What drives a person to suicide? What motivates a person to take that final journey into the Dark place? Can people become so increasingly trapped in their negative interpretations of life's misfortunes, that they back themselves into a place where suicide becomes the best solution to their pain? Many people think about taking their own lives in a desperate attempt to escape. Fewer actually go through with it thankfully.
Linden Howard had long, dark years of bad luck—some of the worst. As a child, his drug-addicted mother just about beat him half to death, before whacking herself at the age of thirty-four. Little boy Linden awoke one morning to relieve himself as usual, but instead found his mother submerged in a bloody tub of water. She'd slit both wrists and simply closed her eyes, allowing the gentle waters to wash her forever into the Dark place. Her blood stained left arm was sticking straight up in the air, already stiffening into a morbid greeting when Linden discovered her. The attending physician wrote that it was unclear if she'd bled to death or drowned first, but that hadn't mattered to Linden at the time. Either way, his mother was dead. To a little boy, losing your mother is an unthinkable horror. But for Linden, finding your mother's swollen body, waving at you from the bottom of a bloody tub was much, much worse. It was a picture that kept him teetering on the edge of sanity, visiting him over and over again in his night and day mares. If Linden's father had been one among the many men in and out of his home growing up, he never knew it. He didn't even know his father's name and apparently, any information about his father wasn't deemed important enough by anyone in his family to share with him.
After the death of his mother, Linden bounced between relatives, losing count of the number of schools and social circles he passed through. Not that he was much of a butterfly in the first place. Painfully shy around other kids, he kept mostly to himself and spent a great deal of his after school times absorbed in cartoons and Ding-Dongs. All of the moving around and changing schools only served to reinforce his sense of separation from them. It seemed that as soon as he got settled somewhere, he'd change relatives again and try to fit in as the new kid somewhere else. Eventually, he just kind of gave up on that idea, learning that it was much easier and less painful to simply keep himself on the outer edges—not mingling too deeply. For him it was more of a survival mechanism, and it worked.
Linden was in the service when he met and married Helen Jones. Beautiful, vivacious and funny, she was a strong woman with even stronger appetites. Her self-confidence matched her appearance—tall, milky white skin, long, wavy red-auburn hair framed mirthful green eyes that bewitched and captured him from the first moment. She could be loud and aggressive, yet incredibly tender with him. To Linden, her strength complimented his shyness, fitting them as the perfect match. After only a few months she became Helen Howard Jones—his wife and eventual worst enemy. She turned out to be a cheating whore almost from the word go and it hadn't taken long for Linden to find it out. One morning, fresh into their marriage, he'd forgotten his wallet on the way to work. Upon returning home to retrieve it, he found his wife on the couch. The only problem was that she was sitting across from a teen-aged boy—carrying on a casual conversation in the nude. Linden couldn't blame the boy for that of course—he was just a boy.
Helen went on to more and serious indiscretions, (for which she blamed Linden incredibly enough,) and their marriage remained an unhappy one. But neither of them ever filed for divorce. Two years into their marriage, Helen had become pregnant—by Linden, and had given birth to Cheryl Ann Howard, a ray of sunshine in an otherwise unbearable setting. His sweet little Cheryl, cheerleader, artist, homecoming queen, college graduate, veterinarian, and finally lesbian. Linden had wanted to give their daughter every chance of growing up in a traditional home setting, even if it meant staying with his redheaded whore wife. On the surface, Linden may have expressed wonder at his daughter's choice to become a lesbian. They'd kept their marital problems from her and otherwise, she'd grown up on track. But deep down, in the place where secrets lay like corpses at the bottom of a tub, he knew the reason. Though he never admitted it to anyone, Linden knew.
We find Linden at home some years later. He's sitting naked in his darkened office, drinking first Jack and Coke, then just Jack, trying to work up the courage to shoot himself in the head. Only, as Linden discovers, it's easier said than done. Not that he hasn't already made the decision to shoot himself, because he has, but nobody in their right mind leaves a perfectly good bottle of Jack unfinished, no?
