We stood around. We stared at all the pieces – his remains. We stared, but with each other we did not make eye contact.
This clown, he had tried to cut his wrists at first. He’d used a pocket knife. He’d failed. Fumbled it.
Then he’d moved on to a belt. He’d wrapped his clown-belt around his clown-neck. He’d closed the ends of the belt in the closet door. Over the top. This proved to be more effective than the pocket knife. He’d succeeded, and now the clown was dead.
After we stared at his pieces for a time, someone – I think it might have been Wolf – broke the silence. He sniffed. He said, “Isn’t that alcohol? I think I smell booze.”
He said, “This clown was a drunk, right?”
We said, “All clowns are drunks.”
Then we were silent again. Then we stared some more.
Someone said, “I have heard rumblings about money problems. All clowns have money problems.”
Someone said, “He was a liberal and all liberals are unhappy!”
Still we stood there staring; something still seemed off. Something did not seem quite right.
Finally, from the back of the crowd that had gathered came a voice. The clown’s wife. Up until that moment, we had not known the clown’s wife was there. She said, “This clown had a clown-disease in his clown-body. He had the shakes and everyone knows the shakes only get worse.”
Everyone looked relieved. We exhaled. We made eye contact with each other again.
It all made perfect sense: The pocket knife. The belt. The pieces. On this, we all agreed.
We walked out of the tent and we announced, “The clown is dead! He had the shakes!” and then everyone went home. Everyone went back to doing the things they had been doing before they learned the clown was dead.
But I did not go back to doing what I’d been doing before I learned the clown was dead. I went home and I dug through the closet in the hall. The one with all the suitcases and the boxes with the question marks drawn on the side.
I dug through the closet. I was looking for the suicide diaries of my father.
* * * * *
My father, he had tried to hang himself at first. He’d used a rope. He’d wrapped his father-rope around his father-neck. He’d closed the ends of the rope in the closet door. Over the top. He’d failed. Fumbled it.
Then he’d moved on to a gun. He’d held the gun up to his mouth and he’d pulled the trigger. This proved to be more effective than the rope. He’d succeeded, and then the father was dead.
The cops and the family, they stood around staring. They looked at all the pieces.
Someone said, “Smell that? That is definitely alcohol.”
Someone said, “And that is a bong. And that is cocaine. And that is a can of gasoline.”
Someone said, “His ex-wife died in March.”
Everyone looked relieved. They exhaled. They made eye contact with each other again. It all made perfect sense: The drugs. The gun. The pieces. On this, they all agreed.
They walked out of the apartment and they announced, “The father is dead! He was an addict!” and then everyone went home. Everyone went back to doing the things they had been doing before they learned the father was dead.
None of them read his suicide diaries.
I read his suicide diaries.
* * * * *
My father kept his suicide diaries trapped inside of big black notebooks. Three-ring binders thick as your neck. There were six of them by the end, written in extremely tiny print on the front and on the back of every page.
My father wrote his suicide diaries over fifteen years, from when he was thirteen until when he was twenty-eight. That was when he shot the gun into his mouth.
The suicide diaries, they cannot be read in their entirety: Their print is too tiny, there is too much of it, and you would kill yourself before you got half the way through.
But the suicide diaries are simple. In them, my father approaches one basic question in many different ways, like how a housefly will come at your lunch from every conceivable direction even when you keep swishing it away.
He asks: Is Life better than Death?
He asks: Is Life just a virus?
He asks: Is consciousness only a curse?
And his thoughts are rational and they are persuasive and his words are never sad.
He says, “When you find me, you will say that I was broken. You will say only broken things choose death over life, and I chose death over life, ergo, I was broken. You will tell yourself this and you will tell it to each other.
“After you find me, you will go back home to your anti-depressant pills and your anti-anxiety pills and you will keep your mind busy by collecting stamps and by thinking about religion and celebrity sex.
“You will do all of this so you can keep trying to pretend you don’t see the secret that you all already know: Life is not better than Death. Life is a virus. Consciousness is a curse.”
Throughout his suicide diaries, my father says, well, he says something like that. I am paraphrasing him. I cannot quote him directly.
