One man, extending a lifeline to a friend learns sometimes it’s not the end after all.
At dinner, he was gone, in another dimension.
Maybe it was the half bottle of rum he’d finished before noon that sent him into orbit. Or it could have been the half pint he downed with a stranger in the hotel hallway.
When he asked for his old phone for the 5th time before our waitress had showed up–I wanted to put his head through a slot machine to bring him back to earth. Did he really not remember.
All of his anger and pain that hadn’t been addressed in his life was oozing through every ounce of his being. The same kind of anger when a couple gets into a fight over who broke the last coffee cup. It’s not just about the coffee cup. It’s about the coffee cup and all of the other unaddressed anger that has been pent up over the relationship.
We were in Vegas. You’re allowed to get balls to the wall drunk and not take any responsibility for your actions, right? Fuck Vegas and their dumb marketing campaign to enable adults to be kids.
The next morning, I pulled open the curtains in our room to let in the dry, morning Vegas sun. His eyes slowly opened, then bounced and skidded across the room. Eventually, his eyes found his way to mine. He was back.
“We need to talk.” I said.
I could tell he was scanning through the events from last night searching for the tapes of what he had done.
“What did I do?” He asked.
Fear covered his face. The same fear a convict might have when a judge recounts all of the misconduct right before the final sentencing: three counts of misery and unwanted babysitting provided by others, five counts of assholery to the innocent, and one major count of unwarranted time traveling.
He winced and curled into the fetal position hearing the replay of each act of stupidity he’d committed the night before. Tears started running down his face. He laid in bed tangled in the pillows and blankets.
I didn’t want to have this conversation. My friends were at the pool listening to loud dance music and probably drinking again.
His words came out slow and in between gasps for air, “I know I fucked up. I am so sorry, man. I know I was mean to you and everyone else. It’s all my fault. Please don’t cut me out of your life. I have nothing.”
This was my childhood friend. The guy everyone talked about because he was the first to hook up with a girl in the 6th grade. I was still shaking off the shame from my religious upbringing around sex. He was the one who taught me to value and have confidence in who I was. In this moment he was lacking both.
He told me about the loneliness he felt and how it haunted him. Drinking was a way to numb out from the isolation. He said he had no hope and wanted to commit suicide.
I was speechless. I thought about the pain he must be going through and the isolation he felt.
Hope isn’t just for fairy tales.
I thought “having hope” was a warm blanket you could wear to fool yourself into believing you had control over the uncontrollable. A fairie dust concept you would read out of a book like The Secret for people who say things like, “Just be positive” or “It gets better, have faith.” Vague advice you would give a friend who was going through a hard time because you didn’t know what else to say.
Viktor Frankl writes in his book Man’s Search for Meaning that there would be an influx of deaths between Christmas and New Year’s. Not because of harsh conditions or deterioration of food supplies. “But because the majority of prisoners had lived in the naïve hope that they would be home again by Christmas. When that didn’t happen, they lost their will to live.”
Tony Robbins mentions in a audionote sent to Tim Ferriss for his article on suicide that we all have a need for feeling significant. We need to feel loved, and connected. Without that fulfillment we feel dead inside. He says that there has to be a reason bigger than our pain to live.
My friend felt his life had no significance. What brought me even more pain was that I couldn’t give that to him.
Today, the world doesn’t end.
I felt my own hopelessness sitting on the hotel bed with my friend. The part of me that wants to control and make things better struggled to find a voice. I knew that advice wasn’t going to heal his pain.
The only thing I could do was offer reassurance that I wasn’t going to leave. I forgave him for the night before. It was act of faith. Even forgiveness doesn’t guarantee survival.
“You know there’s a girl I’ve been talking to who really cares about me. It’s crazy how accepting she is of me. I think I can live for her.”
I couldn’t help but crack a smile knowing that he had at least found a way to stay here for today. I told him isn’t that pretty messed up to live strictly for someone else?
“Yeah, it is.” He let out a small laugh and a smile.
“But at least it’s a place to start.”
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