Hello Death, My Old Friend
Being smart and therefore predisposed to being sad and lose all hope in humanity, the next step wasn’t far away. The next step of course being, if I couldn’t get them to stop, I could get myself to stop. Stop being alive, that is. I started spending every break walking as far away from the school as I could, turning around just in time to make it back in time for class.
I had a jacket with pockets big enough for a portable CD-player, this was just before mp3-players became somewhat affordable. This was the beginning of a reliance on sound to block out the rest of the world that would only grow in the coming years.
Those around me would grow used to having to wave at me to take out my earphones before speaking to me so that I could hear what they were saying. I was in need of constant distraction from life itself so my ears were rarely empty, constantly listening to music, and later podcasts and audiobooks. It became the main way I handled my anxiety and feelings of not finding anywhere to belong.
There’s a huge difference between wanting to kill yourself and actually killing yourself. It’s like the difference between people who say they’re going to start working out and the ones that actually do it and get out of their obese misery. Actually hauling your fat ass to the gym takes some balls. Adults often tell children that bullies bully because they feel bad on the inside.
That may very well be true. Although everybody feels bad on the inside growing up. The theory is that you push others down because it feels like it’s the only way to feel better, to look okay by comparison. Whether it’s true or not I think is disputable. The ones who picked on me seemed to have a lot of fun doing it. So why didn’t I do it, then? Some may argue that I did.
A majority will probably argue that I did, since a lot of people can only see things in black and white, and me punching kids to get them to stop being annoying probably looked pretty nasty from their point of view. I hated when people said that bullies bully because they feel bad, just to make the outcasts feel better.
Don’t lie and tell me that they only do it because they feel bad about themselves. Some might, but others definitely don’t. Many just like it. And it’s not like that instinct goes away when we grow up. Most of the world’s most consequential political decisions in recent years show us that hatred and the addiction to schadenfreude have far from evaporated.
I’ll tell you why I was such a social failure using one nugget of information. When I was twelve, my class made a mixtape, a mix CD to be exact, on which each of us got to pick a song. The other kids picked whatever was hip at the time, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, stuff like that. I picked Bobby Brown Goes Down by Frank Zappa.
During our after-school party, when the song came on, everybody left the room to get snacks like the song was a rat filled with aids. I was alone in that room listening to that stupid song about this Bobby Brown asshole. The class assistant who had made the mixtape commented on everyone leaving. I didn’t know what to say. Of course they left, I had the fucking plague, and everything I touched did too.
Once upon a time, there was a boy. The boy was twelve years old. The boy was me (duh). I had tired of my existence so I had decided to terminate it. I had chosen the method of jumping from a tall building for some retarded, dumbass, bumfuck reason. Probably because of the severe lack of guns being provided to kids. God bless America.
During one lunch break, I was resting my back against a rock in the forest with my jacket over my head as to shut out all the light, to the fascination of the younger schoolchildren, and to the furthering of my misery. I tried so hard to be normal, but everything I did seemed to be so odd to everyone else. It was maddening.
The next period I was in sewing class, looking out the window up towards the rooftop. Next to me sat Peter, generally dumb and far from quick-witted, which is why I felt comfortable asking: “Hey if you jump from that rooftop, do you think you’d die?” without raising any red flags. It didn’t. He simply looked up at the rooftop and said “Yeah, probably.”
That’s when I decided to do it. I was gonna jump from the rooftop during the next break. I couldn’t possibly have been more of a nerd than in that moment. I couldn’t even leave a class early to facilitate my own death. When class was over, I went to the library and up the loft and out the window onto the roof at the end of the short loft corridor.
The only problem with that was that everyone else was on break too, which meant they could see me up there, and this was not part of the plan. The plan was to die alone. I noticed them noticing me, looking up at me from below. I saw one of them walk back inside. That never happened, nobody walked back inside before the bell rang, this was the mid-2000s, nobody had screens to play with or to watch weird porn on.
Soon enough, the principal was out there talking to me, she seemed calm. I don’t think the snitch had said to her “Oscar is up on the roof, I think he’s gonna kill himself,” I think they just said, “There’s someone on the roof who’s not supposed to be there.” The principal looked up at me and said “Hey, only the janitor is supposed to go up on the roof to get the balls down.”
It was very common for soccer balls to get stuck on the rooftop since it was only about 12 feet high, much too short to create a lethal fall anyway. I chickened out and took the stairs back down.
It was fall, but winter was coming with a vengeance. The great thing about the really cold winters and the frozen lake that came with it was that you now had somewhere to completely disappear to in minutes. Out on the lake, there were no street lights, just snow, ice, and darkness. As evening set in and it had been pitch-black for the last six hours, walking onto that empty lake really felt like stepping out of the world for a while. It was glorious.
This especially came in handy one Christmas when I couldn’t stand the people around me or the feeling of being trapped in my mind. The stars shone brightly as they often did when it was nipple-twisting cold, I had escaped quickly and therefore not put on any thermal pants, which meant I, despite walking briskly, quickly lost all feeling in my legs in the -20-degree cold. As I was walking further and further into the night, I could hear and feel the ice crack beneath me.
The reason for this became abundantly clear as I raised my eyes from the ice. A black limousine was rolling towards me, almost gliding through the fresh snow. It came to a stop beside me and the side door opened. A tall, thin man dressed in all black stepped out of the car and towered over me, small as I was back then. In a dark suit, hair slicked back, he looked at me but remained silent.
