February 27, 2024 | Rome, Italy

“I want to die”

By |2024-02-23T15:15:10+01:00December 31st, 2023|Area 51|
The Angel of Death by Edvard Munch.

y friend’s line had me by the throat: I want to die. I get it in phone calls and in messages, day and night, late and early, never deviating from its solitary eloquence. I want to die.

Who is this friend? Best keep it vague. A woman. Thirties. Living in a European city. Multilingual. Lovely at heart. Someone, it would seem, with a great deal to live for.

But the spice of life doesn’t belong to all. For some, the day-to-day is rank if not putrid,

People afflicted by these dead-end moods may try to dispatch to therapists or “manage” through medication. They are, no matter their numbers, the aberrant, our lepers, but these days, thankfully, they can be repaired – or so we tell ourselves.

But some lepers consider the cure worse than the disease. They rebuff the efforts of those who push them toward head-shrinking. They treasure the privacy as a dark amulet.

My friend is among these.

And so it is that she wants to die, the world an absurdity circumscribed by philosopher Emil Cioran, who snorted at normal demands. Better to consider “normal” life’s ensemble of demands ridiculous, absurd, comic.

What’s left, for those who prize traditional success, are the mean outcroppings called depression, despondency, even despair, and with them the abandon-all mantra I want to die.

The dilemma arises when the I want to die protagonist cannot take her own life. I want to live annoyingly gets in the way of its much-repeated antithesis. This stalemate is tantamount to a to a window seat in purgatory, and there it is my friend resides.

The death-wish courtship – broken self-esteem, work reversals, a world savaged by COVID’s “common good” atrocities – is denied its spelling out. There is no mention of a life enslaved to algorithms that promise choices so abundant the goal of bettering one’s parents (for generations a youth yardstick) becomes exhausting, if not futile. What’s left, for those who prize traditional success, are the mean outcroppings called depression, despondency, even despair, and with them the abandon-all mantra I want to die.

And though so far forestalled, it’s still very real. It’s the elephant in rational conversation’s otherwise unprepossessing room, always ready to make an appearance. Some dismiss the line, invoking the “cry wolf” or “three strikes” rule, which hold that those who repeat exit lines are just dramatists. This in turn is kin to the wailing baby paradigm: rush in to make things right, at times impossible, or let the (I want to die) crying cry itself out.

But a baby at least has no other attention-getting mechanism.

An adult has many. And more to the point an adult can seek ways and means of stanching the bleed.

Unless it has no wish to.

Unless the death wish spoken aloud is part and parcel of character, a new-century way of announcing an olden line: I’m mad (or sad) as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore, a line even a veteran demagogue like Donald Trump knows to play on. To those who want to die he promises to knock all the pieces off the board, again.

And even my I want to die friend can’t help but listen. Because she wants out from what is, both outside and in, and such an escape wish is at least momentarily distracted by anyone willing, like Cioran, like Trump, to tinker with extremes.

This morning I received the following message:

It is 4:22 a.m. and I am trying again. If I succeed this time you can write my story.

In fact, dying has not been tried before. So far it’s been threat after threat, more than enough to compose music from pain.

Will I want to die get the literal upper hand tonight? I don’t know. I do know I am here to write the story, which may in fact be part of the end’s soul-teasing allure.

About the Author:

Christopher P. Winner is a veteran American journalist and essayist who was born in Paris in 1953 and has lived in Europe for more than 30 years.