I find her staring down at the passing cars from the edge of her apartment’s window sill; this is the third time this month.
I have to save this woman.
-I thought you were happy here
My voice no longer cracks; I have the power to stabilize it, to hide fear, anticipation, and surprise. There is no weakness.
She doesn’t reply. She just looks at me like one who sees the sun after an eternity in darkness, squinting at the harshness before looking away and returning to her world. I feel nothing from her heartbeat; it doesn’t quicken nor does it slow. It is soft and steady, as she has always been.
I have always wondered how one approaches death; I have felt in some, incredible fear of the unknown as their last moments waned, and in others, resignation to the end. She told me that for her, death has always been an old friend that you always seem to miss; as if he’s waiting at a restaurant for you two to meet and reminisce on old times –your life—over coffee before inviting you back to his home as the night wanes.
She says that I am the one who makes her late. The red light that lasts too long before her friend checks his watch, disappointed at being stood up, decides to leave and meet someone else. I am the unaware animal that scurries past her car, forcing her to brake. The husband that lingers too long at the front door as she goes to leave, asking, begging for one last kiss as she tells me that it’s only a quick lunch.
All of this power within me —the power to change nature itself— and I cannot save this woman.
She jumps and I stop her, keeping her suspended in the air, temporarily granting the power of flight. She hardly even acknowledges it; she knew. Her thin and fragile body hovering hundreds of feet above a chaotic landscape of vehicles speeding to their destination and people getting further away from theirs, I embrace her.
The first time that she tried to end her life was fifty years ago, with a gun that she kept in her drawer for what she said was protection. Protection from what? No harm could come to her as long as I existed, not even death stood a chance against me, yet she fiercely insisted that it was needed. Three days later, I found her bleeding out of the head in her bedroom. She has tried suicide numerous times since then, with the frequency of incidents increasing.
“Won’t you just let me go?” she says. “Aren’t you ashamed?”
-Ashamed? What is shameful about love?
“I am ashamed, I am desperately alone”
-If it pleases you, I could bring them—
For the first time in over half a century, she bursts out in laughter. A mad laughter, that progresses to her weeping pitifully into my arms.
“No, no, you no longer understand”
I look at her like a guilty dog. I feel terror.
“You have not seen me in years, not with your eyes” she brushes my hair back. “This is not love; Every morning I wake up in chains.’
Death. That’s what she wants. She wants to die and leave me here. What a selfish thing to do, I will have no one. She thinks that I do not understand her grief, but who is more alone than me who clings feverishly to her like a lost child returned to his mother?
“There –this— has to come an end”
I have seen the wonders of the universe hundreds of times over and yet the moment breaks me. I am so tired of this world.
Yet even the enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone.
I have noticed that in pictures of despair and grief, that the individuals suffering always seem to cover –and hold—their faces with their hands or to hang their heads, hiding their faces and expressions from view. It is the same defense that we employ when we are ashamed, to hide our faces from the world because we are not worthy. But with shamefulness, when you imagine a person hiding their face, it always seems to come with the presence of another waiting there to lift our heads up, wipe the tears and to tell you that it will be alright. Now the reason for that could range from our habit of expecting happy endings, the fact that we have been force-fed stories where there is always a hero that will come to the rescue or that to imagine such hopelessness is almost impossible for our minds, but it is there, with shame, we cover our faces but we know that we will be forgiven, by someone else or by ourselves. It is as if one is lost in a lightless tunnel, with shame, we are embarrassed by the fact that we’ve managed to get lost in the first place, frustrated by our own lack of direction but hopeful that if we keep moving, there will be a light that will highlight the path to the world above. An escape exists, a light –person, thing or idea—will uncover our face. In despair, there exists no such thing, it is the shame without the light. An acceptance that the pain is eternal, you have searched for the light till your legs have become heavy, the eyes tired and the body weary and you suffer shamefully but instead of hiding your face and waiting to be lifted into the light, the face is hidden as a sign of failure of life, of unworthiness. I believe most people do not understand despair and confuse it with the similar suffering, of being in pain or depression and I can understand why they do not. To imagine a life without hope is impossible till you live a life of despair. Hope is hardwired into our minds, with each sunrise is another chance at life, and with each sunset is the disappearance of many problems, but a life of despair does not lend such favors. Each sunrise is dreaded and each sunset is welcomed as hopefully –ironically—the last one. Troubles do not end in a state of despair, the sunset does not end the end, it drags on like one long continuous day and many times suicide or madness is the only true escape. This inability to imagine such a situation is why I believe that people will never fully understand or empathize with suicide victims. It is always said that those who take their own lives are cowards, selfish individuals that are too weak for the troubles of life, that they should have asked for help. Their pain is always compared to the pain of others who manage to live on, those with courage who rage against the pain of life and do not take the easy way out. But what takes more courage than to take your own life? Hope is an innate belief that we have, a belief that one could get lost in, become delusional with and continue to live as if you would be the exception from the suffering of the world. The human brain though instinctively protects itself and the body, if you try to hold your breath for too long, your body will force you to release –unless you’re one of the few who do it till they pass out. When you fall, your hands automatically come to protect your face, if you are being beaten, you curl up and protect your head. To harm oneself is to override the body and brain’s functions of protecting itself. To have that despair is not something that is as simple as “try being happy” or “do you need someone to talk to”, no, that’s ignoring the main aspect of despair, the lack of hope. To talk to someone comes with the hope that it will somehow make things better, and it suggests that such solutions have not been tried, there is no talking because there is no longer any power that worlds have in that lightless tunnel.
"I was engaged eight years ago, but my fiancee died in Iraq. After that, I promised myself that I’d never be that dependent on someone again. So after I met my husband, I fought marriage for the longest time. But we got married in September. And even though I was rebelling against it, and I always saw it as a meaningless formality, I’ve been surprised. There’s a comfort in knowing that you’re sworn to someone else."