“Who are you?” I said, trying to sound casual.
“Most people call me Death, but it doesn’t make much sense since I don’t cause anyone’s demise, I just facilitate their journey beyond this world once they’ve already decided that it’s their time to go,” said the man.
Daydreaming was another one of my methods to stay away from the real world as much as possible, and my fantasies could be quite vivid, but this was something else.
“More like a guide then, or a chauffeur?” I asked.
“You could say that,” said Death with the hint of a smile.
“So, what are you doing here?”
“I’m just checking in on you,” he said, his voice surprisingly friendly.
“Who are you, my dad?” I said, trying to sound like a moody teenager. Death seemed to ignore my tone entirely and just kept staring at me with his rather cold eyes bordering between green and gray.
“Are you ready to join me? I could have the ice break and drown you right here and now if you’d like,” he said, smirking in a rather unnerving way.
“Why would I try to drown myself, that’s like the worst way to do it. It’s all wet and suffocating.”
“Yes, that is the point.”
“It’s so uncomfortable though.”
“What kind of suicide isn’t?”
“Being smothered by a massive pair of tits? Drowning in ice cream? Cumming so hard you die?”
“How would you do that?”
“I don’t know, you should be able to jerk yourself to death though, don’t you think?”
“I’m good for now on the suicide front… I think.” I said to Death.
“Good, I’m happy to hear that,” he said, still smiling.
“Why are you surprised?”
“I don’t know, popular culture makes you out to be kind of a bad guy.”
“Well, I’ve always just been trying to guide people through what is for a lot of people a very difficult process. After all, I’m Death, not Satan.”
“So, Satan exists eh?”
“Oh yeah, we have lunch every Tuesday.”
“What about God?”
“Of course not, don’t be silly,” Death chuckled and we seemed to have a moment of snobbish atheist brotherhood.
“There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you,” I said, suddenly coming up with a question I really did want to ask, not just to stall my own ending.
“Yes?” he said inquisitorially with what looked like an attempt at a fatherly expression on his face.
“What do you think of that death help clinic in Switzerland?”
“It seems they’re trying to steal my job and I don’t like it. Sure, it makes the process a lot easier, but should dying really be that easy? I don’t think so.”
“Wow, I didn’t expect Death to be pro-life.”
“Oh, abortion’s fine, fetuses aren’t really alive anyway, they don’t have any conscious thought, it’s like taking the bun out of the oven while it’s still just runny dough.”
Usually, it’s something in the real world that brings me out of my reverie and back to real life, but this also means that when I’m alone and uninterrupted these dreams can go on for quite some time. This time, it was a wolf howling in the distant darkness that shook me back to sanity and made the man and his limousine vanish.
As I would come to learn, Death had a thing for flair. During the lunch break halfway through one of my waning days at Härnöstuna, I was walking across the soccer field, trying to get away from it all as I did every break during this time. I had almost disappeared from the schoolyard unnoticed once more when everything suddenly went dark as if an eclipse had just blocked out the sun.
Day had turned to night in less than a second, the moon was in the sky, shining brightly down on the kids who had all frozen in their tracks. A carriage was coming to a stop on the parking lot on the far side of the field. Oddly, it was being pulled by what looked like humans. On closer inspection, they all looked fairly, if not entirely, dead.
A side door opened and Death emerged. He had chosen to forego the limousine this time. The chariot was covered in black velvet, but it was torn in places, and like an old car, it was leaking oil onto the ground. Only the pool beneath it was clearly not black, but red. The chariot was leaking blood.
It seemed Death had been eating something still, or at least recently, alive in there. But as he approached, I could see that his suit was spotless. All the other kids had gone silent. They didn’t try to hide, they didn’t run. They stayed put. Everything was quiet. It was like the world had been put on mute.
As he walked across the field, Death put his hand on kid after kid, and they fell to the ground without any attempt at stopping their fall. Death and his zombie henchmen finally caught up with me. I hadn’t moved an inch since the sky had turned black. Death made a final sweeping movement with his arm across the field, and every kid he hadn’t got to on his journey over to me fell to the ground.
“Nice entrance,” I said, trying to remain cool.
“Thank you,” said Death graciously.
“It’s nice to see you again,” I said, stretching out my hand towards him. Death looked down at it, but didn’t take it. I let it hang there in the air between us, determined to get what I wanted.
“Haven’t you seen all those movies and TV shows where anyone who Death touches dies? Like what literally just happened?” said Death, gesturing to the small mass of bodies strewn across the field.
“What do you think I’ve been trying to do all this time?” I said, realizing that nothing gives you quite as much confidence as a death wish.
“Well, that’s not quite…” Death paused and took my hand. Nothing happened, his hands were surprisingly soft “…how it works…” Death continued, smiling at me. “…and it’s nice to see you too. Last time we met you didn’t seem this eager on my offer.”
“Well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.”
“Understandable,” said Death, pausing. “I know they pick on you, but this is not what you want is it?” Said Death, looking around the field.
The question caught me off guard. I walked over to the child lying closest to me, a boy lying with his face to the ground. I turned him over with my foot. It was Jon. He looked like he’d been shot in the head, but there was no blood and no bullet hole, it was like his life had been interrupted mid-sentence, and just cut to black.
“I see you’ve offed my nemesis,” I said.
