You Scared Me

March 16, 2008
By Karin Zander, Palo Alto, CA

I backed my way through the door and set the bags of groceries down on our only counter space. I’ve never minded our dinky kitchen, or how we would often go days without any food to fill our refrigerator, but the pros of living here far out way the cons. Without bothering to put the groceries away, I peeked through the kitchen door. The living room was void of all light except for the white glow flashing from the TV and reflecting onto Adam. I headed over to where he was sprawled out on our second hand couch and doused in the white light. As I drew closer, he noticed me and half heartedly turned his head in my direction. “Oh Julie. . . it’s only you. . . I-I wasn’t sure. . . I thought it might have been a dream. That maybe I’d finally fallen asleep. . .” I moved to sit down next to him and danced my fingers through his gorgeous, curly hair. As I did so, he sat up a little straighter and asked, with a yawn, “W-What time is it?” I chuckled and smiled at him with what I like to think was love. Still smiling, I pulled my cell phone out from the front pocket of my jeans and checked the time for him. The little plastic contraption was a piece of crap if you wanted to make a call, but it served quite well as a watch.

“It’s a little after three thirty.” Adam groaned and I automatically moved closer, trying to be comforting. It seems like I’m always doing this, trying with all the effort I can muster to help him, but it never gets any better. I know this makes me sound arrogant, but I don’t care; he’s the only thing that matters to me. But it never does any good; every day he comes home completely beaten. I wish I could help him, I do, I really do; every birthday wish, every shooting star, every 11:11, I wish that he could be happy. If only if he could be happy. . .

It feels like ever since I met him, I haven’t truly been happy. Please don’t mistake that for the blame game. Any unhappiness I’ve suffered, I’ve had because of me, not because of him. I take complete responsibility for my life and the decisions I’ve made that have led me here. I don’t blame Adam in the slightest. He has enough blame thrust upon him from all other sides as it is. People who hardly even know him treat him like they would any other man of his stature; they don’t know how close his spirit is to breaking. When I say that I cannot be happy with him, it’s only because I’m so fully invested in him. All of his unhappiness hurts him, but it tears me apart until there’s very little left for me to cling to.

“I wish I could go do that thing.” Long ago I had made myself comfortable by burrowing into his chest, so I could not see his face and ended up talking to the space in front of me, “Do you mean the sleeping thing?”

“Yeah. . .Only the one where you don’t wake up.”

“Oh. . .You mean the dead thing.”

“Yes, that’s the one; I was thinking about that one today.” It didn’t seem like Adam was planning on saying anymore, so I started to get nervous. I didn’t know what to do, no one ever taught me how to act if the person you supposedly know best suddenly shows signs of suicidal tendencies. No one ever taught me that. It’s not even that I hadn’t been in this situation before, because I had. I mean, who hasn’t? It seems impossible nowadays for one to live this long and not meet an odd handful of people who’d rather off themselves than spend more time on this wretched earth. And I don’t blame them, it’s easy to see why one would be unhappy, but so far I’ve always been able to convince these suicidies that life really isn’t so bad. But I couldn’t do that with Adam, he knows me too well. He’s been me for too long.

Adam interrupted my thoughts with a quite, far away voice, “They say it’s never the people you’d expect. . .”

I was an idiot, and I couldn’t find the right words. Instead of trying to comfort him, I plowed right on through the sensitive subject with about as much grace as the blunt end of a steak knife trying to cut through bone. “Why were you thinking about that today?” Maybe Adam hadn’t been listening, or maybe he was trying to anticipate another sort of soundless question that I hadn’t yet uttered. Regardless, he first answered without relation, “Because I’m...”

“Yes?” I’m like an eager child in a candy store, but instead of candy, I’m greedy for his thoughts and emotions. I disgust myself.

“Because I’m weak.”

“And?” I could feel his body shifting, I could sense that his eyes had focused on me, but I wouldn’t turn around. I couldn’t. I couldn’t let him see that I was crying: it was bad enough that it was seeping into my voice, but he didn’t need to know. He’d notice soon enough, of course: as soon as he took a look at the bright red jersey he wore, he would see the mascara stains. He was used to them by now. Too used to them. I wish I’d never let him see me cry, but sometimes I couldn’t keep it in and the black lines would run across my face, disregarding my will.

“There is no ‘and,’ just weakness.”