After all, I do not know where his diaries have gone.
I looked for them in the suitcases, but they were not there. They were not in the boxes with the question marks drawn on the side. They were nowhere in the closet in the hall.
The suicide diaries are on the lam, out where anyone might find them!
The suicide diaries are out in the world, and they are rational and they are persuasive and they are never sad. And what if they’re correct?
I sure hope that that clown did not find them.
Wow! Powerful and thought-provoking post, Katy.ReplyDelete
Hi, Ted! After about the 10,000th anti-suicide, suicide-is-so-selfish, life-at-any-cost screed I read this week, I thought some balance was in order.Delete
This is VERY watered down compared to the first draft, but still should probably be read by nobody.
Isn't the beginning of this one just like the one you did with the planes and your kids in your front yard?ReplyDelete
Yes! I went into exactly the same mode as in "Ours." I even used some of the same words.Delete
I think in both cases, I was trying not to get preachy with the subject matter. Keeping short sharp sentences kept me distant and a little eerie.
I think that worked there - and to some extent, here too - and when something works, i generally try and push it a little farther until I find the point at which it doesn't work anymore.
Good one... However, after three days, I got bored with the conceptReplyDelete
also, not many people blogged about Lauren Bacall
I did a short post on Ms. Bacall's death -- but then I've had a life-long crush on her. She's one of the most beautiful (and sexy) women that ever lived, in my not so humble opinion.Delete
I try and stay away from topics in the news - particularly celebrity news. The posts end up looking dated quickly - with some of them, I can't remember later why I wrote them.Delete
I have a Charlie Sheen reference in one of my posts!
Suicide is a little more meaty of a topic than the usual celebrity news, though, so I left out the name and tried to provide some balance to the other pieces I've been reading.
I couldn't imagine reading my father's suicide diaries. Perhaps it is for the better that they remain lost to the ether.ReplyDelete
To GoodStuff's point, Lauren Bacall died of natural causes. It's much easier to wrap ones mind around the general degradation of one's body over time than it is to conceptualize "the clown" eradicating himself. "Bored with the concept," what a horrific sentiment that will yield no progress with its dismissive nature.
This was a great post. I particularly liked how you point out how people will latch on to a reason, no matter how misguided, to explain what is otherwise unthinkable.
Thanks! I'm going to need to write a post about funny things my kids said after this. The last couple have been a little dark, even for me.Delete
"Bored with the concept" might just be the single most insensitive thing I've read in my life. And I'm a reader of insensitive tomes written by insensitive friends, relatives, and self-absorbed celebrities. Perhaps a bloody relative found in a bathtub or dangling from a rafter would make the concept more interesting?ReplyDelete
Katy, if you ever stop putting your thoughts out for us to see and comment upon, I hope you'll continue to put them down in very fine print, locked away in notebooks as thick as your neck, and stuffed away in suitcases with question marks on the sides.
Someone will want to look for them someday.
Magnificent piece, this.
I never speak for anyone else (and I sometimes wish I wouldn't speak for myself), but I suspect that GOODSTUFF was referring to his eternal search for blog material. There are only so many posts a person can read on any topic.Delete
I used to think I was going to end up like Fernando Pessoa, who was this Portuguese writer who was barely published in his lifetime but had tons of material locked in a foot locker or something that have made him fairly well-known since his death.
He also wrote as different people a lot so that he could get away with saying crazy stuff - which shouldn't have been a problem if his stuff was getting thrown into a foot locker anyway.
I was going to do a Whiter Shade of Pale / The Big Chill thing. However, it was so depressing...Delete
Katy - I know you put your stuff in a foot locker, which is a good thing for your grand kids
Ah, the grandkids can just read the blog, which i'm sure will still be here and functional when they are born in a few decades.Delete
I think I might post a little lighter material for a couple weeks. I don't want the grandkids thinking Grandma was this dark...
The humans must rationalize events like the clown's suicide to help them keep their blinkers tightly fitted. Often the question is more "Why not?" than "Why".ReplyDelete
Thanks for this gem. S'a Good'ern!