“A personal favor, from me to you.”
“I appreciate it,” I said. He could sense it.
“It doesn’t make you feel any better, does it?”
“Did you think it would?”
“I dunno, maybe. I think I thought it would be worth a shot.”
“But deep down, you knew it wasn’t about vengeance, it was about you not being able to be happy, regardless of how the people around you acted?”
“Yeah, I sometimes feel like I wasn’t that much of a victim, but that I was just prone to sadness.”
“You seem calm,” said Death looking at me, intrigued.
“Well, I’m pretty sure I’m daydreaming again and that Death hasn’t just showed up and killed every single one of my classmates.”
“I guess that’s possible.”
“So how does it work then, how can you touch people one second and have them die, and then shake my hand a moment later and everything’s fine?”
“It’s actually very simple, I can turn it on and off when I feel like it.” He then did something very strange.
He walked up to me, grabbed my face with both his hands, and started kneading it like dough. My eyes were darting back and forth between his hands in complete confusion.
“You see,” said Death, “people are like any vegetable or piece of fruit… you have to take em’… at just… the right... time…and you…you’re not quite ripe yet…but when it’s time… I’ll be here… don’t you worry.”
“I’m not worried, but I suspect you’re gonna take a long ass time to decide I’m ripe, also could you…?” I said, gesturing to his hands still manhandling my face.
“Oh, right, sorry,” said Death as he seemed to realize what he was doing and removed his hands.
“Why don’t you show me a time you thought someone was ripe?” I asked Death.
“Sure,” said Death and snapped his fingers.
It was like he had switched the channels, not on a TV, but on the world around us. We were in a hospital corridor, but it seemed obvious that we had gone back in time. Rather than the walls being a pristine white, they were more of a beige color. It was late at night, the lights dimmed and the windows dark. A full moon could be seen through one of them.
Death started walking down the corridor, and we met a man dressed in a yellow shirt and orange pants which became wider towards his feet. He seemed not to notice us. If we had indeed traveled in time, we were back sometime in the early 70s. Death took a right into a room off the hall. We had come to our stop.
The room was small with just one bed. In it laid a man much too tall for the bed, there was no way he’d fit if he actually felt like lying straight. A woman and three boys of varying sizes stood beside it. The oldest looked to be in his late teens, the youngest ten or eleven. They were just about to leave. They walked around the bed and passed us as if we weren’t there because we weren’t.
“Is this what I think it is?” I asked Death.
“If you think we’ve come to witness the moment your paternal grandfather died, then yes, it’s exactly what you think it is.”
“What a wonderful moment for you to choose. My dad lost his father before he even entered puberty and you think the man was ripe for it?”
“This might not have been a fair death, but that cancerous motherfucker was ripe as fuck,” said Death.
“I appreciate your candor.”
“It is one of my most underrated qualities. I think you need to be clear with people when it’s time for them to go. Misunderstandings about when it’s time for someone to die are to be avoided at all costs.”
“You could say that you’ve been very unclear about when it’s time for me to go since I assume most people don’t even meet you until it’s their time.”
“That’s a fair point, however you’re forgetting one very important detail.”
“Why do you think this scene of your grandfather’s death is so generic and unspecific?”
“Because I’ve never asked dad what it was like when he lost his father and so I don’t really have anything to base this daydream on.”
“Exactly. Some people avoid or at the very least try their utmost to not think about their mortality in any way. I spend time with you simply because you think about death A LOT. Some would say too much.”
“No, if I’m honest, I love the attention.”
“I’m glad I can help.”
“Pay attention, it’s time,” said Death and turned to the man in the bed. With a surprising air of finality, grandpa took one last breath. Death stepped forward and closed his eyelids.
“Wait, I thought we couldn’t be seen or touch anything here,” I said.
“You’re daydreaming and I’m a shapeshifting demon who can travel through time and space, stop trying to make this make any kind of sense.”
“Fair enough. But can I just ask one more question?”
“Is death nothing but the victory of time, or do you actually have to decide when each of us dies?”
“I don’t make any decisions. That’s how you lose this job.”
“What do you mean? You’re doing this voluntarily? You could just walk away if you felt like it?
“I saw what they did to the last guy. Trust me, being Death is better than what they did to him.”
“Who was it and what did they do? And who are ‘they’? What are you talking about?”
Death looked down at me and said “I’ve already said too much,” and vanished. The sun was suddenly back in the sky, glaring in my eyes, and I turned away from the school to begin that break’s trek as far away from the schoolyard as possible in the allotted time.
The next time Death paid me a visit, it was the moment I had gotten myself atop the school rooftop, trying to take this ridiculous situation into my own hands. Death had an orchestra of the undead to play him in, it looked and sounded ridiculous.
“Don’t you think this is a bit much!?” I yelled from the roof.
“Well, you said my last entrance was pretty impressive so I felt like I had to up my game!” Death yelled back and seamlessly glided through the air onto the roof. One of the violin players who looked uncannily like Benito Mussolini played so vigorously that his head fell off, as his entire body seemed to be frail and dried up like weeds in the scorching sun. Nevertheless, he kept playing, rigorously and headlessly.
“Well, I have to say they seem pretty determined,” I said to Death with some snark.
“I like to think I’m a kind, yet assertive leader,” said Death with a glint in his eye.
“Someone’s blowing themselves daily, nightly and ever so rightly.”