“Come on, you can’t stop there, I know there’s more.”

Without a crack, or a higher octave of hesitation, Adam said, “What more could you expect?” I should mention that because Adam doesn’t expect much from himself, he sees no reason for anyone else to either. The same goes for love, and it hurts me every time I tell him that I love him and all he can do is look back at me with disbelieving eyes.

I try to act rationally, try to convince him that I wasn’t hurt, “Unless you’re thinking about death everyday, then there is more to expect.”

“Not. . . not everyday.” A classy ‘oh’ is all I could manage for the time being, but I soon gathered my thoughts and said, “Suicidal death, or just thinking about it?” As you can see, I still had some hope. Maybe he wasn’t suicidal after all, he was into the writings of the great Existentialist philosophers –Kierkegaard and Marx, to say the least– and maybe he was just reflecting them.

But he managed to extinguish all hope with one word, “Suicide.” I wanted to scream at him and shout, ‘What about me?? I’m still here, isn’t that enough?’ But after that, I wouldn’t know where to go, there were too many directions. What would I do if I were ever without him? How would I make it through if he wasn’t around? And didn’t he love me? Hadn’t he said that and hadn’t he promised never to hurt me? He had, and I thought he meant it too, so why wasn’t I enough to live for?

“You’re not so weak. Really, you’re not.”

“Au contrair, I most definitely am.”

“No, no, you’re doing pretty good.”

“I’m. Not.” I squirmed around to see him and in the process, I almost fell off the coach. Luckily, he caught me and pulled me closer. For the first time that night, I saw his face and it completely changed my mind, “I thought you were doing pretty good. . .”

“I. . .I can’t kill myself, I think it’s too selfish an action.”

“You’re right, it would hurt everyone else a lot.” Yes, I hate myself for playing the guilt card, but it would hurt me, never mind everyone else he’s ever met –co-workers, friends, teammate – they’d all be devastated. And his family. I can’t imagine what this would do to his brothers or his parents, they love him so much.

Adam continued, “But who knows, sometimes even I surprise myself. But, like I said, it’s always the people you expect the least. See, the people who say they want to kill themselves just want attention.”

“But the world isn’t divided up into people who want attention and people who want to die.”

“No, but the people who want to die won’t tell you they want to die, they’ll just do it.”

“And. . .is that why you always hear people saying that they didn’t see it coming?”

“Exactly. If they had seen it coming, it wouldn’t have happened and by that standard, you should be happy.”

I looked at him in shock and horror, trying to find anything good about the whole situation, and asked “How’s that?”

“You can take comfort in knowing that I won’t kill myself. Not until you forget this conversation, at least.” He stroked my hair, evidently under the impression that he really had comforted me.

I snuggled up closer to him and said, “But I won’t forget this conversation. There, problem solved.”

“Maybe you’ll never forget it entirely, but it will eventually leave your stream of consciousness.”

“No it won’t.”

He chuckled and pulled me closer as he said, “Don’t be so sure about that.”

We laid like that for the rest of the night, mulling over what had just happened, hopefully each of us remained constricted to our own thoughts. Although, I am guilty of trying to understand his, but I’ve always done that; ever since I first met him, I’ve bombarded him with questions to try and figure him out. And now that I have, now that I’m finally one step inside, I wish that I wasn’t. Normally I’m glad that he’s honest with me, it makes me feel closer, more loved, but to know and to truly understand how unhappy he is. . . frankly, it’s become a sort of burden. Most of the time I’m glad to carry it for him, but sometimes it gets to be too much for me and I almost collapse under the weight of so much misery. At those times, he’s always there, up and ready to throw joke after joke at me until I’m better. It used to be hard for me to decide if I was worse off with or without him, considering all the misery he’s shown me, but now I know that I’m ready to embrace and absorb all of his unhappiness if it means that he will stay for one more day.

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This article has 1 comment.

AnnieC SILVER said...
on Jun. 26 2010 at 9:28 pm
AnnieC SILVER, Council, Idaho
5 articles 0 photos 10 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I can gather all the news I need on the weather report. Hey, I've got nothing to do today but smile." Simon and Garfunkel 'The Only Living Boy in New York'

Wow. You're really wonderful at articulating thoughts that are hard to put into words and even harder to want to consider. I loved the point of view you told it from, and really felt grief for the narrator.


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