Tag Archives: suicide

Memorial GIFset

Kelly stands with Amy in the back corner of the Mourning Customer Service parlor, watching a GIFset of The Bot’s life set to a soundtrack of minor key piano parts and synthesizer strings. She turns around to face her friend and says “I’m still not sure I really believe this is happening.” She folds her arms across her chest and shivers.

“I know what you mean,” Amy says, and wraps her arms around Kelly’s neck, pulling her in to an affectionate hug. Kelly keeps her arms across her chest, and both eyes set on the biopic GIFset. A moment passes. Kelly drops her stiffened shoulders, letting Amy pull herself closer, share in the warmth, and protect them both from the oppressive overhead cooling fans of the over-air-conditioned room.

“I’m so fucking pissed. Still, so fucking pissed,” Kelly says when she finally shrugs Amy away. “I’m sorry if this is rude or whatever, but seriously, what the hell was The Bot computing? What the hell process went through its tinny fucking head that made it do this?”

“I wish I knew,” Amy says. “I wish I knew.” She steps forward and tries to put her arm around Kelly once again, but Kelly squirms away, her body writhing and twisting like the snarl on her face as she avoids the forced affection.

“There’s like five thousand people here and no one ever wants to have a real conversation. It’s all just, ‘woe is me,’ ‘it’s all said.’ Of course it’s fucking sad! Of course it sucks!” Kelly closes her eyes for a moment to collect herself, crushing her fists into tiny rocks at her side. “It’s just, you can say it all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that The Bot was wired wrong, that some stupid fucking algorithm didn’t add up, so it Force-Quit every program and scrapped itself to fix the problem.” She collapses into the dark green loveseat with the red and purple vines stitched into it. She drapes her arm across her forehead as she sinks into the cushions, lets out a sigh, and then the punches the throw pillow beside her with her balled little hands. “And to top it all off, I didn’t even make it into the fucking GIFset. Like I wasn’t even worth a kilobyte in its memory,” she says, and stares ahead and watches the pixelated pictures of The Bot’s life flash by.

Amy sits down on the arm of the couch beside her. She motions towards the screen and says, “I think they just cobbled that together off of what they found on Twiblrspace.” She places her hand on Kelly’s knee.

“And I wasn’t a part of any of that,” Kelly says. “I wasn’t even around enough to make it into The Bot’s public cloud, or its Twiblrspace, or anything. I wasn’t there enough to know that there was something wrong, some virus or some wires crossed or —” Kelly waits until the threat of tears has passed, until Amy breathes a sigh of strength. “Where’s the backup?” she finally says. “The Bot had a cloud. That’s where you said they got the GIFs from. So the data’s still there. Still somewhere, anyway. So where’s The Bot?”

Amy smacks her lips. Her head bobs slightly as she swallows, shuffling her tongue around inside her mouth. She places her hand on top of Kelly’s. She breathes. She stands. She walks away.

Automourning

At the wake, Walter stands beside the barren case that used to hold the Bot and receive its mourners with a firm handshake. He is mobbed by hundreds of its friends whose names he can’t remember. They look at him with pity in their eyes like he is some pathetic puppy dog and they whisper things like I’m sorry for your loss and it was such a good Bot and the Bot would have loved this and if only it had realized how it important it was to so many people and you should be proud to have built a Bot like that and they flood the room with their sodium liquids shouting why, why, why would it do that, it had so much more to function for, and Walter nods and says yes I understand and they keep walking or they press their crying bodies into his, smearing makeup and moisture on his favorite black jacket and move on to the next awkward greeting.

EndProgram.txt (excerpt)

“The cause of death was determined to be liquid damage. I am sorry for your dataloss,” says the brown-skinned man at the Customer Service desk.

“Yes. Thank you,” Walter responds, dragging his tongue along the bottom of his burly white mustache. He stands over the Bot, laid at rest in its original packaging, its freshly buffed shell surrounded by decorative bubble wrap. Its unlit LED eyes remain open, two black and empty vessels not-staring at the sky. “Although technically its not my data. I designed the model, but it’s an autonomous intelligence, so I never…” Walter hesitates. He drags his hand down his face, stretching out the skin and wiping spittle from his upper lip. “We never really had much of a relationship.”

The Customer Service representative grips Walter’s right hand with his own, then places his left hand atop their joined shake. He closes his eyes and nods solemnly and says, “We must all grieve in our own ways. No man should have to bury a son.” He looks at Walter but does not move his hands.

