I can’t say I’ve ever really seriously considered suicide. Sure, there were many times in my life when I felt like giving up. There were many times when I couldn’t stand my life, where I felt this world was just a hopeless botch, and wished I had never been born. But I think that’s different from suicide, technically. For one thing, even though I’m an extremely angry person, I’m not a violent person. So I don’t think I’m capable of committing violence against myself even if I wanted to.
I remember one time when I was in my 20s, I was talking about suicide and my friend the cartoonist John Crawford gave me some good advice: “Ace, this life is going to be over before you know it anyways. So what’s the hurry?” That made sense.
My favorite writer Charles Bukowski said he felt suicidal all his life. And that, strangely, it gave him sollace. The reassuring thought that if this life ever got REALLY bad there was always an escape hatch out of it. He said even when he was in his 70s, every time he’d drive his car across a bridge he’d get a sudden impulse to veer his car over the side. But then he’d think: “Man, that’s ridiculous. What’s the point? At 70 there’s not even that much left to kill.”
Of course I’ve known many people who did commit suicide over the years. By gunshots, by bridge-jumping, by hanging, by jumping-in-front-of-trains (I’ve known THREE of those, what are the odds of that?). One of the most ingenius ways — or at least one of the cleanest ways — was by this registered nurse I knew. He got into the bathtub full of water, took some kind of medication that he knew would put him to sleep, and then he painlessly drowned when he slipped under the water. You’d be surprised how many people commit suicide and leave a big mess behind, giving no thought whatsover to the poor guys that’ll have to clean up after them!
I had this suicidal friend when I was in my 30s. He was one of those guys you DREADED when he got on the phone. He’d talk on and on about his personal problems. Even worse, if you ever tried to change the subject to something else — like, say, YOUR problems — he couldn’t be less interested. He’d practically yawn in your face. One of those classic, self-absorbed narccisists. “But enough about YOU.” He was like a black hole when it came to sucking you into his emotional void. And he knew every trick to hook you. Sometimes after listening to him prattle on for an hour I’d make up some excuse to get off the phone. And he’d say stuff like: “OK, Ace, but I just want to tell you I’m sitting here with a shotgun in my lap and I’m seriously thinking of blowing my brains out.” So I’d tell him in so many words: “OK, I’ll listen to you prattle on for a little longer.” Last thing I wanted was to say the wrong thing and he ends up killing himself and I feel guilt-tripped for the rest of my life. It was a weird form of emotional blackmail. (Ten years later, long after he had moved on to another city, I got word that he did in fact kill himself, poor guy).
The only time I ever made a half-assed attempt at suicide was when I was about 20. I was homeless, sleeping on an offramp in San Francisco, flat broke, covered with acne, and living in a strange city without a friend in the world. I just felt like I had no prospects for happiness so what was the point of enduring this pointless bullshit called life? So I decided to walk up the Fremont Street offramp to the Bay Bridge and jump off. As I was walking up the sidewalk I passed this clean-cut young woman who looked like a secretary or something (this was right in the middle of the Financial District after all). And for some reason I blurted out to her:
“I’m gonna walk up to the Bay Bridge and jump off!”
I have no idea why I blurted this out to a total stranger. And it wasn’t the so-called “call for help.” Because I knew there was nobody who could really help me with my problems. I think it was more like: When you’re going to do something serious, when you’re going to take drastic action, I think you want to at least run it by another person first to make sure it’s a good idea.
The woman looked at me and said; “No. Don’t do that.”
So I said: “OK.” And turned around and headed in the other direction, and lived another 37 years (and counting). I guess it was a stupid idea in the first place. Not to mention I was afraid of heights. Are you kidding?
In truth, the one thing that keeps me from committing suicide (aside from my general hunch that the Hindus got it right and that if you commit suicide you just come back again reincarnated in the exact same situation, only slightly worse for the bad karma of committing suicide, so you might as well stick around and deal with Your Shit while you’re here) is, well, not so much for the cheap kicks (though that often keeps me going). But more the realization that this goddam life is SO unpredictable. Anything is possible. Even happiness. So I might as well stick around and see what comes up on the next spin of the karmic wheel.