Family Trip

Posted: August 1, 2017 in Stories, Uncategorized
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Every year was a hard fought battle to get as many family members as we could to go on at least one camping trip. Everyone would try to figure out the best weekend to make it happen so that those who didn’t have the days off could request them off far enough in advance. We’re talking four and sometimes even five generations of probably one of the world’s most chaotic and fun families to ever walk the earth.
This year was going to be a little different. Instead of packing cars and trucks and heading to the nearest mountain range or beach in California, we had won tickets to Japan.
There were some who couldn’t make it work, and a couple that dropped out at the last minute, but in the end, we arrived. Two grandparents, a couple aunts, one uncle, a handful of cousins, and their young children all landed safely in Tokyo and then dragged our luggage to a waiting bus that drove us to a small town called Onjuku in the Chiba Prefecture that rested on the eastern coastline of Japan.
The trip took us through some beautiful landscapes, all dotted with colorful signs, none of which any of us could read except for the occasional little round white sign with numbers inside a red circle that we all assumed was speed limit signs. There were also large round mirrors on metal poles at certain intersections so you could check for other traffic merging along with you. I don’t remember seeing one stop sign.
We drove through little towns that looked like they had been movie sets built to look like small 400-year-old villages, untouched by modern roadways or manufacturing, save for the one shiny brand new NTT phone booth in the center of town that was encased in tinted glass and looked so out of place, it almost seemed like someone made a mistake in placing it.
When we finally made it to our hotel in Onjuku, we all split to our separate rooms to unpack and agreed to meet back in the lobby in an hour. The rooms were small, but very much westernized for our comfort. When we gathered in the lobby a short time later everyone had a different idea on where to go first. We all quickly agreed that dinner would be a good idea once we realized we had little kids in tow as well as grandparents who get grumpy when not fed. My cousin Anna and her husband Michael went to go talk to the receptionist about local restaurants. None of us spoke Japanese, so before long they were standing at the check-in counter pantomiming spooning food into their mouths as the lady looked at them with a mix of terror and amusement on her face.
Another cousin, Michelle, decided that she was tired of the receptionist acting like she couldn’t understand what they were saying and started to storm over there but I grabbed her arm and begged her not to.
About ten minutes later we were all being ushered back onto a bus that took us out of town and into the cliffs overlooking the Pacific ocean. Not sure if our driver even knew what was going on we all enjoyed the scenery and tossed the smallest kids back and forth between us.
We arrived at a restaurant that was built out from the cliff face, part of it sitting on stilts above the water. Across the small road that ran passed the building itself was just a wall of the mountain that had been covered in cement to prevent mudslides during heavy storms. As we shuffled inside, the smell of food brought smiles to even the most jet-lagged of us all. We were seated at a long banquette table that ran along the outermost wall where you could look out over the ocean and the beach below. The wet sand below us looked so inviting that even Jimmy commented that we should just camp out down there with a bonfire and some beer. The waitress overheard part of the conversation I guess and said, “No beach, beach in Onjuku,” and shook her head as she wandered off.
“Maybe it’s sacred or something, I saw a lot of Shrines around here on Google maps.” I offered.
“Yeah, so sacred they built a restaurant over it.” Replied Michelle as she rolled her eyes.
She had a point.
Our grandfather decided this was a good time to announce that he wasn’t hungry and wasn’t going to order anything, which brought a silent but felt glare from our grandmother. We all quickly looked away and stared intently at the menus. I spent a second trying to figure out if there was anything labeled, “Cooked beef, just for you dumb ass Americans.” There wasn’t, but they did have the menu items listed in English under the Japanese spelling.
Without any kids to keep me busy asking what they wanted, or a spouse arguing about ordering anything at all I found myself staring out the window.
The ocean looked so calm and peaceful, all the way to the horizon. The green-blue water sparkled with sunlight and the beach below glistened.
Anna leaned over and said, “Strange isn’t it?”
“Strange?” I asked as I looked over at her. It always kind of took me by surprise that she was the one cousin who could always kind of catch me daydreaming and knew where my heart was at any given time.
She smiled, “No waves.”
She was right, there wasn’t a wave in sight, not even on the beach, just a sort of small little mess of water lapping at the shore. It reminded me of being at a lake.
I let my gaze wander to some of the old pictures on the wall. One showed the restaurant as seen from a boat. The ocean was just below it and made it look like it was almost floating. I glanced back out the window and craned my head a little to look at the stilts under part of the building that I could see. They had barnacles attached to them and looked wet. The skin stood up on my arms and a chill ran up my neck as I looked back out to sea. Everything still looked the same. Calm.
I concentrated hard on the horizon but it was just a naturally darker shade of blue, nothing seemed strange about it. But it felt different now. It felt ominous.
When the waitress came back to our table and began taking orders I wanted to ask about the picture and the barnacles, but also didn’t want to be the idiot at the table who thinks the sky is falling and is wrong. When she asked me for my order I motioned her closer before pointing out the window and asking, “Can we go down to the beach after we eat?”
She started to answer as her gaze followed where I was pointing, but the answer died on her lips as her eyes widened.
“I’m sorry, I’ll be right back.” She said and almost ran into the kitchen.
Everyone looked at her puzzled as she disappeared through a swinging door and turned their attention back to me. I was already standing up and said, “Get your shit, we’re leaving.”
Uncle Craig replied, “Calm down. What was that about?”
“’No beach, beach in Onjuku.’” I quoted our waitress and then said, “but that’s a fucking beach!” I pointed out the window and watched as it registered.
“Let’s go.” He said as he swooped little Mason into his arms. My cousin Jimmy grabbed his son James as Anna grabbed her and Michael’s daughter Emery. We all were headed towards the door when the manager came out from the back with some other workers and they all looked out the window as the waitress pointed.
“We all need to leave, right now!” I said.
The manager squinted out the window but then turned to us with a huge smile on his face, “It’s fine, tides only. You eat?” He motioned for us to go back to our table. By this time some other customers were looking at us and back at them, curious as to what was going on.
I pointed at the picture, “Tides don’t change twenty feet or more!” I turned to push my family out the door.
I didn’t grow up near the ocean and was only half convinced I was right when the manager raised his hands’ palm up and said, “Old picture. No siren, no problem.”
There weren’t any sirens going off and I guess coastal towns would all have early warning systems in place for tsunamis.
I looked at Michael who just shrugged and said, “I’m ready to leave, we’ll find another place to eat.”
The manager turned to calm some other customers that were starting to ask what was going on. We all looked at each other and Alex asked, “So are we blowing this bitch or staying?”
I turned to look out the window but the same peaceful ocean sat out there, nothing had changed. There was no rushing wall of water that was about to wipe out half of mankind hovering above the restaurant.
I shrugged my shoulders in defeat and we all started making our way back to our table as Michael stood a little more defiant, “I still say we find another place or come back tomorrow.”
Anna replied, “Babe, it’s fine,” And ended the debate for good.
We all filed back into place at the table and the kids went back to playing with the chopsticks and using the chopstick holders as faux mustaches. I stared out the window trying to tell myself that I was only imagining that the dark line of the horizon was getting bigger, closer, or both.
“Knock that shit off.” I looked over to see Michelle staring at me.
I conceded, “Sorry.”

