There’s a gifting with how well we ignore the red flags in our friends lives. There’s always an explanation. He’s just needy, she’s just busy, we’re all grown up and they should understand. It’s interesting how then we live in a world where in less than two months Avicii, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain died. It’s not just dying, they took their own lives.
We’re in the kitchen and Melissa* is trying to explain why she wants to kill herself. She has all the reasons, all the explanations, all the logical conclusions. To her I’m privileged to be there ‘in her last days.’ She’s not sorry she wants to die, she’s hopeful (ironically) and it’s not like she hasn’t tried before. There I know she’s not her, she’s a psychopath captured by her demons and I can’t seem to know what happened to my friend.
I stand there, it’s a tiny kitchen, no tiles, soot covered walls and old cutlery and the smell of paraffin burning. She doesn’t let her friends come to her house because she feels it’s ‘not up to standard’ and she’s not ready to be judged. This is supposed to be a ‘don’t kill yourself intervention’ and I have no idea where to start so I Just stand there.
“It’s really not that bad,” she says “My parents are basically killing each other every night, my siblings have their own lives barely knowing I exist and I’m in a toxic relationship.”
“You have a great family.” She adds “Sure, your love life is dead but that’s because you’re a sissy when it come to relationships. You’ll do fine without me. I’ll just come back from the spirit world to give you a spanking if you get back together with that guy who you obsess over and we all know he’s a dead end.”
She starts laughing and I chuckle. I mean how do you start laughing when a psycho is talking about the after life? “What do you want out of life.” I ask her mid conversation as she hands me a plate of rice and chicken.
“I want Ron to love me.
“I want my friends to stop being so busy and come eat chicken tikka mwitu with me.
“I want my mum to leave my dad.
“I want my dad to stop looking at me like a target.
“I want my brother to remember my birthday.
There I pick out the problem as we settle in the living room. I also am part of the problem because we’re always postponing lunch and I was only there because she texted me saying wanted to kill herself.
I can’t blame her for wanting to. I also can’t see how it got there.
In all my days of believing I was the greatest friend, supplementing my absence with gifts and calling for one minute check ups just to hear ‘I’m okay’ pushed someone that far. Maybe there are other factors but I was the contributor. And I felt like shit for it.
Of her factors is her toxic relationship where Melissa does everything; she pays for dates, calls all the time, gives up rubber for him, pays for birth control and takes emotional torture and abuse. She talks about her boyfriend and instead of the happy relationship we see on Instagram she cries half the time because she can’t get a text back even after double texting. She knows it’s one sided, she knew the minute she had a pregnancy scare and he asked whether she would handle it.
But she’s still scared of losing him, at the same time she feels like she doesn’t even have him and that scares the life out of her. It brings to life the words of Trevor Noah, ‘you don’t own the thing that you love.’
I used to tell her that she should leave him, it seemed reasonable for someone who has no idea how relationships work. That just made her better at hiding the problems they were having and consequently more ‘happy’ posts and ‘I love you’ captions on social media.
We’re done eating and she heads to her dad’s room. She knows where every brand of liquor is, it’s her solace when everyone shuts her out and I can’t blame her.
When she’s beck with a couple of beers, she keeps talking and asks me why I don’t blog anymore. I lie I’m busy.
“You’re always busy anyway. Some of us actually read your posts and it’s getting annoying when we don’t get a link.”
“I’m having trouble writing” I said. She sips her beer and looks on waiting for more information.
“Where is the fire this time? It has to be a fire because you can’t give up on writing that I know.”
“I’m an emotional wreck. Too much is happening and the anxiety is killing me.”
She engages me and I have to open up about whatever issues I have. Weird how the doctor becomes the patient.
“Then write about my demons. I mean I’m not around for long anyway. It doesn’t have to be beautiful. Just write and tell everyone they need to pay attention to their friends or they’ll drown in their depression like I am.”
We talked more, I asked her what she wanted out of life, if only to get her wanting to stay around for longer. Somehow she opened up about her dreams, and she seemed quite happy about them (and a bit drunk three beers down). Good news is she may want to be around a bit more she wants to reach out to an aunt who is a counselor.
Of course I had to do a whole lawyer round on how attempted murder is a crime. I had a feeling she’d say something like “I guess I just have to get it right the first time” but she didn’t and we somehow ended up gossiping about other things like the good days.
We live in a day and age where we have been grouped in generations. I learnt from Oyunga Pala at Biko’s masterclass last week (had to throw it in there). We are grouped in categories and we ought to behave a certain way as per our labels. Friendships are reduced to what’s on social media and we never really have time for anyone. Success isn’t about being better anymore it’s about being better than the next person.
With all this ‘living up’ we are doomed to a busy and empty life where friendships aren’t real and meaningful. Then when our friends are drowning in depression and self hate we think they are ignoring us and start a ‘cut of toxic people’ campaign on twitter. All this time we are watching our friends die or drown in drugs and alcohol, then years later we’ll start asking where we went wrong.
We don’t have answers, life doesn’t prepare us to deal with some things, but we have an obligation to be there at least, to pay attention, to look out for the red flags and to get our friends help.
*Names were changed for privacy.