I stand outside, chain-smoking, shaking – with fear and trepidation, rather than cold – and pray to a God I don’t believe in for this not to be happening. The wind appropriately spins through the leafy trees, as if giving them ethereal, sinister words, though their content is not understood by my ears.
A shaky voice speaks that, although alien to me, sounds somehow like my own. It quivers through various relevant and, seemingly, irrelevant minutiae to an efficient voice down a telephonic receiver. The efficient voice is punctuated by pauses during which its owner is heard to speedily type notes into a computer network, in preparation – or, at least, I hope in preparation – for action.
The exact nature of that action? Only time will tell, and time has not yet been kind enough to pass. On the other hand, the more time allows itself to pass slowly, painfully, the more I can delude myself that we have time. But I am not, truly, convinced that we do.
Tick tock. Tick tock. That innocent, everyday noise, so subtle in its levels of sound, so often forgotten in the passing of ordinary living, is made deafening, infernal and loathesome.
I wait. I worry. I worry both for the valid reasons I have acted, and also for the massive betrayal I have just enacted in taking that action. What I have done, whilst probably objectively morally right, has involved the conscious and deliberate betrayal of a good and close friend. My conscious and deliberate betrayal of my good and close friend.
Does life matter to me more than friendship? In this case, it does. But the distress that I feel, although selfish, eats at my soul, such as my soul is. At what point does betraying our friends’ trust in us become ethically justified? At what point does my own hypocrisy fail to matter to me? Who can rightfully decide to be the potential arbiter of another’s fate, and why do they presume the right to be so?
It seems cold, calculated even, to write this right here, right now. To a morally sound populace, I should probably be taking more action, even if that action centres around betrayal. But I have tried every avenue possible to address this – or, at least, every avenue of which I am aware. My options seem exhausted. All that can remain is for me to wait. To re-overcome my terror of the phone, and re-contact the efficient voice to see if action has been taken. To see if that action has produced a favourable – or, indeed, otherwise – result.
The action that will probably destroy a friendship, but may save a life.
The action that may not save that life, thus rendering the destruction of that friendship anyway. My supposedly morally necessary betrayal may have been too late.
Either way, I wait. Just wait, typing this pretentious and self-important yet completely earnest and, to me, appropriate bilge, not knowing what else to do with my fingers, my mind, my anything.
I am not prone to cryptic prose, and I am particularly not prone to writing in the present tense. In fact, it is a linguistic convention that wholly pisses me off. I don’t know what came over me in writing the above and I am glad I waited before I published it.
I’m sure you can gather the basics of the situation I found myself in tonight (yesterday, whatever). A friend expressed possible suicidal intent, although admittedly the content was potentially ambiguous. A mutual friend and I tried to contact this person in innumerate ways – text messages, Facebollocks, Twitter, and even, yes, the bloody phone.
Nothing was forthcoming until, sometime after 11pm, my dear, loving friend sent a message to our mutual friend, which removed all possible ambiguity from the situation. The writing and tone of the message suggested to me – yeah, me, that fucking expert on human fucking psychology – that our friend had perhaps already taken something lethal. At the very least, it seemed that such an eventuality was imminent.
So. I took action. I called the police.
I was on the phone, trembling both out of fear for my friend’s life and, pathetically selfishly, over my overwhelming phone phobia. To my chagrin, I spoke to an officer for nearly 20 minutes. 20 fucking minutes, whilst my friend could be out there, dying, as we spoke.
I remained civil and obedient, however, and dutifully if shakily answered all the questions that the woman on the other end asked of me. Eventually she gave me a reference number, advised that a team had been dispatched to my friend’s house, and said I could call back later to see how things had gone.
Then I waited, listening to that bloody clock and its fucking tick tocking. Who knew that such a benign sound could be transmogrified into something so ugly?
Anyway, in the meantime I rang our mutual friend; let’s call her Jen. Not something, as you know, that I’d normally be inclined to do, but Jen seemed to be the only one that could understand this whole, horrible living nightmare. Our shared terror somehow served to…not comfort me, exactly, but make me feel less alone.
Conversation completed, I returned to my waiting. I didn’t want to call the cops again too soon and them have no news for me, but about an hour after I’d rang off with them the first time, I gave in and dialled their number for the second time. I spoke to a friendly bloke that advised me that my friend had been at home, hadn’t actually tried to commit suicide but had indeed admitted to feeling depressed. My friend – B, let’s say – told them that B’s next-of-kin would be with B all night, and that B would go to B’s GP first thing in the morning.
The cops said that as far as they’re concerned B is safe. I hope and trust that this is correct.
Panic about B’s suicide hopefully over, though, I am now (even more) mulling over the consequences of what I have done. B surely hates me. I would hate me. I betrayed B; B explicitly stated that B didn’t want any search parties, and I just sent the fucking cops round.
Good call, Pan. You fucking bitch.
All I can say, B, if you’re reading this, is that I did it out of love and concern for you. You are not the burden, the mess, that you think you are. You are strong, smart, witty, kind and caring, selfless, achingly good-looking and very, very talented. You have been a wonderful friend to me, and I’m sorry that I have not reciprocated, both tonight and in the past.
I can’t, won’t and don’t blame you for hating me. I’m a hypocrite and a Judas. But your life has so much value, even if you can’t see that right now. So I acted on instinct and decided to take that life into my hands. I’m sorry for being so presumptuous, so self-important, that I felt I had to take your control and agency away from you.
But I hope you can maybe see, later if not now, that I did it out of love for you, and in recognition of your value on this plane. Words, mere words, I know. They don’t make up for betraying the privilege of your trust. The sentiments behind them, however, are sincere.
For now – forever – be safe. xxxx