 

As we sat waiting for our food I used my finger to smear a line where the beach met the water on the window, then without moving, I closed my eyes and counted to thirty. When I opened them there was a bigger gap between where the smear was and the water line. The water was receding, and a hell of a lot faster than any tide could change.

I looked around to signal the waitress, but she was nowhere to be found. A minute passed and then the manager came out of the kitchen looking a lot more worried than he had previously. I waved at him when he looked at me but his gaze went right over my shoulder.

I made my wave bigger and caught his attention. I watched as his worried look melted when he focused in on me and a forced smile spread across his face as he hurried over.

“Do you have evacuation plans in case we do need to leave?” I asked him.

He nodded, but there was panic in his eyes.

Out front, three small buses pulled out of the parking lot and took off down the road out of sight. Alex jumped up and shouldered past the manager on his way towards the kitchen. Half the restaurant guests followed him with their eyes and turned heads. The doors swung shut behind him and then immediately burst open as he came right back out, “They’re gone!” he said.

All hell broke loose then. People grabbed their belongings and headed towards the doors, one girl screamed, which did nothing but add haste to people who were already running over each other to reach the exits. Some of us started to do the same but Michael told us to just wait and stay calm. He pointed out that there were only two other buses in the parking lot when we got here so all the buses were now gone.

I turned to look and could now see quite clearly a wall of ocean far out in the distance, the wet sandy beach below us had grown as well.

A little hand grabbed mine and squeezed. I looked down expecting to see one of the younger family members but instead found a girl of about four years of age, fear stretching her eyes wide as her bottom lip trembled. I told her, “It’s gonna be okay.” As I looked around to see if anyone was looking for her but everyone was still trying to push and shove their way out the front door. When I looked back down she was shaking her head slowly the way children do when they know you’re lying and are scared.

I asked her what her name was but she just gripped my hand tighter and bit her bottom lip.

