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I'm not sure how it's been seven years since my essay "Downbound Train" was published. Nor how it was published on the day of Robin Williams' death. But here we are.

· Essay,NAILED Magazine,Robin Williams,Be Cool,Suicide
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NAILED Magazine very kindly published "Downbound Train" in 2014. That's a lifetime ago. It later appeared in my essay collection Be Cool. But I'll always associate it with coming out on the day Robin Williams died. You can read it here. And there's excerpt below. Thanks.


"“You never think about death?” my now wife, then girlfriend, Debbie asked me shortly after we first met.

“No, why would I?” I replied.

“Because you’re worried about what the world will look like without you in it and whether anyone will notice you’re gone regardless?” she said.

“No, sorry, never,” I said.

"And I meant it.

"What does it feel like before you step off of a ledge? What is that moment like? Do you teeter or plunge? Is it a culmination of steps, moments of constant despair and pain leading to that moment? Or is it impulsive, sudden and volatile, grabbed with ferocity? What does it sound like after that step? Do you feel the wind in your face? Do you wonder if in fact you can float, or fly?

"I thought about all of this when the author Ned Vizzini leapt to his death while home visiting his family on the East Coast, a place that was ostensibly safe for him, a harbor, but in this case, and at this time, was not. Was it easier for him to jump while visiting a place he knew and had roots in? And was it easier for him to know that his wife and child wouldn’t have to find him because they were home on the West Coast? That it would all happen at a distance, thus not quite as real for them? Removing the ongoing reminders that it happened where they live, even while being no less jolting, or painful. Can the victim of suicide even clearly think through these things? Is it possible that this may be the only moment they feel they’ve been able to clearly think in some time? Or is this kind of thinking only available to those left behind?

"I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, and I didn’t know Ned Vizzini. I also don’t know how often he thought about his death, or whether the possibility of it seemed like a gift. Not an end to life, but an end to what seemed impossible to him, living how he was living and had been for so long. But I did listen to an interview with him not so long before he died, where he joked about death constantly, and I wondered later, whether that was his way of coping, and distancing himself from his past attempts at suicide, or whether these comments were the seedlings of what was to come.

"I don’t know suicide either, not the hold that the idea of it must have on your brain once it clenches, or at least I didn’t until Ned Vizzini took his life, and I had to re-order my thinking about all of that."