My new therapist Katarina and I were talking about suicide last week, and she told me a story about a man she met who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.
He told her that he had regretted it the moment he leaped, like when Wile E. Coyote looks down and realizes that the cliff he’s been running on is no longer there. In that split second, the man knew that he wanted to live. He miraculously survived and now helps other people who struggle with what the pros like to call “suicidal ideation.”
I like to believe that Rob was Wile E. Coyote. He often leaped without looking, but I don’t think he had planned to kill himself that night. Whenever I try to piece it all together, I always come to the same conclusion—that what he did was both opportunistic and impulsive. Shooting yourself with two other people in the room who you’ve been drinking and playing video games with all night is just not a premeditated act. And don’t forget about Biscuit, the cat he had rescued and cared for with all of his heart.
We’ll never know what he was thinking in that horrible moment when he pulled the trigger, and I’m not saying that he hadn’t contemplated taking his own life—I’m pretty sure he had been thinking about it for some time. I’m just suggesting that, like a lot of Rob’s plans, this one played out differently than he’d thought.
I’ve heard that people who are suicidal commonly have blinders on. They can’t see past their pain. They can’t bear feeling the way they feel. They just want it to stop. They don’t think about the people who love them. They don’t think about getting help. They don’t think that anything can ever change. They only see one way out. Rob—drunk, depressed, desperate—saw an opportunity, grabbed it and that was that.
Unfortunately, there’s no going back when you put a gun in your mouth. There’s no edge of a cliff to hang on to, no chance of surviving a fall into San Francisco Bay. It was one and done, which reminds me of another classic Looney Tunes cartoon.
It’s the one where Bugs and Daffy are performing vaudeville acts and they’re going back and forth, trying to top each other, with Bugs always getting the better of Daffy until we get to the end. Bugs has just finished juggling and the audience is applauding when Daffy runs on stage and says, “I hate you! Now you’ve forced me to use the act I’ve held back for a special occasion. Just try and top this one!”
He proceeds to drink nitro glycerin, a goodly amount of gun powder, some Uranium-238 and then lights a match—“Girls, you better hold on to your boyfriends!”—and swallows it.
Kaboom! He blows himself up (I remember loving this when I was a little kid) and the audience erupts with applause.
“That’s terrific, Daffy!” says Bugs. “They want more!”
“I know, I know,” says Daffy, who is now a ghost, “but I can only do it once!” And then Daffy rises toward Heaven right before the closing credits music kicks in, accompanied by the famous words, “That’s all, folks!”
That’s what I imagine Rob saying right before he did what he did.