“Time to go.” Uncle Craig proclaimed and we all made our way to the exit. Outside there were about fifty people all trying to figure out the best course of action to get to high ground. The road ran along the cliff face in front of the restaurant and although it did have some elevation to it in places, as far as we could see it didn’t rise any higher than the restaurant roof. Across the narrow road was a cut away section of mountain that had been cemented over to prevent land and mudslides. There was a metal ladder bolted to the side of the mountain but the bottom ten feet were blocked by a metal door that was padlocked. There were a handful of people beating at the lock with fist sized rocks.

We were all waiting to see what other people were going to do as well as debating if we should take off down the road, but no one really knew which way to go. I looked back down at the little girl who still had a grip on my hand and noticed she was just staring up at me, not looking around for anyone.

She had neck length brown hair that was parted in the middle and ran down passed her chubby little cheeks on both sides, framing her big brown eyes and soft nose. There was something almost familiar about her, but I didn’t remember seeing her on the bus that we came in on or at the hotel earlier.

I looked up at the nearest group of strangers and asked if anyone knew where her parents were. A couple of people looked up only to turn their attention back to their own conversations and arguments.

Cheers erupted across the street and we all turned to see the gate swing free of the ladder as people started to climb up it. Others rushed over while the owner of the restaurant held his hands up in front of them trying to warn them in Japanese.

“That’s too many people,” Grandpa said and halted us as we all sort of shifted in the direction of the ladder.

A solid line of people started climbing their way up as the group below pushed in harder. Someone in the crowd called out for help, but it went unanswered as they fought to get to the safety the ladder promised.

Halfway up the 200-foot ladder, a lady screamed for the person below her to wait but he climbed over her, followed by others. I don’t know if she slipped or if someone nudged her out of the way but she fell a hundred feet to the ground, and no one even turned to look where she landed.

“We need to do something, we can’t just stand around here waiting,” Michael said.

“That ladder is our best bet, once we let everyone else go ahead of us we can help mom and dad up and carry the kids.” Uncle Craig offered.

“It’s too many people, Craig,” Grandpa argued.

Just then the snapping of bolts could be heard and we all turned our heads to see a section of the ladder jolt and break free on one side flinging people off. Those with kids tried to shield their eyes but you couldn’t stop them from hearing the screams, as well as the impacts those people made when they hit the asphalt.

Those around the base of the ladder dispersed, some going the way the buses had brought us in and a larger group following the restaurant owner as he waved and yelled in Japanese. When they started to pass our little group Jimmy asked a couple of people where they were going and finally someone answered that the owner had said there was a path up the mountain just down the road.

We were all snatching quick glances out to sea and taking notice of how much closer the wave was but no one wanted to admit it. Alex grabbed little Mason and put him on his shoulders when Michael did the same with Emery, and although James demanded to be allowed to walk himself, Jimmy still snatched him up and put him on his shoulders as little James protested out of principle but didn’t put up any real fight. I noticed then that the little girl had let go of my hand and looked around to see if I could spot her but I couldn’t.

We all started to fall in with the group moving down the road towards the promised path up the mountain but something in the back of my head told me something was wrong. I glanced back at the restaurant and then sighed and pushed my way passed a group of people to head towards it.

“Where are you going?” Anna called out. I shouted over the heads of the people between us that I needed to make sure the little girl didn’t go back inside. She frowned as people started to push her and the rest of the group along. I promised to be right behind them and then turned and shouldered my way back towards the restaurant.

As I got closer to the front doors I noticed a trail of something that led from the roadway into the restaurant, it looked like something had been dragged along. As I swung the door open, the smeared trail turned to blood across the tile and I saw then a woman sitting slumped against the wall, a trail of blood falling from the side of her mouth, her legs were all twisted wrongly and my stomach dropped at the sight.

“Help me.” She pleaded when she saw me. I knelt down next to her and tried to figure out how to help, but I didn’t know what to do. She tried to cough up the blood that was slowly filling her lungs but only managed to get a couple little bubbles of blood to form before she closed her eyes and was gone.

I stood up and checked the rest of the restaurant but didn’t find the little girl. As I made my way back into the dining area I knew I had made a mistake. The wave of ocean was towering now and moving fast. I could see it growing before me.

I felt my leg tremble when I realized there was no way I could out run it, even if I knew where to go. I sat down at the table we all shared only a short time ago and stared out the window. I could see the veins of green and blue in the water, the seaweed that had been sucked up into it and churned now like a snow globe after being shaken.

A hand reached out and squeezed mine and I jerked my head around to see the little girl sitting opposite me, tears streamed down her full little cheeks now. Somehow I knew she wasn’t real then, like a solution that you have been searching for for hours just finally and mysteriously reveals itself to you.

She saw the revelation in my eyes and squeezed my hand reassuringly. I looked up and asked about my family, “Will they make it?”

