& suicide has always been an option: not a hotel room, checking in and then checking out. but a dwelling space for the fear you feed like an angelic stranger entertaining it with affection, much like watering a garden of weeds
I don’t know where it started. I remember when: I was five when I realized I no longer wanted to live in this world. I can’t tell you why, and, even if I knew, I’m not sure it would be important. These days, I toil my way through each day like it were a year. I work two jobs to pay for an apartment my wages barely afford. I stay kind and numb. There’s no point in getting angry about wanting to die. I want to relearn how to want to live. Everyone suffers, I know this. But, experience is always subjective, as is truth, as is God, as is politics. I often wonder if people would be mad at me for falling asleep and never waking up. I’m twenty-seven years old and have no idea on this earth how to be a man, nor how I manage to function in society. I guess I chalk it up to practice: you walk around with your eyes empty, your ears already full of sound, your idle hands in your pockets, and never open the valve door to your emotions. It’s a way to stay invisible.
& depression is much like being a living ghost story: everyone believes you to be alive until you aren’t and to yourself you are a myth grander than what you can believe. You listen anyway.
When my last lover broke up with me, I lived four years on the hope we would reunite because what we were doing was a temporary break. It took three for her to say that we would not be getting back together, that she was no longer in love with me, and that it felt like my love hadn’t been enough. During those years, I wrote love poems to her. Emailed them to her. Even when she didn’t respond, it felt like I was trying. I look at them now and realize it wasn’t the hope for us that kept me alive. It was the action of writing about it. Poetry was my first love and will be my last. Even as the sky bloodies itself black with clots of clouds, the temperature drops to the feeling in my chest, and I must sleep more often than I am awake, I know it doesn’t take courage to commit suicide: its takes persistence and timing. I feel that I am vanishing, slowly draining from the world as though pulled through a strainer. How much do I have to lose before I become phantasm?
& suicide is more like a laceration than a letting: all you’d like is to slowly ebb into nothing but what is left behind is a wound for those who survive you and they bear it in your place.
There are many ways to commit suicide that I will not mention for tactful reasons. However, the reason I picked up an addiction, smoking cigarettes, wasn’t because of peer pressure. It wasn’t due to stress. It wasn’t, in fact, what I tell people, that I broke up with my girlfriend and was struggling through it and needed a release. It was because four members in my family had developed cancer from it and every one of them died. I associated that with suicide. They knew they were dying and kept doing it anyway. Now, seven years a smoker, here I am still waiting. What I know about depression is that it is a slow burn. It has its ups and downs, but you keep it in you like a lung full of a tar. Part of depression, is hating oneself so deeply that anything healthy, anything wholesome, anything healing, seems like a trial or a trick. I’ve hated myself since grade school and now it has become a callus on my soul.
& depression is like having a heart filled with anvils: you want to feel something other than cold, metallic, but whenever you try to feel anything other than heavy, you’re too tired of living to forge something that can save you
I decided to walk to the nearest pharmacy. I decided to walk in and buy the largest bottle of sleeping pills. I would have bought them if it weren’t for friendship. Instead of killing myself that night, after a day spent in mental agony and indecision on whether or not I should, I waited a half hour in a light drizzle for a bus, rode it downtown, found a bar all of my friends refer to as church, and drank three PBRs and shot billiards and made conversation with friends who, I’d like to think, see me as a good human being. There are days when I do want to disappear, but I think about the suffering that lingers after. My suffering may be over, but who will kick my friends’ ass at billiards for me? Who will shoot the shit with my best friends and make stupid life choices that end up becoming adventures we could talk about half a decade later? Who will be the one everyone in the group refers to as the burning trash fire poet? I think of these things, my family, my friends, not as a way to guilt myself, but as a reminder I am loved even when I feel unlovable. I feel unlovable often enough. But, I know I don’t see myself in a vacuum. The people around me confirm me no matter how society wants to disagree.
& suicide is a type of escape plan from a world where everything is beautiful but not in the moment that you are in it. Suicide is a vanishing act before the curtain can close and the applause break out.
