The night I found out my childhood friend, committed suicide, I listened to Iron & Wine’s song The Trapeze Swinger on repeat--for hours. There were no tears. My emotions lacked a name that night. Relief? A horrible emotion for suicide. But after years in a dysfunctional friendship, watching my friend suffer, the weight of my own futility, coupled with my own personal struggle with depression---there was a sense of relief.
I laid on my side of the bed, my husband sleeping beside me, earbuds in my ears, listening to 25 years of friendship.
Like, composer Maurice Ravel’s Bolero, the Trapeze Swinger’s theme repeats without development. Each rotation introduces a new instrument into the background, a wind chime, a wood block, a slide whistle, returning to the refrain, “Please remember me”. The song never goes anywhere, never reaches a climax, it simply continues.
I found this comforting.
In that place between grief and sleep, I see her face peeking up at me under the bathroom stall in Kindergarten, the first day I met her. She’s asking me what I’m doing, as if it isn’t obvious.
Watching her tiny hands dancing over the piano keys playing Chariots of Fire in 1st grade music class -- astonishing us all. It’s clear she’s different than the rest of us --destined for greatness. Sacredness marks the moment; one classmates will remember as they repeat the story in hushed tones in years to come.
Walking towards me in middle school, purposely dressed in mismatched clothes--pulling it off joyously. Hunching her shoulders up to her ears, to play her alter ego, the one much dorkier than herself (or was this really her?)
Eating watermelon on a blanket on the Fourth of July. The sun, blinding us, as it pierces through the leaves of the tree above us. She’s pulling a single hair off my uncle’s arm, who is pretending to nap, like a compliant dog with a toddler. He doesn’t move as she pulls another and yet another.
Asking me to spend the night on her day bed trundle, so she can sleep—the beginnings of the anxiety we are not yet be able to name. The scent of the eucalyptus branches her father has placed under her bed to soothe her, draft in the night air. I lay there, still, wheezing from the household cats who have nested a top me for the night. Yet I do not move, for fear I will disturb her rest.
Dancing to The Cure’s Close to Me, as she claps around Goths at Knott’s Cloud Nine. Her exuberant smile a sharp contrast to their pale faces and black eyeliner. Always set apart.
Praying, at church, her eyes closed, hands outstretched, face pleading. I see behind the talent, the weight of perfection, and the longing for mercy--for grace.
Pretending to be grownups as we ate salmon and asparagus in her first apartment. We had walked in the hills near Griffith Park imagining how she’d live in a luxurious home one day after she become a famous composer. She’ll be aunt to my children I thought to myself.
Calling me on New Year’s to tell me she didn’t believe in God anymore. But it was ok if I did.
Ringing my loft doorbell at 4am. My 6ft 2in husband returning with her tiny frame leaning against his, sobbing. He is holding the bottle of pills she had thrust into his hands, begging him to dispose of it.
Showing up for 8am Mass, despite still calling herself an atheist.
Splitting hot pockets and sodas for our lunch break. She’d play a recording of the classical arrangement she composed that morning.
Startling herself by saying aloud, “They’re all equal!” in Mass as she watched parishioners line up for the Eucharist.
The song is nearly ten minutes long. I clicked repeat on my ipod. For hours, she sang to me through Sam Beam’s voice
please remember me, my misery
And how it lost me all I wanted
Laying in the fetal position, my own depression sliced through with grief, the memory of the phone call with the news, she had been found in her bathtub, an empty bottle of pills next to the soap and a plastic bag over her head. I knew she meant this as a consideration—to make clean-up easy.
Please remember me
She pleads with me not to give in. To hold tight.
In the darkness, I whispered “Lord, help my unbelief”, knowing it was the only prayer I could truly pray.
The song continued its rotation, persistent like life and in the stillness the words, “hope does not disappoint” glimmered.