She nodded slowly and smiled.

“Good.” I said and turned to watch the tsunami rush in towards me as the restaurant began to shake.

“I love you more.” She said and I turned as tears and a sob burst from me. She was no longer the little girl.

“I love you too mom.” I managed to say before the window next to me imploded and the abyss took me home.

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Do you see her there, quietly crying at the water’s edge as the river rushes by? Can you make out the teardrops from where you are? Let me remove a cloud so they catch a quick reflection of the moonlight on their way down. Now can you see?

Would you like to know what she is crying about, this little thirteen-year-old child who shouldn’t be out here alone, especially this late at night?

I can tell you if you would like, you see, I know her. I know her better than you could possibly imagine. We sit out here together sometimes, for hours on end talking, laughing, and crying.

You don’t seem all that concerned, have you not figured out who she is yet? It is pretty dark tonight, let me call her name.

No, no, it’s too late to be scared. Sit back down. Here, let me tighten these restraints a little more.

She can’t hear you, I’ve brought you here to observe, nothing more.

Look behind us, can you see the back door to your house? Yes? Good. Do you know why we are right here and not somewhere further off in the woods? Do you have any idea the thought that has been put into this? Of course, you don’t, so let me tell you. We are the furthest distance from which she can still hear the baby cry if it wakes up. You see, your daughter isn’t quite as uncaring and selfish as you keep telling people so that you can collect sympathy praise for having to raise her alone. She’s become quite good at caring for her younger siblings because daddy is far too busy chasing dragons, pussy, and an escape from age and loneliness.

Calm down, bravado doesn’t impress me. Look at her.

Do you still want to know why she is crying? She’s crying because you took away her phone. No, not because she lost her phone. You’re thinking way too simple mindedly. You took away her only means to combat the rumors that are running rampant through social media. You can’t stop others, but her silence she fears will look like guilt. You’ve stolen one of her guilty pleasures that help her get through the day, her music. Her outlet that she uses as she stands in the shower crying along to the lyrics, that was her release.

That’s not the only reason she is crying. She’s also crying because she believes you. She believes that she is ungrateful, even though she cries herself to sleep sometimes out here telling me how thankful she is to be able to feed her siblings and see them smile and play. How grateful she is to have blankets and a pillow, to have clothes, and even though you wouldn’t buy her any, she is thankful that she found her mothers makeup bag so she can practice and pretend that her life is like so many others out there. She’s even thankful for you, even though you leave them alone almost nightly, you have always come back within a day or three, and for that she is thankful.

Shh, I don’t care about your childhood. Tonight isn’t about you, it’s about her.

That’s right, look at her there. Look closer. Sadly I can’t make the moon shine brighter for you, but let’s take a second and listen closely.

Oh, you heard that didn’t you, the unmistakable sound of a round being chambered in your favorite 1911 pistol? Yes, you can see it now as she raises it. See how the nickel plating catches the moonlight and throws it around so violently as her hand shakes? It would almost be beautiful if it were an abstract thing, don’t you think?
I told you she can’t hear you. It is far too late for you to intervene. You should have done that months ago when she was crying for you not to go when she was begging you to help her because she couldn’t handle it anymore. She was just a silly girl then, huh? Responsibilities are good things for children to learn, right? You had it so much worse when you were her age. I know.

I’m sorry, all this talk and I don’t think I even introduced myself properly.

My name is Death, now if you’ll excuse me I have to go see to your daughter.

 

 

 

The moon hung in the black abyss of the night sky like a glowing sickle of pure innocence. The night blooms around my legs stretched all the way to the tree line, a tree line that sat like the edge of madness, taunting the most courageous to enter. Even the moonlight dared not penetrate that darkness, where the wildest of nature’s creatures stalked and murdered, some for far more sinister reasons than nourishment alone.

I stood there in the clearing, letting the sights and sounds of the night slowly strip me of my worries when I felt something land and cling to my shoulder. A shiver ran up my spine as I quickly shook it off, only to feel it settle again on me and whisper, “Don’t be afraid.”

As I turned my head I could see her. She was a faerie of the night, only about two and a half inches tall but every bit the most beautiful creature I have ever seen. In the moonlight her wings flexed slowly, showing dark purple patterns with silver highlights. Her skin was a soft pastel of lavender. Her eyes blinked slowly and I was surprised by how big and bold they were on such a tiny creature. They were eyes you could fall in love with. Her smile somehow seemed almost too perfect with her delicate yet welcoming lips sitting under the most perfectly and gracefully sculpted nose. Her cheeks full yet somehow seductively defined as well. With the back of a tiny hand resting against her cheek, she looked back at me, unflinching.

