My Friend Lazarus

When you’re an arrogant know-it-all cynic, unanswered questions tend to be quite difficult to accept. Not because you can’t answer them correctly, because the questions themselves are demanding to a point where you hardly possess the mental pathways to digest them let alone to muster the bullshit necessary to make an attempt. Questions, in this case, about suicide.

What makes suicide an option? How lost do you have to be? How mad? Maybe it’s like skydiving and you forgot to pack a parachute, only to remember that you didn’t pack one. Unintentional madness that comes and goes as it pleases, perhaps. You ponder, you imagine and you may even try to reason with it but you cannot reason with madness. And madness answers to no one.

So you ask about the why, when and where but these questions lose all value when the only answer you have is for who. And this who is awfully dear to you.

How oblivious can we be at times? Times like a Friday morning where you pace back and forth as you drag your cigarette at each endpoint, inhale before you turn around, exhale when you do and repeat. Your sneakers sink into the wet grass you stand on as the soft morning breeze tickles your nose smoothly enough to make you want to smile, annoyingly enough for you to clench your jaw. The smile, as the breeze, brief and sweet; enough sweetness to make you believe you’re going to have a wonderful day. You tell yourself to wait a bit before you make any permanent decisions, at least wait till your morning class is done. But do we ever wait at the prospect of possible joy? Not really, you tend to chase these cars of weekend fun like a mad dog addicted to moments of nonstop tail-wagging and, consequentially, neurotic states of elevated endorphins that cloud reason.

Where are you going to lift today after class? Is a question often asked by a friend who truly means: I don’t really know how to work out without a gym partner, not because I can’t but because I need someone to take all these pictures and videos of me for social media while I sweat half naked; in simpler words, he means, can you help me get my dick sucked tonight? So you do, help that is. You and your friend go to Arvada where the Mile High Mecca of bodybuilding resides in an old plaza off of Kipling Street, squeezed in between an old dojo and a “testosterone treatment” center. How unsubtle. Unlike your wonderful day, which is till this point, full of the subtle wonder that clouds reason mainly induced by bicep curls and your fellow gym mate’s thigh-tight yoga pants. Well, mainly the thigh part is what your Snapchat addict of a friend would argue. Some people don’t really need much treatment when it comes to testosterone.

Why would your phone show fifteen missed calls without ringing once? That is a question you find yourself to anxiously wonder about, like knowing it had rained without noticing the lightning. Unnoticed premonition like silent thunder. You think the calls are likely invitations to venues where you get to apply all that testosterone, where you can have someone treat it even, places your friend would definitely enjoy. Fifteen missed calls, not very ordinary.

Three people have given you a call, five calls from each person. Which now makes you wonder if you promised them you’d hang this weekend but then again, your weekends are often spent in the repetitive yet somewhat fulfilling manner of binge eating, video games and the occasional dinner party of four or eleven or alone. Nonetheless, you think this to be another Friday wonder to be added to the list. So you call the first of the three and the phone rings like tolling bells mocking your wonderful day.

Who? This is the question with the easy answer. Easy enough to chew, not so easy to swallow; like eating deceitfully golden oats only to find that they’re harsh and expired. The friend you just called answers with manic shouting, begging you to come quick because Lazarus, the ‘who’ to this question, had just slit both of his wrists.

Your blood stops flowing when you hear those words and your perpetual wonder is now instantaneous desolation. Sinking into your car seat, you begin to stare into space while your hands rest on your thighs defeated and weary like a long neglected plant, bowing in hopelessness, knowing its time had come. Open-palmed and close to one another as if they were hand-cuffed, your hands spark a body-wide revolution of numbness. A mind melting astray into an infinite void and a body that is dripping into non-existence as you begin to question if being burnt alive would feel this way.

Thoughts have ceased and your soul is drained enough to keep burning, enough that it stops screaming for help and enough to stop wanting help, wanting to burn. You feel nothing and your soul is swallowed by that nothingness.

So your souls right-hand, your spirit, does the screaming for you. And your spirit brings forth what you least expect, your soul’s lieutenant summons man’s oldest friend. He whose company demands to be welcomed, an inevitable visitor yet never a guest. You look up through your windshield having thought someone had called your name and you see him, he who enters without knocking. He who comes not when he pleases but when he must.