“Don’t you think I have one of them do that for me?”
“Eh,” Death shrugged his shoulders like he was above it all.
“So, who are all these henchmen?” I said, procrastinating what I childishly thought would be my end.
“Some are people who I feel the need to illuminate about what they did wrong in life and others are just people I like having around.”
“So, which one’s Hitler?”
“Believe it or not, his charismatic speeches gave everyone else some rather unruly ideas, so I had to get rid of him.”
“Oh, there’s a thing I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”
“Those suicidal demons of yours, they’re physical things and you need to force them out if you ever want them to let go of their hold on you.”
“How the fuck do I do that?”
“It’s actually rather simple. Stick two fingers down your throat and trigger your gag reflex like any other poor bulimic bastard and they should come spewing out. Just a word to the wise, it won’t be pretty and just getting them out of your system isn’t the end of the battle.”
Said and done I stuck two fingers down my throat and while I’ve tried to trigger my gag reflex before, I’ve never been able to actually vomit from it. This was rather different. It was like it was lurking in my chest, just waiting to come out. It wasn’t pleasant. A large slug looking thing started making its way through my throat and out of my mouth.
It was long like an eel but thick like a piece of firewood. It was black with silver stripes, gleaming with my saliva and its own slug-fluids. It was like vomiting and taking a huge shit from your mouth at the same time. Luckily, the feeling of it in my mouth just made me hurl more, pushing the thing along.
It plopped down on the roof with the sound of someone dropping a thousand pancakes on the ground. It lay there for a second. Then it became clear what Death had meant when he had said “Just getting them out of your system isn’t the end of the battle.” Slits opened at one end of it. Two small ones, where red eyes started darting around its surroundings.
Then one longer slit opened below the eyes like a mouth, showing pointy teeth like daggers. It started snapping at me, and I jumped backward. This was clearly not Death’s first rodeo because he shouted “Here!!” and handed me a baseball bat with nails coming out of it. I didn’t really have any time to think but took the bat and starting whaling on the massive alien suicide-slug.
With my first hit, one of the nails pierced one of its eyes and it shrieked like a million tased pigs. It got its jaws around the bat and snapped it in half, nails and all. Death, prepared for every outcome, shouted “Not too worry!” and threw me an old school rifle with a bayonet.
“It takes too long to reload so make your shot count!” Death shouted as I stabbed the slug with the bayonet.
Through the screams of agony coming from the slug, I finally put the barrel directly between its eyes and pulled the trigger. The bullet went through it like jelly, and it sagged to the ground, seemingly dead.
“What the hell was that?” I asked, scared but pleased with myself.
“Every time you’ve thought about killing yourself, one of those started growing inside of you.”
“But that means there are thousands of those in there.”
“Probably more like millions,” said Death unperturbed.
“Do I have to vomit out and kill all of them?”
“In order to do what? To keep living? Of course not, you’re alive, aren’t you?”
“To… feel better? To be happy?” I was embarrassed just asking the question. Admitting that I wanted to be happy was like admitting I wanted someone to love me. I felt disgusting and weak.
“Just admitting that you want to feel better and that you’re willing to work to get there probably killed off a few thousand of them, just from sheer shock. They feed off sadness and despair, a glimmer of hope is like the rays of the shining sun hitting a werewolf, they can’t take it,” said Death.
“So I actually have to work on my own mental health then, instead of vomiting giant alien slugs and beating them with a bat.”
“Yeah, it’s up to you really what route you want to go with.”
“Has anyone ever gone with the repeatedly vomiting aliens’ option?”
“Only the psychopaths and sexual deviants.”
I walked up to the edge of the roof and looked down. “You know, I don’t know what the point was of me coming up here, this is not high enough to kill me anyway.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” said Death and snapped his fingers. There was a low rumble, and the entire building started to vibrate. Before I knew it, it shot into the sky. I threw myself down on the roof for fear of falling off. “Now it’s high enough,” said Death, smirking.
“You’re a nasty fuck, you know that right?”
“I do,” said Death, chuckling.
“Let’s get down to brass tax,” I said. “When do I actually get to come with you?”
“You do know you have to actually die before I pick you up and take you with me right?”
“Is there any way you could make an exception since I’m clearly struggling with this whole suicide thing?”
“Oh, come on! My parents aren’t exactly supporting me in this, they’re always telling me to put my seatbelt on, it’s like they don’t even want me to meet you at all.”
It was almost like being in a salary negotiation where Death was my boss and I was his employee. Like I was sitting in line outside his office with other depressed people in their shabby suits, trying to get Death to bring them along for a ride to oblivion and beyond as soon as possible, and Death, like the therapist he has turned out to be, arguing people down, trying to get them to agree to live a bit longer but not taking away the promise of a premature death, just hoping that by forcing them to stay on this earth for a few more years will mean that they’ll find something or someone to live for and not return for a renegotiation down the line.
It was finally my turn. I stepped into his small office with what used to be white walls and an ornamental plant which, fittingly, was already dead. Death had his feet on his desk looking out the window at what looked like Mordor.
“Ok, if I still wanna go at 26, you’ll come for me?” I said, driving a hard bargain.
“Sorry bud, the best I can do is 70.”
“70!? That’s not premature at all.”
“The average life span of an adult Swedish male is 81, and you’re healthier than average, at least physically, take it or leave it.” Disappointed, I said nothing.
