Reality can certainly be a rather unpleasant intruder

Reality can certainly be a rather unpleasant intruder

Heard from a friend the other day who casually mentioned suicide.

That’s what he wrote, anyway, but I’ve known him for a long time and he’s given to hyperbolic exaggeration; still, you don’t want to mess around with that kind of life-or-death tipping point. I mean let’s face it: If the word “suicide” appears in an email, you have to do something, even if it’s just to say, “Take a breath, slow down, you don’t want to do anything rash, something that’s completely final.”

I remember watching a controversial Netflix series a few years back, something titled “13 Reasons Why.” Aside from the fact its whole point revolved around seeing a teenage girl actually slash her wrists in a bathtub — hideous, even by streaming service standards — the rest of it was boilerplate teenage angst, not that much different from milestones like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

But then there was that scene. I don’t know about you, but actually having to watch Hannah die was incredibly, overpoweringly, undeniably awful. I know it was only TV, only an actor playing a part, but it was appallingly real, at least to me.

I could go on and on about whether or not “13 Reasons” was something that ought to have been aired, made available to impressionable teens, but there’s nothing to be gained from that.

Anyone who saw her die at her own hand isn’t likely to forget it.

It’s a counterpoint to that “suicide is painless” lyric from the title track from Robert Altman’s landmark antiwar film, “M*A*S*H.”

Hard to believe that was 1971, but even harder to believe I watched it in the family station wagon, having gone to the drive-in.

Alone.

I did that more often than any of my friends, most of whom had healthy social habits, by which I mean they actually worked up the nerve to ask girls out for real dates, the kind I had a hard time pulling off, though I did try it once in high school. Probably not the best idea, taking a sophomore lass to see “Deliverance,” when I was a senior who’d read the novel and really wanted to see the film.

You could ask a hundred high school girls about their worst movie experiences, and I’m willing to wager my date would win the prize. Oh, you know what made it worse? I spilled orange drink all over her nice halter top as I tried to present dinner at the Ponderosa.

There’s a special place in the skies reserved for that sweetie.

So the only thing left for me to do after I’d dropped her off was to head downtown to my favorite spot. And what song was playing on the jukebox as I sat down at the bar? C’mon. I know you know this.

The movie’s theme song, as in, “Paddle faster … I hear banjos.”

Ah, the soundtrack of my youth: “You done made a wrong turn.”

Oh, and one other thing about that night. The last time I was home, I ran into her father and still called him “Mister,” not daring to use his first name, though he encouraged me to do just that. No way I was going to get that familiar, not after what had transpired back when I was 18 years old and shouldn’t have been anywhere near his charming daughter, not with my stunted social skills on display.

It never occurred to me to kill myself, though. The way I looked at it, it could actually have been worse. I could have gotten a flat tire or left my wallet at home or worn my McGovern-Shriver T-shirt.

It’s a good thing when you know you haven’t yet hit rock bottom.

Judas Iscariot is, to my knowledge, the only suicide in the Bible.

There may be others. It’s been a while since I sat down with the Good Book — with any book, actually — but nothing else springs to mind. Though God only knows what with all the pestilence and famine, the floods and lightning bolts, the plagues and the doom promised to sinners who stepped the least bit out of line, someone somewhere between Sodom and Gomorrah must have been tempted to pull the proverbial plug. Millennia later, of course, Jim Carroll would write a killer song titled “People Who Died,” the highlight of an album titled, not without irony, “Catholic Boy.”

Who could recall a lyric like “Bobby OD’d on Drano on the night that he was wed” and not be reminded of folks who just gave up?

“He was a friend of mine,” screams the artist, “and he died.”

Take my advice and steer clear of that record unless, like me, you’ve listened to it so many times that you’re inured to its pain.

Cautionary tales come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re mostly ignored because we’re all too busy, too self-absorbed to notice. We get hung up on loss of love, money woes, jobs that hang by spider-web threads, homes that might be taken overnight — just me stuff.

Whether or not my email response to my friend made any difference isn’t anything I’ll probably ever know. We’re about the same age, and to quote Jackson Browne, “When I stood myself beside him, I never thought I was as strong.” It’s just beyond me.

And that’s where I must leave this tale, though I wish I could have ended it in a more satisfying way. Imagine that. Another failure.

You’d think, you honestly would, that I’d be used to it by now.

Mike Dewey can be reached at Carolinamiked@aol.com or 6211 Cardinal Drive, New Bern, NC 28560. He invites you to join the fun on his Facebook page, where no one ever squeals like a piggy.