You said it much more concisely than but just as effectively as I did, yes.Delete
This is why I suck at twitter!
Katy, you're amazing and so is this post. You're a hundred percent on the money, as always.ReplyDelete
Thank you, heather! Your words are yet more evidence that I should ONLY be known by anyone through my blog...Delete
I once read a tale of magic called "Stonefather".ReplyDelete
Somehow, "Clownfather" hasn't the same ring to it.
Maybe that's why they killed themselves. Because their stories don't have the same ring to them.
The title "clownfather" would have to be said by some sort of henchman, and it would have to be said in a British accent - one from a poor district. Probably right before the Clownfather kills the henchman for his impudence.Delete
Incidentally, though, that "clown-belt around his clown-neck" bit is the only reason I kept writing this one. I immediately hated it, reacted to it, wanted to change it, and decided it was all that mattered.
Katy. This is one of the best reads of the year. As I read this my sub-brain started playing "Suicide is Painless" from the movie M*A*S*H. I just wish The Clown and Clown Father could wake up and have great sex like The Jawbreaker. Go about the day all refreshed.ReplyDelete
Had a college friend tried several methods of ending her madness before driving her MGB convertible into a concrete abutment on Lubbock, Texas' major highway. Ninety-miles-an-hour at 4 O'Clock in the afternoon. Theater major at Texas Tech with a certain flair she was. When we smoked pot at parties she always told people, "You only remember the name of the leading lady." She'd been turned down for one too many leading roles, I guess. Her brother told me that her suicide note included the words, "At least you'll know who I was if you have a TV or read the newspaper."
So, fuck Walmart!
An intentional one-vehicle auto accident would seem to be one of the more unpredictable ways to take yourself out.Delete
I've thought about it: It's not feasible. Too many things could go wrong that would leave me incapacitated for life, and the risk of someone else getting hurt is too high.
I don't think there's any way I would have been able to resist reading someone's suicide diaries. I never even got to read my father's suicide note cause my stepmother and the lawyer destroyed it. Fuckers.ReplyDelete
I think having a family member commit suicide used to be one of those things like having a gay family member or someone having a kid out-of-wedlock: Something that had to be hidden away and never, ever mentioned.Delete
I can't even imagine what it would take to embarrass me into silence at this point...
Katy, I think this is a brilliant allegory about our society's tendency to rationalize, justify, generalize and simplify tragedy, specifically with Robin Williams' recent death by suicide. I think reactions to it have brought to the forefront commonly held stigma and myths about mental illness.ReplyDelete
Clowns are a powerful device here. I think they make it easier for people to see why these types of responses -- or lack of response -- are so problematic. The clowns exemplify some really pressing issues. We have a lot of work to do.
I'm not sure exactly what this one is, but it turned out like I wanted it to.
I know that sounds silly, but it really was all I had to say about the suicide thing this week.
I'll go back and read it again in a year and think, "Oh, yeah... obviously THAT'S what I meant when i wrote that!"
Now I get it. Your father was robin Williams. That explains so much.ReplyDelete
And yes art is clearly improving
Finally somebody mentioned my fantastic illustrations for this post!Delete
Robin Williams is not my father, although my father was from Ork.
You'll hear no snark or sarcasm here. This was brilliantly said, and probably the most touching of any of the blog posts I've seen regarding 'the clown' and what happened with him.ReplyDelete
It's also amazing to me, seeing from the comments, how many people have been personally touched by someone's suicide. I'm fortunate that no one in my life - friend, family, even acquaintance - has fallen to this. Doesn't make it any less real to me, though.
Thanks! I was really surprised by that, too - not just how many of the commenters here, but the bloggers I read on a regular basis have been so close to someone who has taken their own life.Delete
I'm glad I wrote it. I want to write something lighter next time.
You still wonder why I bore you to tears praising your talent?Delete
Frank, you will never bore me to tears with praise!Delete
I am sort of like the Christian God that way: I believe people should spend a good portion of their time praising me. It just seems like a good idea, and it might pay off for you if I turn out to be the one in charge of where you spend eternity.