She wore no clothing as most faeries don’t and I could see her perfect shape as well. The way her raven colored hair hung around her neck and down the front of her was to keep it from tangling in her wings during flight and had nothing to do with modesty. One breast was exposed to show the darker colored nipple, my gaze followed the bare skin down to her bare hip and when she noticed where my eyes were heading she brushed her hair back to the side and let me see all of her nakedness. The Fae also have no body hair.

I could smell her then, the scent of sweet pea overtook the fragrances of the night and I closed my eyes as I breathed her in. I found myself whispering, “You’re beautiful.”

I asked her name then and she motioned for me to look forward so she could speak into my ear. I really didn’t want to look away but I did and she answered, “Somnifera.”

I felt something on my earlobe then and thought it was her hand but when I reflexively turned to look I saw her tongue disappear back into her mouth as she grinned at me. She motioned again for me to look ahead and I did as a small breeze came across the meadow. I don’t know if I shivered from the chill or from her pushing up against me and whispering, “Kiss me.”

I slowly lifted my hand palm up to my shoulder and she stepped onto my little finger. She reached down and grabbed my index finger and pulled it up towards her. She folded her wings against her back and her hair danced across my knuckles as my fingers delicately wrapped around her tiny frame.

I lifted her to my lips and let her kiss me then. I felt her push against my fingers and slowly opened my hand. I let my lips part and teased the tip of my tongue across where she had kissed me, soaking in the experience. I felt her hands against my lips, so lovingly caressing me when another voice spoke into my ear, “Open your mouth for her.” And I did. I couldn’t even think of stopping myself. Somnifera climbed inside my mouth then and I could taste her finally. She tasted faintly of green apple and I felt my body stir with excitement when I felt her legs slide to either side of my tongue and she lay face down upon it, her flesh tasted of what I imagine perfection to be. I tried to move my tongue cautiously yet intimately as well. I felt her tiny nipples harden against my tongue, I felt her need grow in the way she was grinding against my taste buds and I couldn’t help but silently hope to taste her release. I’m sorry, for these sins I know are not natural but you would never understand how absolutely wonderful seduction with beauty is. I hope you never do.

Because after she finished she parted my lips and climbed out. I remember how the world turned then, how dizziness overtook me as I crashed to the ground. I remember how she landed upon my lips as I lay there, how she looked at me so longingly as the poison coursed through my body.

I remember feeling them all as they landed upon me in a breeze that triggered déjà vu, all staring with those big beautiful innocent eyes, waiting for me to die so they could begin their feast. As my eyes close now I can hear the silence in the forest all around us and I understand why the other creatures keep to the shadows. It isn’t the moonlight they fear, it’s the Fae.

Snapshot One
 
The wooden frame sits, a little off center in the half-lit hallway. Dust collected over time clings like a sheet to the glass, gathers in the imperfections, and sits atop like a crown of age. The faded gray sky hints at the yellowed sunset in the background, the curved edges turning brown as years lapse into decades yet still they stand, defiant and young upon the packed clay earth. The curves of the car in contrast to the rags that drape from their small frames as they lean back against it, his left leg bent, foot resting atop the tire and the wooden spoke wheel. Two teenagers with immortality in their eyes shade their faces from the sun with their hands. The sun that has taken life from everything as far as they eye can see. Behind them, in the distance, the dust stirred in 1932 Oklahoma.
 
Snapshot Two
 
Unframed we keep this one tucked away in the closet, plucked now for a remembered viewing it sits upon the white sheets of the bed waiting. From the top corner, we see a hint of her underwear as our eyes move down to fishnet covered thighs that have been pushed open by his face as he gently holds her left leg with his right hand. The right fishnet pulled down to just below his chin, the fabric bunched up. His love shown through closed eyes, lips slightly parted in anticipation, he presses his cheek firmly against the inside of her bare skin. The razor she holds in finger and thumb, the ribbon of blood just beginning to roll down from where the carbon steel meets the sweetest of flesh. He waits with vampire-like patience, lips parted in ecstasy, still.
 
Snapshot Three
 
The picture dragged to the recycling bin a thousand times and restored. We can almost feel the warmth of her touch on our hands as the light changes and washes over our hands when we bring up the picture. Her hair, how its curls cascade down, teasing and taunting across bare shoulders, disappearing behind her back in waves of red. Her eyes shine with a love that could never be matched. Even the oceans themselves were inspired to change their color to match her eyes in a previous existence. Happiness in the most vulnerable of poses she stands smiling, left arm across her chest, hand tucked under her right arm. In her grinning lips, you can see the mischief peeking through. Breasts revolting against her restraining arm in places to show their perfection. The darker more forbidden parts still safely hidden from view. The trust, the confidence, she will always be the greatest thing you ever let go.

