Posted on | May 12, 2010 | 4 Comments
It was a ten-minute walk to reach our friend’s apartment to find out whether or not he was still alive. It was a long ten minutes.
Sunshine reflected off of Hermit’s aviator shades on the first beautiful day of a new summer. At five in the morning he’d been sent a text message that read like a suicide note, but he didn’t get it for hours. When I woke up, I found Hermit crying in the kitchen . Two minutes later, we were walking.
“I hope the police like my pajamas!” I said.
He doesn’t speak. Small talk is hard in situations like this, but the alternative is contemplating what we might find in the apartment, I keep talking.
I met Hermit in 2004 in the subterraneous pit of King’s College during a rap show. I remember thinking he looked like a lumberjack version of Everlast from House of Pain.
For Hermit, then 25, this was the first time he got up on stage and rapped in front of a crowd. The 6’5 ginger giant, crippled by anxiety and shyness, was fighting himself each step of the way on the long walk to that decrepit, black stage. He kicked three verses, got a positive reaction from the crowd, and tried to get out before puking. First, he saw me perform.
He remembers me as the heart-attack kid. At the time, I performed with a heart monitor strapped to my chest – one that would later on in the evening prevent me from making out with a vivacious blonde. This evening would tie us together and, in an obscure way, lead to us taking this walk together.
“Don’t you think a text is sort of a tacky way to do it?” I asked.
“Does seem a little shitty,” he replied.
“Call me a stickler but for me a suicide note should be written in ink,” I said.
Our friend didn’t particularly care about the niceties of the form. Facebook has given depressed people an instant solution to their need for attention. Whether it’s Emo lyrics or vague threats of self-mutilation you can post your psychosis and receive feedback instantly. Our friend was in the habit of doing exactly that.
“He’s probably just bullshitting,” I said.
“I am going to be fucking pissed if this is bullshit,” he said.
“Better than the alternative,” I replied.
He is walking fast and has legs that are significantly longer than my own. Keeping up with him means running.
My girlfriend waves to us, encouraging us to cross the street. No time to explain. I wave goodbye and keep walking. She looks vaguely miffed but I have more important things on my mind. Inanely, I am thinking he’s walking too fast for me to keep up with, and that I’m running out of breath.
Why you in such a hurry? It’s not like he’s going anywhere. Alternate between different nightmares. I’m on the phone with his parents and calling friends to break the news. Last words he said. The inadequacy of the last thing I said to him. What Hermit’s face will look like when we open the door and find him.
Things like, “this is not fair,” repeat as tears build in the back of my brain. We arrive at the apartment building. There are only a hundred feet until we get to him front door only…
“Hey fellas, how you doing on this lovely day?” asked another friend of ours from his backyard, a big doobie locked in his fingers. He takes a hit and puffs out smoke rings. Barbecue cooks in the background, mixing with the stank of good weed.
“Living the dream,” slipped out automatically from my lips, my favorite catchphrase because it both says nothing but sounds positive.
“Good to hear boys,” he said. “Want a smoke a little?”
We both shake our heads.
Small talk is ticking and the proper words aren’t forming. We clearly can’t tell him why we’re here.
“We’ve got a little something to do,” I said.
“Bit busy,” chipped in Hermit.
For no reason at all, I am really close to laughing.
“Enjoy it,” he said and takes another hit. “Have a great day.”
The walk up the stairs is a haunted house blur, my mind filled with pictures I haven’t seen and conversations that haven’t happened yet. The door slams behind us.
Thinking of words I’ll say to Hermit if he went through with it, thinking of words I’d say to him if he didn’t. The hallway is dingy and smells like animal droppings.
What’s behind door number three?
He fumbles with the keys and shoves one in the lock. Wrong key. Puts in the second key, turns the key, and the door is open.
His dog begins barking, jumping up and down, wanting to either bite me or be pet. I decide to pet it, and it licks my hand.
“Hey…..what’s up, Bud?”
Hermit looks at me but doesn’t say anything. Now isn’t the appropriate time to make fun of my lameness.
I enter the apartment feeling like I’m on a cop show or something. No one is on the couch. Clear. Hearts beating really fast, scanning room quickly. No one is in the bathroom, but the water is on and the dripping faucet is driving me crazy. Turn off the faucet. Only the bedroom is left. Hermit got there ahead of me.
“You ok? Hey, wake up,” I hear coming from the bedroom. There’s no panic in his voice. Now I just need to hear his voice to know for certain. I run to the bedroom.
Our friend is groggy, waking up from sleep or failed overdose. A Tylenol bottle lies next to him.
“Did you take those pills?” he asked.
They turn over and try to get back to sleep.
“I’m tired. Just leave.”
“Did you take those pills?” he asked again. “How many did you take?” I decide to contribute.
“Hey, how many of those pills did you take?” I ask in a friendly voice that would be better suited directed toward the slobbering dog at my feet.
“What are you talking about?” he asks.
I look down and see a half empty bottle of booze.
