Life’s Too Short
I have written about suicide prevention in the past, and no matter how many times I say life’s too short, it is if we don’t try to save others. For more information on suicide prevention, please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Life’s too short.
They are simple words, the words that had been echoing in my head for the past week before that Thursday afternoon. My hands felt unsteady on the little plastic water cup, its cool nature contrasting with the uncomfortable heat of the July day that settled into the living room with all these people. No matter how many fans were going, nothing could settle the strained bodies in the room.
The cup was eventually put down, and instead my hands were left feeling the velvety texture on top of a dark green cowboy hat. The room, filled with 12 or so people, looked at me with shell shock on their faces as I told the story of the boy I dated years ago who took his own life. I then ended it with the only words I could: “Life’s too short.”
There was Matt on the couch, cross legged in thought in his clean pressed slacks across the room. Dave’s face was solemn and quiet, not his usual social self. Danny, the man who I was proud to call my spiritual leader, was silent in the stories that the people in the room were telling, sitting on the small staircase. My friend Angela was sitting next to me, and the tears in her eyes were gnawing at me as I pulled her in close to comfort her. It was partially for her, but also for me — if I looked at her, I was worried I would fall apart.
A month has passed since that day in my office where I received a text from my friend who told me that Mark had died. I stood near the elevators, trying to figure out what had happened, forced to go back into my tiny work space, where all I could do was face my computer and try not to cry. The attempt failed, miserably. For days, I tried to write something about exactly what had happened, but all I could get out of my soul was the equivalent of wind getting knocked out of me after a sucker punch. It became even worse when I found out his death was due to a suicide. Depression had come to claim another one of my friends.
My mind was forced to think about Mark, about when I dated him three short years before. He was charming and talkative, and I felt comfortable enough with him to make love to him, with my emotions and not just my standard sex mode where I only think of pleasure. The time we spent together was great, and I remember thinking that this could go somewhere, although I didn’t know how. Then… nothing. Ghosted.
So imagine my shock when, months later, I would show up at a temple service and he was there. He had gained a substantial amount of weight in the passing months, but I knew him anywhere. My anger flushed my cheeks, flustering in a way that I never thought I would.
There were two sides of my frustration, and one of them was in watching my dating life cross over into my social life, which I liked to keep very separate from one another in the wake of my divorce. The other was Mark himself. My pride took over, because I didn’t think I was that bad to date, but obviously I wasn’t worth it to him — not hot enough, good enough, sane enough. For all I knew, he was telling everyone he had dated me and I was something awful. My social anxieties and insecurities kept biting me.
It was this pride that interfered when he came asking me for my forgiveness for his past actions around Rosh Hashana last year, that he hoped that in time we could become friends. I was hesitant to give it, although in the end I made the right decision to hand it over. In all of it, I still didn’t trust him; I figured this act was a nice way to get on my good side so he could date all my friends. Maybe we would built it one day, but I was still angry.
One night over drinks in the warm wooden paneling of the Roosevelt, I would tell Matt about this whole story. He had never known about how Mark and I met, but then said lifting up his highball glass to his lips, “Mark’s got some issues. He’s a nice guy, and I don’t think it was you. But those problems can weigh on you, and hurt others in the process.”
We didn’t know as we were sitting there in that cozy Hollywood hotel. How could we know what was to come in the months after, that we would end up with a death on our hands?
As Danny sat with his guitar, playing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” his voice so clear and lovely, I thought about Mark as his favorite song cut through the sorrow. There were two other souls who were wandering with me through that whole week in dealing with Mark’s death: A friend from the comedy scene who also fell to suicide, and JT. Sweet JT, my beloved ghost who I have missed every day since he died from a prescription drug overdose at 19.
He was the boy who wanted nothing but love for me, who would hug me tight and tell me how he wanted someone to hold me close the way he did; how I deserved that. He also once abandoned me as I stood outside a Starbucks near his house in Chatsworth, waiting for him. Not because he didn’t care for me with every fiber of his being, but because his demon of depression was so powerful it can destroy everything. It was this that fueled his addiction that would eventually steal him from me. And this was the same disease that killed Mark.
As the silence fell into the room once more, my words seemed to haunt me. Life is too short, and will always be unless we embrace it and let it take us. It was why Dave and I were hugging at the end of the night when for years we didn’t always get along; maybe it was because we couldn’t see one another for the people we are until life threw us a curve ball. Nothing was worth it anymore.
It was also why I left the memorial that night to have dinner with a boy and allowed myself to laugh through City Target with him. I loved every minute he tried to tap dance on the white linoleum floor or put me into a Wookie onesie, allowing me to giggle about snipping off manbuns. By the end of the night I didn’t want to leave his passenger’s seat. Life is too short, and love is stronger than death could ever hope to be.
In the month that has passed, a lot changed. Mark has popped up in my head here and there, thoughts of him echoing through my activities. I have to remind myself there was nothing any of us could do to save him. That death happens, and it will to us all. It doesn’t make me any more comfortable it, though.
My anger has to be put on hold for the comedians who keep joking that they’re going to kill themselves when they have seen the ravages of suicide for themselves; for my past where suicidal threats were used as a method to abuse and control me; against those who think depression is a joke when it’s maiming and murdering people. It has killed three of my friends thus far, and in the tangled web of tragedy it weaves, it destroys more lives than I could ever imagine.
All we could do is tell the world that it isn’t worth it. That somewhere in the world that there will be people who will make us remember that life is an amazing journey, to not fall into the blind spots. And for the rest of us, it’s up to us to see those we love tangled in those places and be able to pull them out of there. All I know is life’s too short to go it alone.