“If I’m not married by 40, I’m just going kill myself.”
It was easy to dismiss the comment as a mark of playful drama, his usual M.O. of absurd comedic flare, but I knew better; I knew he was serious. From the moment I met him, it became clear—both by his own admission and by the parade of girlfriends strewn throughout his young adult life—that finding love was a reason for living. All he ever wanted was a loving wife and children. With the approach of his thirtieth birthday, and a year of solitude behind him, he’d be dead in just ten short years.
Though, try as we did to reason with our friend, it was clear that neither one of us possessed any real conviction about talking him out of it. That’s because it made perfect sense. We got it. In the hours whittled away over drinks in the quaint village of New Paltz, New York, stories from love’s graveyard came back to haunt our every sentence.
In doing our best to preserve the entertainment quality of heartache, we called upon her to offer the craziest excerpts of psycho Ex’s that littered her past. There was the time that one guy cut off the head of a doe and placed it on the windshield of her car, tucked neatly beneath her wipers. When the cops did finally arrive, their attitude was one of indifference, treating the call to the liking of a local custom gone unappreciated by the “city girl.” “You’ve never seen a deer before?”
He had his stories too. A cold night spent chasing his drunken Ex across the busyness of an interstate highway in the early morning hours of winter. She wasn’t a smoker, but somehow decided she wanted to start that very hour; she was going to buy cigarettes. And, although the threat was never uttered, it was clear that she welcomed a kiss from the grill of a speeding two-ton engine. It was all he could do to call her back from death and reckless passion.
I was no different. There was the time my Ex sped over for that ultimate display of love. What ensued was a dramatic game of russian roulette that left both of us scrambling on the kitchen floor over the blade of a knife meant for our wrists. The game was called “Who’s going to die first and leave the other to finish themselves off?”
People might read these stories and think my friends and I are the fringe of lunatic lovers destined for tragedy. We’re not. The insanity you sense in such stories of failed relationships is the very essence of love’s journey—it’s messy and further from perfect than you can ever imagine. But the pain is real. In each of our recounting of lost love, there was a longing to be back there—not because of the person, but because of who we were. We were special to someone. The explicit role of mattering was all that mattered, and all the insanity in the world didn’t make a difference. Sanity is a small price to pay for the bliss of being loved.
I once asked someone,
“Why do you get up every morning?”
They answered simply, “I have to get up.”
“But why?” I pressed.
“I have to go to work and do things so I can survive.”
“And why should you survive? Why go on everyday?”
“I gotta be around for my family and friends, the people I love. If I die, they’d be devastated. I don’t know if they could ever come back from that—I can’t do that to them.”
One-hundred percent of the time I ask this question, people responded in similar ways, identifying those that they love as a reason for living. Imagine if tomorrow, everyone that you loved and cared for was gone. Would you want to get up? What would be the point?
The French philosopher and mathematician, René Descartes, once said, “I think, therefore I am.” This rationale implies that the ability to think alone confirms or justifies one’s existence. However, this seems a remarkably insufficient proof for human beings who, without the power to write great philosophy, would instead chose love every day of their waking lives. And so, the better description of the human being might be,
“I am, because I am with others.”
About a month ago, due to circumstances out of both our hands, my girlfriend and I decided to end our relationship of two and a half years. Though devastated by the ending, I’m encouraged by the loved we shared and how it changed me. I’ve been so fortunate in my life to have fallen in love with two amazing women, to have felt that vulnerable desperation and willingness to do anything for someone else’s happiness. As with all those I care for, there exists a special space inside of my heart for each and every person who enters. And, no matter the weather outside, no matter the endings or beginnings to come, one thing will always stand true:
I am who I am because of the people I love and because of those who love me.
I was inspired to write this poem about my friend’s wish for death.
Better to die, to Burst within
A human End among these quiet blinking stars, looking on for children gone crossing the deepest darkest scapes of space,
we’re coming home
Home toward open arms we speed, toward fading lights of whence we came to be such perfect, fragile beings
And why should we hold on so tightly?
And, how can atoms ever reason?
Grasping on with desperation, gripping woefully painfully meaning,
Our dripping down and breaking sweetly,
Some will burst
Bodies cannot contain their brilliance
Awakened first, they must shine
A guiding light for those still waiting in humble hope to burst and burn
To soon return to isolation, to this existence between a cold and wanting blackness of immortal giants