Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Ring-billed Gull

Sitting at my office desk this afternoon, I feel hollow.

A ring-billed gull catches my eye as it dips over the surface of the East River. Mesmerized by the bird's fluid flight, I recall a much pilloried line from the film, "American Beauty." "There's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much." Plastic bags, gulls, the little cactus sitting in my windowsill, the riot and filth of the subway platform; all of these things are extraordinary in their very ordinariness.

I learned yesterday afternoon that a friend of mine killed herself. She was a brilliant young philosopher and much sought after in her field. She was also insightful, an excellent observer and counselor of people. Not long ago, on a warm spring evening, she offered me her ear and thoughts when too many bottles of wine had me wrestling with some sad personal history.

Yesterday afternoon, just after I learned of her suicide, I fondly recalled a shared cigarette and conversation on an estuary dock. I also thought of her phobia of cameras, and my torturing her with surreptitious snapshot attempts, she half smiling, even if irritated by my childishness. I remember how fair her skin was, and her subtle smile and little girl's laugh and how I felt cheered by the sight of her curled up in a chair or at one end of a couch with a heavy-spined book and blanket for company.

Yet now there is more to think about. Sometime early Wednesday morning, unknown to so many who care deeply for her, she slipped away and drowned herself.

She was twenty-eight years old. She'd had twenty-eight years of taking in the extraordinary in the ordinary, and I just can't for the life of me understand why she didn't want at least that much more. Contemplating the 'whys' is baffling and sad.

In any case, there is her memory, but the pain she has caused for those who loved her dearly - her husband, her parents, her siblings - is difficult to fathom. I feel fucking sick.

I watch the gulls and the Roosevelt Island tram rocking gently as it carries a load of people from Manhattan.


Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear of this tragic event and of your loss.

There's so much you can't know about a person, no matter how close you think you are.

My heart goes out to all of you.

andiscandis said...

Christopher, I'm sorry about your friend. It sounds like she was a beautiful spirit.

Also, stop smoking.

Hungry Hyaena said...

Bill and Andi:

Thank you for the kindness and your words...

...and, Andi, I quit smoking regularly several years ago, but once in a blue moon a smoke remains a pleasant treat. I know, I know.