Walter swallows and tries to collect himself. “I…thank you. But again, I just designed the model. It’s not my son, it’s…” he says, slowly pulling his arm away. A look of disgust and confusion washes over his face. “Is the hard drive…where is whatever was inside of him?” He waves a hand over the Bot’s face, closing the thin metal lids that protect its optical receptors. The unliving alloy on its face is freezing to his touch.

“We replaced all the hardware after the autopsy, so everything that was there should still be inside of it. Sometimes we do reclaim or refurbish parts if it’s in the Bot’s contract, but even then we usually wait until after the funeral.” The brown-skinned man smiles sadly at Walter. He bobs their cluster of hands up-and-down like buoys on a calm sea before he finally lets go.

“Could you figure out why it did that? Why it would…I thought I programmed these machines to be smarter than that. If it’s something I did then I should know so I can fix it. If you recovered any data at all then maybe –”

The man behind the desk bows his head and slowly shakes it left to right. “The liquid damage to the hard drive is too great. The corrosion is irreversible. Now, if you don’t have any other questions, I can take the unit into the back so we can begin preparing it for tomorrow’s showing.”

Walter’s face remains neutral as he looks the Bot up and down once more. He reaches into the box and lifts its clunky, lifeless left arm. With his other hand he traces the scratches where its forearm extension meets the grabber and the end, then lets the ingot extremity thunk back into its crate.

“No,” Walter says as he looks back at the brown-skinned man. “That should be all. Thank you.” He watches the man roll the coffin away. He does not cry.

A Farewell to the Old Man for Whom the Sun Rises; Also, Don’t Kill Yourself

Let’s put the fun back in funeral, folks.

I have fought in wars. I have caught fish large

enough to swallow the pole I reeled them

in with. I have befriended people who

brought this world to its creative apex,

and others who have brought it to the brink

of oblivion. I have decided

that placing the double barrel of a

shotgun in my mouth is a fantastic

idea, and should not deter you from

thinking I’m:

                        a) brilliant beyond compare;

                        b) heroic and quite manly;

                        c) someone whom you should admire.

So please, enjoy yourselves, or at least try

like all hell. You’ll never be able to

do things quite like I’ve done them, but good luck!

The Stage or the Curtain

2 years ago, I lost my oldest friend. I had gone back to my hometown to attend our Boy Scout troop’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. I was a pretty terrible Boy Scout (I collected all of the arts merit badges — and plumbing, ’cause it was funny), but Mike was one of the people that I was most looking forward to seeing. Sure, we both had our own separate lives now, but he was always like family to me. Plus, I was really looking forward to teasing him for getting poison ivy on his balls at Camp Sequassen, because let’s face it, that was pretty hilarious.

Mike never made it to the party. Only a few of us knew why.

His wake saw over 500 people descend upon our suburban Connecticut town. It was an incredible outpouring of love and support; in a way, that made it worse. Maybe if Mike had seen the amount of people who turned, the number of lives he’d touched — maybe he wouldn’t have thought of his own life as being so expendable.

Maybe. Maybe not.

At the reception following his funeral, a few of Mike’s friends put together a slideshow with memories of him. These were friends that Mike had made in more recent years, especially at college, and most of them had never met his family until that week. The slideshow concluded with a video of Mike performing The Decemberists’ “I Was Meant For the Stage” at an Open Mic night. I had forgotten that he had finally stepped out from the backstage of the theatre and began performing (I think we scarred him in 7th grade during the filming of our home movie sequel to The Story of Rikki-Oh).

If I have ever seen a ghost, it was in that video. I still remember the exact moment during the song that Mike’s mother lost it, when he sang “Mother, please be proud / Father, be forgiving / even though you told me / ‘Son, you’ll never make a living.” I don’t know how much Mike’s college friends knew about his life in high school, but the song choice was frighteningly poetic; my mother even thought it was an original, autobiographical song that Mike had written himself.

That night, I followed the funeral crowd to Mike’s favorite Thursday Karaoke bar, and sang in his memory. It was strange, seeing all of these people with so much love for my friend — and not knowing who any of them were. That’s just the nature of things, I suppose, as we can go on to new places and start different lives. I listen to his friends share memories and stories, and I wish I could chime in or relate, but again, it was a different life for me. Still, it always comforted to know that he had continued to grow as a person, but never really changed at the heart of himself.

