There are only a few times in life when you completely freeze, when you can't think, breathe, sleep, eat, or concentrate, and it's the uncanniest numbness. The last time I recall feeling that way is when I was about six and almost drowned. In my defense, the pond's surface was covered in moss and lilly pads -- my six-year-old conscience mistook it as a really gorgeous sandbox. I stepped in, and splash. I was gone. At the time, I had been taking swimming lessons at the local YMCA, so even when I hit the water, I didn't panic. I actually felt a little proud, to be able to display my swimming technique in a vital situation, and started waving my arms and legs around. However, there must have been some sort of a torrent in the water that day -- every kick and stroke was useless -- I kept going down. This is when my terror soaked in. I knew I couldn't save myself -- I knew I was going to die. And just then, my body turned limp, my life literally flashed in front of my unsuspecting six-year-old eyes, and I stopped struggling. Fortunately, the other little girl who had been playing with me (who was also smart enough not to step into the bitch of a "sandbox") screamed and called for help. My dad's friend dove in and fished me out. I was coughing up pond water and moss and wheezing for my life, but I was okay. (Later, I made a trip to the ER, but that's a whole nother story).
I haven't brushed with death like that again, but yesterday I received some very sad news. This is the exact order in which I heard the public announcement:
A senior from our campus had died Wednesday night.
His name was Matt.
He was my best friend, Maya's older brother (I discovered when I heard the last name).
The cause of death.
Are your ears ringing? Did your heart suddenly just leap in your chest? Because mine are, and mine did. Each time I replay this announcement in my head (which the head very ungraciously declared through the fucking loudspeaker), my heart skips a beat, and not in a starry way.
Matt Wilson is not someone who I can call lively. I cannot call him outgoing nor the life of the party. That's what you usually hear from the parents and peers of suicide victims who unexpectedly killed themselves. But Matt was very timid. He was very introspective, yet I never imagined angrily or vengefully.
Maya, who on the other hand, always is front and center, always the sparkling lead, the beaming face, had to find out the hard way. In class, when everyone else did.
These are all rumors, but what's been going around is that Maya was in school Thursday morning. She knew of her big brother's death, but had still shown up. She DIDN'T know he had killed himself.
Way to go, you dumbfuck of a dean.
There are a million thoughts pulsing through my mind right now. Remember when I mentioned I couldn't concentrate? Well, that explains the erraticness of this rant. And the lack of proper punctuation/grammar/spelling.
The worst part is, the class period right after the announcement was made, was my Arch course. The one I took with Matt Wilson.
It was goddamn awful. I was the first one who walked in the classroom and I grabbed my portfolio like I did everyday. The instructor said hi to me and a few others who trickled in. Everyone was at edge; no one knew what to say. He told us we wouldn't be having class today. That in honor of Matt, we could just take a walk, grab a bite to eat, hang out. I wanted to explode in his face. WALK?!? EAT!!? HANG OUT!?!? Matt fucking Wilson is dead and you want to relax. I could have combusted right then and there, but I was honestly too grieved to do it.
What breaks my heart is this: Matt, 18, the age that is legal to posses arms in the United States, is survived by his mother, Sarah, father, Maxwell, younger sister, Maya, and even younger sister, May. May is eight years old. What the fuck did they tell her?
I know Maya's family pretty well from the booze parties (kidding... for the most part) and sleepovers I've had at her house (keep in mind, I've been close with her since seventh grade). I know them well enough to recognize that Sarah, Maxwell, Maya, and May are all some of the most animated, funny, and sociable people I've ever met. Their whole family is made up of extroverts. That is, except Matt.
A close friend of mine, Christine, told me a story. She's been friends with Maya since first grade, and goes to school in North Carolina currently, but I talked with her yesterday. She told me that as guilty as she feels saying this after Matt's death, but that he was always the brother in the background. He was never known to be his own person. About 90% of the people mourning are mourning because he was Maya's brother, or because he was Sarah and Max's only son. Not because he was Matt. Even when they were little, Christine's mom would always say, "God, Maya's mother talks about her so much. I wonder if she realizes how much she's bragging." But she never said a word about Matt, her eldest child. It was always as if Matt wasn't even her child.
What's painful, is that it makes sense. Maya is a ballerina. Her hours are excruciating, but imagine what her parents have to go through to support them. May is an adorable rugrat. She's also a completely parent-dependent child. You know how much time and energy children drain from their mothers and fathers. But where is the mother and father for the oldest kid, the technical adult, who doesn't do anything special, who doesn't require extra, caring attention? In a life where both your little sisters outrun, outstand, and outdo you, it can't be easy. And it can't be fun.
I am not advocating suicide prevention. I support it, I donate to it, I Write Love On Her Arms, but I can't say I am faultless.