And here I am still breathing and alive and struggling with myself and God. And here I am still breathing and alive and struggling. And here I am still breathing and alive. And here I am still breathing. And I am still here. And here I am: alive and myself struggling with it all.
On All Souls Day
If you have a soul
it may have been put in there backward.
– Zachary Schomburg
And on the midnight of my birth, as I was being yearned for deliverance into this world, the god who I no longer believe in probably looked at my fetal self being pulled from my mother’s body and hurriedly decided to cast into me my soul. I say hurriedly, because twenty-seven years later, I look at myself in the mirror, deep into the emerald mines around my pupils, and see it. That I am fucked up. Somehow, my soul is either a) the wrong soul b) deformed inside me or c) was turned ass-backward somewhere on my journey into this moment.
When I was named, I came out Emma Rose. When I was born I came out a baby boy. My mother said she thought I was a girl. She and my father didn’t check or get an ultrasound. I was named three days later. A part of this story always sticks out to me. That my mother knew I was a girl. That she felt inside her was a body but what she felt tremor through her was the excitement of my feminine nature.
I have a beard that many people say they would be proud to steal from me. Many of my ex-lovers have said I have nice eyes, nice feet, nice arms, and nice masculine parts. One ex made a list of all the things she loved about me. I kept it in my wallet for eight months after we broke up to remind myself that she had, in fact, cared about me. I burned it eventually.
It was on Halloween this year that I realized more than I wanted to die (which has been a big wish of mine that will be fulfilled but not by my own hand) I no longer wanted to be masculine. I don’t want to be feminine either. I’m somewhere already in between.
I do not appear androgynous. My body is masculine. What is not masculine is my character, my mannerisms, my sensibilities, and, I feel, my soul, if I have one.
On the midnight of my birth, I imagine the god who I no longer believe in was likely overwhelmed with birth rites and quasars and black holes and prayers and keeping together a universe too quickly falling away and apart. It still is. I imagine this god chucked a soul into my first breath and said good fucking luck and welcome to it all. I imagine now, even as I write this, that god is still making the same mistake or purposeful, well intentioned mishap.
I am sexually attracted to women. I am sexually attracted, though pickier, toward men. I actually hate men. I hate being a man. I’ve been told too often to grow a pair, which I already have. I hate my body hair. I hate my penis. The penis is an ugly thing. Whoever made the phallus a symbol for power didn’t really think it through. I hate men. I hate what men have done to me, to my family, in my family, in the world and to the world. I like women. I get along with them more than I do most men. I think like one, I believe. And, for a long time, I realized that the god I grew up believing in either had an alternative plan for me or fucked up. I haven’t found an alternative plan or intention.
I am not transgender. I don’t want to become a woman. I don’t like to be a man either. Too many times have I been told to act manly. To be stronger. To be more sexual. To be less sensitive and bolder, head strong and swagger. I’ve found that all those things require a kind of calloused sense of masculinity than what it might take to simply be resilient to the consideration of others.
There I am in the mirror looking at my naked body and into my eyes. I see it. I see that there is a duality faint but distinct enough to place. At first, I’m not surprised, nor do I find it beautiful. I find it concerning. I know society will want me to pick one or the other. One to boss around and buck up. The other to persecute or to treat as unnatural. Therefore, when All Soul’s Day rolled around, I woke up and confessed for the first time in what felt like forever to the god who I no longer believe in. Told him he didn’t fuck up. Maybe, it’s good for me to be this way. I’m sort of like a blurry figure on the outskirts of heaven. I’m sort of like a median on the highway to hell. Either way: I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be myself at all costs now knowing what I identify as in my gender neutrality or non-binary nature.
And that god I don’t believe in simply said nothing. Instead, I looked in my own eyes and found it there.
About the Author: Samuel J Fox is a non-binary, bisexual poet and essayist writing out of the Southern US. They/He is poetry editor for Bending Genres, a creative nonfiction reader for Homology Lit, and staff reviewer at Five2One Magazine. They/He appears in dilapidated places, graveyards, and coffee-shops depending. He tweets (@samueljfox).