Twiddling my thumbs at that last two-minute warning

by Jim Knipfel

I used to think that the toughest thing about suicide was making that final, logical decision to actually go ahead and do it. Not any more. After being there and back about a dozen times (I can't even kill myself worth a shit. I'm an incompetent boob), turning that final corner is a piece of cake. Rather than agonizing over it for weeks, wandering the cold night streets numb and vacant and blind until the single answer is inescapable, now it's just a simple matter of, say, chopping up some peppers to throw into a tomato sauce and thinking:

"Well, nothin's left. Might as well kill myself and be done with it."

No, the tough part now rests in deciding on a methodology. Again, after a dozen runs at that final void, I've tried pretty much all of them: Razor blades, knives, drugs, drug-and-alcohol combinations, ropes, flights of stairs, speeding buses. Everything except firearms--and I don't have enough loose green to order take-out from Mr. Falafel, let alone buy a gun.

People--make that "grubs"--who've never looked over the barren edge always tell me the same thing--"If you really wanted to kill yourself, it would be easy." But the human body, far from being the delicate spider's web of a mechanism everyone makes it out to be, is a frightfully resillient machine. Doctors who've treated me in the past have informed me that I've been clinically dead three times (and not once did I get to float down a dark tunnel towards a comforting light, where I'd be able to meet up with Strawberry, my dead turtle, and Charlotte, my dead rabbit). Yet here I sit, fit as a fiddle, everything in fine working order except for my eyes and this roached cassette of a mind I've been saddled with.

I've lost lord knows how many friends to intentional heroin overdoses. Another took a nap on some subway tracks. Others used sleeping pills. Over the past thirteen years since my first stab at it, and every failure which followed, I've been forced into the conclusion that I'm simply invincible. I've no choice but to believe that nothing hell, heaven or earth have to offer can kill me. Sure, I may end up in hospital after hospital, but I'll always walk out again. That's what makes deciding on a method this time so tricky--I'm no longer interested in walking out again.

Apart from effectiveness, I need something with some style and class and humor about it. Papa Hemingway followed in his daddy's footsteps and pressed the double barrels against his wrinkly forehead. Virginia Woolf filled her pockets with rocks and went swimming. G.G. Allin and Brian Douglas Clemons both turned yellow ass and used junk. Diane Linkletter gobbled some bad acid and forgot what elevators were used for. Mishima did the honorable thing and carved his own innards out onto a Japanese sidewalk. I'm still trying to figure out what, exactly, Gerald Ford did.

Just a little aside here. There's a strange trend in the lyrics of quite a few alternative bands these days, pointed out to me by my pal Judith (it's not something I'd notice myself). It seems all these people, from Trent Reznor to Eddie Vedder and beyond, are writing songs in which they ask other people to kill them. "Generation of hopelessness and despair," my ass--sounds more like a generation of gutless, snivelling cretins to me. They don't even have the balls to kill themselves. Well, one of them did. Okay, never mind.

I try putting on some Swans, thinking that might help cleanse the shadowy hobgoblins out of my skull. It doesn't work, and I realize what a foolish notion that was to begin with. I go through the same, pointless procedure with the Residents' "Mark of the Mole" and Sinatra's "Watertown." Foolish, foolish, foolish.

I stop a second in the middle of my room and notice, for the first time in months, the heavy stench of my own sweat coming off me. The fucking phone won't stop ringing. The answering machine is loaded down with a collection of sour voices, all of them telling me how much trouble I'm in again. This time, it's something involving pornography, deception and misplaced trust. At this point, I can't afford to care much. Stupid thing is, they all fully expect me to return their calls! Yesterday my opthamologist informed me that I'm going blind at a much faster rate than she originally suspected. And to top it off, there's not a goddamn thing to drink in the apartment.

It's funny how things work that way. After a life in which little, if anything's, gone right, when things go wrong they go wrong from every conceivable angle--even those long forgotten angles I thought I'd put behind me years ago. Laura coined the phrase "conspiracy of misery" this morning, and it makes more sense than much of anything else does right now.

One of my cats--the vicious, bitchy one, who won't deal with anyone but me--follows me around like she's tied to my ankle by some invisible leash, making these little concerned meeping noises at the back of my head. She knows something's afoot. Whenever I sit down, she appears in my lap and glares dolefully into my fading eyes. The other cat--the happy-go-lucky one who loves everybody and everything--stays in the other room, trying to nudge some affection out of a lamp.

The whole question of snuffing it isn't as sad, frightful or disturbing as the pundits make it out to be. Fact is, I've always thought that more people should give it a go. Just look at Edward G. Robinson in Soylent Green--he knew what the score was, and he knew what needed to be done about it. Sometimes it just makes sense. In fact, from my standpoint, it makes sense for nearly every man, woman, child and dog on the planet. After a lifetime of ruining other people's lives, I figure I'd rather have some control over the inevitable retribution I'm going to have to face someday.

The phone rings again, and after so many hours of anger cast to the still winds of the apartment this afternoon, finally a kind voice crackles across the answering machine. It's my neighbor Don, inviting me to the bar across the street to have a beer with him and Paul, a bookseller. We drink, we talk about books, we drink some more. For an hour or so there, things actually seemed okay. That happens every once in awhile too. Question is, is it enough? Or is it really, finally, Tranxene and plastic bag time? I could draw a funny clown face on the bag--after all, like Wagner said, "Amidst laughter should we face our doom." That's always been one of my mottoes--and I've faced more doom than any mortal should be expected to survive--and I've laughed--a cold, bitter laugh, sure, but a laugh nontheless--the whole way through. Straight down into the pit, I'm cackling all the way.

Ahh, what the fuck? Maybe I'll hang around for a little while longer. I've no doubt that when the end does come, I'll be the one controlling it, but until then, I've got a few phone calls to return. Who knows? Maybe I'll get a story out of it. Yeah, sometimes misery has its own rewards. So I'll take another deep lungfull of the evil black breeze that surrounds me and make it my own.

Copyright Jim Knipfel. Published originally in the Welcomat. Illustration by Bob Hires. All rights reserved.

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