My friend Brian Day (“Big guy with earring,” 30 March 2003) committed suicide just before Christmas. In true biker fashion, he did it with nitrous oxide – which his girlfriend told me was a good thing. “At least it’s painless,” she said. In a fathomless situation, you take solace in small things like that.
I met Brian through a common friend, and immediately he said to me, “We’re going to be good friends. I feel a bond with you.” I felt it too, but as I hadn’t had as many over-the-edge experiences as he had, I still wasn’t as direct in life as he was. (And, regrettably, I still am not.)
Brian was 59 when he died, but his vigor and, ironically, his embrace of life, made him appear so much younger to me. Perhaps it is those who love life so much who have a harder time bearing its essential contradictions.
When someone dies, you better hope there is no important unfinished business between the two of you. Brian and I were all unfinished business. We had plans. We were going to go to Burning Man together; we were going to take a road trip (one of his gigs was reviewing motorcycles for biker mags); mostly, we were going to get to know each other and begin the adventure of real friendship.
Now, none of that is going to happen. Until I got the phone call Tuesday night, our plans were always in the back of my mind. They were part of the more raw, less cautious life I wanted for myself. One day, I told myself, I would get there.
I was honored by his friendship. I felt he saw in me the person I was working towards being, though I was still so far from it. He took me as I wanted to be, not as I was.
I have lost people close to me to illness, but this is the first time someone I cared deeply for has removed himself from this life by choice. Until now, I thought suicide was just an escape hatch for when life became overwhelming. Like most people, there were times I entertained the thought, but I was always too curious about what would come next to end my story there.
Still, suicide seemed a personal decision. After Brian’s suicide though, I realize that he has left us all hanging. The moments we could have shared have all been snatched away. He chose not only to end his life but the life we could have shared together.
I hope Brian had a good reason for taking his life because I sure have a good reason for wanting him still here.