Image by Dawn Estrin
I consider myself a suicide even though I’m, obviously, alive and, actually, not someone who has ever made a serious attempt.
Since I first read Sylvia Plath, probably, and thought along with her how the tulips were stealing my air and the sea poured bean green over blue, I have been one. Since I first read Anne Sexton, definitely, and realized that I never asked of the do-it-yourself dead, “why build?” only “which tools?” I have been her kind. Or most likely since Freddie Prinze, who must have been my first suicide.
Do you remember him? Senior, not junior. He was the Puerto Rican actor and comedian who was such a huge hit in the ’70s. “Chico and the Man!” He made everyone laugh until he shot himself in the head. I loved him and it hurt that he died.
And Kurt Cobain, of course, our great complainer. His death ended my adolescence, which had probably been hanging around too long anyway. I stopped playing in a rock band. It was hard to get excited about anything. I became serious and dull. Adult. I began making contributions to a pension plan. Thankfully, it didn’t take.
I’m hurt every time I hear of it, but I’m never surprised by suicide. That people are happy, that’s what confuses me. I don’t get it. I like it, happiness; I wish I were a fountain of the stuff. I cultivate it in others and even in myself sometimes. But it’s strange alien stuff. What I am made of, is the dark familiar.
Last summer gay man after gay man jumped from his high-rise apartment in the gaybourhood and I walked to work down Church Street nodding. How many of my own clients have I held back from the edges of permanent solutions to temporary problems? Hundreds, by this point in my career. But that doesn’t change what I am made of.
I’ve always thought I would die by my own hand since I heard of the idea. My mind is made of self-destruction. Even when I’m trying hard to think positively about life, a snarl of it leaps up between the cracks in my happy. An image—stabbing myself in the neck with scissors—makes me step back from a colleague’s desk on an ordinary work day.
If death takes me with its own devices, and it may—I’m getting old—I don’t wish to be wiped from the register of suicides, parted from my beloveds—Virginia Woolf with her pockets full of rocks, Shaquille Wisdom the black teenager from Ajax who was thrown in the trash can for being gay last year and who then hung himself after school, Christian Fox the straight actor who starred in gay porn through the 80’s all the while being so deeply attractive and unhappy, Martin Kruze the man who was among the boy sex abuse victims of the Maple Leaf Gardens and who made the scandal public and then threw himself from the Bloor Viaduct—I won’t be parted from them. These are my people.
If death takes me with its own devices, and it may—I have high blood pressure and brain abnormalities and the propensity to wander into accidents—don’t ever let them say, “He was no suicide.” Every day of my life I was a suicide.
Surely a random death won’t trump my essential self-annihilation. Being hit by a truck and killed on the way to the restaurant doesn’t mean that you weren’t hungry. Count me among the death-starved. Cover me with the luminous veil from the Bloor Viaduct. Float me out into the Thames with flowers in my hair. Yes, that is a smile on my bluing lips. Know that I am free and would have freed myself but for circumstance.
Andrew Tibbetts is a psychotherapist and writer living in Toronto. His work has appeared in The New Quarterly, This Magazine, The Fiddlehead, Descant, The Malahat Review and Moods Magazine. Twice nominated and once winner of the gold prize for fiction at the National Magazine Awards, Mr. Tibbetts is open to be your friend on Facebook. This piece is part of his ongoing magnum opus, the multi-volume auto-fictional essay, The Phenomenology of Loneliness.