“How horrible,” said Death absentmindedly as his phone kept buzzing.
My daydream from within a daydream was over and I was back on the rooftop with Death. He didn’t take his buzzing phone out of his pocket, but he didn’t give me his full attention either.
“Why does your phone keep buzzing?” I asked after a few more buzzes went unanswered.
“People who are about to die keep calling me to pick them up.”
“What? So, all over the world people are living longer right now because you’re sitting here talking to me??”
“Of course, I’m Death! Who else is gonna take care of it?”
“I guess. Shouldn’t you get to it though?”
“Nah, I prefer sitting here talking to you. And a few people living a bit longer than they’re supposed to isn’t the end of the world.”
“No, I guess not. Hey, how do you tell another human being that Death is your best friend?”
“I’m your best friend? That’s so sweet! And you don’t tell anyone that because that’s some crazy shit.”
“Right, okay,” I chuckled. “There’s no afterlife is there?” I asked quickly, broaching a topic I thought may be off the menu but had been wondering about for some time.
“Of course not, that would be absurd. No, no, no, when it’s time for you to go, I come to pick you up, we have a chat for about ten minutes and then I snap your neck, metaphorically of course. Some of those conversations can be quite hilarious and illuminating.”
“Aren’t most people either unhappy or sick?”
“For a lot of people, when they realize who I am, they know it’s about to be over and they can finally relax, especially people who’ve been waiting for the moment when they could finally let go.”
“How do people know you’re Death? Do you have a business card or something?”
“How did you know?”
“Well, I assumed that not just anyone can turn all off the lights in the entire universe and make everything go dark and gray.”
“Exactly. I don’t try to hide except from the people who aren’t supposed to go yet.”
“So, no one can see you talking to me right now?”
“No, it’s all in your head. I’m just in your mind. And it’s time for you to snap or of it.” Death snapped his fingers.
It was like someone had turned the sun back on. It was blinding. I put my arm over my eyes and squinted. The world around me was coming back into view. I was still on the rooftop, fairly close to the edge. Down on the ground, a small audience of classmates and various other cunts had gathered. It was time for me to make my move.
I’m going to go ahead and walk out on really, incredibly, ludicrously thin ice. I may fall through, as I have in the past, both literally and metaphorically, and as I’m sure I will again in the future. No, I didn’t consider doing it while I was there.
I was twelve when I left, I don’t think I was aware it was even an option, which of course it wasn’t given Sweden’s rather restrictive gun laws meaning that there really aren’t that many homes with gun cabinets for kids to rummage through in their skewed little hunts for revenge. But I have thought about it in recent years. Not doing it, don’t be crazy, but what it would feel and look like, and also, how I would cope with it. And I think the answer is clear. Not well. There are a few ways I see this going.
Much like mass murderers in years past, you could always drug yourself in order to grow the balls necessary to fire indiscriminately into a crowd of children. But I feel like you must lack the necessary conviction if you feel the need to drug yourself. But if you do drug yourself with some heavy hallucinogenic and instead of dead children falling to the ground, you could see them pop like confetti canons.
The problem with this entire way of thinking is that you’ll think it’ll feel good until you go through with it and your entire world falls apart in a fraction of a second. You’d feel like a total badass until you fire the first shot and then you’d pussy out and blow your brains out because you can’t deal with the consequences.
Unless of course, the kids really did pop like confetti canons…
“How was that?” asked Death.
“Fun! Can we do it again?”
“Let me show you something,” said Death and snapped his fingers. The confetti vanished and turned into the bloody kids’ bodies they had always been, but I had been unable to see through the LSD or whatever the fuck I’m supposedly on in this honestly insanely fucked up scenario. I proceeded to hurl at the sight, slobbering all over the floor and myself.
“That’s what I thought,” said Death. “So, it turns out killing all your classmates is a garbage idea. Who knew????”
“Oh, shut up, I’m clearly struggling to cope over here, would you cut me some fucking slack?”
Far into the future from where I was back then, I bought myself a nice microphone for podcasts and video voiceovers, and with it I thought I’d record my suicide note. I’m too ugly for my face to be on video and a written note has been done to death, pun very much intended.
“This… (pause for effect) is my suicide note. (GASP) When you hear this, I will be dead. I apologize for any inconvenience this might have caused, though I doubt this will have been a problem.”
“What are you doing?” As per usual, mom had managed to knock and open the door in the same instant, making knocking entirely superfluous, the large mat in the living room screwing me over as it effectively soundproofed the steps of anyone approaching my bedroom door.
“Nothing… checking my levels. Don’t want anyone to lose their hearing when I get to the crescendo.”
“What’s the crescendo?”
“My neck snapping.”
“No idea yet! Just working it out as I go along.”
As I would come to learn during my years in journalism school, finding interesting sounds to illustrate a radio story for your listeners can be quite hard. So, what kind of suicide would sound the best? A gunshot barely stands out as an actual sound of death. If you fire a gun into the air and someone close to you happens to fall over at the same time, it would essentially sound the same as if you shot them in the head.
Jumping from a tall building would make a sound on impact, but you might as well be dropping a watermelon, it’s just that we’ve been culturally accustomed to assuming that the sound of something falling from up high and hitting the ground is supposed to be a body because we’ve seen it in movies.
Often the person lands on a car and the roof caves in, the sound being indistinct from a bag of potatoes falling onto that same car. No, what really stands out sound-wise, is a stabbing. Or hara-kiri, as the Japanese call the act of disemboweling themselves to retain their and their family’s honor.
