It’s Saturday night (July 18, 2020) , creeping into Sunday morning around 2 AM when I get a text from him:
“Thinking I’m wanting to take a header into the river tonight”
I reply “you and me both”, because I’ve had an absolutely horrible weekend. I was already on the edge before his message popped up. Not only had I been dealing with my senior dog being sick, and worrying that he might not make it - but it was the same weekend that my little sister was getting married, and I wasn’t invited to the wedding. In fact, it had been rescheduled months ago due to Covid, and no one even told me the date. I only found out about it from other family members when I overheard them discussing it. So, I’d been feeling unimportant and like a total afterthought to everyone in my life, but also worrying about my dog… Not to mention, missing ‘R’ like crazy after our last night together, a few weeks prior. He’d been unusually quiet. That weekend had been particularly difficult and left me in a depressed funk.
When he said he wanted to take a header into the river, I didn’t necessarily think that he was serious, I thought it was meant to express that he was just in a dark place… Boy, was I wrong.
“I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m heading down there in a minute”.
Immediately, the hair on the back of my neck stands up and I realize he may be serious. This wouldn’t be the first time he talked about wanting to stand on the bridge, wanting to disappear into the river. In fact, it’s been years since the first time he’d mentioned it. But in those times, we were together in person or chatting on the phone about “what if’s“. This time felt different.
So I start to scramble for the right words - “Please don’t. Come over here if you need to go somewhere. I’ll talk you down. I can’t lose you, I love you so much.”
I’m so tired of people hating me. Sorry I messaged you tonight. Have a good life.
I try to call him. He doesn’t answer. I start desperately texting him, each new paragraph being delivered, but not read -
Me: People who hate you are wrong. I don’t hate you. There are many people who don’t hate you.
Me: I don’t know what to do, except for to beg you not to do anything extreme, and to just stay with me. Stay here. Fight through it. You’re strong.
Me: Do I need to call someone for you? Should I call a welfare check? Should I call your ex, Should I call your mom? I don’t know what to do, I can’t live with the guilt thinking I just didn’t do anything.
Me: Can I meet you somewhere?
He finally replies with one word:
I continue rambling in fragmented messages, my mind racing a million miles a minute.
Me: I couldn’t live with myself, ever. I have to do something.... Please, you promised that it wouldn’t be until after your son was past the age of 18. I understand how you feel, trust me. I have been thinking about ways to end things all weekend long. I have been crying all day, even before this. I understand where you are coming from. I’m not trying to guilt you, I just want you to stay. Please. Please just sleep on it.
Him: I’m just going to go look at the river while I smoke. I’m so tired of hurting.
Meanwhile, I had been frantically putting on pants and shoes and grabbing my purse, and heading out the door. Before I’d even gotten his reply about going to look at the river, I was in my car.
He replied 7 minutes later, just as I was turning onto his street. He had no idea I was coming.
I just needed to know his car was there. I needed to know he was home. I told myself that if his car was home, I would stay parked on his street and wait to see if he came out. If he tried to get in his car to leave, I would stop him or follow him. It was a crazy plan, something that I would never do - until now. As I was driving there, I replied to his text with a voice note, saying that I understood the feeling, but that he was so loved and I’d be outside if he wanted to talk.
When I got there, I waited a few minutes until I saw him come outside and sit on the front porch to smoke. He didn’t move, I didn’t move, I didn’t know if I should get out of my car. But, eventually I got out and stood there, across the street from him, hand on my hip, saying nothing. And he got up from the front porch, walking up to the gate and unlatching it. I start to run across the street towards him, and the moment I reached him, I wrapped my arms around him, tightly. I mumbled something about being sorry, that I couldn’t not check in on him… He doesn’t hug me back, he stands there stoic. I pull back and grasp his hands in mine, and I tell him I am so sorry that he is feeling so low, I tell him I love him so much, I tell him that so many people love him. He argues with me that people don’t love him, lists off the ways people are better off without him. I argue each point, but it seems not to matter,
He tells me with a defeated sigh that he is so tired. Tired of hurting. Tired of being in pain. Tired of fighting, tired of everyone hating him, tired of driving people away from him. He tries to hold back tears, He stays completely still and stiff as I wrap my arm around him, rubbing his back, trying to reassure him of his worth.
Eventually, he decides to read me the text exchange between he and his ex, and the horrible things she said about him. He read me the emails he sent to her, that she seemed to coldly disregard, saying they were just “lovely words” - even though as he read them to me, I dissolved into tears, because they were more than just lovely words. Yes, they were lovely. Most of what he says is lovely. But it was more. It was from his heart. He described how he saw a future with her, he described his hope for them, for a second chance, for wanting to do better… He detailed how he loved her… And I stood there listening to it all, rubbing his back, trying to offer him reassurance, telling him that what he said was so much more than just “lovely words” , despite the fact that hearing him say such things to another woman is just.... heart shattering. I felt like my insides were liquefying, like my bones turned into jelly and I could barely hold myself upright. I felt my heart not only break, but dissolve and drop into my stomach. I felt like I could throw up everything inside of me like it was poison.
I could never fathom him saying such things to me. In my most private and wildest dreams, I barely dared to imagine that maybe someday he would, but it’s such a fantasy that I don’t even allow myself to entertain it. And here I was, listening to him say those words to someone else - tears in his eyes. And I love him so much I let him read it all. I comfort him. I push back my grief and remind myself it’s not about me.
