THE SUICIDE NOTE
Over the years, I have been constantly preparing to kill myself, to rescue myself from the misery that is existence. With this thought in mind, I have collected and accumulated, throughout my lifetime, a wide variety of deadly objects, from the .38 caliber pistol which I keep locked inside my desk drawer with 20 rounds, though I think that one will do, to the thick hemp rope which I maintain hidden in a box in my closet with which to conjure the hangman’s noose, to the tiny yet overwhelming vial of cyanide which I have cleverly concealed in the battery compartment of an obsolete radio which I appear to be holding onto in slavery to nostalgia. It is an impressive arsenal, and often I wonder what it is that has kept me from experiencing its effectiveness. There can be only one explanation: the suicide note!
On the day I thought I would kill myself, I wrote the first draft of that note.
But I was not satisfied with it. The gun was already out, and the bullets on the table, when reading it over, I decided that it was actually imprecise. It did not accurately describe my motives to the world; the adjectives, I realized, had been chosen to be dramatic, not truthful, and the terror of being misunderstood without the ability to correct the misperceptions which might arise, stayed my hand which was already intimately familiar with the handle of the pistol. I tried crossing out the offending adjectives, and replacing them with more modest and honest ones. But the physical corrections on the paper marred the aesthetic presentation of my final message to the world and seemed to reflect badly on the life that was about to be taken. Not wanting to perish in such a slovenly manner, I took out another piece of paper, white and fresh, and rewrote the suicide note, completing it, I thought, to my satisfaction, until rereading it I discovered that the new adjectives I had chosen to replace the old ones were, in spite of being more accurate, uninspired and flat and in no way worthy of the passion that had pushed me to the edge. "You have just castrated a work of art," I told myself. "No one who reads this note will understand why you did it, because the intensity is no longer there: the rage and despair that led you to point a gun at your own head has been cut out. With these neutered words, these pitiful concessions to the truth, you eclipse the greatest moment of your life, you belittle your end." Driven by these thoughts, I struggled to create a third version of my suicide note which would accurately represent my state of mind and explain my reasons for ending my life without sacrificing any of the glory of the act. I wished my pain to leap as high as Nijinsky, to sing as boldly as Caruso. I would not leave the world as just another "John Doe." But this time, though I felt I got the language right, my hand faltered as I wrote. I was displeased by my handwriting, by the letters which lacked vigor and simplicity, and were not written with decisiveness, but seemed to gasp and wheeze their way across the page towards my demise. As I saw it, the weak, uncertain handwriting betrayed the brave and vivid content of my final message to the world.
Telling myself I was being overly perfectionistic, I picked up the gun. But looking at the note a final time before pulling the trigger, I was convinced anew that the words I had splattered across the page with my pen were spiritless. The "I’s" were loopy and wide, they seemed to demean me, they were the kind of "I’s" that the Pillsbury Doughboy would have written before they put him in the oven; and once more my "r’s" looked like "s’s", so that some who looked over my final message might have misread the word "sun" as "run." When I tried to make the "s" more clear, I ended up disfiguring the word entirely and was left with an illegible letter that might as well have been taken off of the wall of an Egyptian tomb.
"Tomorrow, I’ll get it right," I thought. I put my gun away.
But the next day, perfection continued to elude me. This time, I remembered an important train of thought which I had failed to include in my explanation of why I was about to kill myself, and I was forced to spend the rest of the day trying to work it into the existing text, without disrupting the flow of the passage into which the new material was inserted. Though I had completed my task after several hours, I then noted how the one train of thought diminished the other, stole its thunder, so to speak, and to restore the impact of that, a massive rewrite was in order.
The following day, a beautiful metaphor occurred to me as I was about to finalize my message, and I decided I could not leave it in the air, but must give it a landing site on my page. My pale corpse with the bloody hole in the temple, which I had spent days imagining, would be mourned more passionately on account of it. But then, I observed how the metaphor grated with another in the subsequent passage. People might be confused by the one paragraph’s use of the idea of "snow" as a symbol of purity and the other’s reference to "ice", so similar to snow, as a symbol of indifference. What if the reader’s mind was not as plastic, as quick to trade shapes, as mine? The rest of that day was, inevitably, spent on trying to overcome this problem, which, in turn, uncovered another even greater problem I had not previously detected.
And on it went. In this way, days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years.
The suicide note expanded, became deeper, richer; it grew wildly, from passion, like vines in a garden and was cut back by the ruthless hand of editing, which frequently went too far, requiring the planting of new seeds. The note seemed sometimes insufficient, other times beautiful, even magnificent; but always there was something more that was needed intruding on its finality, a new insight or thought given to me by the life I had not yet ended which must be included; an unexpected aversion to some part of it, to something written or something left out, which had somehow escaped my scrutiny.
At times, the thought of having to delay my suicide in a world so heartless drove me to desperation; twice, I determined to forget about the suicide note and to kill myself in spite of the lack of a worthy testament; to hurl the imperfect note which was impeding me into my garbage can, or feed it to the shredder, or even burn it, and just get on with things. But each time, the thought of an utterly invisible death repelled me; the idea of perishing without words in my mouth, like the silver coins which the ancient Greeks used to place beneath the tongues of the dead to pay for the trip to the Hereafter, horrified me. Such a black, empty death without bearings, without a gesture… To die so incomplete, like a tree which has borne no fruit, not even the fruit of explaining the emptiness of its branches…
I resisted the entreaties of silence, I persisted in my effort to perfect the suicide note.
And to this day I persist. When I look back on the drafts of the note I wrote in the beginning, filled as they were with clichés and superficial perspectives which I thought were wise, I cannot believe how far I have come since then. My message, now, is deep and poetic, the words that I used to stumble over fly like birds. But there is still room for improvement; every day I do not kill myself, I grow a little more and am left disappointed by who I was and how I have represented myself; and I realize that it is possible that this note I have before me right now, with which I am so pleased, may one day seem as sterile and as shallow as the ones that went before it. I am constantly bettering myself, transforming the trite into the profound, the drab into the colorful, the out-of-tune into the melodious. My pen thunders across the blank white pages, galloping new ideas, new and daring strings of words, into being. How could I dare to interfere with the development of this ever-expanding and luminous document, by cutting short the existence which feeds it?
There is still a gun and a packet full of bullets inside my drawer.
But there is so much left to write; so much to learn, and so many things I need to say before I die.
My suicide note is still only one half of what it could be.
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