There seems to be some strange assumption, when we think of old friends we’ve lost touch with, that they’re probably doing just fine. Maybe even better than we are. That was the assumption I was under when I heard the news that a beloved friend had chosen to end their life. I’m not telling their story today, as I am severely under qualified to do so. No, I’m only telling my own role in the strange events following this unfortunate end to a young and brilliant life: I’m telling the story of how one suicide ended up preventing another one through logic that is altogether non-human.
When I got the call that this friend had exited the material world I was still running ragged; 115 lbs wet, no hope, and a center-console full of empty baggies and broken crack pipes. Even through the fog of rampant addiction I very much felt the impact of this loss, though I did not have any capacity for facing or working through it at the time.
This was summer. The memorial, I found out, was scheduled for fall.
By the time the date was drawing near I had lost my entire world to addiction, moved back in with family, and accumulated six months clean-time. Getting to see that group of old friends and mourning with them was one of the most important events of my life, and to no surprise; our times together when we were younger were equally as significant. But that is not part of this story, either.
The best friend of the departed had a sister, and that sister and I had chemistry. Our conversation didn’t stop for several months after returning to our home states and towns, her and I. She ended up proposing to me, to which I agreed. It wasn’t the kind of thing where you know it’s a good idea. In fact, it felt a little silly even at the time, but my heart was telling me something very clearly and plainly throughout the duration of that relationship. My heart was saying “You’ll be sorry if you don’t.”
This is not the usual fodder my heart spouts to my brain. This was an anomaly. I’m used to a heart that yells out grand declarations while inebriated as others are trying to have conversation.
But then we fast forward to Thanksgiving a couple months later and she’s meeting my family. Fast forward to Christmas time drawing in and I’m getting ready to go spend the holiday with hers.
I’m nervous. I’m anxious. I know that it will all be okay, though, once I see her face and feel that connection that had been powerful enough to sustain me for months with a thousand miles between us. Except when I saw her, at home in this world utterly foreign to me, I noticed within the first few seconds that the connection was gone. Vanished.
I did my best to maintain, but she would not connect. She outright refused to. Here I am a few states from home, hours of bus ride from any kind of safe place, in the livingroom of a family I don’t know, and the woman that asked me to marry her only a month prior was treating me like an indigent phantom limb.
I spent three days in this living hell, all the while she maintained that nothing was wrong and that I was being, basically, crazy before finally ending things with a ten-cent breakup excuse and leaving me alone in an Airbnb to peacefully enjoy the walls closing in.
That night I almost relapsed. I wanted to. I could feel pure sorrow and anguish swirling around me in geometrical patterns. I felt so close very to God. I was not, however, going to let this bullshit steal my clean, so I mustered up the guts to call someone. Maybe the only someone that could have helped me at that moment, someone that I had known almost my entire life and with whom I had been through hell. Someone that never picks up the phone on the first try. But this time, they did. And they were so very good and kind to me that I made it through that night without doing anything stupid whatsoever.
The next morning I received a message from this old friend, the one that saved me the night before. We hadn’t spoken much at all around that time and you can imagine the surprise, the mind-melting gratitude, the reality-bending record-scratch that the following data incited.
As it turned out, the friend who answered the phone, the one I thought was saving my life the night before, was on their way to end their own life when they answered my call. If i hadn’t called them right then, as they explained, at that exact time and on that exact day, they would not be with us now, today.
I followed my heart when it didn’t make sense and someone truly precious to me still walks the Earth as a result. I guess I’m sharing this because we should all be aware. No matter what the critics say (and that includes the self): listen to your heart. You may be much, much more sorry if you don’t.