Quick heads up: There is a graphic depiction of suicide. While I don’t think it’s gratuitous, don’t read this if you’re suicidal. Call a friend, or a family member or the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. This will pass. Calling will help (if I made it through you sure as hell can).
I’m young, but I don’t know how old I am. I think I’m on a beach, but I can’t find the shore. I’m not looking for the shore. It’s low tide and I can tell by the stink. I’m running, my little body is running (I don’t think of it as little, but it is) and my watershoes, the blister-making kind with the mesh and purple neoprene that hold in liquid until it pickles your toes, are shouting with squelches as they land in the muddy beach dirt. I will run forward and I do not want to stop. There is no sun, no rosy fingers reach through the dark wool fog that seems shaped like an igloo. I’m running after my brother, or towards him. He may have cut his foot, sawed it even, on broken shell. He’s tubby with curly hair and I think he is bleeding and I need to find him, but as soon as I get to the edge of the igloo, into the dark wool, it just moves its walls. I repeat the same again and again. I am terrified he will be gone by the time I see him.
I’m older, but not much older. I’m on my back in a dark room. It’s our bed room. My brother is on the bottom bunk. I can’t see anything because it’s night time. I am furious. I am brimming with rage. And I take it out on Tom by refusing to say a word. He has his feet on the back of my mattress and is thrusting up and down like it’s a bucking sheep. I think I have been cruel to him. I think I stomped on his Legos and told my parents he did it himself. I think I hate this ride and want the morning to break and think I deserve ever moment of discomfort. I want to be alone.
I’m older still. We’re on Block Island, a little New England island. I’m away from the troop. It’s breakfast time and I’ve biked off by myself to buy a pastry, real early, just to feel independent. And I do and then I get the idea to bike up to the bluffs, because I’ve come in my early teens, to think of nature as my own private sanctuary. It belongs to me. And I am right about something: moments like these belong to me. And as I’m biking up to the bluffs I feel the fog on my skin, not wool this time but cotton cobwebs that give way to the slightest break, constant finish lines inviting one further. And I am in the fog and don’t see the sun, but I bike high enough that the fog is at my feet. And I drop by bike and walk on the sand to the edge of the bluff and realize that this is what the titans, first on earth, came and saw. The bluffs don’t give way to a drop, but to pillowed tufts of clouds just as the sun rises, prismatically, over the edge of the horizon, its beams singular, skipping of white like rocks on a pond, breaking and bending into different colors. I am in so much light I am no longer there and I am not alone. Still, I am not with others.
I’m now done with college and I’m reading a book and my protagonist is walking, with gloomy brooding, along the beach. It is hard to parse that this is the case, the words themselves are the fog I’ve felt in the past. But there are moments of color, recognition, there’s a dog, two lovers kissing, he takes a piss, he thinks of women, and then, like light itself, recognition breaks through the story. He reflects, “Touch me. Soft eyes. Soft soft soft hand. I am lonely here. O, touch me soon, now. What is that word known to all men? I am quiet here alone. Sad too. Touch, touch me.” And even though I know and have known that my solitude was not peace, but sadness, it only lights its way through my cortex now, brighter than ever. And it tells me the word known to all men: love. I think I do not know it. I think knowing love is like measuring the shape of mercury.
And here, now, before, I am in my dorm room. I have closed all the doors and put a chair against the wall. I know love now, or have decided to forget it. The only exhilaration is that all this ends. I am out of my wits, soppy and high. I think I’m committed mortal embarrassment. My friend is playing Batman in the next room. A small voice shouts the faces of my family and a louder voice is resigned, saying, they too will go, all will be fine, they too will go. The small voice knows this is not right. I am too tired to care. I drag a pair of Rubbermaid safety scissors across my forearm; the skin splits the lips of an embryo for the first time. Why doesn’t it hurt? Where is the terror? Where is my brother? The sun is gone. I am lucky to wake up.
I am home and I talk with my father. He’s telling me that was the worst day of his life. I tell him I wish it was the worst of mine. I ask him to tell me a good memory. He says, and I don’t remember this, he says once we just sat on the stoop, watching the front yard and the rabbits stop and start, sniffing. We ate lime green popsicles and he rubbed my back. We didn’t even talk, he says, because we didn’t need to, he says, the sun, how it shimmered and winked as it set said it all. I didn’t remember that, except now I do. I think of it all the time. I measure the shape of mercury by how far away I hold that moment in myself from myself.
I am visited by ten thousand nightmares: cruel, perverted, callous, and worst, lonely. I am reminded that I am running after my brother as I watch the sun come over the clouded horizon as I pull the knife over my arm as my father tells me he loves me and love is the word known to all men and knowing love is like measuring the shape of mercury and I have done just that as I remember the slow strokes of my father’s hand down my back as the sun sets again and it all tastes of green popsicles. I am reminded that all these exist and I am okay. I see the sun and I know this. I don’t see the sun and I know this. It took a long time to get here, but its been here all along.
I have found my brother. In that person born next to me and at times in all things. Maybe this too is known to all men.