Sure, a stabbing can probably also sound like pushing a knife through a really moist chicken, but I feel like all foods are cut at a medium pace, while stabbings are either really fast or torturously slow. If I could slowly push a knife into my heart, I feel like that would make an alright sound on tape. Especially if someone else helped out…
Maybe you should use a wooden spear in case I’m a vampire.
Good call, said the embodiment of the voice in the back of my head, using the readymade hole from the large knife in my chest to wedge the wooden spear into the gaping hole.
Hold it steady, said the voice just before he swung the sledgehammer onto the back of it. Crack!
Oh, that’s the stuff.
What’s it like?
Death? It’s like heroin.
You’ve never done heroin.
It’s what I imagine heroin is like when you’re addicted to it.
Either I don’t understand people or people don’t understand me, or it’s a mix of both. But sometimes I’ve felt like I’ve been able to know what people are going to say before they say it, and not in a good way, all my cruelest thoughts and assumptions being repeatedly confirmed, and instead of paying attention to what people are saying, I drift off inside my own head.
This is gonna make me sound like an asshole but--
--Everything you say makes you sound like an asshole.
Fair enough, but what I’m trying to say is that sometimes, or maybe all the time, I feel like my brain works so much faster compared to everyone else’s that a dialogue almost goes in slow-motion and I have to help people get to where they need to be in their minds to understand me and it’s annoying as fuck.
And this makes you feel lonely and misunderstood and makes you wanna die, I presume?
So what is it gonna say on your gravestone?
You know how most gravestones say something like ‘Nobody can see the sorrow in my heart’ or something cheesy like that.
Yes, it’s garbage, it doesn’t even attempt to capture the relief of death.
Exactly, gravestones should say stuff like “Bitch, you made it!” or “Well done, ya dick!”
I feel like you’re not exactly helping with this suicide thing.
What the fuck are you talking about?
You’re so inconsistent, one minute you’re pushing me from behind, the next you’re standing in front of me flapping your arms like you’re trying to deter a bear from eating you. If I ever do put myself on the precipice of death, this is most likely the thought process that will follow:
Oh, you’re gonna quit now, huh?
What the fuck guys, seriously!?
Oh, we’re more than two voices now, that’s promising. I’m losing my fucking mind. All I’m asking for is a little consistency.
I would say that deteriorating into schizophrenia is a fairly healthy response to almost splashing your brain into a thousand little pieces.
The last time I met Death was right after someone who wasn’t my mother said “I love you” to me for the first time in my life. It was at a college party in the US. I know, like in one of those stupid movies. We were out on the deck of a fairly large house on the outskirts of this small college town in the South. She went inside to talk to her friends, I stayed outside because I liked the cold and the fresh air. With so many bodies inside, it had become pretty stuffy. Death appeared in a cloud of smoke, with a puff.
“Oh hello, long time no see,” I said. “That’s a fairly understated way for you to appear, usually you have some more grandeur and pizzazz.”
“I didn’t think it was necessary this time around, I think we’ve come far enough in our relationship that I can just appear to have a chat without… what did you call it? Grandeur and pizzazz.”
“I’d say we have, you should know that you’ve helped me a lot,” I said.
“That’s amazing and terrifying at the same time,” said Death, which made me laugh.
“I…” Death started, looking out at the forest beyond the deck. I looked back into the house. She was talking to her friends, laughing and looking back at me out on the patio where I stood, quite alone.
“I’m sensing that we are nearing the end of the road…” Death started again. I turned to look at him. “And that when we get there, you won’t be coming with me.”
“I think you’re right about that,” I said. We both turned this time to look at her.
“I’m both sad and happy to let you go, mostly happy, but… it definitely is bittersweet,” said Death.
“There is a certain melancholy about it,” I shot back.
“I’m happy you agree.” At this point, she came back out.
“What the hell are you doing out here??” She asked, her head poking out behind the glass door.
“Just saying goodbye to an old friend,” I said, knowing this made no sense at all. She looked around drunkenly, trying to see who I was referring to.
“There’s nobody else here! Are you high!?”
“Just give me two minutes,” I said, regretting letting my mask slip. Not that she didn’t know what was underneath it. She knew but seemed to have come to terms with it.
“Okay!” She said and shut the door with a bang.
“You’re giving up me… for her?” asked Death, with a glint in his eye.
“I guess so,” I said, stifling a laugh.
“So, I guess this is it?” Death said with a suddenly businesslike demeanor, attempting to hide some of his emotions.
“I’ll probably require your services once or twice before I actually perish, but yes, it will be much rarer that I find myself in need of seeing you quite as often as I have over the last decade. I am officially stepping back from the brink, back from the ledge, and I think that I finally might be ready to rejoin the world for real.”
“I, and I couldn’t be more honest when I say this, but I couldn’t be happier for you,” said Death.
