It was knife’s fork tongued tip of two little spikes that made me realise I had a way out. The white plastic handle and a serrated edge added to the reassuring look of being the sharpest thing in the kitchen. A simple matter of going down stairs on yet another sleepless 3am and ending my worries with a two handed stab in to the gut. The knife raised above the head like they used to do in Julius Caesar type films.
But course I am no depressed. Certainly not going to put my brains on the wall with a shot gun. I was 15 under the cloud of an impassable O’level exam at the time I contemplated that knife in a dark kitchen. What stopped me was the fear that it might hurt. I crept back to bed disappointed, relieved and resigned.
It dawned on me that this suicide thing was not that easy to pull off. The only knot I knew to tie was a shoe lace that easily unravelled if you pulled the wrong end. All the hooks in the house were occupied by fans and there was certainly no rope that looked strong enough to hold my weight and let alone kill me. Poison was not even considered. No idea why. May be because there weren’t any bottles clearly labelled with a skull and crossed bones. Our house wasn’t tall enough for a killing fall. Anyway I’m terrified of heights.
In hindsight, I doubt that knife would have killed me. It was a fancy bread knife gifted by an Europe dwelling relative. At the worst it would have injured me quite badly if not for a healthy lack of physical courage. I resigned myself to the inevitable humiliation of failing the exams and a life of shame. Live a recluse in a crumbling old house at the end of a ridiculously long deserted dirt road lined with dead trees. Romesh Gunesekera’s Monkfish Moon and the chapter “Thanikama” in Running in the Family paints crisper images of the specifics better than I can.
I passed the exam. Of the distinctions I got (the coveted “D”s) the one for mathematics was a particularly numbing shock. My only explanation way that the exam that year had been easy. After all the practice questions I used to do were much harder. If I had known how easy it was I wouldn’t have got so worked up or spent all those stressful hours studying or planning my death. A pre-planned universe shattered, blowing up carefully built barriers against life’s possibilities. The experience was traumatic in its own way. I never spoke about it to anyone accept spousal unit.
Yet this so called “trauma” pales in insignificance to the misery I would have caused if I had succeed with that knife. The ripples of unhappiness I could have caused scares me to this day. My death would have had a fatal effect on a frail grand parent. Most certainly devastated my parents at a level too terrible to contemplate. The thought of them grieving is still the most gut churning fear I have about getting snuffed out by a bomb blast or a brakeless speeding bus. In outer ripples of consequences are the people inconvenienced by the obligation to attend the funeral. It won’t be the kind of easy affair where you sit on plastic chairs and chat with people you don’t meet that often. Funerals of young people throw up a stifling exhausting humidity of grief. Thankfully I have so far been spared of them as an adult.
When you are young, quiet and jailer of your emotions it is so dangerously easy to do something stupid. Such as adding to Sri Lanka’s suicide statistics. Cenro as you may have realised is a bit of a flickering low watt bulb in terms of intellect. But I’m thankful I had enough neurones in me not to turn out the lights.
There are many, much brighter than me who were unhappy enough to take the plunge. There are still more who are considering the act. You might know one or more. If you did, what would you do? Here’s a place to start.