I have a secret. I’ve tried to keep it to myself because everyone only seems to want me to be “happy”. I have a lot to be grateful for. But this is not one of those times to shift focus and avoid the discomfort of acknowledging what is real. Like my friend died. And I've been fucked up now for about three weeks, ever since it happened. One day, I was waiting for my mail to show up, and then he was gone. He was a year older than me. We'd talked on the phone the week before. I had no chance to absorb what happened. And now I am learning to language the loss. It's not something you get over. It's something you accept.
His funeral was brutal. I still remember the weight of his body, the hole in the ground, the bitter wind, the faded colours right before the snow hit. I remember holding onto his mother and crying with her. I remember people joking and laughing and crying all at once. The song Rocket Man by Elton John got stuck in my head while his friend was doing the Eulogy. Then for some reason during a slide show that everyone put together, someone had picked that song and it started playing and I lost it. Apparently he liked Elton John, and he enjoyed that song a lot. I don't know if I was channeling the collective grief or what, but it did make me think about how I knew they were going to play the thing. I learned some things about him that I didn't know. That he was in immersion as a kid like me. I drove around with his best childhood friend Matt, and he told me how they gave Campbell Collegiate the finger. We commiserated about how we were all high school rejects, and ironically it made us who we are today. How many of us outcasts, in schools all over the place, end up soaring to strange, beautiful heights. There were so many stories and so many tears. Every night, like a picture in my mind, his face appears. And every night I cry. I can't stop it.
I've had a few good conversations about things over the past few weeks. I am thankful for those. But a lot of people have an allergy to reality. It’s like any time anything gets deeper than a mud puddle, they shut up. So when you need them the most is when they aren’t there, when you need to be heard, they back off. It’s what you represent. In my case, it’s always been what I represent. I’m used to the feeling of alienation. It’s become my raison d’etre. Lately I’ve been secretly photographing people patterns in spaces with a low resolution camera to illustrate what this alienation looks like. What I am talking about in this case is garden variety alienation, though. People avoid you when you’re dealing with death because they don’t want to think about what it would be like if it were to happen to them. And we all have to deal with it, ironically. Maybe it’s time to get used to it. Maybe it’s time to pull out of denial and start living with appreciation, and stop making excuses. I do appreciate life in general. I've come close to not being here a few times because of my health, and I take nothing for granted anymore.
You don’t become a "good" (whatever that word means...it's so subjective sometimes) writer, a good poet, a good artist by going to workshops or mimicking people, or talking to your friends about what you like. You become good at what you do out of necessity, because there is nobody to listen. Ever since my friend’s death, I’ve lost my sense of colour. Life has felt flat, meaningless, sad, and pointless. In spite of these feelings I move forward every day. I am used to fighting my body. It wants to sit and stare off into space. It doesn’t want to talk to people. It doesn’t want to do anything. I lose myself in other people’s conversations. I try to look for something good, anything. But I can’t see. I feel like I’ve lost faith in pretty much anything having to do with God. I have weird dreams. Mostly I am sad.
There really is nothing like the death of someone close to suck the life out of you. Literally. Everything I do right now feels pointless, ridiculous. My head is full of voices that call me self-absorbed and delusional. I do it anyway. I go through the motions but I feel fucking numb and angry and frustrated. I don’t say much. Everything is a performance. I lose myself in it. In language, in debate, in discussion. I find meaning in all of those things, but there is this part of me that feels I need to move beyond the talking. That I need to be a verb. That I need to use what I have learned in a concrete, meaningful way to help humanity. And sometimes, I’ve got nothing. Life is a performance. Getting on the bus, eating breakfast, walking the six blocks to get a ride. It’s all a performance right now. I know this is my depression talking. But it gets extremely soul sucking when you become aware of the fact that you can’t show your real self to people. I wish I was capable of saving lives or solving problems, or contributing to making the world a more positive place. But frankly all I can do is write about philosophy or poetry and make pictures. It’s all I’ve got.
And no matter what anyone says about art, it doesn’t stop wars or bring a person back to life. It doesn’t transmit all the things you wish you could have said to your friend while they were alive. Art is not a replacement for flesh, for love, for those you have lost,for safety. It’s a way of languaging things, a way of coping, but it doesn’t replace what is gone. I feel very helpless right now and I hate feeling helpless. It’s the worst.
And I never seem to have the right words. And I feel unsophisticated because compared to many other people in my position, I deal with a mental illness and trauma that got in the way of most of my early years of schooling. Life is more stable now, and my marks are good…now, but my academic record isn’t quite good enough to get a scholarship right now because of shit that happened to me 10 years ago. I need money. I have no money. I suck at real life. I wonder why I am alive all the time, and I always have to be honest, but when you see a friend’s life snuffed out for no perceptible reason, it amplifies the “what’s the point” voices that much more.
I regret taking my life for granted. I'm even doing it now, sitting here, talking, acting like I have all the time in the world. How many times did I take my ability to see, to walk, to function with a grain of salt? As though I could do it forever. And I am now night blind. Once the sun goes down, I can’t fucking see. Getting off the bus and crossing the main artery to go home is terrifying. And I am becoming increasingly aware of the fact that in the big scheme, I am pretty insignificant. I hope I stay humble as long as I am alive. It’s better when you don’t know what’s coming. I try not to think about it, but on the other hand it’s all I think about. Death. Mortality. Banality. Futility. Chaos. Violence. Pain. Grief. Those have been the topics I have explored for years, but when people start to drop close to you, as they have in my life for a while now, you really start to wonder exactly what the fuck life is about. Nobody really knows why we are here, why we exist, or even what life really is. It’s a trip, and I don’t know why I am on the earth, or why things are the way they are, or why people do what they do. I hope something good happens, something that leaves something good behind. I need something good to happen, a monsoon of good to flood the desert in my mind. Because right now, I can’t feel anything.
I listen to people talking, like they have forever to do whatever they want. I have little patience for self-absorbed conversations. I am too aware of everyone and everything. Everything is grey. I know I’m depressed. It’s a different kind of depression; the kind that goes beyond the human tantrums that everyone’s soul throws when life doesn’t do what they want, or they don’t get the girl or guy of their dreams, or the right Christmas gift, or they don’t win the big award of whatever. Who cares about that shit? It’s a questioning, a wondering whether all of it, my life, and everything else is completely irrelevant. And there is nothing to comfort me. Absolutely nothing. It’s all a void right now. I find myself hiding, wanting to be alone, wanting to speak, and having nothing to say. My words feel empty and my mind is eternally confused.
I don’t want to feel. I don’t want to be reminded of the fleeting nature of all of it, and I don’t want to think about why it happened. I don’t want to think at all.
But I have to say goodbye, and I’d feel terrible if my cowardice, my fear of life meaning nothing, got in the way of being alive. There are no answers right now. You learn to live in what kills you. And life kills you anyway. It makes no sense.