I’m depressed. I’ve been trying to hide it. I’m still writing (a comedy of all things), but everything is kind of hard, my body feels heavy, and I want to sleep more than I want to be awake.
I know one of the reasons is that today is the birthday of someone I loved very much who is gone now. She died of an overdose, but I don’t know if it was intentional or not. She was beautiful, kind, and generous. There aren’t words that describe her well. This is an excerpt from an autobiographical short story I wrote when she was alive about a trip we took to Galveston. She was a heroin addict and had just been diagnosed with hepatitis C. This was about four years before she died. Names have been changed.
Alice and I puttered along the seawall and bought two hermit crabs and some waterguns at a souvenir shop. We shared a love of animals and trash—anything the rest of the world considered useless. She was tired and wanted to go home, but I coaxed her onto the beach, telling her we needed sand and shells for the crabs, so they would feel at home in our apartment.
I loped along the beach, trying to entice her into the waves with me. She lagged behind, finally stopping to stand by herself. I backtracked to stand with her, wondering if she was okay. She stood at the water’s edge and took off her baseball cap, unleashing about two feet of blonde hair. No emotion showed on her face. The wind swept up from the ocean, tossing her hair and unfurling it behind her. Her open white shirt billowed about her taut body like a waving flag, the thin camisole beneath it clinging to her skin. I stopped a little behind her; she twisted her fragile neck to greet me as I approached.
“Do you want to get in the water? Cool off?” I asked.
“No, I just want to go home,” she said listlessly. She turned her face skyward and squinted into the white sun. “The doctor told me I was lucky I didn’t have HIV.”
I dug my toe into the wet sand. “Yeah, she’s right. It could’ve been a lot worse. I mean, god, look at Geoff—that could have been you.”
She was very quiet. In the bright sunlight, her face was yellow with greenish overtones; she looked like a faded bruise. “Yeah, everybody thinks I’m lucky—that it could’ve been worse. That’s just what my mother said, too—look at Geoff.” She stared at the ocean with such longing that I thought she might dive into it. “I never looked at him and thought he was unfortunate. We used to talk about it—about how it was better for his parents than if he had just hung himself.”
“I don’t see how—“
“Sure there’s a stigma, but it’s not as bad somehow as suicide. You know, your kid gets sick, and, yeah, that sucks, but there’s a safety there, like a buffer. It’s not their fault their kid was a junkie. They aren’t responsible. It’s society or music or friends or whatever. It’s better that way, you know. It’s kinder than suicide.” She stared out at the ocean, her voice a little wistful. “Much easier for everyone concerned.”
I nodded silently and felt cold in the ocean wind. Her suicide wishes were nothing new. We had both been enamored with death since childhood. I could have told her that I loved her—that I would be devastated if she died, that I couldn’t imagine a world without her, that was she was my sunlight, my hope, my only and truest friend—but she already knew these things, and none of that really mattered. I possessed no tether that would hold her should she choose to go, but I would have chased her anywhere. My feelings were trivial, my desires were lurid, selfish. I let them scatter like sand in the wind, let them rain down on the turgid waves to mix with the oil and mud, the plastic soda rings and dead fish.