A few days before my aunt killed herself, she showed up out our house. I was chasing my sister around the yard when my aunt pulled up in her shitty yellow car. She was wearing a trench coat and big dark sunglasses. She left my little cousin in the backseat.
My mom, smoking a cigarette on the porch, asked what she wanted. The two of them started arguing. My mom kept saying, “No, I won’t. I won’t…”
My aunt was trying to leave her kid. She said it was only for a few days, but my mom knew this wasn’t a breather. This was something permanent.
“You can’t do this to me,” my mom said. “Now, take your daughter home.”
“This is bullshit!” My aunt screamed as she got in the car and drove off.
A few days later we got the call. I remember my mom dropping the phone on our kitchen floor.
My parents wouldn’t tell me what had happened, but I knew it was bad. Kids alway do.
The next day I found my mom in the living room. There were piles of laundry everywhere. She’d washed everything in the house – every towel, comforter, the Spiderman sheets I hadn’t seen in years. She’d brought in boxes of old winter stuff from the garage. There were stacks of shirts and slacks on the couch and on top of the TV. There were two baskets overflowing with mismatched socks.
My mom just kept folding. I knelt next to her, put my head on her lap. She didn’t say anything.
She didn’t say anything for days.
When it was time for the funeral my parents said I couldn’t go. I had school.
My father said my aunt was cleaning a gun and it accidentally went off. Even in third grade I knew how filthy the mouth was and that it was a terrible way to clean anything, let alone a gun.
To this day, “suicide” has hardly been uttered.
It’s like Voldemort.
I suppose it’s that way for most families. We talk about cancer, torture, abuse, being gay, atheism, alcoholism, amputation, depression, plane wrecks, car wrecks, jihad, Agent Orange, slavery, heart disease, schizophrenia, adultery, sodomy, STDs, dogfights, poverty, starvation…
But the mention of suicide turns everyone into a librarian.
Maybe it’s too awful, too disturbing. Since we were little we’ve been told this existence gift is paramount.
How could someone destroy it?
It unravels the fabric of, well, everything.
Religions condemn it. Governments make it illegal (yes, it’s against the law to kill yourself.)
But it doesn’t prevent it from happening, even when they belittle it, say it’s the “cowards way out.”
But try touching a stove or stepping into traffic. Our instinct is to survive.
To take your life is to override the very thing that keeps our species going.
Imagine what that person must be going through to take this step.