Live and Let Die


I’m speaking with a man I don’t know well, though I’ve seen him around for a few years.  We are leaving a high school pops concert.  My daughter just finished a complicated, half-hour chamber orchestra performance.  They played McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.” His daughter had four solos in the Varsity choir.  Our girls are best friends.

“So, there was all this blog drama! I got like, 284 hits,” I say. “Anonymous called me, essentially, a selfish, shitty parent for being bipolar!” I talk and swear too much.  Even more when nervous.

“People are jerks.  I had a suicide attempt, too.” He says.  It is matter-of-fact, like he’s reciting his Social Security number or birthday.  Asking for salt or pepper.

We walk out to my station wagon, talking the whole time about grad school and discipline and skyrocketing student loans.  I grab Astera’s duffel bag out of my chaotic and cluttered Volvo, trying to hide the seven empty packs of cigarettes on the floor. Tonight, the darkness is my friend and keeps my car looking like it’s just full of regular crap, not my addictions and neurosis: smokes, crumpled Redbull cans, empty coffee cups that clink and smash when I drive.

We toss the duffel bag full of thermals and sweaters and thick tights into his minivan. They are going skiing this weekend and taking Astera along. I want to smoke, but I am on school grounds.

It’s brutal and biting, the cold, and it makes the tips of my fingers ache. If it was nice, we could speak for hours, tossing out similarities or differences in our stories, the people we have met along the way.  How we came to be on this night standing in front of a Minneapolis high school when he’s from out West. I’m from blue-collar Michigan.

“Where’d you go after you attempt?”  He rubs his hands together, blows on his fingertips to stay warm.This is a conversation we can’t have inside the hallways with the madness of post-performing students and parents all mixed up, looking for their congratulations and rides home.

“Fairview.”  I say with joy.  It’s the Hilton of psych wards.  Much better than the county hospital.


“2001. Astera was five, I guess.”

“Wow.  Mine was then, too.”

“Station 30?”  Since I just finished serializing SMILE, the place is sharp and fresh in my mind – as if it was yesterday.

“You know it.”

“We could’ve been great, crazy friends,” I say.

“Yes, we could’ve.”

For the past several years, I’ve been nervous of him.  I know he runs an organization that talks about depression, how it affects men, how it silences them.  He looks put-together with nice pants and a button-down shirt and tiny glasses.  Brown loafers.  They live in a pretty gray house with a tuck-under garage and a bay window in the city. I’m sure they have sit-down family dinners, that their house isn’t tossed with clutter.

But on this night, standing out in the 10 below chill, I realize I was judging him more than he ever judged me.  All along, we could have been friends – just seconds away from meeting in a group room at Fairview when we were screwed up and lost and looking for any way out.

I told him to have fun skiing.  I told him to read my blog.  I didn’t tell him I’m sorry for being a judgmental jerk, that we should be friends.  But I think he can read that, now, for himself.


6 Responses to “Live and Let Die”

  1. 4 helena mallett

    Love the pace of this piece …

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