I had a dream last night. A dream about Willie but not a dream like the usual kind I have that involves him. Not a nightmare in the traditional sense. Not a dream of what was or of what happened but a dream that was of the now. But a now where he didn’t die. A now that exists with him in it, having not killed himself that day.
I was sitting on bleachers in a school gymnasium. The old kind that pull out from the wall so that a couple hundred of kids can be grudgingly marched in to endure sitting on the cold and uncomfortable ridged benches. Made to sit through a speech or an assembly that they couldn’t care less about.
I sat, uncomfortable, feeling how sore I was even as I shifted my weight to try to find some way less numbing on my backside. I was leaning forward looking at the faces of the teens and trying to gauge their take on what they were listening to.
I could hear his voice. Not quite like it was the last time I heard it. It was a bit deeper, stronger really is the right word for how it sounded to me.
Confident. His cadence in his speech was steady and smooth. My eyes trailed over the crowd and drifted to rest on him.
He sat on a single chair in front of the kids. Glasses, dark and classic frames. He was dressed simply and well put together. Jeans, dark and crisp. Shoes, loafers that were shined and obviously well cared for. A button down shirt, tidy and pressed. Open just a bit at the neck with the sleeves rolled up, immaculately done just so. Casual and comfortable but well presented. Clearly thought had been put into how he dressed. A young man, tall with a lean build and broad shoulders. A wide grin with a bit of smirk to it as he smiled often during his talk. Nothing less than I would expect to see.
In my dream, there was the “him” that he was when he died. All the nuances that made him who he was when he was 16, just more defined; the few years of growing up in the dream had set more deeply who he was.
He held his hands loosely together on his knees as he leaned forward slightly while he talked. An easy gesture. He looked so at ease.
His voice though was what I couldn’t draw myself away from.
He was talking about the day he decided he was going to die.
The day that he made the choice to go through with what he had been wanting and planning for. He talked about the journals he kept that showed his spiral into defeat of his mental illness.
He talked about fear. His fear that he would hurt someone, that he wanted to, but that at the same time, he so desperately didn’t want to. He spoke of how afraid he was of what or who he would become as his mental illness grew. He told them of his fear of his own mind. How scared he was by the voices and by the thoughts that crept through his mind, unwanted by him but not able to be ignored. He told them of his terror that he was losing himself. He explained how deeply he believed, then, that the only option to make things okay was for him to be dead.
He spoke of giving up. Of just not wanting to ever wake up again. He shared that he held on as long as he could, until he just couldn’t anymore.
He told them how resigned he was to that day being the end. Not happy exactly, but glad; comfortable with his decision and certain it was the best choice. He told them how he tried not to think about being found. But that it did worry him, how it would affect the person or people who were going to. He told them about how he tried to make sure it wouldn’t be too bad for the person who did find him.
He read the suicide notes that he had written to his family. Saying goodbye and trying in some way to explain the “why”, even though he knew they couldn’t really understand. Wishing them happiness. He explained how badly he believed that it was the best decision he could make. He tried to express how sorry he was.
He took a deep breath as he paused in his talk and looked at the gathering of teenagers that sat in silence and listened to him. He told them how mad he was when he woke up in the hospital. Still alive. He told them that it wasn’t a magical moment of realizing regret and that all of his problems didn’t go away. He told them how hopeless he still felt then. He stood up and paced and explained how hard it was to decide to stay after that. How, living with a mental illness can be like being an addict; every day was one day at a time, and he had to learn to live with the reality that it would most likely always be that way.
He stopped pacing and stood looking at them all and he smiled. The smile of his that lit up his eyes with a spark that was so bright that it made my face light up even as I watched him. He said simply, how happy he was that he made it. That he was still alive.
I woke up from my dream then. I awoke from a now that doesn’t exist and never will. That version of “now” can’t exist because that day, Willie did die. There was no waking up in the hospital for him. There was a police car waiting for me when I got home asking me if my son’s name was…. there was me frantically calling his dad only to be met with him answering with the words “I know, the police are here”…there was me arriving at his brother’s and grandparent’s home to break the news. There is a “now” that exists without him in it. There is waking up everyday and making the decision to keep trying, even though it’s hard, because that’s what I wish he had done.