Sara sat on the edge of my bed hunched over. The way she held herself suggested that she was hurt and trying to defend herself. I asked her what was wrong, but she wouldn’t say. I kept asking her what was wrong and she wouldn’t say.
Earlier that day she said to somebody that she wouldn’t see them again. It struck me as odd. She’s just going to Thailand, I thought. Flag.
“Are you going to Thailand, or are you going to Thailand and killing yourself?”
“I don’t know.”
I raised myself on one elbow and looked at Sara. Her arms were crossed like she was keeping herself warm, but her hand was scratching her wrist raw.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“What good will talking do.”
We assume that talking makes things better. That if you share what is bothering you with someone, the problem will go away.
“Sara. Listen. You can talk to me about it. I’m not here to judge you.”
“No. Not with this. Talking about it never helps.”
“What do you mean?”
“People just tell me I Have So Much To Live For. Or, It Gets Better. But they don’t understand that that just makes it worse.”
“OK. Tell you what. I won’t tell you you’re wrong. I won’t say you shouldn’t do it.”
A friend of mind killed herself last fall. Lately, I’ve felt angry toward her- angry that she didn’t take care of herself- angry that she was so rash- angry that she didn’t consult me first.
“But Goddamn. Sara. Last fall, my friend Cassy killed herself. You know what I feel now? ANGER. Suicide is fucking selfish.”
“Dammit Gopher! That’s exactly what my mom said!”
“Last time I was going to kill myself she found out and said I was being selfish. She said everyone has problems and who the fuck was I to kill myself.”
Fuck. I promised Sara she could feel safe talking with me about it. But then I became angry with her, triggering her old feelings of rejection and isolation. So much for trying to help.
I sat up and hugged Sara like a strait jacket. There was nothing to say. We kept hugging and hugging. And hugging. In my arms, she felt just like Cassy. Both of them had the type of beauty you see in Greek sculpture rather than fashion magazines. While clutching Sara, I began to imagine she was Cassy. If it was her, what would we say?
“What the fuck. Why.”
“Dammit. You couldn’t call, you couldn’t wait.”
“I shouldn’t be angry at a friend.”
“What is it?”
“I want to hold tight, but I’ve got to let go”
“Awesome- do it.”
Then I stopped hugging Sara, and said it to her.
“I want to hold tight, but I’ve got to let go.”
“You are free to choose. Both of you.
“I don’t understand.”
Usually I try to fix people. It never goes well. If it does, it’s not an equal relationship. This time, I thought that by having a conversation about Sara’s issue, she would be saved. Instead, the space was created for me to have a conversation with a lost friend. That allowed me to move past anger toward a shred of acceptance. It was that acceptance that did Sara good, if any at all.