I’ve been gone for quite a while from Patreon, and for that I am sorry. It is a silly thing, this absence, as it always is, but it was partly to do with the fact that Trump got elected, and then my father died.
November was not a great month.
At the time, I was working on National Novel Writing Month for the first time in several years, and was making good headway when everything went to hell. I used the opportunity, not to “win” NaNoWriMo, but to process some of the stuff I went through around my dad’s death.
Back in the day, my dad was super-depressed and attempted suicide a few times. When he finally passed, it was, I think, mostly due to repeated dehydration and malnutrition, brought on by depression and refusal to eat, which exacerbated his other issues. Heart failure, I believe, was the official cause: a phase that always echoes with poetic meanings for me.
I decided to imagine my protagonist, Kim/Petunia, as experiencing her dad’s death in her early twenties, the result of one of the suicide attempts, rather than later in life. The below piece is part of my own processing through this character, so forgive the rawness. If you’d like to see the whole thing, please go and become a Patron; the lowest pledge amount is only fifty cents and is paid per piece, not per month.
When she learned that her father’s most recent suicide attempt had actually been successful, what surprised her the most was the sheer banality of her grieving process. There was a specialness Kim always longed for — nay, strived for — that made anything that seemed too normal a tremendous disappointment. Much later in life, she would understand that it was this very quality in herself that had stalled her in her 20s for so long, trapped by the unflinching belief that for her, it was supposed to be different. That she wasn’t meant to follow a boring, normal path, work a boring, normal job and prove that she was good enough at it that her bosses should give her a better boring, normal job that paid more. She could never do what she was told, follow the straight and narrow path, become, as her uncle would say, “doctor, lawyer, Indian Chief.” She didn’t know why she couldn’t do it. At that time, she didn’t even know why the phrase “doctor, lawyer, Indian Chief” was offensive. She just knew that the whole thing offended her terribly, and that the very worst thing she could imagine for herself was living a “normal life.”
And so it pained her in a strange way that her responses were those of a person experiencing a normal death. Though, she supposed, it wasn’t entirely normal: everyone’s father died eventually, and some sooner than others. But not all that many of them committed suicide. She would never admit it, but if she had had the wherewithal to search herself very deeply at the start of her grieving process, she would likely find just a modicum of pride that her father — rather than smoking himself into lung cancer as her grandfather had, or having a sudden stroke as her grandmother had, or living a long, mediocre life and then dying in a hospital from the slow and inevitable failure of all of his major organs — had instead grown tired enough of life that he had, rather romantically, stabbed himself in the heart.
Now naturally the romance, had she been aware of it, was mitigated somewhat by the fact that, as with so many other things in his life, her father had carried out his mission with a startling amount of incompetence and ill judgment. Lacking a truly sharp and long-bladed knife of the kind with which a disgraced warrior might commit seppuku, her father had ignominiously pierced himself with a shard of broken glass. As might be expected, this, in and of itself, was not enough to get the job done.
However, at the time, he was living on his own, and had fallen into a significant enough depression that he had stopped eating and drinking. The dehydration and malnutrition that had set in by this point made his constitution weak, and though the cut he made was superficial, he soon passed out from low blood pressure and the shock of the wound. By the time emergency workers found him, it had been too late. Further investigation revealed that it was likely he had gone into cardiac arrest not long after, and his body had shut down. And so it was possible, Kim had posited in her clearer and more bitter moments, that he had killed himself twice over. He’d started with the slow way, the lazy man’s suicide, if you will — stop providing yourself with water and nourishment and eventually the rest takes care of itself. They don’t tell you, however, what a brutal process it is to starve to death, and so eventually, the quick way looked like a better option. Of course by the time he’d gotten around to it, he was too exhausted and addled to assemble the proper resources, and had done it in the poorly conceived manner previously described. Still, it had had the desired result. Though he may be incompetent, she thought, at least he was thorough. And how could one truly pin incompetence on someone who, after all, had succeeded in suicide?
Because that was what they called it: “success.” There were “suicide attempts,” and there were “successful suicides.” The less sleep she got, the more that phrase sounded like something for which one ought to throw a party. She imagined a morbid black comedy: How To Succeed in Suicide Without Really Trying.
It wasn’t very romantic it all, really, if she thought about it too much. It was death, which was only ever one thing: final.