Rss Feed

    Wednesday, January 2, 2013

    by Helene "Truckin" Gresser

    Sorry I missed writing my blentry last week. I discovered, via a Facebook post, that a friend of mine from grad school had committed suicide, and I was lost for words. I should have written anyway. I should have talked about all those weird feelings and sadness and regretting that I had not reached out to him more often - as if reaching out might have possibly saved him from hanging himself - but I did not. Instead, I just stared into space for long moments and thought about what it takes to get the tools together to take one's life, and the moments immediately before unconsciousness takes over, and what it does to the people who discover your lifeless body, no note left behind.

    I thought about the taboo of talking of such a thing in a comedy set. I almost brought it up when I last performed. But something else took over, and I made funny without mentioning my now-dead friend Bryan. I wanted to try to find something real to share with the audience (I almost always talk about my life as it unfolds, as I don't have a traditional 'joke' act,) but I had no pithy summary or dark humor to view the suicide yet. I guess I still don't. Bryan would likely have laughed at my attempts to make the horror into material. Maybe. Maybe he would have given me a long hug afterwards. He was very sweet and loving. He was also easy to make laugh, and had a great big mouth, and a loud voice (perfect for the stage - he was a talented actor,) and he once came to my tiny basement apartment while we were in grad school and confessed that he had a crush on me. I had to tell him that I loved him as a friend but that I could not return his affection.

    It takes bravery to tell a person that you are in love them when you have no idea if they might feel the same. You are risking your heart, your pride, your ego, your appetite. And if the object of your affection does not feel the same, what then? You cannot fight that. You cannot make someone fall in love with you. You just have to swallow all those feelings and walk away, tail between your legs, and act as if you are okay with the status quo. It makes you sick inside.

    I know that my not being in love with Bryan is not what made him hang himself twenty years later. But I do know that those feelings don't just disappear. I know that it takes new love or a great role or some powerful distraction to shove those feelings to a little box in your heart and keep the lid on. Maybe he had too many little boxes of unrequited love for his heart to hold. Maybe he was just tired of fighting his bouts of epilepsy and depression. Maybe he felt so alone and useless that he thought being dead would affect very few. Maybe he did not think about the effects of his hanging, he just wanted to stop struggling with everything - money, health, family, career, the unknown. He did not say. He just decided to do it one Saturday when he was alone at home. Did he think about what to wear? Did he play Grateful Dead, his favorite band? Did he talk out loud to himself as he crafted the noose? Did he have visions of his life as he took his last breaths?

    I stare and smoke and think of all these things. I want to tell the man I love that I love him. But I am afraid to say it first. I am afraid to have my heart break again. I am sick inside with unsaid things. But I know that I will not take my life if my heart breaks. I am struggling with so many things - career, money, messes I've made that I have not dealt with, constant worry, anxiety, self-loathing, shame, all of it - but I have eternal hope that keeps me moving forward. I also have a psychiatrist who sees me for free and gives me free samples of medications and most importantly, a loving family and amazing friends who lift me up no matter how low I sink.

    I don't know how brave I am. Especially lately. Just getting through daily life in New York City is a fucking fight. I may find it within me to finally grab my guy and say the words "I love you." I wish I had been able to say it to Bryan when he needed it most - as a friend, reaching out to let him know that he had reasons to keep moving forward. We all need to hear it. It's such a weirdly human condition, this need for love. We survive so much, but then have this aching longing within us to connect with another human being and mean something to them. I ache. I hope. I live. I love. It hurts.

    And the beat goes on. Goddamnit.


    Truckin' got my chips cashed in
    Keep truckin' like the doodah man
    Together, more or less in line
    Just keep truckin' on
    Arrows of neon and flashing marquees out on Main Street
    Chicago, New York, Detroit and its all the same street
    Your typical city involved in a typical daydream
    Hang it up and see what tomorrow brings
    Dallas got a soft machine
    Houston too close to New Orleans
    New York got the ways and means
    But just won't let you be
    Most of the cats that you meet on the street speak of true love
    Most of the time they're sitting and crying at home
    One of these days they know they gotta get going
    Out of the door and into the street all alone
    Truckin' like the doodah man
    Once told me "Gotta play your hand
    Sometimes the cards ain't worth a dime
    If you don't lay them down"
    Sometimes the lights all shining on me
    Other times I can barely see
    Lately it occurs to me
    What a long strange trip it's been
    What in the world ever became of sweet Jane?
    She lost her sparkle you know she isn't the same
    Living on reds and vitamin C and cocaine
    All her friends can say is ain't it a shame
    Truckin' up to Buffalo
    Been thinking you got to mellow slow
    Takes time, you pick a place to go
    Just keep truckin' on
    Sitting and staring out of the hotel window
    Got a tip they're gonna kick the door in again
    Like to get some sleep before I travel
    But if you got a warrant I guess you're gonna come in
    Busted down on Bourbon Street
    Set up like a bowling pin
    Knocked down, it gets to wearing thin
    They just won't let you be
    You're sick of hanging around, you'd like to travel
    Get tired of travelling you want to settle down
    I guess they can't revoke your soul for trying
    Get out of the door, light out and look all around
    Sometimes the lights all shining on me
    Other times I can barely see
    Lately it occurs to me
    What a long strange trip it's been
    Truckin' I'm a going home
    Whoa, whoa, baby, back where I belong
    Back home, sit down and patch my bones
    And get back truckin' on 

  2. 4 comments:

    1. That was a beauty, Helene. Good on ya.

      Oh, and FWIW, go ahead tell that fella that you love him. I got a strong sense he's feeling the same.

      Life. Is. Short.

    2. Helene, from what I've been reading, whether it is said or not, he loves you.

      The line "I am sick inside with unsaid things" may be the bottom line common denominator for so many suffering.

      I am very sorry about your friend. I don't know his early story, but when one isn't truly welcomed in life, it is uphill ever after. That I know.

    3. RHC said...

      I am so sorry for your loss of that important long-time friend. But I am so grateful & happy that at this moment you have someone in your life who means so much to you that you are on that achingly sweet & fragile precipice where the smitten sit to ponder whether to say or not to say, "I love you."

    4. Spleen said...

      Thank you all for reading, and for your words of encouragement. This was the most painful thing I've ever had to write, and I could (and likely will) write more about it all - as I've known others who have taken their life, and have close friends who have lost parents to suicide - but it needed to be said. It's true, the unsaid things can torture you. I hope we all can be braver, be more honest, let the words out that need saying. It is why I write. The truth will set you free. But oh, it is not easy.

    Post a Comment