A friend of mine died yesterday and another friend called me this morning to talk about it. When your friends are comedians or Icelanders, it seems like suicide is a fifth season, nestled between autumn and winter or–depending on the year–spring and summer. It’s those cracks, those strange wandering days, where I have lost friends and then quickly moved on to holiday cheer or summer revelry.
In my adult life, I have never really considered opting out–other than in my more borderline personality displays, meaningless tantrums. Give me another slice of pumpkin pie or I’ll hurl myself from this rooftop patio! I recently watched The Meaning of Hitler, a documentary about Austria’s boy wonder. He was prone to similar suicidal threats, which, in hindsight, unlike mine, can’t be considered empty.
I’ve always been frustrated with death. It’s overwhelming for brief moments. The whole concept of oblivion. I’ve always been more scared of death than dying. Is that weird? People usually say the opposite. They use the argument from Lucretius, “I didn’t exist before I was born and I will go back into that non-existence, and I won’t feel anything so it’s fine.” I’m paraphrasing. But this doesn’t work for me. In fact, since you were born, my frustration with my eventual demise has only increased. If death needs to be satiated or fed, if someone has to die, I have a few suggestions for my replacement. Why do I have to die when there are people who Facetime in public without headphones? Surely, they’re a mistake, right? What about writers who write essays about books they are proud to not have read? Why do they exist?
I was around four of five years old when I first realized that I wasn’t going to be around forever. I snuck downstairs from my bedroom to the main floor of the house where a large mirror hung next to the fireplace in the corner of the room. All the lights in the house were out but I could see my reflection in that mirror. I was wearing a baseball glove on my left hand and tossing a ball into it, working it in, making the glove less stiff. It was brand new.
With each step forward, I tossed the ball into the glove, and repeated the words “you’re going to die one day.” I got so close to the mirror that I could see the tears dripping off my chin onto my shirt. I got so angry I threw the baseball into the mirror.
My mother and father came down the stairs, but I don’t remember them getting angry. In the morning, all the glass was cleaned up and the jagged pieces still left in the mirror’s frame were removed. However, my parents didn’t remove the frame of the mirror from the wall until I moved out of the house at 19. I saw that frame every day. Every time I went out and every time I came home.
I think a lot of people have been obsessing over death this year. You were born during a global pandemic. In fact, there’s been a baby boom in Iceland. I’ve read that it’s the opposite in Canada and many adults feel it’s irresponsible to bring a child into such a dangerous world. I guess they haven’t heard of vacuum decay.
Why stop at kids? Why have any friends? What’s the point? They’ll all die eventually, or worse, hold the wrong political opinions. Everything ends and giving up is easy. Death is terrifying but entropy is worse.
I don’t know if this letter is for you or me. I’m a man stranded on an island, looking for someone to listen to me. Robinson Crusoe in search of his Friday.
My girl, Friday.