We’re eating gyros in a little restaurant on Minnehaha Boulevard when you bring it up. “I went to the hospital a few weeks ago,” you say, and pause, and I realize that not only did you seriously contemplate suicide again, but that you haven’t called me simply to catch up.
In all honesty, we’re not even that good of friends. We met on a camping trip before college even officially began, paired together by random fate to share a canoe gliding through the Boundary Waters. After we returned to campus, dirty and sweaty after four days in the woods, we didn’t talk much. A few shared meals, a few words between classes, and a few wall posts before and after holidays. We got high in your room once, escaping from the loud and crowded party next door, leaning across one another to the window, blowing smoke out into the frosty Minnesota air. I got the impression you were trying to flirt with me, but I could never be sure. You’re a hard one to read.
Then we were sophomores, and it was Thanksgiving, and you messaged me from the psych ward. Suddenly we were friends. And the guilt I was only beginning to come to terms with prompted me to call you from the airport. I remember vividly the sound of the nurse’s voice on the line, asking me to hold while she transferred the call, your hesitant “Hello,” staring at the pattern of the Minneapolis terminal carpeting, face burning with embarrassment and uncertainty. I didn’t want to be the one to call you. I wanted to stay way the hell out of your mess, to avoid the guilt and shame that were already clouding my dreams with memories.
But I know that’s why you called me then, and I know that’s why you called me tonight. It’s not me you want, but her, the one person and one event that will always emotionally bind me to depression-related suicide. I’ll never not answer your calls and I’ll never not call you back. I didn’t last November, even though your phone calls would leave me hyperventilating and choking on my own conscience. And this was after I thought I was “over it.” After I’d “processed” and “come to terms” and “moved on.” You stirred it all up and you’ll never let it go away.
Thank you. For calling me tonight. I’m so glad you did. And my mouth stops chewing gyro meat and pita bread and forms the words I know you need to hear, the words I wish I’d said to her when I’d had the chance, and the words I stuttered shakily into the receiver when you needed me most. I might be wrong, but we both know I’m not. I can’t save you, but I can tell you that I love you.
You pay for my dinner and wait with me in the biting wind for my bus. We’re both shivering. I give you a hug before I climb on the bus and tell you to take care of yourself. I mean it more than I’ve ever meant anything in my life.