Another anniversary. The years piling up. The details slipping. Now seventeen. June 12, 2001. But now, more things make sense. My understanding expanded. Hopelessness, sadness, not enough, but rather other things, more clinical, based in the medical. Depression giving it the balance it demands. That you functioned as you always were, as you had been when we’d first met, in 1990, open faced, hilarious, cigarette poised between two fingers, that you still wrapped up open ended sentences with “blah, blah, blah.” All of those tropes of you, still there, at the end, when you were also living in the darkness. I’m forgetting the small things, the things that were clear to me even a year ago. The freckles on your face. The way you walked, almost side to side, your thick blonde hair undulating as you took one stride after another. The cadence of your voice, full throttle, insistent. Oh, how I miss you. I miss you. Sometimes when I write the story of your final hours, it ends with an epilogue, a preview of us in our elder age, sitting side by side, two chairs, staring into the distance. Other times, it goes like it went, with your final word. You hung up the phone with me. You told me you were on your way to your friend’s birthday party, at a bar. Her name lost to me now, these many years later. You packed your gun, the .357 magnum. You’d practiced holding that gun. You’d gone to the shooting ranges a few months prior. How we laughed about that, being at the gun range, the people who came through, how loud it was. I didn’t know you owned that gun, the one you used to take your life. You drove to a side street by LAX. Parked your car. You had with you a video cassette–the medium of that era–of the film you were working on, that you wrote, “Robbie’s Brother.” The film that was the source of so much of your anxiety those final months. The script you were so proud of. I was so honored to have watched a cut, give you notes. What became of the film? That, that was with you in those final hours. Some other things, keys, a wallet, innocuous I suppose. The make, I don’t remember anymore. You left your things, your friends, your family. You left everything. Except the gun. You walked into the ravine. Where the joggers run with their dogs. It’s Los Angeles, after all. Maybe teenagers go there too for heaving petting, satanic rituals, whatever. You walked. And walked. You found the spot, maybe a spot you scouted. Stood there. For how long? What were the thoughts, beyond “It’s time to die?” You had said, only the week before, in what I thought was a joke, that you were “the devil,” in reference to a lie you’d told a colleague, trying to get out of doing a project you didn’t want to do; you hated yourself for not telling him the truth, that you simply weren’t able to do it. I brushed it off as our usual venting about things in our careers, something we’d do, had always done; I had no insight that it was a bigger clue, something definitive, something I needed to address in the moment. I didn’t know, I didn’t know. I’d laughed. You always made me laugh. Some time during those hours, in your pain, in your loneliness, in that ravine, I was in my apartment in New York, with my baby, rifling through photos of us in our twenties. I found a photo of you and me and Doug at a Wigstock, when it was still at Tompkins Square Park. Topless women behind us. We were giddy about their bare breasts. It was 9pm my time, I called you, giggling, wishing there was a way you could be looking at this photo with me. I was planning to relive that moment with you on that call, but instead, I went to voicemail. You were already on your path to your end. That call, that night, one sided as it may have been, so vivid. Your mother called two days later, wondering if you’d come to New York. Your family concerned. I took notice of her concern, that she hadn’t heard from you, quickly, as it turned to that cold fear. Your circle of friends, banding together. Dwyer. Lydia, Jimmy. Diane. Doug. What we did in those days, desperate to see you, hear your voice, hoping there was a secret lover, that you were stashed in his or her hideaway, enjoying your cigarettes and coffee. Doug driving through the hills, looking for you. A daughter of a friend with a vision, of you smiling, laying in the ground. Missing flyers emailed and posted everywhere. You were found, lost to us, ten days later. A dog, followed by a jogger. On this anniversary, I replay all the moments of those days. Flying to LA, with my husband and baby. Jimmy picking us up at the airport. Going directly to the memorial. Reading the eulogy I wrote on the flight. My voice cracking, but once, when I dared to look up at the room filled with your friends, catching the eye of your mother.My baby fussing in the back of the room while I spoke. The things we did, I told the room, the things we did. Going to London, buying platform shoes like the Spice Girls wore. The fascination with Hello Kitty. Our road trips to Las Vegas, Sedona, other places. All those nights in your apartment, when you still lived in New York. Seeing the mystic Rabbi, who promised us both love and happiness. You arriving in my hospital room, the day my daughter was born. All the things we shared, all the things we shared. So many people in that funeral home, all shocked. Maybe the biggest surprise was that your middle name was Lockett. Another Wendy came with Emmy, who showed me her engagement ring. Sitting by the grave, as the casket was lowered, finally crying, Diane’s arms around my shoulders. You decided. Time to die. All these moments, rushing in and out, never really leaving me anyway. And so I miss you. And celebrate you. As I do, as I have done, every since you decided it was time.
The suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade last week triggered so much within. Coming on the eve of one close to me, when my best friend, Wendy Bott, took her life on June 12, 2001. I so appreciated this essential read, a treatise on suicide, bursting with facts: “There were close to forty-five thousand deaths from suicide in the United States in 2016 alone.” Yes. 45,000. It’s not just the beloved celebrities; it’s all of us, lost. Depression, despair, a last-ditch desperate act. Those susceptible? Those of us in our 50’s and 60’s, no longer shiny and new, not able to find gainful employment, our finances in free fall. This frightened me as well, how “A third of Americans are sleep-deprived, and sleep deprivation has a devastating effect on mental health.” How do you train your body to sleep, when you’re body is in its final transition, that deliriously karmic moment of menopause, where sleep disruption is a hallmark? “…some ninety per cent of those who attempt with a firearm are successful in ending their own lives. Suicide is often impulsive, and, if the means do not spring to hand, the impulse passes and people go on to good lives.” Impulsive. That word, so frightening to me. So much of the darkness is. I am grateful to all the sharing, the outpouring of revelations by journalists, experts, bloggers, friends on social media, medium. I am reading them all. I see you. And I’m listening.