It trended
For a few days
Then ended
Because we refuse to change our ways
Let’s pull it apart
Piece by piece
Paste in the horrible flowchart
So we can bottle it away
This race we don’t want to start
Glorification they scream
Copycats they warn
Let’s go back to the daydream
Fuck the forlorn
I see it in your eyes
I hear it in your voice
Pretty lies create cozy campfires
But
Fuck you
For making that choice!

Hi, my names Terry, and I am suicidal.
I say this not in an effort to elicit attention or even sympathy, but simply because it should be said, aloud, and for all to hear.
My story is not new, although it is unique. Every suicidal person’s story is unique, no matter how many similarities they may share with someone else’s story. I say similarities because to me, that’s what they are. Some may say symptoms, but I’m not a doctor, and I think a part of the problem is our societal need to label everything and have it fit in neatly aligned jars of order. But we are human, there is nothing neat and orderly about us. We are raw emotion, wrapped in a skin suit. We are wild imaginations, hindered by the need to be seen as “uniquely normal”.
I’m here to give you someone to talk to about suicide. Someone you don’t have to worry about stirring up emotions with or causing them to lock themselves away by asking questions you are curious about. Or maybe you know someone who you wish you could help but you don’t know how and asking them is scary. I know it is, I’ve been on that side of the discussion many times. I’ve sat numb in a friend’s bathroom at 4am cleaning up blood while she sat with her 15-year-old daughter at the hospital after she tried to take her own life because she was afraid of how everyone was going to react to her being gay. It’s not an easy discussion, by any means, but I believe it is one we can all have.
Let’s begin by trying to figure out what “suicidal” means. Suicidal isn’t only the person who takes a jar of pills to end their life, suicidal isn’t only the kid who loads a pistol with tears running down his cheeks as he perches on the edge of his bed. Suicidal is the person who thinks the lives of others would be better off without them in it. Suicidal is the child who thinks they are useless. Suicidal is the feeling of hopelessness and the lack of options.
But we always have options, right? Of course, we do. Even we know that technically there are always options. But “technically” is about as hope-inspiring as silence in a black abyss.
The good news is suicidal doesn’t always equal suicide. So yes, there is always hope.
I am only one person, and my story should not be compared to others, nor should theirs be compared to mine. There are far too many differences and struggles for me to say that this is how a suicidal person thinks. I can only speak for myself.
I really can’t stress this enough, because I have found myself at times questioning someone else’s suicidal validity based on my own feelings and past accounts. We should never, ever, ever do this! We are all far too different inside to think that we are all the same.
For me, being suicidal is a constant. It is with me every moment of the day, during good times and bad. I’ve had moments where I am driving down the highway, singing along to a song on the radio only to snap out of my little song trance when I realize my fingers just curled around the door handle with every intention in the world of pulling it open and letting myself fall from the cab of my truck.
It scares me, more so than times when I am contemplating how to end my life because it steals my control, and that is terrifying.
Why am I scared of it if I’m suicidal? Because I don’t want to die! I don’t want my existence on this earth to be finished, but I need it. There is something deep within me that calls for it, demands it, promises to make every failure and insecurity go away if I would just get on with it.
It might be tied into the same part of me that knows that I am loved. Knows there are people who truly love and care about me, yet leaves me every night feeling more alone than I can adequately describe, no matter how many poems of hopelessness I pen as I sit at my desk, sobs sucking away every breath I try to take, tears smearing the letters before they even have a chance to dry.
Does being suicidal mean I have a plan? Sometimes yes, but not always. My current plan is to not have a plan, but I’ve done the planning out thing twice. The first time was in 2007.
I lived in Novato, CA up in the North Bay. At the time I was going to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge on September 9th. Not very original, I know, but something about the bridge just felt right to me. I learned that it would take about 4 seconds to fall 245 feet (which is the height of the deck) and I would hit the water at about 75mph. I had about a 5% chance of surviving the fall and drowning which was hopefully not going to happen, but I didn’t know for sure.
I spent two months also writing and re-writing my suicide letter. Adding people by name and saying a personal goodbye to them. Begging my mom not to blame herself, trying to lessen people’s loss by expressing repeatedly that this was something that I wanted, it shouldn’t be viewed as a tragedy or a loss of life, but of someone getting their wish fulfilled.
I would drive out to the bridge in the middle of the night. Now it is closed to pedestrian traffic at night, but no one ever stopped me. I would feed the meter in the parking area and then walk out onto the bridge, into the fog of the night. Its yellow lights aglow, the cold wet railing trembling under my hand as traffic drove by. I know the bridge looks mighty sturdy but let me tell you when you are walking on it and feeling the vibrations and movement, it’s a little freaky.
