There is nothing in-between. When I lose control, the land speeds up and the streets go quiet. The sun falls over. The night spreads like a black crayon was being crushed into some construction paper. The concrete towers and their trapped squares of light fill in the dark like a time lapse film. Pretty soon, I’m on my way to Saint Paul again against a January night with demons on the frost. They chant and sing. Sometimes I understand them. Other times, it is like a half-tuned radio station.
Small or big, no matter how upset I am, my first thought always goes to the riverbed.
When you have depression or anxiety, or you’re simply ashamed of how you’ve acted, and you’ve never corrected your behavior, or looked outside your own selfishness, suicide is like the first friend you call when confronted with the truth. For me, having attempted to take my own life before, I can hear the siren sing out from the Mississippi River a dozen miles away. I hate that whenever I hit an emotional speed-bump, the depression, anxiety, or shame immediately appear, and sink their beaks into me like a swarm of crows. I think only of the worst solution possible.
Why? Why does it do this? Why do I do this?
Why do I run to the bridge whenever a bit of truth, sadness, or anxiety, ruptures my levees like some dark water flood? Why can’t I see all the world in front of me, in the past, present, and future, and stop thinking death is the only opinion that matters. I’ve been to the concrete line hanging in the sky like some phantasmal gate. I’ve been so low in my heart you become the walking dead, looking for any excuse to spin into the sky above muddy moving currents.
You would think after attempting suicide you’d be burned, like some paper you goof around with in chemistry class got too close to the Bunsen Burner. You hurt yourself, got in trouble, and scared everyone for a few seconds. Most people never want to visit oblivion more than once. However, once you know you have that abyssal vein running through your body, it is hard to ignore the blood flow to this particular organ. Sadness knows you have a unique flavor, and the void will come looking for its pound of flesh.
In my book series The Greenland Diaries, I talk about a drum in the dark, which summons these monsters that terrorize humanity on a nightly basis. It plays some phantom beat, which works as a magnet for these devils. I can hear this same heartbeat inside the riverbed. It summons me like a whisper in the deep. I never know when the drum will play within the 24 hours of the day. In my books, I make it easy for the character and always have the drum at night. In reality, I have no control over when I’ll hear it. I wish I always knew, but I don’t, and I probably never will.
It is the hardest thing to think there is no cure for this sadness. I will never outrun the sounds of the river. I will not escape the crumbling songs of frozen water on rocks. Luckily, I have this in front of you. I have this medium. I have these words. I have my art. I bullshit myself to get through the day, because sometimes it is too painful to be alive. This is why I have I have my writing. I can tell the truth in ways I can’t in life.
I won’t allow this little essay to be some vacuum of sadness for those who read it. There is hope. There may not be answers to your problems, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for something better. It is as magnetic as the depression on the other side of this dire spectrum. Death only lives because there was once life.
I’m always fighting the river. I’m always looking for some flaming torch to guide me through the catacombs. I picture myself in a dark forest trying to light a fire with a bit of flint. The woods is full of werewolves. They nearly outnumber the trees. I’m striking sparks over and over trying to make a fire, but I can’t seem to get it to light. It doesn’t matter though, because each fragment of energy jumps into the sky. Pretty soon the emptiness above me is full of stars.
By trying to find the answer to my sadness, I’m making my own starlight to walk in the deep. This beats back the riverbed echoes. The hope for something better doesn’t always involve an answer.
The love you want for yourself will always mute the siren’s song.