This guy is a hell of a decision maker!

Imagine how much this dude would have accomplished if he had set his mind to something else… like curing cancer or climbing mount Everest…

I feel the same way about people who kill themselves by jumping from the top of a building or some other high structure. While the emotions behind killing one’s-self are not entirely unfamiliar to me (I was a miserable goth in my early twenties, now I’m just a miserable government employee)I’m just bewildered by that kind of masochism. I mean, okay, so you want to end your pain and suffering- so why on earth would you choose the most drawn-out, tortuous method imaginable? Most people want to go quick, easy, and above all, painlessly. That’s why they overdose on pain meds, shoot themselves in the head or (a new trend in self-termination) they asphyxiate on helium. (No, I’m not going to tell you how that works. I don’t want to be responsible if you decide to try it.)

I can’t fathom the terror involved in falling a hundred, rapidly accelerating feet to your death. I mean, DAMN! I imagine it would feel like an eternity as you watched the scenery blur around you, and what if half-way down, you realized you actually wanted to live… or you forgot to put your bank account number in your suicide note to your mom… or suddenly remembered you left the stove on…

Anyway… so… yeah, I was terribly impressed and confounded by someone’s suicide. But that’s not the point. The point is, I didn’t SAY I was impressed by it. I didn’t go wandering around the scene popping off the monologue that I just shared with you, because the guy’s mom was nearby and I’m sure saying anything so indecent and calloused would have made her feel worse than she already did…. Because that’s the crappy thing about people and the universe and the shit-pie equation of it all: While we can’t really make many situations any better, you better believe we can make virtually ANY situation worse. We excel at such things as a species. And I chalk it all up to our stubborn insistence on talking… all the fucking time… we would do less damage if we just walked around throwing handfuls of dirt into each others’ faces. I swear to God…

You see, after I was done working the scene of this suicide, I went next door to where our decedent’s mother was posted up. She had gone running over there to call 911, and these neighbors had agreed to shelter her for the duration of the investigation… an offer that I’m not really certain was in her best interest. I knocked on the door and asked to come in and speak with our dead guy’s mom. The neighbors, an elderly married couple who were about the same age as the dead guy’s mom, they allowed me in and then insisted on styaing in the room while the mother and I had our little discussion about her son’s depression, drug addiction and so on. The neighbor man had squirmed uncomfortably and offered to leave the room while we spoke. The neighbor lady, though, had no such compulsion and she sat there, stalwart, immovable and old as Stonehenge… absorbing every last detail of the conversation. I had asked the mom if she wouldn’t like to speak privately, but I got the impression the mom felt weird about asking the neighbors to leave a room in their own house. So they remained, witnessing the whole awful exchange, in which I told the poor woman that her son had clearly killed himself in some kind of fury- possibly fueled by frustration, illicit substances or a combination of the two. She took the whole, terrible business with clear-eyed dignity that I couldn’t help but admire… even more than I admired the gusto with which her son found cooperating blood vessels.

Sadly, the same could not be said for the neighbors. Mr. Neighbor kept swallowing as though trying to keep himself from vomiting all over the floor. Mrs. Neighbor wrung her hands with ever increasing agitation, signaling that she quite obviously felt as though she had something relevant to add to the discussion but wasn’t sure when or where to interject her contribution. As my decedent’s mom and I wrapped up our conversation, the mom excused herself to go to the bathroom and I stood as she left the immediate area and stepped through a small sliding door into a bathroom adjacent to the living room where we were all gathered. As she eased the bathroom door closed behind her Mrs. Neighbor turned to me, wide-eyed and expectant. It was ruthlessly obvious that she was over-eager to jump on the gossip carousel and she didn’t really care with whom she did so, she just wanted to talk… and since I was right there…

“I just knew something like this was going to happen,” she stated loudly, with the dramatic sigh of one who is often burdened with the weight of self-righteous premonition. She looked expectantly at me, waiting for me to acknowledge her martyred state- that of poor, legendary Cassandra herself. I didn’t respond… didn’t even make eye-contact but stared resolutely at the floor, refusing to give ear to such talk.

She frowned. With this lack of acknowledgement, she directed her comments toward her husband. “Didn’t I say that, Frank? Didn’t I say, when that boy moved in with her… Didn’t I say that something terrible was going to happen?”

Frank had the decency to look embarrassed. He followed my lead and stared, wordlessly, at his feet

I glanced at the bathroom door, rather pointedly. It was just a thin, sliding partition. Surely, the dead guy’s mom couldn’t help but hear her neighbor’s heartless ramblings.

Rebuffed by both me and her husband, Mrs. Neighbor sat back in her chair. “Terrible business…” she mumbled to herself. “Just awful. I knew it.” She lapsed into silence and I figured she was mentally taking stock of to which friends and neighbors she could recount this “terrible business” who would respond in a more satisfactory way. I quietly despised her and fantasized about punching her in the face.

When the mom emerged from the bathroom, it was clear by the look on her face, one of anguished humiliation, that she had indeed heard her neighbor’s comment. She announced that she was going to call another friend nearby and go stay with her for the night. As I excused myself to go back to the scene of the suicide to gather a few essential items for the poor woman, I resolved to see if I could track some blood-stains into Mr and Mrs. Neighbor’s house in retribution. But then thought better of it, since Frank would likely be the one who had to clean it up and I imagined he’d already spent most of his life cleaning up after his wife’s big, fat mouth.

Honestly, I don’t know what’s wrong with people. I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident. But it wasn’t… it isn’t. People say the dumbest, most calloused shit EVER to people who are in the spiked, rusty grip of devastation.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I only called my immediate family and a few close friends to personally impart the news. Sadly, a lot of the reactions were less than ideal.

“I feel like God hates me.” I remember saying to one friend.

“Why?” she shot back with accusing disapproval. “Just because something BAD happened?”

One family member asked me if I’d had an abortion… implying that either medically or metaphysically, this alleged abortion had caused my cancer and therefore I was undeniably to blame for this turn of events. (For the record, I’ve never had an abortion and it wouldn’t fucking matter if I had)

Still another friend responded by reading me the riot act for not paying enough attention to her needs.

The funny thing is, as much as their deplorable, knee-jerk responses hurt me at the time, I can”t really blame them. Nobody really knows what to say when confronted with such news, or with a situation like the one described above. We like to think of ourselves as compassionate and helpful but revert to semi-conscious disfluent babble when the chips are down. I have no doubt that I have absolutely said the wrong thing to several people who were suffering unbearably… and this is my fucking JOB for God’s sake. If anyone should be immune to the slack-jawed, unconscious drivel, it should be me…

I don’t know.

I’m not sure what I’m trying to say… which I guess is my first clue that I shouldn’t be talking.

I suppose that’s it. The world doesn’t need more noise. There are tides that wash up on the shores of our lives, pulling away everything when they go. They take the whole earth with them as they rise and fall back. They are so full… so deafening that trying to speak into them is like trying to argue with the sea.

There’s nothing … nothing you can say…. nothing you SHOULD say. I think people should learn to accept that.

Our fine frontal lobes, paired with our perfectly evolved tongues really aren’t that great of an achievement. We hit the pinnacle of our verbal potential as homo sapiens about the time that George Carlin died. We’re on the downswing now. I’m not sure what’s coming next. Telepathy? Universal consciousness? Regardless, maybe it’s time to just give in gracefully and allow silence to have the last word.

Honestly, why say anything?

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