Dark Night of the Soul

            Marcus watched on his cell phone, while his mother slept in the other room: grainy amateur footage of suicides. He’d typed “suicide” and “real” into YouTube and, for the next hour or so, followed the recommendations. Most of the videos required the viewer to be eighteen, but it was easy to add two years to his birthday.

            A man with long black hair and black clothes climbed onto the railing of the Golden Gate Bridge and fell backward, peaceful, as if already free of his body, arms open like a bird. A young woman quietly stepped onto a stack of college textbooks and placed her head inside a noose made of bed sheets. She planned for her ex to see the video. A former Wall-Street banker poisoned himself in court after receiving a guilty verdict, for arson. A man in police custody waited for his interrogator to leave the room, at which point he pulled a handgun from beneath his shirt and shot himself in the head.

            Marcus watched each video many times, wearing his headphones so as not to wake his mother. The Golden Gate video featured a soundtrack of sad piano music; the college video, the young woman speaking innocently and reading to the camera; the court video, the jurors being polled and the banker himself doubling over, gagging; the police video, the loud percussive gunshot and the detective saying, upon entering the room, “Oh fuck…holy fuck…son of a bitch…”

            “How did he get it?” another detective said, referring to the gun.

            “Nobody shook him.”

            Each time Marcus watched, listened, for different things: the thoughts in the eyes of the victims, the reactions of others, the shock or disillusion, the moment in every video when the decision was made, when the person picked up speed and moved irrevocably, full of purpose, when he or she was dead to the world but not yet actually dead. Marcus didn’t know why—he wasn’t suicidal, he thought—but watching these videos awakened a curiosity in him that he’d never known. They made him think. About life and death. Why did people continue every day to live? He lived to keep other people alive. He wished some in the neighborhood, the dealers, the buyers, the shooters, would just give up already. He wished his mother would give up. Only then could his life truly begin. Without her. 

2015