I even picked my spot out. Between light posts 109 and 111 on the East side of the bridge. I would stand out there for hours, long enough to learn that the lights wink out just before 6am and plunge the bridge into an eerie darkness as the sun fights through the fog. Once the bicyclists started whizzing past, heads always down, I would start to make my way back to the parking area. It didn’t occur to me until later that maybe the reason they didn’t look up or say hello as they rode by was because they knew what I was doing out there alone. Maybe they didn’t want to see me. To remember that they said hello to that guy that morning in case they came across a picture later on. I don’t know.
If you asked me to tell you one of the happiest days of my life, I would tell you it was September 8th, the day before I planned to jump. I woke up that morning feeling lighter, freer, even happier! A great weight had been lifted. I was gonna go to the movies and see a movie I had been waiting to see, then just enjoy the rest of the day. Even the street lights seemed to have a hazy glow about them. Everything moved in a surreal time-lapse. When I got out of the movie, I drove to a pond near where I lived in Hamilton Field. Watched some birds splash around and then got a call from a friend who was an ex-coworker. I felt comfortable enough to tell her my plan. She wasn’t happy about it, I sat numbly trying to explain that this was gonna be ok, that it wasn’t a bad thing. Why couldn’t she grasp this? To me, it was like someone freaking out because I said I was gonna get a chicken sandwich at McDonalds instead of a Big Mac. Then I started to realize that she really did care and I wasn’t going to be able to make her understand.
I went home. The cops showed up a short time later. An officer asked me if I would be willing to talk to someone and I said, “Yes absolutely! I would love to fix myself!” I meant it too. This was actually good news. Finally, I would get therapy or something and I would be better.
So he handcuffed me and sat me in the back of his car while they talked with my roommate, then drove me to Marin County Psych Ward for a suicide hold.
I learned very quickly that I was not going to get any help there. I sat on a bench outside in cuffs until they were ready to process me. Then they take you in, they ask you a brief history and ask you if you are suicidal. You answer truthfully and they tell you to go sit on the couch.
Imagine a large room, part of it has desks all shoved together and people working, but you aren’t supposed to talk to them. There are a couple couches in the middle, a bench along the back wall. A makeshift half kitchen area with a fridge that you are told you can use. There are hot pockets and pot pies and such in the freezer. The people around you are a mix of completely crazy and people like you. Or I guess if you are crazy then there is a mix of boringly sad people and then people like you. Take your pick.
No one talks to you. You sit for 4 hours and then they assign rooms and pass out sleeping pills. You get up around midnight cause you can’t sleep and make your way out to the fridge only to have someone tell you that, “You can’t be out here until 6am.” and to go back to your bed. They offer more sleeping pills but you turn them down.
The next day you sit on the couch for hours on end until someone calls your name, asks if you are suicidal and if you say yes they send you back to the couch. Rinse and repeat.
The third day you decide to lie, they ask if you are suicidal, you cheerfully chirp, “Not a bit”. And they hand you a taxi voucher and buzz you out.
No help ever offered, no direction pointed at for where to find help except a business card that asks for insurance info the moment they answer and hangs up when you tell them you don’t have any.
I hear similar stories from people who have been to Mary K. Shell and that breaks my heart. People have asked me if I ever called a suicide hotline and the answer is no. I know that they aren’t truly anonymous and are required to report you to authorities. If anything, the 2007 plan taught me one thing. How to hide it all away.
In 2012 I quit my job and made plans again. This time I would do it a little more secretly. I made goodbye videos and uploaded them to YouTube but made them private. My idea was to sell everything I owned, guns included, and man I love guns! I did though. I sold all but one pistol and anything else I had of value. The plan was to coast on the money until I couldn’t pay rent or bills anymore and had $100 left. Then head to the beach, spend the day there, and take my own life after changing the video from private to public. I even looked up coverage area maps online to make sure I would be able to. I would let someone else find the goodbye video, or possibly post it on Facebook last minute before turning off my phone. My 4 Runner was packed. I had an ice chest ready, some blankets, I even had a beach umbrella because you know, I didn’t want to sunburn before I killed myself. Ha. Yea, I don’t get it either now but at the time I made a special trip to two different Rite Aids looking for one.
Something out there wasn’t ready to let me leave yet though and kept putting things in front of me. Ultimately I ended up falling in love. I never expected that to happen. It really wasn’t fair to her though because I was still dancing with demons. We both were and ultimately it was me that gave up on us and walked away. Something I will no doubt continue to regret for some time, if not always.