Nobody was home because nobody was ever home anymore. The house was dark and silent, save for the soft tick of the clock on the wall behind him. Earlier, he'd wandered through the house turning off all of the lights, before stripping off his clothes and settling into his leather chair in the office. The decision to take his life had come as a relief—now he wanted to spend his last minutes as comfortable as he could make himself. The soft leather felt good on his naked skin, like Jack to his nerves. To an outsider, it would seem out of place that he should be killing himself tonight. He'd built a hell of a career as the owner of his own (another hit off the Jack) cleaning company—and they even did fuckin' windows! He had to chuckle at that. They fuckin' did windows. Working for a cleaning company after the military had simply been a way to bridge the gap before starting a civilian career. He never intended to stay with it. But things just kind of happened and he somehow ended up owning it. At least, he thought, that was something that had gone in his favor. Besides Cheryl, his daughter, the company was the one thing that he really cared enough about to secretly ensure that it would continue under the direction of his next in charge. Of course, the actual ownership would go to Helen. Beautiful, sick-in-the-head bitch that she was. She was a looker all right, and right now she was most probably looking at some nineteen year-old trouser snake.
Another chuckle escaped him. God, he was on a roll tonight—in fact, he thought—I absolutely kill myself.
Linden touched the pistol that he'd placed on the desk in front of him. It was cold—fetching him back to reality. Another swig of the Jack made him realize that he wasn't getting as drunk as he wanted to be. He'd hoped to be good and swacked when the time came to crossover. Liquid courage, or sober cowardice he mused. No matter...in the end, wasn't like it would make two shits anyway. He didn't think they try to figure that one out when they found his body. Palming the grip, he softly opened and closed his fingers around it, feeling the hardness of the wood with his hand as he mulled on his daughter, Cheryl. She was the single piece of the cruel puzzle of his life that would have given him cause to pause his murderous plan—Cheryl, his beautiful daughter who had a thing for other beautiful daughters. Poor baby, it wasn't her fault. How could it possibly be her fault? After all, being raped by your own drunken father would turn any woman away from the idea of men, no? At the time he'd begged her forgiveness, blamed it on being drunk and secured a promise from her never to speak of it again. And from appearances, she'd managed somehow to forgive him, or so it seemed. Perhaps she'd merely redirected her anger against him by hating men in general. Point was, while he couldn't see how she could ever truly forgive him, (and he didn't blame her) he could never forgive himself. He could only push it down deeper and try to pretend that it never happened. But it did—and here it was again, pushing its way to the surface to stare him straight in the soul. Only this time, he let it. It didn't matter anymore. In a few moments he wouldn't be around to stare it back.
The bottle was getting low and Linden knew it wouldn't be long now. He reflected for a moment, wondering if things had turned out differently—had his mother not killed herself, if his wife had not been a cheating slut, if he had not done to his daughter what he did, would he have been a happy man? Daydreaming in a "woulda shoulda coulda" kind of way, he realized ironically that this was the very kind of thinking that had brought him to this moment in the first place. Too late for all of that now. His cleaning business was bustling but his inner life had become nothing short of a shipwreck. He'd basically lost control of his drinking in the last year or so, but drowning himself only made it worse. Bitch-woman was mostly a memory these days—more of a relief than anything else, and he wished her good riddance.
Since finding his mother's body as a kid, Linden was aware that he was a bit fucked in the head. Life hadn't been a picnic for him—in fact—it had kind of been like his own little hell. Not that he hadn't sought help, because he'd been there too. Five years ago, he'd mustered the courage to venture into a psychiatrist's office hoping that the man could help him sort out his issues. Five years and several thousands of dollars later, Linden blamed the shrink as much as himself for his problems. That experience had only served to convince him that head doctors make people worse, not better. That was the end of it for him.
With whiskey on his breath and dying on his mind, he raised the gun to his temple. The pistol was hard and unforgiving, as he was hard and unforgiving. An instrument designed to do what guns do must be hard and unforgiving, no? Carefully, he toyed with the hammer, not quite pulling it back yet, but just getting a feel for it. The bullet should tear clean through his brain, killing him instantly. For a brief moment, it dawned on him that he was sitting in his chair, totally naked with a gun to his head. The ridiculousness of the situation momentarily overrode him and he almost laughed. Naked I came into this world and naked I go. It would have seemed a fitting epitaph if not for the sheer hilarity of it. He took another hit of the bottle and raised the gun to his head a second time, pulling the hammer and cocking it back. It clicked once as the chamber turned and then the second click locked it back, sure and deadly. Now it was but a small matter of a single motion. Just a slight pull and it would all be over. The only thing standing between Linden and the Dark place was a single motion. Strange how fragile life can be—after all, aren't we always and everywhere but a single motion from death?
