Trigger Warning: Suicide
My friends Joy and Edith were in rehearsals for Oliver! at our local theater. I was sitting in one of the soft, velvet-red seats out in the audience, and I’m not sure why I was even there. Maybe my mom was playing piano for them that night.
I had never been in this building before. It sat on Main Street in town, this old style theater, that has now, probably, been turned into a concert hall or cinema. I have this sense that the building was tall and white with plaster rectangles and curlicues on the facade. But that is only a sense; I can’t remember actually.
I also can’t remember why I associate this night and this place with this news, but I do. A young woman killed herself, went into a bathroom stall and put a gun in her mouth.
Perhaps she committed suicide in the bathroom there at the theater. Perhaps I heard the news that night when I was there. I just can’t recall. I could ask Joy and Edith, but there are some things that feel inappropriate to question via Facebook chat.
I am in someone’s driveway up on the mountain; the red clay that stains new construction rings the driveway. I have just left the car and am standing by the back, driver’s side door of our Chevette. I think of this girl who killed herself. I imagine her in the bathroom, in a stall painted the green now called avocado. I let my mind imagine her position, which way she faced . . . but I can go no further. I am crying in this stranger’s driveway while my dad does a consult on a landscaping plan.
I think about this young woman from time to time, still, more than 25 years later. Her death – her suicide – was one of the shaping events of my pre-teen years, and I never knew her, never met her. But for whatever reason – hormones, fear, the pervasiveness of this kind of tragedy in a small, mountain community – the story of her death has stayed with me.
Perhaps her story lingers because I don’t understand it. Even with years of reading and close experience with depression, even having felt the fingers of darkness that can grip a mind and heart so tightly, even haven shaken the naivete of happiness brought on by a safe, secure childhood, I cannot know her story.
This is, of course, the story of life. So much we don’t understand.
“Under” from the Old English for between, among, in the midst of.
“Stand” from the Old English for to exist, be present.
Writing is my broken attempt at understanding.
Today is Good Friday. a day that remembers the ultimate “under standing.” A day when Jesus came to know the full height of human existence – the culmination of his human experience. On this day, Jesus felt those fingers grip him, the darkness descend, and he screamed as that darkness cut him off.
And he did not pull away. He stayed there in that darkness because we needed him to understand, in all the deepest, darkest ways, what it is to be human.
In that moment, he must have remembered this young woman with blonde curls and a long neck. He must have remembered and understood.
What stories linger with you as you try to understand? How do you respond to those stories?