Scan the room until I see a collection of handwritten pages lying on the coffee table. I see little tidbits, like I’m sorry and thank you for being such good friends, etcera and assume we were supposed to find these notes.
“I’m just sleeping. What are you doing here?” he asks.
I’m sort of at a loss as to how to proceed. He’s alive, but he’s obviously a danger to himself. What’s more, he seems to be getting more and more belligerent.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” he asks .
We look at each other and once more have to struggle with our laughter. The scene is too absurd.
It’s all a bit much before noon.
Hermit grabs the pieces of paper and rapidly scans them. His reading grinds to a halt when he finds his name. “We’re here because of this,” he says, waving the papers, “and I’m going to call the police. I told you that if you did this again I would call them. You’re a danger to yourself, and I am not the right person to help you.”
Hermit picks up the phone and he starts yelling.
“I didn’t take the pills. I don’t even know what’s going on. What are you talking about?”
The dog comes into the room and begins licking his face.
There’s a knock at the door. I look at Hermit like we are co-conspirators in a murder and he nods. I answer it. The stranger looks surprised to see me. I have no fucking clue who he is, and I don’t particularly care.
“Is ____ home?” asks the stranger.
“Kind of in the middle of something,” I say.
“I need to talk to him,” he says.
“Sort of busy at the moment. Not feeling so good.”
“It’ll only take a second.”
“Not now,” I say and slam the door.
The phone call has continued in my absence.
“Yeah we are at ——- and we need immediate assistance. Thank you,” Hermit says and hangs up the phone.
“Why the fuck did you do that?” he asks, clearly getting more enraged by the minute. “You called the fucking cops on me!”
“You left me no choice,” Hermit replies.
Our friend looks at me, expecting me to mediate the conflict as I often do.
In my experience, the worst thing you can do is coddle someone who has just pulled a suicide scare, show that you’re there for them, encourage them to get help, but never justify their behavior or they’ll keep putting you through the same nightmare every couple months.
“We’re trying to help you. We care about you, and this is the only choice we’re left with,” I said.
Knock on the door.
“This is the police. Can we come in?” asked a deep voice from the hallway.
“What if they’re strippers?” I ask trying to cut the tension, earning an eye roll from Hermit but getting little response from our disturbed friend.
I open the door and see police and emergency medical personnel standing in the hall.
They ask what the trouble is. I point to our friend.
“I don’t know why this is all happening,” he says, pointing to Hermit, he continues, “They came over, woke me up, and called you. I don’t know why.”
The emergency workers look at me, and I shake my head. Hermit passes them the suicide note.
They call him sir and try to seem friendly.
“Get out of my house. I don’t want you here. I didn’t call you. Leave or…”
You’ll call the police?
“Is he a danger to himself?” asks a burly policeman with tattoos running up and down his arm.
“Yes,” Hermit and I say in near unison.
The dog begins barking again.
“You’ll have to come with us,” says the policeman.
“I don’t want to.”
“Come calmly, or we will be forced to physically remove you. Come on, let’s do this the nice way,” pleads the policeman.
“Fuck off. Get out of my house. I don’t want you here!”
The cop looks at his partner and the emergency workers.
The next part isn’t pretty. Spitting is involved, and so is a lot of struggling. Finally, he’s in the back of a police car in handcuffs, and we’re standing outside, waving as they pull away, struggling to find words that would do this experience justice.
“That was fucked,” says Hermit, taking a cigarette from his pack and lighting it.
“Yyyep,” I reply.
Minutes pass. We lock the empty apartment.
Smoking the third cigarette in a row on the back porch, his father arrives.
We introduce ourselves.
He smiles and says that he has heard such good things about us. That he always said such good things about us. His father confesses that he always assumed I was a girl because he always referred to me as Kimber.
I laugh and try to think of something appropriate to say.
“Nope, not a girl.”
“Clearly,” he chuckles. “Where is he? I thought I’d come by to drop off his laundry and start packing his stuff. He’s moving today.”
“We just called the police because he tried to hurt himself,” says Hermit before explaining in more detail.
His father’s face crumples.
“He’s such a good kid,” he says. “Such a big heart, but this has happened before, too many times before. Such a stubborn kid, he doesn’t take well to being helped.”
“It’s like pulling crocodile teeth,” says Hermit.
And then it happens.
“That’s really clever. Did you just think of that?” I ask.
“It’s like pulling teeth, just worse. I assume it would be worse pulling out a crocodile’s teeth.”
“That’s good. Really good.”
The father looks at us, wondering what the fuck we are talking about.
For me, this moment defines our friendship. Since our friendship began we have laughed and joked as the sky fell down on us.
Colony of Losers is going to follow this friendship and many others as the sky falls. That beautiful day in May was before I fell in love for the first time, before I understood what’s it like to truly need help, before Hermit finally got the girl he’d been desperately in love with for years, and before things got so bad that they had to get good again. This is the story of the best friends I have ever had and how we helped each other when we couldn’t help ourselves.
Welcome to the Colony of Losers.
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