i’ve wanted to die a lot within the past couple of years. it seems that losing control of my body and my ability to function is my ultimate shadow. it is my dark night of the soul. and even tho i’m mostly thru the worst of it, on days when i am not successful at navigating the new me, i wish myself better off dead.
when i was in college, i had a friend named mark. he had a fascination with the great gatsby, and in many ways his life resembled the new money protagonist of the story he idolized. he was a wonderful human being. mark had everything going for him. he was intelligent, successful. he was completely self educated, dropped out of high school, and learned everything on the job, a true american dream story. he had 2 beautiful daughters. hed been married and divorced twice, but trying to patch things up with his second wife bc of their 4 year old daughter. he had a house – fully paid for – in the heart of the most expensive district in san francisco. and he was only 31. he knew i was smart and wanted to help me publish a linguistics book on slang, as was my passion at the time (it still is), and he was always wanting to help people. his soul was pure, and his heart was big. but mark, he was going thru is own dark night of the soul. and just like the great gatsby, his story ended in tragedy. to this day all i can say is that it was a deeply internal struggle. and i felt for him.
i met him on a casual sex website. i had been into them since i was 18. i thought, i’m a young feminist, i control my body, so i get to pick and choose whomever i want to sleep with. so i did. i was young (21 at the time) and got a lot of responses on there, and mark, he wrote me an epic poem sex fantasy. it was pretty impressive. i wasnt at all interested in him physically, but i have always had a keen eye for word use, and this guy was smart. his syntax, word choice, all of them pointed to an interesting individual.
so i wrote him back saying as much. and we started a very deep friendship. most of it was conducted online, via email or over the phone. but we’d speak daily for hours on end.
i cant remember the amount of times he told he he’d get a hooker to just sit with her to talk. i can’t remember the number of times he told me he was at his wit’s end and just wanted to drowned himself in drugs and give up. but i wudn’t fucking let him. i used to plead with him about his kids. and when that didn’t work, id joke about who wud fund my book if he wasn’t around?
one day in december we were talking online as we always do, and he signed off abruptly. i immediately got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach: i’d never speak to him again. i figured i was just being dramatic. he’d already tried to kill himself 3 times and failed. i was always able to help him thru. he’d be back. i tried desperately to convince myself. it was just a few days before christmas, surely he wudn’t do that to his children. but i knew i was wrong…days passed, then months, and finally i got an email from his wife telling me he’d passed away just three days after i’d last spoken to him. december 23, 2007.
i was devastated. mark was the only person in my life at the time that i felt truly understood me. he was my best friend and confidant and the first person i’d ever opened up to emotionally. he was a dear person in my heart, and i’d only met him once. despite his persistent offers to get my hotels in san francisco and treat me to nights on the town, i didn’t want to take advantage of him in his delicate state. i told him we’d spend time together when he wasn’t in such a bad state. but i think, in truth, being so close to his sadness, being susceptible to his desires to do hard drugs, i was too delicate and sensitive, and i wudn’t have been able to resist. i didn’t want to fuel his demise or his decent into complete madness. so i’d always say, later, when u’re feeling better. later, when i’m not studying. later.
his wife, when she met me, admitted that she’d hated me bc mark wud talk about me all the time. but then she had read thru all the emails and realized i was trying to save him. she thanked me. i wondered if my purpose was to be in the life of her and her children, but after that first meeting at a coffee shop just outside of sf, i never spoke to her again.
mark didn’t make it thru his dark night of the soul. there are so many times, now that i’m at the age he was when he died, 31, that i realize i’m so much like him. i have so much to live for. a boyfriend that loves me to death. a very loving and supportive family. a tight knit group of friends that love me dearly, too. i’m an excellent teacher. i’m intelligent and i’m rational. i feel so deeply, and i’m so incredibly loving and sensitive to those around me, desiring to make them happy even if they cannot have the same love and admiraton for me. i have so much potential to help people and teach them.
in retrospect, i realize that even then, even when i was younger and drowning myself in booze and weed to numb myself, that my empathic nature was there. it was so obvious with mark. i felt his pain thru the web of tech that connected us, over the phone lines, and i felt his sadness and devastation. it was so important to me to help him, to save him. but i didn’t know how.
i still consider mark one of my best friends. i still see his dark night of the soul as a mirror to mine. tho they were very different, in that mine manifested in complete and utter shut down of my body, these past 2 years, i finally understand how he felt. i finally see how you cud just want to end it all, to make the noise stop. to make the sadness go away. and every day i don’t give into my urges to die, i thank those around me to have helped me thru it. my boyfriend especially, and mark. bc although his body is gone, his help and guidance is with me. and that’s why i’ve survived this trial where he cud not. bc he’s seen the other side and can help me see it’s not right. bc i see how he had to end it and i remember that 21 yr old self and say, goddamn, i can do it. i remember what it was like to be on the other side of the sadness, the fear, and the threats. mark’s dark night of the soul was my lesson, the precursor to my own. his sacrifice is my example. his tears and sadness my own, and my actions his mirror for what happens when you don’t give up.
i miss him a lot. i wish he was still around. to meet me and my man, my true love, together, to see how well i have done in my career, to see how i’ve made my dream of travel a reality. to see that i too have struggled, and that somehow, someway, i found the strength to make it thru. and i truly believe that even tho he’s not here, he’s helping me thru all of it.
thank you mark. i love you.
photo: Jushua Tree & the Milky Way