Linden wondered if he'd hear the gun go off. Pushing the barrel hard against him, he closed his eyes. Should he put the gun in his mouth instead? After all, what if he slipped and somehow managed to miss? What a horrible joke that would be—to spend the rest of the life he wanted so desperately to end, confined as a vegetable. He'd read somewhere that if you put the barrel to the roof of your mouth, the bullet would go straight up through the brain and out of the top of the skull. In fact, he'd seen it once on an episode of Faces Of Death. Some congressman killed himself right on television. During his speech, he'd pulled out a pistol, stuck it in his mouth and blew the top of his head all over the ceiling. In a strange way, Linden had admired the courage and conviction that it must have taken to do that, while at the same time concluding that the guy was an ass for splattering himself on national television. How ironic it was to be putting a gun in his own mouth now, but at least he wasn't doing it on TV with millions watching.
If there could be any humor in killing one's self, Linden thought he'd found it. Remembering the old country song Lying Here With Linda On My Mind, he chuckled weirdly, revamping it to "Dying Here With Linden On My Mind"...even in the last moments of a desperate person's life it seemed that there was humor to be found. Or perhaps it was his own mind's way of dealing with the reality of what he was about to do. Running his thumb lightly over the point of the hammer, it dawned on him that he hadn't left a note. Considering it for a moment, the sheer idiocy of leaving a suicide note abruptly crashed over him. Why in the hell would anyone who was about to off himself leave a note for Christ's sake? The very idea was ludicrous! What could he possibly say in a note that they wouldn't be able to figure out when they found his body anyway? "Dear world...I've decided to kill myself, love Linden..." he decided against the note.
Without warning, the phone rang freezing him in mid-pull. One ring, then two, he sat, hardly daring to breathe, like a little boy caught doing something he knows he shouldn't be doing. Finally, after what seemed like forever, the answering machine picked up. "Hi" he heard his own fake cheery voice, "you've reached the Howard residence, please leave a message!" BEEEEP...Linden smirked to himself...more dark humor. He wouldn't be returning this call. "Daddy?" It was Cheryl! Suddenly, Linden felt the blood drain from his head. Was he about to kill himself with his sweet angel's voice in the background? His beautiful, good, once innocent young woman, whom God had blessed him with? This woman whom he had soiled so many years ago, whose only crime had been that she had been sleeping peacefully in her own bed when he'd stumbled home, drunk to the soul and filled with the filth that made him the human pig that he was? Would he now stain her again by taking his life to the sound of her voice? That train of thought stopped him alive in his tracks. Her voice came over the machine:
"Hi daddy, just wanted to know if you're coming over for dinner tomorrow. Mike was wondering if you could help her with the crap car." Michelle, (Mike for short) was his daughter's partner. Last summer she showed up in a beaten '86 Honda. Linden once referred to it as the "crap car" and the title somehow stuck. It was like their private joke. A tear escaped his eye, slowly at first, then faster like leaks springing in a dam. "Well daddy, give me a call...I love you." Slowly, Linden de-cocked the gun, lowering it to the desk before he broke down. The bottle fell from his hand. Landing on the floor, it shattered, exploding tiny shards of glass and Jack all over his shins. But Linden took no notice of it. He was slumped over, weeping great sobs of anguish. He cried like no man should ever have to cry—burying his face in both hands unable to stop the flood opening within him. Like some hulking, naked gorilla, he wept bitterly, bent over, spewing tears and snot down the front of his chest. His heart had shattered. And the pieces of it cut him as they poured out from every opening.
He cried for his mother, he cried for his daughter, he cried for his marriage and all of the dreams that they would never reach for. He cried for forgiveness from whatever God might be listening. His sobbing filled the empty house with the awful sound of a man's heart being wrenched from his very chest. No pain that he'd ever felt in all of his life could ever come close to this. It was as if something or someone was pulling him inside out, inch by agonizing inch. Falling forward, no longer able to support himself, he crashed to his knees, cutting them in the glass from the broken bottle, before landing spread eagle on the floor. Instinctively, Linden rolled onto his side, pulling his knees in to the fetal position. He wept until he could weep no more. But that was a long, long time.