The Secret to Quiet

My stepbrother’s suicide was the catalyst. When he took his own life, it somehow freed me from the life I had been forcing myself to live, the life that was killing me, the life I felt was the only one I could possibly be living. The death rocked me, but did not surprise me. I had seen his eyes. I had felt his tremble. I had heard his mutterings. Of course, it had been years since we’d spoken—roughly four or five, I’m foggy at best when I stop communicating with people, which is something I am apt to do—but I was still unmoored by the choice he made. I felt like the death was some kind of harbinger, a looming thing willing me to push forward or die.

I have pushed forward.

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I am usually the kind of writer/person who will take years between a happening and the act of writing it out of me. This is how I have always operated. Words take time and vision is always clouded and the desire to understand my actions or my inaction always murks up the truthblood of it all. I can always take a happening and immediately create music from it, but the words take so much longer and need so much more care. Music is in me, words are around me. This is a truth.

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We did not know one another as boys. We did not grow up together. We did not have a secret language or shared memories or shared pain. We did not know one another as young men. We did not witness the heartbreaks and the failures and the triumphs as we grew into ourselves. We did not know one another as men. We were thrust together when our broken alcoholic parents—his mother, my father—took their long-running affair and made it a marriage. We shared that awkwardness, that pain, that fear of car wrecks and sad phone calls and picking people up from jail for driving drunk.

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I can clearly see the way his hand trembled holding a glass of Knob Creek the first night I arrived in Santa Fe, his dogs wandering at our feet and his eyes unable to connect with mine as he told me of all the goings-on in regard to my father and his mother and the cancer and the accusations of infidelity and the boozing and the money and the threats of leaving. I can even now, from where I sit and write this, feel the air leaving through his skin. I can almost taste the Thanksgiving leftovers he forced on me, my drunk and chalked-out body, post-flight from New York City, the hour drive up to Santa Fe from Albuquerque a blurry mess and a lit up cop car at the end escorting me to the place I sat before him. I can feel the roughness of the sheets in the guest bedroom I was to occupy for my time on the death watch. I can sense his teetering. Even now, even now.

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The compulsion to document is not always around. Sometimes I just want to live a little and not think, not act, just roll with it all and try to keep my head attached to this terrible body and see what comes of it all. What happens more often is that my subconscious mind will document everything for me in other ways. Scents and audio and textures all filed into places deep in the brain where I have little or no access until my brain decides I am ready. This is the way of my world, the way of my mind, the way of my hands stroking the keyboard at a speed that makes no sense. All brawn, no brain.

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My stepbrother’s partner of twenty-three years is left behind now. Left behind with the dogs and the Star Trek collectibles and the kitchen full of spices and shelves full of books. Left behind without his partner, alone to keep pushing forward. Alone to keep keepin’. I would call and try to speak to him, but I know that call would go unanswered and unwanted. I probably wouldn’t take that call. I wouldn’t want to hear a sound from a banisher who never explained the banishment. I split from their world a couple of years after my father died, tired of hearing about the sadness of my father’s wife, tired of knowing she was alive and my father was gone and tired of hearing talk about my lack of communication and my lack of compassion.

Tired is a thing that lurks and hurts.

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It took a bit, but I blew up my life after the suicide. I left my wife of nine years. I started to pull away from all of the sad and all of the uncertainty and all of the work that felt like it would never balance out, never amount to a shining thing. I tell my therapist about my own suicidal ideation, about how I know it isn’t a real thing, that I am a kind of tourist. I don’t want to die, I want to shift into something else, a Phoenix of sorts, a person I can believe in, a person who deserves love and light and smiles and a future. I am struggling with this thing, and the daily/hourly urge to run is always underneath it all. I think about the jungles of South America, I think about the mountains of the southwest, I think about arms to hold me and beds to sleep forever within. I want to live inside of songs, melodies, in light. I want to feel and not be shamed for feeling.

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A massive black hole could come down from the sky right now over the earth and people would still argue about it until the whole of humanity was sucked into it and shat out the other side a terrarium of frogs and protozoa. This is the world we’re living in, a world where eight billion people are about to face massive starvation and all anyone wants to talk about are politicians and celebrities and who is fucking who and who is angry about what and who is rich while the rest of us go dead inside.

What does this mean for the suicidal?

What does this do for the future?

The measurements we all use to find our way around in the dark are obsolete. We will fumble and we will fall and we will cry and we will have to—most of us who are alive and feeling and afraid and ready to walk away from a life—stop ourselves from stepping in front of the 7 at the Times Square station in the middle of rush hour.

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I am, as ever, learning how to love myself more.

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