On death, 3

I met him I think twice. The first time was during an art exhibit. I was invited by an artist-friend, and he was invited by another artist that is also friends with my artist-friend. After the opening, we had dinner at Chowking, then videoke at Malate. They drank the night away while I listened to their drunken singing. We went home way past midnight.

The second time was another drinking session/dinner in Makati. Over bottles of Tanduay Ice (for them) and iced tea (for me) and lechon kawali, we exchanged stories and jokes. Well, they exchanged stories and jokes, while I just listened. I was socially awkward; I still am. After the drinking session, we took a walk around Makati, passing by his house, then we had post-dinner dinner at McDonalds. That was the last time I saw him – a towering figure, laughing like a child.

Most interactions after that were online, usually on Twitter. I just read his tweets, made several replies, and that’s it. Most of his tweets were about food. I think he liked Japanese food, basing this on his tweets.

And just like meeting friends online, sometimes dropping off is inevitable without anyone noticing. I dunno what happened next – maybe it was a sign that I should have noticed. Just checked: I still follow him on Twitter, and he still follows me. But I can’t remember any single tweet of his in recent days. Must be due to bandwidth issues. I noticed that I am not getting all tweets on Tweetdeck – there were obvious gaps in conversations, etc. So I thought he got bored with Twitter and had decided to move on.

Last Saturday, I was with college friends that I haven’t seen in decades. Over lunch, I got a text message from a friend, informing me of a very sad news.

For many of us, we don’t get the point of killing oneself. Everytime we hear of news of someone taking his own life, we usually ask why. What is it that pushes some people to terminate his life? Is there a problem that can only be solved by death?

I can’t answer for others, but this I know: for a desperate person, for a person who feels that he is most alone, for someone who thinks that no one cares, for a person who thinks his interminable life is an endless stream of loneliness and despair – yes, eternal, dreamless sleep is a tantalizing option.

Have you ever felt that your life is going down the drain? Did you ever have the feeling that once people found out about your darkest secret, they’d shun you, ostracize you, avoid you like making eye contact with you means instant death? Have you felt the cold embrace of loneliness in a sea of people? Have you despaired for attention from people who you think are ignoring you? Was there a long stretch of time where you’ve felt you’ve been abandoned by family and friends?

For some people who have been under the yoke of depression, yes, death can be the only option.

Yes, because I’ve been there.

But yes, I am still alive. I dunno why. Maybe I was a coward. Maybe things got better. Maybe because I had thought about my situation, accepted my fate, and moved one. I can’t say I am out of it; no one can. Depression, like death, is treacherous. It attacks you when you least expect it. But it’s been more than a decade since what I termed the Black Years of my life. Where taking a shower, looking at the water going down the drain, was a metaphor of my life. Where seeing my brother with his friends brought crushing blows to the heart. Where walking in a sea of people brought crushing waves of utter loneliness.

Yes, I thought death was a relief. But I am still alive.

Not everyone was as lucky. Including him.

It must be a terrible blow to family and friends. The sad thing about depression and suicide is that there are no obvious signs. Most of us are not aware about it. Even if we were, detecting it would be hard. You can never tell if someone is just sad or terribly depressed. And even if we find out, we might find ourselves helpless, or worse, indifferent.

After someone made the decision to leave this life, all we have, aside from memories, is regret. Have we been so full of ourselves that we fail to notice? Have we lacked love for this person? Have we taken him for granted? All we have are questions, and we might not get the right answers, or any answer at all.

I used to read a lot about depression and suicide. I have books, pages yellowed, some passages highlighted. I have photocopies, properly filed and stored in envelops. I read about my situation back then, and resolved that never should another suffer what I had went through.

But life has a nasty habit of dumping us with experiences that we can’t even discern the essentials from the mundane. In my case, studies and later on, work. I thought I could help someone who is depressed when I find one. Now, I don’t know anymore. What I do know is that someone that I know took his own life.

That’s what family and friends have after a suicide – unanswered questions. And that’s all I have now.