I fear abandonment. I make art. I scream. I accuse my abusers- my parents, my lovers. I write them beautiful, violent poems. I sketch them with fiery hands in pages of my notebooks. I watch the movement of my own blood following gravity down my forearm toward my fingertips from spaces where my skin has been opened- moments where my mouth could only remain closed despite the need for release. And in all of these acts- I bleed, I scream, I sketch- a hysterical fear of abandonment.
Are you reading this and imagining a mother or girlfriend who runs away, leaving me alone and aching? These are neglects I know well, and so do not count in my arsenal of comrades- persons or things I feel close enough to to fear abandonment by.
Instead, I seek the resilience of and therefore fear the departure of others who find solace in drawing, stunning poetry, and shards of glass to flesh. What if I am left alone without these fierce, aching young people who, without being close, offer a reflection of myself?
I don't mean to be cryptic. On Christmas day I got an e-mail- haphazardly sent to a random collection of people connected to Camp Kinderland, the summer camp I attended as a child and worked at thereafter, informing us of the death of a woman a year older than me. Suicide. She had been my first best friend at camp and gone on to be intimidating and cliquey in the years to follow. It's been over a decade since we were really friends.
It hit me hard. It stuck to my insides. It sat in my stomach.
Because I was barely holding on by the time Christmas came. I had been spending days alone on the jetties of Coney Island, trying to find safety in the constancy of waves meeting shore, and a reason to stick around. Suicide has never been melo-dramatic to me. It has been a reality sorely situated in everyday decisions. For me, it is symbiotic. It was made clear to me from a very young age, both verbally and otherwise, that I was my mother's reason for staying alive. In fact, my first summer at Kinderland, the July I spent looking up to Emma, the young woman who is now gone, my mother attempted suicide. She drank a bottle of poisonous chemicals meant to kill infestations of bugs. She snuck out of the ER covered in charcoal and bile and walked home down seventh avenue in Manhattan poisoned, dehydrated, maybe only kind of alive. This is a lived decision in the life I share with my mother and our lives apart. It is spending middle school with best friends in the children's psych ward at Saint Vincent's hospital. It is not smoke and mirrors. It is terrifying. It is simply there.
So tonight I sorted through the handful of websites that mourned Emma's suicide and celebrated her creative powers. We haven't been friends for years and still I feel hurt and small and abandoned- there's one less being to carry the aching-young-creating fire. Where is the lesson that more of us need to survive? That we need each other even without knowing each other?
It seems that there is a dangerous edge created by working to understand and humanize suicide and self-destruction. There is nothing hard for me to understand about the fact that she is gone. And that is a brilliant reason both to keep on, and a lack of reason not to let go.
Suicide is not a consideration for me today but I will not call it, "nowhere near me," today. Because feeling its closeness, its literal heat against me when I heard about Emma was a kick in the stomach- a reminder of how close this always is. And how essential it is to recognize its presence- to look it in the eye- to know it enough to relate to it as its equal.
There will be more on this, but for now I'll raise her up by sharing the organization donations in her honor are being made to:
And a website exhibiting some of her art:
John O'Donahue wrote for Emma,
May there be some beautiful surprise
Waiting for you inside death
Something you never knew or felt,
Which with one simple touch
Absolves you of all loneliness and loss,
As you quicken within the embrace
For which your soul was eternally made.