Tuesday, November 13th, 2001 | 0:00
The Commoner's Guide To Suicide (pt.4 and pt.5)

Step Four: There's always something better out there. It's in here that's the problem.

I spent the better part of two weeks with Eli after thanking Jack for his hospitality. He really didn't even notice that I was leaving since he and Tara had both decided to simultaneously confess to their affairs. So Jack's life went into the shitter and I took a cab to the Bronx to stay with Eli. And it was during those weeks that I found myself for the first time. In a small, lonely apartment in the middle of a mass of humanity. It was there that I realized that I, myself, would be the only one accountable for my own happiness. Everything and everyone else just didn't matter somehow. And through that I discovered that eventually I would have to make sure that they did.

Eli spent most of his time just sitting in the kitchen looking out the window. I found it sad that he had lived a life inside himself and surfaced only to find a hideous reality in which he found little comfort. Of all the people I've known in my life Eli deserved the greatest amount of happiness. Simply because he never asked for anything. Simply because nothing was ever asked. There was a time when I used to dream that Eli had settled down and got married. He'd bring his kids over to my place and we'd sit around and talk about sports and politics and life in general. But I always awoke to the realization that Eli killed people for a living and would never know the simple pleasures of such activities. And you know, somewhere in there I realized that there isn't anything premeditated about us, even though we do our best to convince ourselves otherwise. There's just a long fly ball to center field and the sun's in your eyes. So maybe you come up with the ball, maybe you don't. The only thing that separates us as human beings is the specifics of the play.

Everyone's got their own different concerns. So maybe you're going back for that ball and there's runners in scoring position and your team's down a run. Maybe the bases are empty and it's only the second inning. It doesn't really matter in the end, you see. It's whether you catch the damn ball or not that matters. Because that's just you, singularly, tested by both the ball and yourself. The sun's just in your head. So let it go.

For those two weeks I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what to do next. Eli's situation, though giving me ample excuses to wax poetic on life and it's mysteries, was none the less making me rather uncomfortable. So at the end of those two weeks I decided that my great American adventure had come to an end. I rationalized this by telling myself I had uncovered everything that I had set out to find. It was a lie of course, but then again what mostly isn't these days. I came to the conclusion that I'd head back to San Francisco and give writing a serious go, even though I had a degree in biology and didn't know the first thing about publishing and the rest of it. So I left Eli standing at the door to his apartment block and got into a cab. He waved a slight wave and quickly returned to the confines of his sanctuary. I continued on to JFK and then home to Austin for a while before returning to coast. My mother had been kind enough to spring for my flights so I couldn't refuse a quick stop over at home to appease her never ending complaints that I rarely endeavor to visit or call. And that was the last I saw of Eli Lemski. We would never cross paths again.

Step Five: Guts enough to swallow hard and just do what you gotta.

As I sit here years later I am comforted by the fact that I took the time to explain myself. My wife often asks me whether or not I'm contented with the fact that I write children's books for a living. And I always reply 'it's better than stocking shelves in a Houston supermarket'. Of course, she has no idea what I mean when I say that and I've never told her the whole truth about Eli and what he did. A few years ago I published my first work of adult fiction entitled 'Street Oracle'. During my research for that book I decided to look up Eli as one of the characters was loosely based on him. To my dismay I came across his name in a New Jersey newspaper. It seems that his body was discovered in an Atlantic City dumpster a few days after his death. He was shot in the head at point blank range multiple times. It's something I try not to visualize but often do. I wonder whether his eyes were open or closed. Because it makes me depressed to think that, even in death, he was robbed of his one true worldly gift. The power of observation. And it seems strange to me that for someone that was so observant he could never see that it was always right in front of his face. Maybe if I hadn't taken him to the shooting range then he'd still be alive. Blaming myself always seems easier than looking for another reason, even if it is just a blind alley. That way a part of him remains in me and I remember everything. Because remembering is important. Maybe of the utmost importance. The thing that burns me the most is that for someone like Eli there are never any easy roads or happy endings. Life just happens like it's paint by numbers and you only have one colour. Maybe just red.

So now I write books for kids and my biggest critics are my two daughters. And you know, that ain't so bad. So this one's for Eli Lemski. And maybe a little for me as well...


Rest easy people.

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