It was a few weeks into my freshman year at college. My roommate and I were getting pretty close, knocking on our neighbor's door had led to friendships that were already tightening into firm bonds, and while the world was still scary, what with this new independence and all, at least that first panic of being no longer a little fledgling, safe in the nest, had started receding. We had started building a new home in each others friendship.
Did you hear?
Someone committed suicide yesterday.
What? Where? Here? A student?
Yeah, in the library! Kid threw himself off the top floor or something.
What?! Oh man that's horrible! Do we know who it was?
No, they're not saying yet, but this girl I know said he lived on her floor.
Oh that's just so awful!
And then a few days passed and it happened again.
And then a few weeks and it happened again.
Somehow it turned out that my freshman year of college was to be christened with a string of suicides. At first there was surprise and astonishment, a feeling of horror, then relief that it wasn't a friend, then wonder at the reasons, analysis of the logistics, and then, sickeningly, humor.
"Oh man, I'm so stressed out about this exam"
"Uh-oh, watch out, she's gonna head over to the library!"
"This paper is awful"
"You gonna jump?"
And when we had stopped trying to push it under the rug with our jokes and our abstract analysis, finally, the realization. That suicide is real. That all of these people were people we might have known. They went to our school, they lived in our dorms, they were in our classes, they were at our parties. They weren't known to us, but they weren't abstract unknowns. They were us.
We are all this close to falling off an edge into an abyss that might close over before we even realized we had fallen in. We are all holding on by delicate ropes, holding on to each other. If we didn't tend to the frays in them we might just slip right off. But some of these ropes made of iron, and it needs only a discerning eye to recognize which ones are sturdy, which ones to hold on to. But once you get a grip on those relationships, those realities, those grounding rocks, you can walk along that edge safely.
But what if you cannot recognize them?
What if everything starts unraveling around you?
Could you pull yourself off that edge?
Or would you just have to let yourself fall?