Morgan was knocking on the bathroom door. She wanted to know why I was crying when I was meant to be showering.
I was crying because my brain had played a cruel trick on me last night. It conjured a dream in which all the characters from the comic strip "Peanuts" represented myself and friends. Charlie Brown, the familiar but awkward everyman of the series, was absent from every scene, and in that way, heavily present.
I knew that Charlie Brown was absent because Charlie Brown had committed suicide.
I knew that Charlie Brown was my friend Matt Despears.
The familiar Peanuts imagery passed by: Linus (who was me), sat at the wall, but with nobody to talk to. Lucy held out the football, but nobody was there to kick it. Snoopy sat at his doghouse with an empty bowl, and nobody was there to greet him. And so on.
Then the characters, in silence, moved on with their lives, and the title scrolled by the screen... "We Miss You, Charlie Brown".
And so, that morning, I found myself in the shower, crying.
Why Peanuts? I don't know. I wouldn't describe myself as an overly energetic fan of the series. I also don't give too much credit for dream imagery as being necessarily important, since I think much tends to be the byproduct of the cleanup processes of the brain. But it hit home hard, probably because the imagery is so very familiar and repetitive, and so the absence of a key component amongst that familiarity stands out strongly. And maybe Charlie Brown just a good fit for Matt: awkward but loveable.
It has now been over six years since Matt has passed, and I find myself thinking of him often, usually when I have the urge to check in with him and remember that he isn't there. Before this recent move I was going through old drives and CDs and cleaning out and wiping out old junk, and found an archive of old chat logs from when I was a teenager. I found myself reliving old conversations, and most of it was utter trash... I felt embarrassed with my past self and nearly deleted the entire archive. But then I went through and read those chat logs with Matt. I can't say they were of any higher quality... my conversations with Matt seemed even more absurd on average than the rest. But I kept the chat logs. I didn't want to lose that history.
I felt compelled to write this up, and I don't entirely know why. I also nearly didn't write this up, because I think maybe this kind of writing can be dangerous. That may sound absurd, but I can speak from my experience of someone who frequently experiences suicidal ideation that the phrase "would anyone really miss me when I'm gone" comes to mind, and maybe this reinforces that.
I do think that society tends to romanticize depression and suicide in some strange ways, particularly this belief that suffering makes art greater. A friend of mine pointed this out to me for the first time in reference to John Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces", often advertised and sold to others by, "and the author committed suicide before it was ever published!" But it would have been better to have more books by John Toole instead.
So as for "will anyone miss me if I'm gone", I want to answer that without romanticizing it. The answer is just "Yes, but it would be better if you were here."
A group of friends and I got together to play a board game recently. We sat around the table and had a good time. I drew a picture of "Batpope", one of Matt's favorite old jokes, and we left it on an empty spot at the table for Matt. But we would have rathered that Matt was there. His absence was felt. And that's usually how it is... like in the dream, we pass through the scenes of our lives, and we carry on, but there's a missing space, and one can feel the shape. There's no romance to that... just absence and memories.
We miss you, Matt Despears.