His hands mount the hood of your car falling gracefully yet firm like a heavy leaf, familiar in motion but not in manner. The heavy hands burn through the hood slowly like melting wax, taunting your fears like a merciful bully. His concealed face disables you from seeing his insulting grimace yet you can tell he’s enjoying himself due to the elongated inhale often followed by laughter. Laughter that is maniacal yet barely-heard, menacing in its sound yet numbing in its terror; laughter that had produced drops of molten saliva that fall onto the car’s hood and onto your chest, scorching both. While the burning hood becomes your burning chest, he begins incinerating his way through the car, commanding you to stay put and you obediently do. He wraps his fingers made of brimstone around your neck as the boiling hellfire in your chest climbs its way up to your throat, face to face, he whispers, “Do something, or I will”.

So you do.

You ignite the Volkswagen of a warhorse and charge it through the hordes of traffic, hell bent on rescuing your friend, hell bent on resurrecting Lazarus. You tell your gym buddy that you have new plans, plans with a girl and you leave it at that. You refuse to humor any more curious questions, shrugging with a few eyebrow raises with each question as to seem playful enough to evade suspicion, playful enough to avoid answering. You don’t apologize for an abrupt change of plans, you grin, feigning a mischievous smile to hide your worried mind.

You arrive. At the Lazarus Pit waits two friends and his younger brother, frantically pacing around outside the front door like flies trapped in a dirty glass bottle. Oblivious to what is happening indoors, they panic in unison fluttering their sad wings of confusion. They fly in circles, one following the other, the first following the last, one drags a cigarette as the other two fidget with their pockets as if they had both lost a key or have an itch on their thighs. You ask the flies if the door is unlocked, they all nod. You tell them not to follow you in, they re-assume their formation and resume their buzzing.

You walk into the Pit, it is dark and narrow. A short corridor half-buried with shoes is the opening, lightless in its first two meters, leading to a wall shadowed with a giant silhouette of a man with his head between his knees. You follow the shadow with tip-toeing steps as if not to disrupt its formation, not to disrupt his sadness, and you find him on a kitchen chair to your left as the shadow had told you. His head hung down between his knees as he lifelessly kept staring at the floor puddled with tears.

You stand before Lazarus, waiting for him to acknowledge your presence as he continues to stare at his falling tears waiting for you to acknowledge his. You both do, with one too afraid to speak and one too sad. You cautiously lift your right arm to place it on his head, to stroke his hair and create comfort; cautious and slow as if you were feeding a dangerous animal, ready to feign death if it attacks you. Your arm shakes knowing it must singlehandedly balance fear and courage for the rest of the body, knowing its battle would determine the rest of the war. His hair is damp and wet like a swamp marsh, you stroke his hair gently until your fingers run to the back of his head where you grip and swiftly pull him to comfort.

Lazarus’ head is now placed on your stomach, drenching your shirt with his tears and sweat that muffle his screeches and screams of torment. Lazarus looks up at you with bloodshot eyes, says he’s sorry for living, and says he’s sorry for ever loving anyone. He pushes you aside and springs up both arms towards your waist, palms face up with slow-bleeding wrists, says he’s sorry for fucking up this suicide. Says even in that, he failed.

You ask him: what else? You point to the emptied box of prescription sleeping pills on the kitchen table, how many today? He says: all.

Your Volkswagen rescue chariot races once more, cutting through the busy streets on a Friday night as jagged and careless as the cuts on Lazarus’ wrists. You give him a cigarette and your ears, listening to both his misfortune conveyed by unintelligible snot-spewing cries and also the take a left, take a right directional help. You rub his knee with one hand, manage the steering wheel with the other as he ashes with one hand and hides his tear-washed face with the other.

Lazarus keeps crying and screaming the same thing in repetition, louder each time, more agonizing in magnitude each time. You remember being taught that repetition breeds emphasis and emphasis demands analysis then analysis demands conclusion, Lazarus does not repeat his cries for emphasis. There is no need for analysis or conclusion when your friend miserably needs your strength, there is no need to be your cold and cynical self. You now remember moments when you have wailed, each scream louder than the one before it, longer than the one before it. You now remember moments when you needed a friend, when you were Lazarus. You realize repetition with the absence of rationale, with the presence of pain, demands recognition. You recognize Lazarus is not asking to be held but asking to be picked up like a fallen soldier amputated by life’s misery, asking for the legs of your mental stability to help him move away from the line of fire or at least withstand it.