Each year, around this time, I try to make my way back to Hamden; there’s always a walk, or a fundraiser, some event in his memory. Everyone else — the friends I met at the services, extended family — they sit together, laughing and chatting and sharing stories. I feel bad inserting myself into their world — I don’t mean to rob their grief for myself, nor do I mean to intrude on their celebration. I know sometimes they wonder who I am, what my connection to their cause is. If they’d ever ask, I’d tell them, don’t mind me; I’m just here for Mike.

What is Expected

There are certain things to be expected after your father kills himself. It’s normal to cry all through the afternoon and evening of the day your mother calls you with the news. It’s socially acceptable to sit up most nights of the month following trying to articulate to your very understanding boyfriend, who has to work in the morning, how you can hear in your mom’s voice that she’d seen her husband hanging from a rope in their garage. After that first month, it’s part of the passage of time for that same understanding and patient boyfriend to be a little less understanding and patient, and in order to save the relationship and his sanity, you, like most people put in a similar situation, reach out to other friends. (He does not use the phrase “driving me crazy,” but you do, to your friends on the phone in the downstairs bathroom.) You reach out to friends from college and upon rehashing the time between the present and the last you heard from them, you realize just how long it’s been since graduation.

At this point, about two and a half months after your father stepped off the roof of his car and allowed his feet to dangle in the confines of the open sunroof, it’s normal to reassess where your life is currently and where it’s headed. Given your sudden and recent realization of how long it’s been since graduation (it hasn’t been that long, by average standards, but your father’s recent passing has altered your understanding and respect for time) and the shamble-like state of your relationship with your boyfriend and your recently acquired habit of drinking whiskey late at night to fall asleep, no one would blame you for wanting to pack up the essentials, clean out your bank account and drive until you feel like you can begin again.

Your boyfriend, at first devastated, angry and confused (as would be expected after three years of living together), would initially adopt your tradition of late-night whiskey as though he were trying to preserve your ghost. Eventually though, he’d allow the subconscious relief to rise to the surface. It would be admissible, even respectable, that he would begin to date again until there was a woman sleeping on your side of the bed, through the night and whiskey-free.

By this time, one year and three months will have passed since the afternoon of your father’s funeral, after which your mother – with you and the aforementioned boyfriend in tow – pulled her SUV into the garage. Upon realizing that she’d parked her car in the same garage she’d considered setting on fire hours before, she slammed her finger on the door’s remote in a frantic repetition, forgetting that each application of pressure caused the door to begin its painstaking journey opposite the direction it was already going. The door, accompanied by its lethargic motorized sound, rose and fell by inches, back and forth until the boyfriend – usually not prone to sudden movements or heroic antics – snatched the clicker from your mother’s hands and commanded the door to finally open and release you.

At this juncture, no one would think you abnormal, even without your father’s suicide as a factor, to feel that you made an impulsive and ill-advised move from home and familiarity, opting instead for something even more jarring and disorienting. It is the thing of parables for you to reconsider, to repack your things, return home.

What You Do When This Happens (2)

Note: This is an extension of last week. Work in progress, feedback welcome/desperately requested.

Paige was married for six years before her husband killed himself. They had been trying to get their lives in normal working order, to be a particular kind of family, and he had been on and off some pills for depression. Paige’s second miscarriage was too much for him. Maybe it was the realization that they weren’t the people they had been so long trying to be, that they had sacrificed so much time trying for something they wouldn’t get. Maybe it was knowing there was nothing they could do but keep trying; maybe the prospect of failing again made him opt out altogether. Maybe it was the lethal dose of chemicals—or the lack of chemicals in the places they needed to be—in his brain. We’d all speculated all of the possible reasons at first, to pacify Paige. It became an obsession of hers, like some version of Clue—Ray in the brain with the chemical imbalance—rather than what it actually was, Ray in the garage with the engine running.

“That bastard,” Chase had said when he found out. He was on the phone with my dad and his reaction didn’t elicit any immediate urge to panic in me. It was the way he’d turned away from me and lowered his voice to ask how Paige was that made me turn the stove down and ask him for the phone. When he ignored me I knew something horrible had happened. I fell back from him, no longer curious, wanting to let him protect me from it. But he’d told me, as soon as he hung up the phone, in the same sweet way he told me he liked the dinner I cooked or the outfit I was wearing. I don’t remember what he said, I just remember his tone of voice. I remember thinking about how lucky I was to have him there, telling me that horrible thing in his way that could make everything manageable, bearable. That was four years ago. There is nothing left that I recognize in Paige except the knee jerk pang in my gut I get when I see her.