Study Abroad | Student Stories
The Forbidden Fruit
Suicide is something that we shouldn’t think about but think about all the time. It’s one of those things. Those things, those- forbidden fruit. After all, it is why Eve tasted the apple, isn’t it? I wouldn’t know why myself, religion is a different kind of thing, the thing that’s pesky and you want to keep away from but keeps following you around like a lost dog searching for a home. But back to Eve and the fruit, I imagine, if it were me and someone brought my attention to a lovely rotund, red shimmery apple dangling from the slender branch of a pretty young tree, and then told me never to touch it, I would indeed touch it. It would nag at my mind and eat it up like the prions from mad-cow disease that chew up your brain and riddle it full so full of holes they call the tissue spongiform. Damn those encephalopathies, they are the nastiest kinds of –o/pathies.
I ran into all sorts of forbidden fruit today, and that was especially dangerous for me, who was already “on the brink” so to speak because I was contemplating suicide. Not that I was unhappy in any way or anything, but sometimes one just has to think about it. What would it be like? How would you do it? I wonder if thinking about it too often will force me into daring myself to do it, and like a promise I always have to keep a dare. Which is, as I was saying, dangerous. Turning metaphorical leaps into literal leaps is not a leap of great dimension; in fact I would go so far as to say it is only a leap of great faith. Do I have enough faith in myself to take the contemplation to termination in the ultimate act? But I sometimes fear that I would survive, that I wouldn’t finish the job- and then where would I be? If I am going to have the willpower to do something so final, I do not want to live afterwards. What else is there to do with oneself after one has already tried death? If I survived a suicide then I would only be a haunting ghost. Not actually a ghost, of course, because I would still be corporeal and people could still converse with me and I would still go on about my daily business etc, etc.
But I’ve gone off on a tangent again! There are many dangers to be encountered and dealt with if one plans on seriously considering suicide. Some would argue that there should be no consideration; that life should either lead you there or it should not.
“You are utterly, completely selfish,” I know I would be scolded by old widows. But if I take their words into account I can be sure that I would agree with them, that it would be exceedingly self-absorbed of me to rid the world of myself, but I would only have one response for them, and it would be this:
“You old widows, lurking about in your corners gossiping about other peoples’ lives, what I have to say to you is this and only this: my suicide is between myself and I. Suicide is one thing that should be an entirely solitary endeavour. Between myself and I, there leaves no room for you. So piss off, d’you hear?”
It would be awfully rude to speak this way to the old widows, but someone has to give it to them someday, and I do not see why it should not be me on my suicide-day. (Keep in mind I do not have a suicide day; I’m merely contemplating logistics. What all this evolves into in the future is unknown to me, and is decidedly none of your business.)
Now what was my original point in leading you here? Oh yes. Things during my day that have been adding salt to the wound. It was at a museum, and our tour guide was another dotty old woman (where do they all come from, these multitudes of women??) and as she walked about she was continually reminding us not to touch anything (please don’t get the idea into your silly heads that I disliked this guide; as a matter of fact, she pleased me very well and was quite interesting). But it was one thing that she said that put me in a right state:
(She had been bumping into displays herself, or emphatically running her fingertip down a vase while explaining its history) “Oh, look now I’ve touched it. Very naughty. But you can’t help it sometimes,”
And I thought to myself, exactly! Do you see? It is naughty of me to think of these things that I shan’t think of aloud, but I cannot help it. I only seek to understand it, and this understanding can only be reached by thinking about it.
To top it all off I took a visit with my mates to Beachy Head, and there was another gaggle of batty old women gossiping in a circle, and I of course, eavesdropped this little snippet of conversation:
“Three hundred and fifty a year! Oh, me, can you believe that Mildred?”
“And of all ages, too, dear, that is unfortunate.”
I was already in the “right state” of mind to understand what it was they were saying before I could even catch the subject. Of course they were talking about the suicides. I even saw some wooden cross grave markers as we walked cautiously along the edge. I decided that I would attempt to engage my friends in this conversation,
“Do you think that people jump from here because it’s prettiest, closest, or because the excessive wind helps them do it?”
“Wot d’you mean ‘elps ‘em do it?” said one.
“ ’Eah,” said another
“Well I mean, if, for obvious reasons you come all the way here with the intent of throwing yourself from the cliffs, and at the last moment find yourself unable to follow through, you can always inch dangerously close to the edge and let the wind blow you off. It takes away some of the responsibility, but it’s still only you, after all.”
They all looked at me for a second and then shrugged, said “sure,” or gave other noncommittal responses. I don’t know if it’s because they were uninterested or if it was just the weed that made them more lackadaisical than usual.
I thought to myself that all three were perfectly reasonable reasons for choosing Beachy Head as the final destination.
Over the next days and the following weeks I found myself becoming obsessed with suicide. I researched it. It constantly filled my mind. It was like falling in love. If it had a name, I would doodle it in my notebooks. If it had a body I would follow it through the hallways and admire its figure. If it had a face I would stare from afar with glazed eyes, because I could never get too close. It’s like a rose that you lean in to smell and all of a sudden, out flies a wasp that stings you a good one on your nose. Or when you’re out on a walk and you see a friendly horse and a pony with their great heads hanging over a metal gate gazing at you expectantly with their soft, caring eyes, so you walk over and let the horse’s velvety muzzle nuzzle your hand and you lean your body into his, all trusting and full of trust, you follow the hairs’ circular pattern around his raised jaw muscles and all of a sudden the pony nips you savagely on your thigh and suddenly you wished you had paid more attention to the pony. Thinking obsessively of suicide was like neglecting the pony. I was wasting away.
I still wasn’t depressed or anything when I went back to the cliffs by myself and stood near the edge, looking down into the water that seemed deceptively Mediterranean, clean and warm and aqua-colored. “I really just want to know what it’s like,” thought I, thinking more of the deed and less of the afterlife. I felt as if a great ship were leaving the dock and I was late for boarding but was running after it like a madman, tracing its retreating outline into the dusky end of sunset with my outstretched fingertips and wishing wholeheartedly that I had left a little earlier.
“Just a little earlier, and I would have made it,” I whispered.
And so, I decided that in the end, I would go home, and put an end once and for all to these obsessive thoughts; they would be the end of me, after all. I hoped dinner would be hot when I got there.
(Now there is a little cross for me, too, on the cliff in between tall purple flowers, and it says “Michael, I love you, son” with a little date on the bottom, and I have to say that now, those little old widows had it right, I feel extremely selfish and this is perhaps a worse feeling than the nagging thoughts I suffered from before)