“I had a thing with the bride, you know,” He boasted to a group of my friends at my wedding. When I heard about it, a newly married 23-year-old, I swooned. You would’ve too if you’d known him like we did.
Nathan. It’s been ten years.
Burned into my brain is the very moment I found out he was dead; I was sitting in a La-Z-Boy chair in my parents' living room; in a home my husband, my sisters and my brother-in-law had rushed to fill up with our belongings and our very existence eight months prior, when my dad had decided to split the breeze and leave my mum to her own devices for the rest of her life. We'd banded together to survive my parents' divorce; and while our days and nights were perpetually littered with anger, with tears and with sadness that seemed to know no limit, they were, just the same, blissful. We worked our jobs during the day, and hung out together every night. We were floating through the most difficult season of our lives bolstered by all the beer and pizza and fajitas we could possibly have ever consumed and all the shish we could smoke on the deck in the backyard. It was heaven in the very center circle of hell.
And so there I was, sitting on that recliner in front of the TV shoving what must’ve been the sixth piece of cheese pizza in my mouth, when my youngest sister walked into the room, holding the phone she’d just been on, and told us what she’d just learned.
“Guys,” she said, “Nato’s dead.”
I might’ve taken a nanosecond to process this; or even a sliver less than that. I stared at her, felt my face contort, and then explode. Tears ripped down my cheeks as I stumbled through questions until I could no longer. He killed himself, she said. In his car. And I didn’t believe it for an instant. It was Nathan; I knew of nobody more open, more kind, more accommodating or hilarious than he; I’d have had an easier time believing that pigs were flying outside my window than I did the idea that this person had killed himself.
I ran upstairs to the bathroom in tears and heaved over the toilet. And by the time I’d calmed enough to catch my breath, I’d decided that there’d been a grave error. Was there a note? Had anybody been to check the body? If it really was him, which I refused to believe it was, then it’d been an accident. I ran through every possibility I could drum up in my mind, but not a single one ever led me to a place where his death made any sense. I wept until the dark hours of the morning before I passed out.
It’s been ten years and I still can’t make sense of it. Can any of us, I wonder? Has a single one of us come to terms with it, accepted it or put together any of the puzzle pieces he left strewn across the floorboards of our hearts?
We look for warning signs; for hints or clues or precursors; and I have to believe that there exists somebody out there who’s found even a single one… but I still don’t know what they are, and I still can’t seem to shake the idea that his writing, his calculated moves and his ultimate end came because some demon drove him to it. The Nathan I knew would never have done such a thing.
Truth be told, it's hard for me to not think of his death as a selfish act. And – let me stop you before you throw this at me – I know that suicide is anything but selfish. I know that when I really sit with it in silence, I can even see it as an act of selflessness. But I can't shake the notion that he wasn’t really thinking of us when he died—not really, anyhow. He wasn’t seeing the aftermath of his death as it inevitably would be. He wasn’t seeing the way in which our love for him could’ve carried him far past any struggle he’d ever find himself up against.
He was too busy drowning. And I’ll never forgive myself for not seeing that. Will I ever forgive him, I wonder, for not showing us? For not making it clear? For not holding a loudspeaker up to his mouth and imploring us to see him, to help him and to rescue him from his pit of despair? We had no idea. And we needed to know.
I used to dream about him all the time; nowadays, it happens less and less often – maybe once every year or two. “I miss you so much,” I drill into him. “I miss you, too,” he always responds. He’s there with me – dead still, but on reprieve. He’s full of remorse. He’s happy, he’s weightless, but he knows it was a mistake. He stays with me for as long as he can, and then he’s gone before he can ever answer me when I ask him why he did it.
I want him to be here. I want him to know his tiny namesake. I want for him to have walked me down the aisle at my sister’s wedding; it was his job. He wasn’t supposed to have disappeared off into the ether.
I can’t wrap my mind around the injustice of it all, nor around the unforgiving nature of life on this planet. Did each of us love him to our fullest capability? Do we do so with all those who still walk this earth with us today? Do we sit at peace with the sequence of events that unfolded that day, or in the weeks and months that led up to it?
Ten years ago yesterday that boy was still alive. Ten years ago last week we were a handful of kilometers apart and one particular night I decided to forego spending the evening with him because I was feeling tired. Fuck that decision I made. Fuck feeling tired or feeling introverted or feeling like not seeing him on any one given night was an okay thing to do because there’d always be next time. There simply wasn’t; he knew it, and I didn’t.
Nathan, you’re supposed to be 35. You’re supposed to be here; and the world’s not supposed to be spinning madly on without you.
I remember you. I feel your life and your absence with equal weight.
Meet us while we sleep and remind us that you’re here – just beyond our line of sight – at wistful peace, wishing for a do-over and loving us as you did with all the fervor you ever had reverberating through your soul.
You’re never really gone. This I know; but, boy, your absence feels empty as hell. I want you back on this earth.