What is there to say when all I feel is hopeless, hurting- helpless
before a nameless doom that overwhelms
no matter how hard I try, how fierce I feel, how rarely I am alone.
Loves, friends, passions, plans-
all poems I read in a book I loved long ago
and lost along the way.
If I have been selfish, unselfconscious-
I don’t mean it
the world collapsed into a point three inches below my breaking heart.
And if I hurt you
know, I only didn’t see you.
Eyes closed, knives in hand,
I swing at every sound-
waiting to stop happening-
“You said it buddy!”
The sandpaper on glass voice had come from just beneath where he was sitting. This was unexpected, because he was sitting on the edge of a rather tall bridge. It being night time, he had managed to get there without being noticed, so no police cars or bullhorns were there to interfere. Indeed, he was so startled as to nearly fall from his perch. The irony in his desperate grab to stay aloft was not lost on him. Irony was one of the few things he was really good at. That and angsty poetry, both of which had unfortunately stopped impressing people around the time he hit twenty-four.
So this thirty-two-year-old single unemployed ex-file clerk sat far above the river he’d lived next to his whole life. He was wearing tight stretchy exercise clothes, having read extensively about what happens to dead human bodies that spend a long time in water. He thought it likely that someone would be called upon to identify his body and thought himself considerate enough to make reasonably sure that his body would still be clothed and not too horrifyingly swollen when some unfortunate friend or relative would come to see it on the slab. He had written his suicide poem on the back of the diploma conferring his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy degree, which he’d planned to weight down with a chunk of macadam or some other similarly weighty object he might find at his departure point. He’d been reading it aloud one last time as a sort of goodbye ritual when the surprising voice interrupted him.
Panic more or less subsided, he leaned forward a bit and peered down between his knees. “Hello?” This time the answer came from behind him.
“Hello yourself. Sorry to interrupt, I really thought you must be done. Read the rest?”
This time he was quite sure he was really going to fall. Even as his hands scrabbled for a hold and his heart prepared to burst out of his chest, some detached part of his mind was wondering why he didn’t just let go, let himself fall, and be done with it. As if it would be more pure or conscious or authentic if he jumped; as if being startled off the bridge could make his death even more trite and ignoble than it was already destined to be.
Secure again, he slid himself back from the edge so only his feet dangled over the precipice. Inspired, he kicked off his shoes and watched them tumble down, down, down- it really was such a long way- until the two tiny specks became invisible against the grey and black shadowy depths. “Now I am really committed”, he thought to himself.
“Now you’re really committed, eh?,” the voice asked.
Elated at his own courage, he turned around to view the speaker. For a moment he saw nothing but empty space, until his brain figured out how to adequately convey to itself the sight that met his wondering eyes. His eyes seemed unable to focus on the whole thing all at once. It seemed to be shades of metallic silver and bronze and grey and black and very dark red, sort of swirling. In fact, the whole thing seemed to be made of turbulent smoke and lightning. The shape, indistinct as it was, suggested a winged person or a burning building. It was a little taller and wider than an adult. Bright yellow eyes in groups appeared and opened, then closed and vanished, their locations constantly shifting all over the thing’s body. Whenever it spoke the region that seemed to correspond to where a head ought to go would go all jagged and buzzy and even harder to see, like a vibrator or an electric toothbrush.
“I’m not being patronizing, I’d really like to hear the rest. Please?”
His mouth moved without dislodging any words for a bit while his thoughts didn’t race, but just slogged around in muddy circles. “I’m going to die. It’s a monster or something and I’m going to die. It’s going to kill me. But I want to die. Maybe it only eats people who want to die. But I want to fall an awful long way into water, not be eaten by a tornado monster. And it talks, and that’s not fair, and I’m going to die,” and so on.
“Look, I know I can be a bit off-putting at first, so let me reassure you. I am not going to eat you, steal your soul, push you off the bridge, or trick you into making some kind of Faustian bargain. Truth be told, I’m here for the same reason as you. Can’t stand it anymore. I’m nine-hundred and three today and haven’t done a damn thing worth doing. Got loads of friends- not one of them really knows me, and if they did I don’t think they’d much like me. You know how it is. So you got nothing to fear, only one I’m planning to kill tonight is me.”
“You’re nine-hundred and three today?”
Some demented neurological process had hijacked control of his mouth and was now operating it independent of any conscious thought.
His cheeks flushed scarlet upon hearing this inanity cross his lips. An alien demon monster thing was pouring out its miserable heart to him, and all he could say was, “Happy birthday!” Truly, he deserved to die.
“Thank you! You know, no one’s remembered my birthday in hundreds of years. So, what should I call you in these, our last moments of life?”
“My name’s Byron. Byron Claudius Bloom.”
Every time he introduced himself, Byron felt the same combination of fierce pride at having such a cool name and crushing shame at having done nothing whatsoever that was worthy of it.
“My, that is a wonderful name. Think of it, ‘The body of Byron Claudius Bloom was found washed up on Kingston Point Beach today. Authorities are awaiting autopsy results but have said that the cause of death was almost certainly suicide, the world being so obviously unworthy of anyone with such an awesome name. A suicide note in the form of a poem was found on the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge. The poem has already become a viral hit on the web.’ And then, ‘Just two weeks after the suicide of noted poet Byron Claudius Bloom the toll of young hipsters committing ‘copycat’ suicides inspired by Bloom’s famous suicide poem has reach eighty-seven.’ I think you’ll be famous yet, Byron.”
Byron laughed a little uneasily. “What’s your name, then?”
“Pentarlathostrialiania Fzethd Keldegerr. You can call me Alia. So come on then, let me hear the rest of the soon-to-be-famous suicide poem. And then maybe we can jump together, if you don’t mind a little company.”
Byron cleared his throat and read.
“Eyes closed, knives in hand,
I swing at every sound-
waiting to stop happening-
a fell tornado of sharp-edged mediocrity-
a silent fart,
a violent heart,
Brave enough only
That’s it. What do you think?”
“Perfect! The absurdity, the over-the-top language- they don’t fall flat at all, they really convey the absurdity of life, of the games we play to pass the time and convince ourselves we’re happy, or that we at least can become happy. But of course in the end all it amounts to is a puff of warm air and a smell of rot. Genius. I’m so pleased you have the courage to die, Byron Claudius Bloom. You’ve made my suicide ever so much more fun. Now, shall we?”
Byron quickly located a suitable paperweight. It was a broken headlight, apparently from a bad accident where there had been enough car pieces that a missing headlight was never noticed. His greatest poem secured, he stepped back to the edge, this time next to Alia. They locked eyes and joined hands. Alia’s touch sent electric tingling sensations up his arm. His palm felt like it was burning. Close up he could smell brimstone and ozone and roses. Byron thought he could fall into Alia’s eyes and the fall would be much, much further than the one to the cleansing river that awaited them both far below. They stood like that, united in their bravery, as car after car after car whooshed by ten feet away, as the stars turned, as the moon rose. Byron took a long, deep breath while Alia pulsed with silvery light. Without a word, they turned to face the empty sky, and hand in hand, they jumped as if to fly. As the water rushed to meet them they recognized together that neither had ever been so happy in all their life.