I called the suicide hotline once, but — and I swear this is true — I got a busy signal. I tried several times. This was in 1998. I was calling from a landline. A slim beige receiver. The buttons glowed green. I got the number from a telephone book, which seems unimaginable now. I remember my heart racing. In those days, I did not do well alone.
I tried to call a few more times, each time, hung up sobbing. I left the television on all night. I knew I just had to make it till morning. I watched The English Patient. When it ended, I watched it again.
“Every night I cut out my heart. But in the morning it was full again.”
At the museum, the thing I love best is a small exhibit of works by Korean American artist Jean Shin, called Collections. Using mostly discarded materials — broken umbrellas, old sweaters, worn shoes — Shin painstakingly reconfigures the abandoned objects of everyday life to highlight the individuals who have used or worn them, the intricate interconnectedness between people, and the traces of experiences and stories that inhabit these objects. I felt an immediate kinship to the work and the thinking that seems to have inspired it.
I woke remembering a scene from a film I saw several years ago. It was Memorial Day weekend and I was alone. I went to a matinee showing of Of Gods and Men, which ends with a devastating scene of several Trappist monks being marched to their death in the snow in Tibhirine, during the Algerian Civil War. I remember emerging from the cool dark theatre to the bright afternoon. The sorrow for these men, the blinding snow on the screen, the humid air outside.
Downtown, the city was preparing for the evening’s celebrations — the holiday lighting of Waterfire amid Brown’s commencement festivities. I was to be there later myself, circulating among the artists and administrators for one purpose or another.
But that snow. How I remember it filling the screen. Beautiful, pristine, silent. Then the footsteps of the men as they trudged through, knowing how it would end. I was overwhelmed with sadness, thinking of it again this morning, all these years later.