And she just… didn’t care. After those long heartfelt emails he sent to her, she didn’t even care. So he wanted to throw himself into the river because their future seemed over. He didn’t even know that I wanted to do the same thing because I realized he didn’t see one with me - not even in a distant fantasy.
A small voice inside of me hissed: You’re not even a plan B. You’re not even a backup plan. You’re not even an option. You’re nothing. He’d rather DIE than be with you.
I pushed it down and blinked back tears and rubbed his back and wiped tears from his cheeks and wrapped my arms around him and told him whatever I could think of to make him feel better. Things like she didn’t deserve him, that he’s not the monster he’s making himself out to be, that she is wrong, that she’s not worth throwing his life away over, that he has so many people who love him, and potential to move on and have a happy life. I even tell him that maybe she will come back to him, that maybe they DO have a future together… It kills me to say it and I say it anyway, for him. Each time it’s a dagger in my side, my stomach, my back, my throat - and I say it until I’m blue in the face. Anything for him to decide to stay. Even if it kills me in the process.
I wasn’t sure if anything I said helped, but eventually he asked if I wanted to go inside. We had been standing there outside the gate, openly crying on the sidewalk.
We decide to smoke on the back porch, and he tells me that he really was going to get in his car and leave before he saw me there across the street. We talk a bit more about his ex-relationship, and how she had a lot of conditions that he wasn’t able to meet. He tells me a lot about their relationship, their issues, his disillusionment with the future - not just because of the relationship, but because he feels like he doesn’t have any value to anyone. Says that his family would be better off without him, that his son hates him, that he has no motivation in his job and will probably be fired, and he just has no motivation to fix anything in his life.
I can empathize with all of this, pretty much. Here I am begging someone to stick around and giving them reasons to stay, while I was just at home making plans to end things for myself. However, I can’t muster enough compassion for myself to care. But my cup runneth over with compassion for him, and I try to do everything I can to assure him he’s not alone in his thoughts, but try to remind him of all the reasons to stay.
Eventually we get onto the topic of music, and he has me listen to several songs he relates to right now, and it led us down a rabbit hole of chain smoking on the porch, playing each other music that we love and relate to. Some of the songs sad enough to make us cry, some of them nostalgic enough that we end up singing singing the choruses together, smiling and laughing at our clumsy duets.
We make our way inside, where we start playing music on YouTube on the tv as we sit on the couch. He controls the music selection and plays me many songs - often describing what each one means to him, or telling me what he likes about a certain lyric, or what to listen for. Sometimes he tells me a random fact about the singer or the song , sometimes he puts me on the spot by quizzing me on artists and original versions, and my mind blanks 9 times out of 10 because he makes me so nervous… And in that moment, we forget about the trauma and despair and sadness earlier in the night. We existed in that moment together alone, and went from wiping each others tears to laughing and singing together, he’d even lean over once in a while and kiss my cheek, my forehead, my neck. I’d kiss his cheek back and grin like an idiot schoolgirl who just got her first kiss in the hallway.
Eventually those stolen kisses become bold and brazen and insistent, and we end up tangled together on the couch, mouths locked like our lives depended on it. He pulls away at one point, saying that kissing me is different than kissing anyone else, that no one had ever been able to make him feel that way. Not even his ex after being together for so long. And I tell him that no one has ever made me feel that way either.
We make out and touch each other and play and waste hours in each others arms. until eventually we end up hugging and cuddling and drifting to sleep, oblivious to what time it was.
Eventually, he turned in his sleep and nearly knocked me off the couch, so I gently tried to wake him up, to our surprise it was almost noon.
He walked me to the door, telling me that he’d talk to me later that night, and I told him that if he didn’t message me that I’d for sure be checking in. I knew that was my last moment to say anything, so I told him that it was so nice seeing his face and that I was sorry for barging in on him like that, but that I was grateful he let me in.
Driving home, I had this weird mixture of good-feelings from our morning together, making out and cuddling and all of the music he showed me… But also these dark, harrowing thoughts of what had transpired just before that… What had led up to me showing up at his house in the first place. I was grateful that I’d shown up when I did and that it seemed as though I’d successfully distracted him the whole night, but I wasn’t sure what the future would hold, or when those good feelings would wear off.
The next night, I messaged him checking in, saying I hope he was doing okay - and he said that he was, and he hoped that I was, too. I replied again, but it went unanswered. I decided to take him at his word that he was doing ok, and assume a short reply was better than none at all. My dog was still sick, so I was distracted and hoped he was being honest with me about being ok.
The night after that, I was exhausted. Between the worry about my dog’s health/early morning vet visits, and the worry over ‘R’ as a whole after the other night when he told me he was wanting to head-dive into the river, I had only gotten a couple hours of sleep a night. I could barely keep my eyes open… I decided to lay down for a few minutes around midnight, hoping that my phone would light up with his name, replying to my messages from the night before. Within minutes, I fell asleep - with my phone in my hand. I had intentionally left the ringer on, as well as had it on vibrate. I knew that it was still quite early, so I didn’t want to miss a call or text from him, even if I dozed off.
At 12:59 - just an hour after I decided to doze off, I get a text from him, but for some reason, I don’t wake up right away. For some reason, the ringtone alert and the vibration in my hand didn’t snap me out of my slumber.... I didn’t wake up until 8 minutes later. Suddenly, my body JOLTED awake, disoriented, heart racing. I looked at the phone still in my hand, and saw his message notification from 12:59…
“I’m at the river”....
(to be continued)