Black Holes

"The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe." --Joanna May

I didn't know you, not really; I called you a friend but you weren't, not really. You were a face, a constant presence on my peripheral vision. You were the friendly conversation I could always count on. You were the smile that was always waiting to catch my eye if I glanced in your direction--that made me a little nervous because it was always ready, always lit up, and I thought you wanted something from me. Maybe you did. Warmth, touch, chat, companionship, alliance against the dark that closed us into a cave every winter and the light that sent us too high every summer.

A few times I opened to you--in my braver moments--and we talked for far too long: life, love, dog mushing, travel, the holes in the universe that lead to the unknown. We didn't know where we were going and on those nights we didn't really care. You were a good person. We were two good people who had plenty to regret, and we met on that common ground. Regrets. Love. The great unknown. Black holes you can fall into and never look back.

And then the next time I'd see you, we'd have forgotten. Back to being strangers who knew each other once, just that once over a beer at a bar that felt like home. I moved away and never thought about you but once or twice; a mutual friend would mention they'd seen you, and I'd think, uncomfortably, of that connection that lasted no longer than a breath and didn't lend itself to my understanding.

Last night I read online, from an impersonal distance, that you'd taken your own life. Not discreetly, in a moment of private anguish, but publicly, hanging yourself from a tree in the middle of town. Why would anyone do such a thing? but I thought, suddenly, of a Tibetan monk setting himself on fire in protest of a situation that is unlivable, unthinkable, untenable. This is public, visceral, frightening, sickening. It tears our hearts out. It leaves us numb. It is a statement of abhorrence of the Thing That Should Not Be. No one can live like this; no one should have to. Isolated, alone, no help on the horizon. No matter the appearances on the surface, no matter how many friends, acquaintances, warm alliances you have--this dread solitude at your center, this maelstrom of demons that stole your mind--they occupied your inner territory, claimed it for themselves. You had to get out.

Now I understand. This is what we had in common, and this is why your presence made me so uncomfortable. I was looking into a mirror. I think, though, that you were better than I was back then. You reached out. You tried. You made friends, chased adventure, gave your heart, fought to live. It just got to be too much. A decision had to be made: live in chains, or set yourself on fire and hope someone saw.

Well, someone did. We all did. You are mourned. You are loved. You will be missed. No one, no matter what the demons say, is ever alone. Not you, not the Tibetan monk burning to death in a pillar of fire. We are all everything. We are all connected. Go back to where you came from; discover the secrets of love, black holes, time travel, your place in the universe. Go on and on till you find the place you were meant to be. Find peace there, and ease. Gather a team of eager dogs and mush them down the spine of the universe. Let their laughing mouths guide you to freedom.

© 11/18/2014


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