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Jun 17 2012

Blogathon: 15th Hour

I’ll let you in on a little secret.

I can type over 100 wpm.

A dear friend of mine just came by with a cup of coffee for me. She’s had a rough day. In addition to the unbelievably dreary weather and being vindictively stalked/harrassed by a neighbour (likely the FPS gamer who lives next door) through a variety of channels including this blog, which serves as a creepy reminder about internet safety for trans women, today was the anniversary of the death of a very close friend of her’s from an overdose.

Close readers will recall I had a very similar anniversary just a few weeks ago. In fact, the stories are shockingly similar.

My friend was called by the mother of her deceased friend. She was looking for answers, I suppose, and wanted to call those people she knew her son had been close to.

Probably one of the most tragic things about this kind of thing is how hard such answers are to come by. When they even seem to be there at all, they could easily be mistakes. Illusions. Narratives imposed on chaotic events.

Drug overdoses are tricky. On the one hand, they’re self-destruction. They leave us practically begging the ghosts of our friends to let us know why they left us. But we can’t know. We can’t know if the overdoses were intentional or not. We can’t know if they were semi-intentional, like someone just no longer caring whether they were taking too much or what it was cut with or who they were buying from or even if they were taking the right thing. And we can’t know if it was a total accident. A completely unexpected fluke.

I came very, very close to dying from an overdose myself once. The thing was, it was during a period of my life where I was doing well. I was getting better. I was happy. The people in my life knew I was getting better too. But what if I’d died? What narrative would they be looking for? Would they be trying to find an answer for why I let go? The truth was just that I’d had a particularly stressful day, slipped in my recovery, and was obliged to buy from a dodgy dealer because it had been so long since I’d last used that I couldn’t find any of the guys I trusted. It was just a stupid, random accident. If it had taken my life, there wouldn’t have been any real narrative to be found. Or whatever narratives were spun would likely be distortions of the truth: “Well, ‘he’ had recently expressed some confusion over ‘his’ gender and I guess wanted to ‘get a sex change’… I guess maybe ‘he’ just couldn’t handle all that…”

And that, I guess, hints at one of the really creepy mysteries…

Both me and my friend who had come over tonight, we’re both trans. And both of us had sunk along into addiction with the friends whose anniversaries we’ve recently mourned. With us, the pain that was pulling us down into heroin and alcohol, respectively, was ultimately discovered. We figured out what it was. We had an answer. And even more fortunately, we had a solution.

But what demons were haunting our friends? What pain were they trying to overcome or escape? What were they facing? What was the answer? Was there one? Could there ever have been a solution? Could we have found that solution for them, if only we’d been paying more attention?

That’s one of the things that hurts most about death. In a sense, it’s not a finality. It’s not a closure. It’s not an answer. It’s not an ending to a narrative, wherein all the dangling plot threads are resolved.

A death, most of the time, just happens. It just cuts the story short. The last few signatures of the book left out of the binding process. Your favourite TV show or comic book suddenly canceled, before the writers have time to wrap anything up, and the creators move on to other projects, with no possibility of a Serenity to let you know what happened to everyone.

They say a happy ending is just about stopping the story at the right point.

I sometimes wonder how much distance exists between the stories we tell through our lives and the stories everyone else reads in our memory.

That’s one of the things I always loved about poetry. Counter-intuitively, it’s infinitely more realistic in its open ends than any detailed narrative can ever be, in it’s suggestive line breaks rather than finalizing full stops. It doesn’t impose a pretense of telling what happened, and how it ended. It leaves an opening, a question, a line break.

And maybe that’s where the most respect and love for our lost friends is to be found.

We don’t know. The endings hang as open as the absences they’ve left in our lives.

Perhaps in that there’s a lot more life and joy and love to be found than in the closed finality of an answer.

Who would want anything to end with a full stop?

7 comments

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  1. 1
    Heliconia

    Natalie, this is so beautiful and poignant, and I just want to say thank you so much for writing it. Wow.

  2. 2
    Emily Aoife Somers

    Thanks for this. Part of my survivor’s guilt — if it can be called that — is the fact that I *found* my answer. It was incredibly difficult to come to term with. But I remember when I got my ‘official’ diagnosis it was like — congrats! You are *so* trans. Now we can get you on hormones and happy.

    My therapist wasn’t being glib. It was ‘congratulations!’ Because with diagnosis I had a path to healing, a method to make my life whole, and a solution to the insoluble labyrinth of two way mirrors. I had hope. And — not to make light of substance addiction — but empowered with that knowledge (and the tools to transition) I was able to disentangle myself from all of those engagements which I was so enmeshed with before — in my case, a rather serious drinking problem. Alcohol — and playing the expat lad — became my stand by repertoire for conjuring up a sustainable persona in order to be social for more than 10 mins . . . something I had a rather difficult time doing, given the unbearably subliminal strain of my gender dysphoria.

    I wish I knew what was ‘bothering’ my friend. I wish I could have helped him name his demons. When his mum asked me, “He always said no one understood him better than you. So help me understand” . . . I tried to be honest: I spoke of his beautiful commitment to compassion, his ferocity for social justice, his sly huour, and quirky mix of sensitivity and sarcasm. He was a loyal friend, a passionate poet, and a venturesome spirit. But he was also the loneliest person I have ever met in my life. He was proud, but needy — and unbearably lonely. Even his laugh — a baritone tremolo yodel — was full of loneliness. I never quite understood why. I found my answer. It saved my life. I am grateful for whatever he gave me that helped me find my centre.

    As for the internet stalker — either 24/7 piano teacher or FPS all-night gamer — I’m having a word with management on Monday morning. Kinda pathetic to drag my best friend into this on her blog, isn’t it? I invite you to come along to the meeting, drop the anonymity, and behave like an adult. My friend, however sad and sudden his demise, had more integrity than you’ll ever have the courage to seek out.

    Namaste

  3. 3
    paul antschel

    a very close friend of her’s

    hers dear. good effort on your blogging stamina, the quality of your posts is high.

    1. 3.1
      Natalie Reed

      If your going to start paying attention to typos and mistakes like that, I shudder to think what you’ll think as the night continues…

      1. Emily

        Hey, as long as it’s an f pronoun, no probs about a typo! It is a blogathon, folks

        1. Emily

          As far as pronouns go, I have had much, much worse

  4. 4
    embertine

    Thanks for writing this. I am still struggling to come to terms with my brother’s death from alcoholism, six years later, because I have so many questions about what happened that will never be answered.

    He was supposed to be the one who got the happy ending, and now he never will.

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