We were trying to break into a scene together. What scene wasn’t completely certain; a literary scene, for sure. An edgy scene that would welcome two self absorbed and combative misfits from the Midwest would be perfect, and in the ideal scene, we’d get to meet Woody Allen someday, and he would like us.
But my friend killed himself, and now we’re not a ‘we’ in the same sense that we were, although he’s still with me, lazily hitch-hiking on my journey, free-riding his way in my psyche. He doesn’t contribute anything; he just gives me the creeps. He doesn’t mean whatever he thought he would mean to me after he did what he did, and now it’s me that’s getting fat and old and biting my nails and trying to be a good person and live a life that means something. I’m not hauling his corpse around with me as much as I used to, although I still do Google him from time to time. For awhile I got a twisted sense of accomplishment as my hits increased and his stayed the same, but now, I shake my head at the silliness of it all, how painfully serious we were about ourselves, and how unnecessary his self murder was. I never made the scene. He never made the scene. I don’t even like the idea of a scene anymore. Never die for a notion that you haven’t really articulated, because all clothing goes out of style at one point or another.
After my friend jumped off that overpass, I developed a little problem with alcohol. I don’t mean to set the two things up as cause and effect, because I’m not sure they’re related that way. I know it affected me, but I wouldn’t say it drove me to drink. I was already drinking a little bit because I wanted to understand scotch, and overtime I did understand scotch. Ask and ye shall receive. It wasn't the suicide that brought me to drinking, although I may have buckled under the pressure of dealing directly with the suicide, and other things in my life. Once you realize what a wonderful ‘hold’ button alcohol can be, it’s hard not to use it from time to time. It’s like commercial breaks for life.
There were other things. I was (and am still) a young father, and am desperate to help my children find health and happiness, even though I am not always healthy and happy; I am an unskilled mechanic, a brain surgeon with no eyes. This causes stress, and alcohol provides temporary relief from stress. I don’t know what it means to say I believe in God or don’t believe in God anymore, and I was once a big person to say I did believe in God, and it colored everything about me. I don’t believe anything anyone tells me about God, and I don’t believe what I read about God in any book, and I don’t think God talks to people, and I don’t even know what ‘the ground of all being’ means, although I suspect it is some serious bullshit. But I don’t disbelieve in God. It seems possible to me that some initiating intelligence might have put us here, who knows, it certainly seems more likely than teapots in space or fairies at the end of the garden. A shrug of the shoulders seems more appropriate to me on the issue of God than does a loud proclamation of belief or unbelief. If God wanted to talk to us, she certainly knows where to find us, and could probably come up with a better method of communication than private revelation and esoteric bronze age literature. I mean, even I know how to set up a blog.
When my friend killed himself, I had just given up pretending that I cared about W.H. Auden, and was exploring poetry that actually resonated with me. Charles Simic. Carl Dennis. Thomas Lux. Billy Collins. Guillaume Appolinaire. I was happy with my new, more authentic poets, especially since I had at least one French name on my list. My friend didn’t like poetry, because he thought it was elitist, although he was surely an elitist. So was I. Why pretend you’re milk and potatoes when you’re something a little more special? Our ideology was very confused. We knew we wanted to aspire to higher thoughts and higher art, yet we needed to remain in touch with the proletariat, even thought we hated and made fun of a lot of the thought and art we decided they liked and had. Kids, right?
My friend missed out on Billy Collins, and that astounds me. I had just begun reading him, and was so in love with what he wrote. I wanted to give my friend a copy of ‘Nine Horses’ the next time he was in town, because I thought I might finally be able to crack his resistance to poetry with Collins’s calm and humble voice. But, he killed himself, and now he is a sigh. He’s a corpse, he’s in the ground being transformed into all kinds of other things, filling the earth with his carbon, while I am up here getting bigger, wiser, trying not to bite my nails or drink as much, and playing games of checkers with my kids every chance I get. My dead friend is a freeloader in my life, and I’m doing all of the heavy lifting for him. When all of us who knew him are dead, he’ll be gone forever too, but we’re all still here making our case while he plead no contest.
My friend and I both loved Kurt Vonnegut, and my friend always wanted to be written about, so I feel I am in good faith to sum up thusly: So it goes.
Cross posted at The Daily Kos.