He cries: help me.

You understand now having listened to his soul and mind quarrel in the car, one armed with reason and the other armed with rage, where both share one common goal: recognition. Like denial is often followed by acceptance, you pray the need for recognition will follow the need for redemption. Lazarus makes you wonder in the parking lot while you zip his jacket up and wipe his tears with your sleeve, makes you wonder if he knows you understand. He makes you wonder whether he knows you recognize his sorrow. Footsteps away from the hospital’s main entrance, Lazarus holds your hand like a child unaccustomed to crossing the street alone. Lazarus is not asking for help, not for understanding and not for company. Lazarus is begging for it.

Now you lean over to the receptionist, distressingly whispering your friend’s case into her ear: my friend behind me just attempted to kill himself, you say, he has at least 40 top-grade sleeping pills somewhere in his liver with two slit wrists, we need to be seen immediately. Whispering carefully as to not alarm the ears of curious strangers staring at you and your hoodie donning, wrist bleeding friend. You look back at Lazarus, dressed in full black, and take his arm to the closest waiting-area couch. You pat his head as he rests it on your shoulder, stroke his cheeks and pray to God no one’s looking while you stare so blatantly at a young girl vomiting into a little bag, also trying her best not be heard or seen. Surrounded by miserable people all suffering from something or another, the wonder kicks in again with all the questions you never thought could be asked.

How many, in this wretched world, struggle with the beastliness of their lives to the point where they feel or think of ending it? Is my friend the only Lazarus? For me and for now, he is.

You look around condescendingly at the other patients to be, glaring at them one by one as if to tell them those who are dying are not a medical priority to those who want to die. The irrational rationale often conjured up in the minds of those who are desperate, to protect those who are desolate.

The ‘help us immediately’ attempt works perhaps because of your suicidal friend’s wrists dripping blood and not because you were honestly begging. That doesn’t matter, it worked, and you’re in. Another waiting game; Lazarus occupies his time staring into space with his hand sinking in yours, while your eyes sink into the biohazard bin. You wonder what he’s thinking about because you’re actually not staring at the bin, you’re peripheral vision is locked and zoomed on Lazarus like a schizophrenic tired of pretending that the hallucinations aren’t there. You secretly study him, begging for any clue to utilize, any opening that can be used to help your friend. You notice Lazarus continuing his stare into oblivion and you notice the numbness of that stare. Lazarus is not with you, he’s drowning in his own mind, his own Pit. This is when a person’s mind is in the last stage of hopelessness, the ultimate mental purgatory, wondering if you deserve life or death.

In there, your thoughts are of do-or-die, kill or be killed, live or lose; in that state of mind it’s a free-for-all where all the darkest and most miserable thoughts come out to play. All the freaks, the thoughts of death, roaming the city of your psyche at night, a city that is in a frenzy, it is friendless and it is frightening. A city that will shred all courage that will freeze you on the first of its streets, a city that can only be survived if you walk through it and realize within all the frenzy, the fear is nothing but fraudulent. The mind fabricates fear, the hopelessness cements it.

You hold his hand. Lazarus turns his head towards you and you stare into his eyes widely as if a hiker had just encountered a mountain lion, they both know what is about to happen. What is happening to Lazarus and to you, but there are no hikers or lions here, only friends and minds aware of life and death. You and Lazarus keep staring at each other like a blinking contest, no one budges. Lazarus knows what you’re doing and he welcomes it, his thoughts listen to yours with an open and danger-ridden mind. You think to him: get to the other side, reach the final exit and head for the last intersection.

A crossroads you are far too familiar with. Lazarus will need some sort of divine intervention, is what you think to yourself, planning to throw a rope down his Pit and wait for him to tug it. Fishing for life.

“What happens to me now?” he asks you. “What do I do now?”

When fear and hope collide, there is no what happened before or what will happen after. With that catastrophic emotion, the present is amplified and time is suspended; it’s like being locked in a corner of a boxing ring by a heavyweight behemoth, unable to either raise your arms in defense or get knocked out to prevent more shots to the face. Now is the time to end the stalemate, do or die. Fear and hope colliding are like eagles mating, a frightening freefall that transitions into a symbolic separation right before hitting the ground. What starts out as a cry for help, a simple question of now, will ignite Lazarus from a frightening fall of fear to a fulfilling flight of hope.

Tug the rope, Lazarus.

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