“Thank you, really, you already know this but it is worth saying once more, you have been truly indispensable.” We hugged, which in reality consisted of me smiling at the dark woods, I gave Death a pat on the shoulder and walked to into the house. As I opened the door, I heard a faint pop and picked up a faint scent of gunpowder. When I looked back over my shoulder, Death had vanished. After all these ridiculous daydreams and dramatic thoughts and internal dialogues, it’s finally time to return to reality. I did actually have the idea during lunch break, in the woods, lying down, leaning on a rock with my jacket over my head. I did actually ask Peter if he thought you would die if you jumped from the roof. He did actually say yes. I did actually go up there, through the library, up the spiral staircase, out the window, and out to the edge of the rooftop. The other kids did actually stare at me for a minute or two, and then one of them actually went and told on me. The principal actually came outside and told me I couldn’t be up there, only the janitor could. She was calm. I was too, for some reason. I feel like you shouldn’t be when you are preparing to jump to your death. Though I’m sure I knew back then as well that a jump from that height wouldn’t do any damage. Maybe a broken ankle, but that’s it. I knew that. I think. This was just a call for help. I knew that. I think. I came downstairs, break time was over anyway, or maybe they thought it best to bring all the kids inside whenever one of them is so fed up with his situation that he feels like playing hopscotch with his own testicles. The kids were all in the classroom, so when I came into the vestibule where we kept all our bags and clothes, I was alone. I stood there for a bit. I let the lesson begin without me. Considering I was one of the biggest nerds in the class, that was a rarity. Perhaps I had changed at least a little bit as a person once I actually decided to go up there. A part of the tiny bit of me that was still a child felt like it had gone, making me more of an old soul than ever before. Greger “Bengan” Bengtsson, the older gentleman, former soccer coach, and current “youth recreation leader” of sorts, came into the room. He asked what I had been doing on the roof. Shit, he knew. He must’ve seen it before. Or maybe he hadn’t. I didn’t ask. I sat down and broke down. He sat down next to me and put an arm around me. It felt good. I think this was the first time I actually said “I wanna die” out loud. Bengan was the first to hear it. I had been holding it in since before I even knew that it was an option. The funny thing is that after being told off by the principal, who thought I was up there looking for a ball, I took the stairs down and finished the lessons of the day. After all that, my thought process must’ve been: If I’m not gonna die today, I might as well do some fucking math. I stood there on the edge and tried to figure it out. Should I jump or should I stay? By the way, it was actually, really, only one story, so had I jumped, I would have broken a toe or maybe ankle, tops. I feel like I need to repeat that to take away some of the drama. I wanted to do it because I felt like this world wasn’t for me. Which is a pretentious, shit reason to kill yourself. I’m too good for this world, therefore I shall no longer be in it. 12-year-old me was a dick. Current me is a dick too but that’s beside the point. The truth is that I hadn’t found my place in this world yet. I still haven’t, but I’m a lot further along the road. I think. I took the stairs down.
When I was on my way home that day, I met the principal in the hallway. She looked at me and said, “So, did you get the ball down?” And I casually answered, “No, I was gonna jump.” I could see how the blood left her face, leaving it completely white. She seemed to have a tougher time dealing with the information than I did.“But you’re better now?” She asked. Yes, I’m 12 years old and about an hour and a half ago, I stood on the edge of the roof trying to figure out if I should jump or not, basically wishing I had never been born at all, but now everything is fine. Sure. Idiot.“Yeah, sure,” I said, looking up at her. When mom picked me up, which she never did, she wasn’t herself. They had obviously called her and told on me. I didn’t know she was gonna be there, she called me and said she was picking me up. She never did that. I always walked home.Dad used to get off the train a stop early to pick me up and then we walked home together, but that was years ago now. She was stressed, that much was obvious, she didn’t seem to know what to do with her hands… even though she was driving a fucking car. I could see something close to fear in her eyes. I’d never seen that before. At least that’s the way I saw it back then.My mother handled my sadness like every parent has handled depression in their kids since the beginning of time. Complete denial. Every mom with emotional daughters who cut their arms open, filling bathtub after bathtub, overflowing with their own blood, think exactly alike. They see a scar on a wrist and they think “It’s probably one of those tattoo things. It’s incredible.” They can’t deal with the fact that their kid, their own little shithead of a kid, might not be the happy little toddler they once were. My dad, on the other hand, was the stereotypical dad when it came to dealing with bullies. “Just punch them in the face! In the face!” Why thank you, dad, it’s not like I’ve tried that a thousand times already, but okay, I’ll give it another go. Because, as we all know, violence solves everything.It would have been so easy to just...fall. But of course, I didn’t do that, how could I have? If I did jump, it would’ve made some damage. I might have broken something. But I didn’t jump. While I stood there, I cheerfully thought Hey, if you dive headfirst, you might crack your skull open! If you’re not high up enough, just fall on the organ that makes life a bitch. Your brain. Genius! Nowadays, I’m not so sure I actually thought that at the time. Maybe I just think I thought it. Considering the limited height of my entire school, my mother really shouldn’t have been as worried as she seemed when she picked me up. As I said, she didn’t usually pick me up, it was a rare occurrence, but when the school calls you and says your son was on the roof of the school, planning to jump, then I guess you leave work early and pick up your drama queen of a son. I’ve never seen myself as a drama queen, but then I remembered that I’m writing a book about myself, which I guess is at least semi-narcissistic.When I was twelve, I had been tired of life for quite some time for someone that age. Although, I don’t know if I was able to put it into words or understand it myself. I didn’t have any friends, those who pretended to be, treated me like a leper, and all I could think was something along the lines of What’s the point anyways? I’m tired, I might as well jump off the roof. Make something happen up in this bitch. I’ve been trying to downplay all of this, while still squeezing it for all it’s worth, but the truth is that I was spending recess alone, laying in the forest under my jacket, thinking about death. To the other kids, I was a fucking alien. I was also bigger and cleverer than them. No wonder they were picking on me. It must be awful to be mediocre. And there I go again protecting myself from the awful reality of it all by acting like a jackass.In the relationship with my mother, we were both in control in different ways. It was like a relationship where one likes the other more than the other likes them back. My mother obviously really enjoyed the idea of me being alive, while I wasn’t entirely sure I liked the idea of any one of us being alive. For large swaths of time, I felt like I could do without it. In this sense, I had the control and the moment I stepped onto that rooftop was probably the moment that she realized that I could make decisions about life and death for myself, and that must’ve been scary for her. I’ve never really talked to her about it. I often think that in this case, two personalities, where one has literally come out of the other, have never been further apart.If you’re twelve and hate school, and you go up on the roof and stand there and try to figure out if you wanna jump or not, your mom will come to pick you up, and she will be in a worse mental state than you are. I was surprised she came at all.
