A Surprise Ending

Recently I tried to kill myself. 

I’ll be the first to admit it wasn’t a great attempt—any expert or regular enthusiast would scoff, would chuckle at my paltry try at ending something not yet begun.

Ghosts of friends and family may shake their heads, may scowl or begrudgingly offer up a solemn, solitary clap; a pained chagrin. But I did try. In all seriousness, I did. And, like most things in my life, I did it in a way only I could.

I tried to kill myself with the thing that’s been trying to kill me for years, the very thing I’ve been avoiding dying from for seven.

And I failed.

There is something to that. Call it irony, call it poetic justice—call it whatever. To me, it is like the ending of a good story.

Most people believe they want a surprise ending. They believe they will derive from such a thing some higher degree of happiness, some satisfaction that would otherwise be impossible to attain with the presence of a predictable ending.

But I am just the opposite. Whenever I consume a story, I usually hope for its ending to be predictable. I don’t desire any unexpected twist, any unforeseen turn, but instead ask only for a fitting ending—that and only that.

I just want it to fit together, you see. Like a small child piecing together a puzzle, I just hope it all fits.

And that night, it did seem fitting.

To have struggled for this long, only to then weaponize something already hazardous to me, to suddenly embrace this thing I’ve fought against for years, seemed fitting, seemed deserved. And that night, I thought I would get what I wanted in this deserved ending. I thought I would give the people in my life what was best for them, what was best for everyone. But I was wrong.

I’ve always said suicide is selfish. I think if anyone thinks about it long enough they’ll figure out why. In some ways it is the purest expression of self-indulgence, self-obsession. It is to say, “Today I put into action that which I have considered, that which I permanently decide on a basis that only the ramifications I believe are inevitable, are so. I see everything as it is, enough to make an informed decision that cannot be undone.”

Well, for someone it’s probably like that. Probably some math-type dude. A depressed chemist. I ought to write a story about him…

To mix metaphors—and this is about to be the most Californian metaphor possibly conceived—it’s kind of like surfing.

For the rest of us, for those who are genuinely suicidal, it’s more like thinking “Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit” as we speed forward towards an encroaching wave, gathering momentum as we begin to feel ourselves arcing upwards, looking above at this looming thing that threatens to swallow us whole. I’m no surfer, but it seems terrifying. To have to commit or bail, to have to choose to stay in it for better or for worse or quit early and only be stuck with the latter—and I really do believe that’s the choice we who contemplate suicide face.

We all end up dead. And just as the person who commits eventually winds up back at the shore, so too does the one who bailed early. But of course, they arrive there by different means. One gets to experience the joy of facing the fear, of conquering it, of riding the wave; they can be surprised by it. Maybe they fall later on, or reach the end of the wave prematurely. They won’t know until they try.

Meanwhile, the one who bails early experiences only themselves getting swallowed by the wave; they see only that impending darkness. They are stuck with a predicted ending.

To bring it back to something I actually have some moderately credible experience in, storytelling, narrative, is much the same: it, too, asks that we decide between a foreseen ending and a surprising twist.

The story ends all the same, but it arrives at its ending by different means, and is therefore two completely different stories.

That night, I thought I wanted a predictable ending—what I thought was a fitting ending for my life.

But, as it turns out, I do want the surprise. I do long for the unexpected, the unforeseen. I do hope to be met with something I don’t see coming—to get to see my story continue to surprise me as I live it.

I suppose I’m just grateful to still have a story that’s being written.

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