We were both kind of hoping the world would end. We didn’t really think it would–or I didn’t, at least. But we were hoping.
I looked at her facebook again today. I’ve looked at it more this past year she’s been dead than I ever did when she was alive. Since that day she passed, there’s been a lot from friends and family–notes of love and prayer sent into the cyber ether. Some of it sounds hopeful that somewhere, somehow, she can hear these words we speak to her. Other posts seem to be reaching out to another–any other–to share the pain of loss with. I’m not sure which of those categories my posts fall under. Neither I think.
Today, I looked back farther, to the things she posted when she was alive–in the weeks just before she killed herself. If I had been on facebook during those weeks I was on the road, at least one post–about her boyfriend who had killed himself the year earlier–might have tipped me off that something wasn’t right. Another post, about “the end of the world,” December 21, 2012, had me thinking about years earlier, when I was capable of having a more serious conversation about the end of times.
I was convinced I was going to die by the time I was 21. I couldn’t explain it, but I knew, from a young age.
When I was maybe 10 or 12 years old, I thought I had died. I went to bed one night wishing for death. This wasn’t unusual–I remember many nights feeling this way. Not because I was angry, or unhappy–but because of a nagging feeling that this thing called life–this endless, explainable persistence of being–seemed so unnecessary; seemed like such a struggle for no apparent reason. It was just a couple years earlier, during an educational IMAX movie on ancient Egypt, that I had been introduced to the concept of the after-life–a concept that I disliked immensely, though it fascinated me nonetheless.
I thought, with all the naivety of a preteen, that the next life–if there was one–would be a whole lot more interesting than this one. And if their wasn’t one, well than there was nothing to worry about. But I didn’t want to kill myself, because in Sunday School I learned that was a sin. So instead I spent most nights before bed trying to “will myself” to death. It actually helped me get to sleep, because I suffered (and still do) from insomnia since I was about 8 years old.
So one night I was doing just that when, opening my eyes, I realized the whole world had gone black and white. I didn’t trust my eyes at first, so I got up and turned on the lights. I ran my fingers along the wood paneling on the walls, and over the objects cluttered along the shelves in the room my brother and I shared. I looked at his sleeping face. Everything–black, white, and in between shades of grey.
And silence. Silence like I’ve never heard before, and am unlikely to ever hear again. Silence that doesn’t exist in nature. Silence from my own breath–my own heart beat.
I turned off the light and laid back down. This must be death, I thought at first. But then, why was I still in my room? And why, if I was dead, was I not looking over my dead body, or floating through the ceiling into the sky? This must be something different, like an in between stage. I had wished for death, and this was sort of my “are you sure?” moment where I could take it back.
I remember feeling frightened at the choice, but I don’t remember begging for my life back. There would be other nights I’d pray to some uncertain god for mercy, but it wouldn’t be that night. That night, I’d fall asleep.
When I woke up, the whole world felt empty. I didn’t have school, so I walked out of the house–just walked the seemingly empty streets. I wasn’t certain whether I was alive or not, and I walked aimlessly, looking for someone.
I stopped in front of a house I was convinced was the home base of an alien research team. I telepathically appealed to them for help, but when they didn’t answer, I went and laid in the lawn of my old friend–the one that killed herself.
I looked at the sky, and it seemed to me that falling from the clear blue abyss were thousands of tiny colorless flecks, and that these flecks were some kind of indicator that I was in an in-between world. I could only see them now because I was in fact not living, and I had to navigate my way out–either back to life, or towards death.
After some time, I saw my friend’s sister standing over me. She asked if I was alright, and I don’t know what I said but soon after my friend was out there with me, sitting on the lawn, listening to me explain what I thought was going on.
She said it was quite possible that I was dead, and that she in fact had been sent to lead me to my next destination. It seemed to me, that she thought it was a game we were going to play–like the aliens were their own game, or voodoo witch craft performed in the woods were their own games too.
But they weren’t games for me. I believed them, like only kids so young can believe. And I don’t remember what I said or did next, but it must have hurt her feelings, because I didn’t want to play along with the game. I wanted to figure out how I had died and what I should do next.
For years after that day, life slowly regained its color. Slowly I began to except the fact that if I had in fact entered another stage of life, it’s reality was going to solidify until I had completely forgotten that I had died. Like a student graduating from school, unable to imagine her future in “the real world,” the past and future would seamlessly string together–the adult laughing at the fear she had as a child.
And since then, I’ve more or less excepted the reality of this world. I’ve experimented with many drugs, but if anything, the drastic shifts in perception have only solidified my trust in my own senses. Whereas before, I believed in the possible invisible spirits and alternate universes–and to some extent a sort of supernatural ability I was capable of–I more or less believe now that the mind is creating much more than is there in the physical realm. If anything, it’s perhaps veered me away from what might have developed into a serious psychosis later in life.
What I’m left with, however, is a life without magic. Just information, that I soak up voraciously, but which leaves me feeling mostly demoralized by its volume and often depressed by its matter. So much suffering. So much struggle. For what? I’m still asking the same questions I was asking when I was 8 years old. What drives us to persist in this pointlessness?
It’s some consolation to write about this. But it would have been a greater consolation to have been able to talk to her about it. To talk to her, honestly, about why we hoped (but didn’t believe) the world would end. It would be a consolation to talk to someone.