“What are you doing here?”
“Oh, the whole roof thing, that’s nothing, not to worry, I was just a bit sad, you know school kinda bums you out, am I right?”In elementary school there was this guy in my class that was a bit off, he had a severe case of ADHD. He would spend the music lessons howling under a table and otherwise just being in your face. This kid, with a severe case of crazy eyes, left our class after about three or four years, but the weird thing was that everyone else was sad about it. It was near Christmas and we were making some crappy Christmas cards or whatever, and it was announced that Henrik was going to leave the class. For some unknown reason, everyone started crying. I sat in the back like some cold bitch thinking Well this is pathetic, he’s gone, it’s great, he was a fucking fire hazard for God’s sake! Two years later and I’m the one who’s leaving because I had gotten enough of them. When the troublesome kid left, Veronika was the one to announce the news. I chose to proclaim my departure myself.“So yeah, after Christmas I won’t come back, I’ll go to another school so this is goodbye.” Nothing. Not a single sound, just silence. I had had enough. I assumed the shit-talking went like this: “I never had any idea what that guy was talking about when he said that any idiot would know that 2 and 2 is four, when I do it, it’s always 57.” According to them, I must have been a worse classmate than the guy who made the music teacher quit and become a bus driver. Another teacher quit and became a train conductor, also probably because of the guy who acted like a retarded wolf under a table. The music teacher’s answer to that was to scream even louder in the boy’s face. He would never say anything and then explode like a fucking dinosaur and attempt to scare everyone to death with his mad facial expressions. Music lessons are the weirdest in elementary school because if you hand the kids instruments you’ll never get them back in one piece, so you basically just sit and pretend to sing whatever the song the miserable teacher is playing by himself, while the class clowns sit in the corner and eat the paper with the lyrics on to see if that will cause a reaction from the teacher who never reacts to anything except when he has a nervous breakdown.When I walked up on that rooftop, it was the fall of 2006. I was in sixth grade, and I couldn’t take it anymore. Christmas was coming up, and now things moved fast. We looked at different schools, and my parents wanted me to be with at least somewhat like-minded people. And since I was playing three sports at the time, a sports school sounded great. Gert Fredriksson’s school was 40 minutes away by bus, and as such, I would no longer be walking to school. But it wasn’t the focus on sports that was the most important. It was the fact that I would be in a class with people a year older than myself. In a very unorthodox switch, I went from sixth to seventh grade over Christmas. The principal, called “The Waffle,” an old point guard and coach for the Swedish national basketball team, had a look at my performance in school thus far and deemed me perfectly able to pick up the slack of skipping a year in the middle of my education. I’ve heard of kids starting early, but never skipping in the middle. I’m not even sure it was legal. It had to have been. Oh well, it worked out anyway. I had to finish the sixth-grade math book over Christmas, in order to keep up with the seventh graders. And then I had to spend the first six months at Gert Fredriksson using the time when others had their respective sports practices, to catch up on seventh-grade math. It was a hassle, but I managed it. Veronika told me that she hadn’t told Frida and Isabella that I had finished the sixth-grade math book, since they’d go mad and do it all in one weekend. They were very competitive about who was the queen of algebra. Unbeknownst to them, I quickly became the king.My time at Gert Fredriksson was far from perfect, and there were definitely times where I thought about jumping out the window. I couldn’t find a way up on the roof, though I did try. The teachers’ lounge was the closest I got.I was picked on here too, I was younger, taller, had just skipped a grade, and did better than everybody else. I needed to be pushed down, clearly. I lied about how much I studied. Studying hard was never cool. Sometimes they would claim that I studied more than I actually did, I would slip and tell them how much I actually studied, which would be slightly less but still too much in their view, and consequently get picked on for that. Two guys in the parallel class really liked to annoy me, and there was a guy in the year below, as in someone my own age, who enjoyed finding my weak spots, but then he would cower on the floor when anyone got near him. Most bullies do. But my own class was mostly okay. The switch saved me. I went to a counselor a few times during the coming spring, and I started to feel if not good, at the very least slightly less shit. Part of me is very stubborn, but when it gets really, really bad, I ask for help. It’s ok to ask for help. So, the next time you wanna die, at least talk to someone before you do anything drastic. Because asking for help might actually…help. Regardless of how weird that might sound to all you stubborn yet depressed bastards out there. Look for the helpers. They help.