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Metallic Persuasion

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In his hand. Cold and steely. Metallic persuasion. Shakespeare, The Prophet, wise more than us mere mortals could ever know. "To be or not to be?" That no longer seems the question. The answer is clenched, burning in his palm. Fire. Pain. Anger. Melancholy wisps floating in the air. Hovering in his car. Those final moments alone. When rhetoric no longer matters. Everything melts around him. The wisps die. City sounds drain away. The stars fall. In one move. Silence.


I'm not sure if I can imagine how it happened. My youngest brother's friend. My friend. Nick. He committed suicide a year ago this summer. I'm not sure if I even want to know how it happened. The act. Those last moments alone, when someone feels such pain, when they are in so much pain, that pulling a trigger seems like a rationale thing to do. The only thing to do. The right thing to do.

I cannot comprehend this.

I don't want to comprehend this.

Nick was playful. At times child-like, cheerfully throwing punches; with a hint of apprehension. Self-consciousness. Tacitly, he looked for my approval. His friend's older brother. Someone he could talk to about boxing - a love of his - politics, or current events. Unfailingly friendly. Genuine. Yet, underneath, you could sense the nervousness. In some way, you could tell there were demons. Inside this great guy - and he truly was one - an obvious battle was raging. It's easy to relate. We all have our moments. Mood swings. Depression. Angst. Just not like this.

Not to the point of no return.

Not so bad that it gets the best of us.

My inclination is to always think of events in a political manner. That's who I am; it's my nature to think of solutions to problems. But how do you find a way to legislate against suicide? No law will stop somebody from pulling that trigger, tying that noose, swallowing those pills. No law can ease someone's pain before it's too late or their loved one's anguish afterward. After the son of Oregon Senator, Gordon Smith committed suicide, the senate passed mental health legislation. Smith wept bitterly on the senate floor throughout the vote. I would imagine a new law was small solace for his overwhelming loss. I know the law gives me no relief. I think of my friend constantly. Miss him more than ever. No amount of critical thinking or creativity can change any of this.

For once I have no solution.

No grand idea to save the day.

I'm not really sure if I should.

A day or two after Nick's death, his girlfriend came over to my apartment, and I was sitting next to her on my futon, trying to articulate my sympathy. I had no words. Nothing coherent. I mentioned the bible, how I had been reading for strength, yet I could not clearly explain what I was getting at. I didn't know. I still don't know. I don't find any meaning to something like this. Just pain. Sometimes I still find myself thinking that he'll come over. I constantly wonder what he is doing. I wonder if he'd like to come over and watch something on television. I wonder if he could maybe give me a ride to the store. Then I remember he is no longer alive. And, something breaks inside of me every time. Smashes hard in one blunting blow. It makes me ache deeply for several minutes afterward. I feel ashamed in these moments.

Because I forgot he was gone.

And, for what I didn't do.

I knew for at least a month beforehand that something was wrong with him. I could tell he wasn't right. He'd come over later than usual, be jumpy and apprehensive. He looked progressively thinner, sleep deprived and seemed more melancholy with each visit. Yet, I didn't say anything. I never sat down and talked to him. My brother said he feared telling me that he had a drug problem. I suspect he feared telling anyone just what kind of mental pain he was in as well. I do not blame myself, I just wished I had tried something. I wish I went with my instincts. I have long since quit trying to make sense of death. I've witnessed people torture themselves to death with drugs and alcohol. Known others who have died from various diseases. Had several friends die in accidents, automobile and otherwise. Had a friend shot to death once. None ever made sense to me. But I do know that Nick could have been saved. That's the only lesson I can think of in this. That there is help out there. Search for it. Seek it out. And, if you know someone who needs some then don't hesitate to reach out. Go with your instincts. I wish I did. You just never know the place someone may be in.

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Bill Wetzel is Amskapi Pikuni aka Blackfeet from Montana. His writing has appeared in the American Indian Culture & Research Journal, Yellow Medicine Review, Studies In Indian Literatures (SAIL), Hinchas de Poesia, Red Ink Magazine, Literary (more...)

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