Backing away

The bottom drops out of my stomach

Backing away. I’m on the P8 level of the parkade leaning on the railing looking south over the showroom parking lot, the surface lot. I see cars and the occasional body moving. I risk a look down and the bottom drops out of my stomach. My pulse quickens. I push back, physically push back and start moving away. What happens, happens every time, is that I am afraid that I will get an uncontrollable impulse to leap the railing — that quick, that easy, oblivion, nothingness, over.

I think about death a lot — every hour of every day. But it’s not like I’m planning to die. Or want to check out early, although I’ve been there before. I just feel like I’m standing on quicksand. Looking down, I feel the pull. Triple gravity, something outside of my conscious control wants me dead.

Primo Levy, the survivor and chronicler of Auschwitz, committed suicide in 1987. He was 67 years old. He took a header down a flight of stairs. He didn’t leave a note. No one saw it. Maybe it was an accident. It is assumed to be a suicide. Maybe he had survivors’ guilt. Maybe the memories were finally too much. Levy wrote his narratives in a detached and nonjudgmental style. He wrote as a witness and his stories are powerful. Camus wrote: there is only one really serious philosophical question and that is suicide. That sounds good, but I’m not too sure what it means to me. I was talking to a guy once — his brother had killed himself. This guy said that what he perceived was the enormous anger that his brother carried and that his brother’s suicide was an expression of rage.

See, that I can understand. Usually you would figure it’s the goodbye cruel world stuff. Maybe you brood and plan for months. I’m thinking it’s more of an impulse thing. That’s why I’m backing away from the railing. If you believe in multiple lives, and I entertain the possibility, then what happens is this: if you are depressed and angry when you kill yourself you bring it all with you over to the other side. You wake up and, “Fuck, I’m still me.” Perhaps the thought that you could check out relieves stress.

When I was working at Caesars I had a regular massage customer, the boxing referee, Joey Curtis. He says one day, “I’m psychic and you are going to kill yourself over a girl.” This disturbed me, but I made a joke about it. I should have strangled him on the spot. Why go alone? Yeah. That haunts me. The specter of suicide hovers about me. But my girl hasn’t left me yet. I got a plan. “If you leave me I will blow my brains out in the kitchen in front of you and the kids with a shotgun.”That ought to prove my commitment.

He threw his life away

The first suicide I knew was a kid named Chris at the Free School on Saturna Island. He was my age — 13. He left the school, moved to Vancouver, turned gay and killed himself. I can’t say if one had to do with the other. He was cut loose like me, to sink or swim. My first serious girlfriend’s husband killed himself. She would go out to the garage and cut him down. He was always trying to hang himself and finally he jumped off the Gold River Bridge and got the job done. Which, if you have ever seen it, it’s like jumping out of a first story window. I guess he was determined.
A grief counselor told me that my best friend’s death in a single car accident was a passive suicide, and she might be right. But he lived for three weeks on a respirator paralyzed from the neck down. I figured because he was a professional athlete he didn’t want to live like that. I had dreams for years about Jamie. I get the impression he was angry over there. 30 years old. He threw his life away

I have read about epidemics of youth suicides up north. Vegas has a high suicide rate. A dealer I worked with in Vegas knew a guy that came down off a crack binge and hung himself in his motel room. I can attest to the brutal come down off crack. Suicide is not uncommon in that circumstance.

The thing that’s really disturbing about Levy is that he survived the death camps only to exterminate himself years later. After being a successful author. Maybe, maybe, I don’t know — how could he reconcile any meaning in life after what he witnessed? It would seem futile. When you see what people are. What they can be. So that’s the two problems I have here with suicide. There is no escape really. I would just have to come back for the same fucking experiences all over again. And this: it would hurt the people who love me. Listen, this is not about depression or that I’m unhappy or angry or any of that, I just think about it, about death.

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About Jesse Kaellis

Welcome to my site! I write nonfiction. I don’t see that as likely to change. The title of my book, “Early Out”, is casino terminology that I explain somewhere in my narrative. Enjoy your stay!

Jesse Kaellis' Early Out

"Early Out" is shocking, moving and gritty. Much more than a chronicle of a life lived "on the edge", these stories sweep us along on the writer's journey as he sinks deeper and deeper into the underbelly of Las Vegas glitz - succumbing to the lure of hard drugs and sex. Most impressive are his crystalline insights, delivered with the raw, terse directness of a knock-out punch. Kaellis possesses a rare voice, emitting flashes of raw genius and great humanity. Read it!

Review by A. Rowsome, April 17, 2012

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