He Promised He Wouldn’t Kill Himself (Essay)

Words by Rae Witte.

I called his phone three times–straight to voicemail. This can’t be possible. I spoke to him last week, twice.

Earlier in the day, I ran into a good girlfriend of mine en route back to the city from upstate New York. Her train was delayed, but I was boarding mine. I left her at the gate but we caught up over the phone for a few minutes. We talked about the weddings we went to over the weekend and how consistently shitty Amtrak is. When I got home, I passed out. I woke up to a text from her. I thought she had texted me to alert me that she was finally on her way back to the city.

“I don’t know how to tell you this, but you should hear it from me before you stumble across it somewhere else.”

What was she talking about? We were just tweeting to each other about my mom’s cookies and heading back to the city together. She sent me a screenshot of an exchange between her and her friend…

“*Derek* passed.”

I know a Derek. He’s young and cute. He smokes too many cigarettes, and is way too smart for his own good. He’s a great writer. His words make me feel, make me think. He is…

We connected on Twitter when sharing stories about being freelance writers and became #realfriends in the past year and a half. Our ranking of Kanye West’s top five songs are almost identical, but we couldn’t have more different taste in Drake songs. He’s honest, thoughtful, and so goddamn funny, but most importantly, he cares. He might love my dog more than I love my dog. Derek is my friend. He is…

“He killed himself.”

I had just woken up from accidentally passing out. It’s June, and I fell asleep in my jeans with one sneaker on. The only words I’m able to put together are, “Wait. What?”

“Derek. From L.A. Your friend.”

How? How could Derek be dead? I just FaceTimed with him Wednesday night. We G-chatted Friday. Furthermore, I asked him not to kill himself, repeatedly. He said the idea of mortality was interesting to him, in a kind of dark way, but he said he wouldn’t do it.

He promised me he wouldn’t kill himself. After he asked me not to make him cry in his tacos at a Taco Tuesday bar night because I told him he was too cute to be sad, he promised me he wouldn’t. After I told him we couldn’t keep fake planning our fake autumn wedding in Hudson Valley if his fascination with suicide was real, he promised me he wouldn’t. After I took screenshots of his most unsettling tweets and sent them to him, he fucking promised me he wouldn’t. Even the times that I texted him in the morning to make sure he was alive, I truly believed he wouldn’t. I’d reach out, I’d check in to show him someone cared–I cared. I believed he wouldn’t because Derek knew he could tell me anything, and he went above and beyond to make sure I knew I could do the same with him.

I sat there for a minute–no words, no motion. Derek lived in L.A. We hung out here in New York City. He even crashed at my place. But, I didn’t know any of Derek’s friends in Cali or his family.

I went to his Twitter page. Not as startlingly as I like to say, there were some suicidal type of tweets if I ever saw them. I switched to his Instagram. There in the photos that tagged him, I found friends posting their favorite memories with him with captions praying he finally rest in peace. I confirmed my friend took his life on Instagram.

I’m mad at him, like you get mad at that friend that is difficult, but with just one look they can make you laugh. More frustrated than when he loud-talked during my commute into the city, sending me into a damn near panic attack. More in disbelief than when he took one of my tampons and put it up his nose to stop it from bleeding as we walked down Broadway in broad daylight. And, more deflated than every time he poked holes in all the excuses I made for men that he told me should’ve valued me more. He told me he wouldn’t take his life and he fucking did it. I believed him. I want to shake him. I want to hug him. I want him to know how loved he is. I’m mad at him because I can no longer be there for him like he allowed me to, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

If you or someone you know needs someone to talk to we encourage you to call 1-800-273-8255 or  visit Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.*

1 comment

  1. It’s heartbreaking. Losing a friend who you so obviously love- even still, and share so many things, but they are suddenly yanked from your life. I can feel your pain and loss writing about Derek. Even still.

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