Like many other young adults, my mind has fluttered around the concept of suicide. Last semester, when I was failing a Precalc course, and my parents were giving me the roughest time about it, I really did wonder, what would happen if I just died? What would happen if my parents realized the pressure of school was just too much for me to handle? Would it hurt them? Would they feel guilty? Would they give anything to have me back, to have me alive, to hold my hand once more? My reason for wanting to die wasn't because I wanted to hurt myself. I wanted to hurt others.
So as bad as it is for me to say this, I know what Matt was thinking when he shot himself. I know what was going through his head. I know that sort of pain.
To be frank though, I am too scared to die. I am too scared to sacrifice my full, vibrant, 96%-of-the-time-marvelous life in order to stop the hurt. Doesn't mean I haven't tried though. I've starved myself. I've survived on three hours of sleep a night for an entire school year, this year, until the point I would get dizzy during class and have nosebleeds during lunch. But I've succumbed to the brighter side of life and death and have never fully given in.
Call me self-destructive, but the worst I've ever done to myself is take three aspirin in a 4-6 hour time period when I am only supposed to take two. Quite frankly, I am too big of a wimp to leave this world, and too much of a lover to leave it behind.
A lot of this, I think, comes from my religiosity. I hate bringing religion into my blog -- same with politics; don't discuss them with me -- because I have a very strong, heated stance on both topics, but normally prefer to keep my beliefs to myself. (You will often find me talking about religion and politics in a platonic way. I read Christian fiction, but not necessarily because I am Christian. I know book reviewers who are completely adverse to reading religious books, but I'm a little half-assed and am open to pretty much everything. I am up for reading a book written by any politician, whether it be Bill Clinton or Adolf Hitler. Religion and politics are probably the only two things in my blog that I don't take to a personal matter, and discern freely upon. It's a free country. Let me live a little.) This is the only circumstance where I will dissert my religious beliefs, so read carefully: I was raised Catholic, but am probably not the ideal Catholic. I go to church every Sunday, I celebrate Easter and Christmas and St. Patrick's day, but I also don't consider abortion, homosexuality, and premarital sex (basically any form of sodomy, to be truthful), not even suicide, a sin. There are probably a countless number of non-Catholic actions I've taken, and I'm not saying I am proud of them, but it is who I am. Now, let's stop talking about this serious stuff and move on. Why I keep relating suicide to religion is because of what I imagine happens in the afterlife. I am a very catechizing Catholic; is there really a heaven? Catholics are lead to learn that suicide is a sin (since it's a form of murder) and that they will go to Hell if they commit it. But what the hell is Hell? What if Catholicism is all wrong and suicide victims actually just remain suspended in an unending medial limbo, since their death isn't justified by a matter of means? That's what boggles my mind the most.
Last night was one of those frozen nights for me. I had a final synthesis paper for Lit, as well as a research lab for Bio due the next morning (today), but I couldn't think at all. I just sat there numbly, watching my computer screen. Checking my email account for messages that wouldn't come. Crying over the phone with my best of friends. But not Maya.
Luckily, both teachers for both classes understand my dilemma and have given me extensions.
At the moment, though, my grades, even though I have a mere three or four days left in the semester, are the last priority on my mind.
Oh, Sue and Max are getting a divorce. Whether they are doing it because Max died, or whether Max died because they are doing it, I'm not sure. But their whole family is now falling apart. And it is painful to imagine.
I keep thinking of Matt. I knew him as a classmate, I knew him as my friend's brother, but I didn't truly know him. I don't feel guilty for his death, I don't feel responsible, because I shouldn't, but I do feel his death hasn't vindicated him of anything. His death has only saddened me further about his situation, about how his life has been.
You have my prayers, Matt Wilson. Dream well, sleep well.
I also recall last night. I told you already that it was one of those times I've frozen up completely. Another time I expect to benumb like that again is when I die. Because essentially, when that happens, I will not breathe, eat, sleep, think, or concentrate. That's true, isn't it?
This is what I remember from last night: I sift through old high school yearbooks, gazing at Matt in every picture, but not only him. I look at everybody's faces, imagining what my life would feel like if they committed suicide. That girl in my Lit class? Do I even know her? My boyfriend's best friend? Have I even talked to him lately? Maya? Why don't I have the guts to drive over to her and tell her I love her? I imagine every possibility, and I cry and I cry and I cry. And then I look up suicide statistics on the internet. And celebrity suicides. And obituaries of strangers who committed suicide. Random strangers. When I am finished, it's about two in the morning and I am gritty and I am exhausted, but I still can't stop. Eventually, sleep claims me when I curl up in fetal position, hoping, wishing, praying, that this is all a dirty trick, just a horrendous nightmare.
But four hours later, it's Friday morning, and I wake up, and all of it's still there. All of it's very real, and that's when I realize how cruel life has been to me.