Saturday, May 22, 2010


I wrote this a while back. In fact, it was the only thing that I wrote to reach print this semester in the Op-Ed section and it is something that I just re-read and am extremely proud of. I want to share it here:

It was on that porch, cigarette in hand, talking about decapitation that I realized that I know nothing. My friend, who I’ll refer to as Kaye, was on the verge of tears. We had been out to the bars and were in our usual mode of bullshitting about comic books and pop culture when it got darker.

Kaye showed me a book that I was aware of but hadn’t read, “The Walking Dead.” The book is about the survivors of a zombie apocalypse. But of the vast cast that had graced the almost 70 issues, only two were still alive at this point.

And as we read, he began to tear up. We went outside and talked about his cousin who had gone to the Middle East. She died there. She was decapitated. Kaye looked down at his arms, covered in self-inflicted scars and began to tell me about how he almost enlisted after Sept. 11, 2001.

I have an interesting blessing in my life. In my 23 years, I’ve never really been in that much pain. I’ve been in physical pain. I’ve broken bones I even spent two weeks in the hospital and almost two months with drainage tubes in my back. But I’ve never looked at my arms, with a razorblade in hand and felt that dragging the blade across my arms a few times was a great idea of release.

I’ve never brought pain to release pain. But here I was with Kaye on his porch, trying to be there for him.

I have been with a few girls who have dealt with much darker things in their lives than I think I ever will. I’ve looked at my own clean arms and realized I’ll never know that pain. I’ve looked into their eyes and known that there is nothing I can say to them.

It makes a person feel utterly useless to not be able to understand the people around them.

We believe that a relationship can become deeper if there is understanding between the two people, but where does that leave those of us who connect with people who have seen far darker things?

Empathy is an emotion that seems to be more rare with every generation. We claim that we are more connected than ever in this new digital age, but it feels like we are drifting farther and father apart.

Put on some music, drift away to the song as the rest of the world is in pain and we have no way of connecting to each other.

My sheltered life feels more commonplace as we retreat and people like Kaye and others lose connections to others and no one is able to understand their pain.

Again, I look at my arms and wrists and wonder what has driven people I care about to that darkness, where hell is not a destination but a state of mind.

Do I fall in love with them and become a companion in the shadows or do I stand in my place of light and try and bring them back?

What do you say to the girl who has been anorexic while you’ve never felt bad about the shape of your body?

What do you say to the classmate abused by their parents when you would call your own parents “friends?” We all have these people in our lives, those who will always have it worse than us. And we all have to look at them and know that we don’t understand that part of them.

Since that night, I’ve wanted to write about this experience. For hours, I’ve mulled over what I could say, what point could be made about the people in my life who have dealt with hard lives. And I don’t have one. There will be things in life that will have no meaning, events that make no sense. Good people will experience bad things and bad people will get away with awful things.

But in that depressing conclusion, there is still something of value to be taken from it. That I and we can keep being there for those people. I may not be able to understand what Kaye has gone through.

I may never be able to scar my arms as deeply as he has his own. But I can stand with him and be a piece of support for him. Just because we don’t understand what the world has done does not give us the excuse to give up to apathy to those we love.

I’ll always stand on the porch with Kaye, even if it’s not a cigarette in his hand.

1 comment:

  1. Part of the reason I went into Psychology was to help the friends and family of those who hurt like this cope with how to 'help' their loved one. I've seen your dilemma and the one thing I've been able to gain is that most people in that kind of pain don't always necessarily need someone to understand more than they just want to be heard, to be seen, to feel as if they exist. In this sense, you did the best thing you could in that situation and I value your exploration of this topic that people don't generally want to discuss. Kudos to you.