Here’s what you tell someone who wants to commit suicide: The moment that gunshot goes through your head, you’ll wish you hadn’t done it. When the chair leaves your feet you’ll struggle to get on solid ground again. You tell them they’ve been burning bridges for so long and maybe now it’s time to just find their way across. They can use a cane or a walker or a goddamn police escort, but they’ve got to get over that bridge.
But don’t force them to get over that bridge if they don’t want to. Never push them any further than they want to go. Be gentle, be patient, be kind. Love them. Stay with them and spend time with them and let them cry. And don’t you dare tell them to dry up those tears. Let them fall, and then you give them a list of one-hundred-fifty goddamn reasons why they’re too beautiful for tears. Try to make them believe it; show them how much you care.
Tell them you’ll light one candle for every night they keep themselves alive. Tell them you hope by the end of the year you’ll have a house burning brighter than the molten core of the sun. Take their sadness and give it a good talking-to. Sit it down on the sofa and look it in the eyes, say I want you to give this person their life back. Make it comply. Bind it up with duct tape and tie its hands to the back of the sofa with rope if you have to. Get a confession out of it; play the good cop-bad cop routine if necessary. And you’d better make damn sure that at the end of the day that sadness will be bruised and bloody, broken beyond repair, and not the other way around.
Throw all the plates in the cupboard against the wall. Make this person listen to the sound of them shattering. Tell them you don’t want that to happen to them; make them pick up all the splintered pieces with their bare hands until they get the idea. Even if it takes all night. Then invite this person to dinner at your apartment, and serve them a four-course meal on your best dishes. Let that metaphor, that analogy, rest in their body till it burns their bones. Say, if you don’t kill yourself, then all these plates will be yours. I promise you that.
Take them out to the rooftop of your apartment, and stand as close to the edge as both of you can. Make them close their eyes. Ask them what they feel. And if they feel fear, or loathing at you for making them do this, tighten your grip around their waist and lead them back inside. Look in their eyes and hold their gaze, and tell them this: you were afraid because you still had something left to live for.
Allow them to sleep in. But when they’re just waking up, bleary-eyed and tender, and they want to stay in bed under the warm covers, rip all those covers off. Strip the bed til it’s as naked as their soul, and then say If you kill yourself you’ll sleep forever. Then open all the blinds and let the light in; take their hand and lead them to the window. Look at the beauty out there, you’ll say. Look at the wind and the earth and the flowers in the garden! If you sleep forever you’ll miss all that.
But above all put your ear to their chest and listen to their heartbeat. Then listen to their words, and listen to every single one that pours out of them. I don’t care if it takes hours, or days or weeks or even years. You need to be there and hear what they have to say. And when all those words are gone and they’re left empty and bone-dry, I want you to fill them back up with your love and your willingness to help them heal. Let them know you would walk through fire and swim through floods and journey across barren landscapes for them.
Now here’s what you tell someone who wants to commit suicide, and this will be the simplest word of all, but the most difficult to say: Stay.
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