I wrote a Last Days style journal which I published in my last book. Completely unedited for content and terrifying to put out there, but I wanted this. I wanted to start a non-scary conversation about suicide. I wanted people to know that they could ask me questions and I would give them answers, real answers, and not hide behind a mask anymore.
I still hide. You kind of pick up on when people are able to handle the truth, and when they are just trying to be cordial.
How have I made it to 2017? Honestly, just distractions, setting little and easily achievable goals and finding something to be passionate about.
One of the things I can offer if you are talking to someone who is suicidal is to change the subject, this includes reasons why and why not to commit suicide. Don’t ignore what they just said, but instead listen and then try to drag the conversation into something they enjoy. Don’t try to guilt them into staying, it has the opposite effect. Well, it does with me anyway. Cause the more someone tries to tell me that So-and-So will be so hurt if you do it, the more I want to scream, “What about what I want? Don’t keep me a tortured prisoner just because of your inability to deal with death!”
Ask about their hobbies and interests. Do they like to draw? Ask to see some and if they do show you, please tell them truthfully what emotions or feelings the drawing brings up inside you. Even if this is something you aren’t good at. Don’t just give them generic, “Oh that’s cool.” If you think it’s cool, tell them why. Pick a specific part. Is the hair drawn in a way that makes you feel like they are moving? Does the smile feel genuine? Look deeper at everything even though your mind is panicking and wants you to just keep talking until they calm down. Find a way to beat back that panic and reply only after truly listening.
One micro-goal that I set for myself is movies. I love movies. I love the escape, the adventure, the fantasy. I love books too, but movies have release dates and there are always movies coming out that I want to see. The last goal I set and reached was simple, “I have to wait until after I see Logan.” I made it, and it was worth it. It might seem pretty trivial, but it really does help. If I can catch a good trailer, it can hold back the dark like a torch. Sometimes that isn’t enough, though.
Sometimes I start sinking into the dark and pulling back from everyone around me I know things are not good. I know I should reach out. But I can’t. I have people asking if I am okay, and I mask up, tell them it’s all fine when I know it isn’t. I tell myself I’ll get through it alone even as I lie awake at night staring at the ceiling and thinking about places to go to do it. Should I do it in my truck? No, then my dad won’t be able to sell it. I should do it outside. Ok, so where? Oh, that’s a good place. I like that…
I fall asleep and hope tomorrow is a quieter day for the voices.
Oh yeah, the voices. They aren’t exactly how I picture “The voices” when I hear the phrase in movies. I don’t actually hear them so much as just have them in my head. Little gremlin thoughts that sneak up out of nowhere and remind me that I should kill myself. They can be ignored, but it still leaves a little shadow of doubt in the back of your head for a while. I haven’t figured out a way to stop them but I do find myself whispering obscenities at them from time to time. Hmm, maybe I should have placed myself in the “Crazy” category earlier when I was talking about the psych ward intake procedure.
A great way to break away from the dark river of suicidal thoughts is finding a passion. It can be anything that sets your blood ablaze. Politics, Civil Rights, Comic Books, Misspelled memes, whatever stands your hair up. Pick a poison and just jump in. Learn to swim as you go. Want to get people more excited about recycling? Then do it. Start a group on social media, find one, drag your family into it in a more personal way by making paper plate signs and taping them to their bedroom doors if they forget to use the recycling bin. If you live in a more conservative home and that isn’t an option, then just do some research and bring it up conversationally but let them know you are serious about it. Right, recycling might be a bad example but still. Find a passion, something you truly believe in and feel in your heart and just start researching, start learning, start trying to educate others, even if you don’t have all the answers.
The same can be said about helping someone who is suicidal. Listen to them, talk to them, even if you don’t have all the answers, because I know I sure don’t, but I am here and you can talk to me anytime. If you aren’t ready to speak out publicly then come find me, please. I will answer any question you have and try to help you find your own path, your own goals. Today does not have to be your last, and neither does tomorrow.
Thank you.

You pushed them as you passed me

The pacifist

Your hate

Surrounding me in a whirlwind

Of your rhetoric

Your absence of empathy

Burning like torches

Tossed in a bonfire

As you cheered their oppression

 

 

You grip tight your salvation

Bullshit bound with nothing dogeared

You tore apart the Constitution

And laughed as they huddled in fear

 

 

You mock them for wanting equality

While they beg for peace

But I’m here now motherfucker

I’ll be the voiceless’ mouthpiece

 

 

I don’t share their history of pain

But I damn sure understand

These are my people

This is my country

This is our homeland

So while your hatred little hearts

Beg for war

It’s no longer you versus them

Cause I’m tired of trying

There is nothing more to discuss

Load your fucking guns

Ready your fucking fists

Cause now it’s just you

Versus all of us