Dear friend, this is the point at which you enter the story, the point at which we met, the point that we experienced together. A series of points, really, of good times, of bad times, of highs and lows, of friendships lost and gained. I didn’t know what to do with my life at age 25, so I applied to a few law schools and took my LSAT. Studying gave me something to do. I had finished college, obtained my BA, dual majoring in philosophy and political science. Not the kind of combination for which the money just rolls right in. So I did what every other jaded political science major does, and applied to grad school. I couldn’t stand blood and guts, so I couldn’t be a doctor. Teachers were worked too much and paid too little. So I guess law school was the only other option. It would (did) make my parents proud. If only they had known what would happen to me. Anyways, my friend had told me about USF, University of San Francisco. I had already applied to Seattle University, a Jesuit college, some school in New York, Berkeley and now USF. I didn’t much consider it. You have to write some school codes in those boxes at the LSAT, so why not these codes? It’s not like it’s your only opportunity. For me, though, it was. I showed up late to the game. Berkeley had already closed their admissions process. I did get a letter of acceptance from the school in New York, but now I was second guessing that decision, whether I could endure a New York winter, or whether I could manage the city at all. So I waited to respond. Then a wonderful thing happened. Seattle U wrote back, offering me a full ride scholarship, expenses included. I had never dreamt of such a possibility. I knew I was a good student, not quite a 4.0 but a 3.89, without rounding. My LSAT score was 165, out of 180. That placed me in the top percentile at Seattle U, and they were courting me aggressively. So it was that I almost responded yes. All expenses paid? Yes. The day of my decision, I received one more letter in the mail. This one was a letter from USF, a thin letter, not the overstuffed generic letters with brochures, but a single, lightweight envelope bearing the USF logo, and handwritten on the front was my name. I nervously brought the letter inside, to the dinner table, calling for my mom and dad. I don’t know what I so nervous about. Two schools had already accepted me, one with a full ride scholarship. So I didn’t need this one. Maybe I should just throw it out. No sense tempting the fates. But, fate was, I opened that envelope. Just a letter inside, neatly typed, as if by one of the Mad Men typists. But that show didn’t exist yet. I read the letter, forcing myself to not skip to the end. It was a letter of acceptance, it said so right in the first paragraph. I hardly needed to read any further. Except, wait, what was this? A scholarship? A full ride scholarship? I could hardly believe my eyes. Two full ride scholarships was just too good to be true. Note, USF didn’t offer to pay expenses, but still, San Francisco, the city life, no more Seattle gray and drizzle, the chance for a new life, in California, the land of opportunity, where dreams come true. It wasn’t a fair fight. Both were Jesuit schools, which was important to me, but Seattle U, despite the generosity of their offer, didn’t hold a candle to the exotic paradise of San Francisco. I made up my mind instantly, though it was harder to convince my parents. I’d only been to the City once before, for a friend’s wedding, and wasn’t able to explore. I remember initially thinking, what a dirty city! Compared to the gleaming, mirrored skyscrapers of Seattle, these old buildings, scrawled with graffiti, surrounded by homeless people, this wasn’t what I had dreamt. I later learned that I was in the Tenderloin, and the rest of the City was truly beautiful and spectacular. I’d seen photos, so I took it on faith that, truly, the rest of the City was glamorous, with multi hued, multi level housing, parks, lights, trolleys, a mass transit system that worked, that went underground! How exciting.
So I moved down a few days before school started, with nowhere to stay. I met a guy at an orientation session meant for us to find other students needing housing, and he was there, and I was there, and we were the only two gay guys there, I think, so we did what gay guys naturally do. No, not that! We moved in together. More like lesbians, really. USF was very generous with the cost-of-living expenses, of course, it was all loans, but still, there was more than enough in the budget to afford a place near campus. Some people, those who didn’t know better, or perhaps they did know better, chose to live in other areas of the City, but Chris (my new roommate) and I stayed near campus, about 15 blocks. It was a little bit of a hike every day, but I didn’t complain. We rented a true San Francisco house, multi hued, multi leveled, an entire middle flat to ourselves, just the two of us! There was a living room with fireplace, a dining room with French doors, a kitchen with gas range, a split bathroom (what a concept!), two massive bedrooms, and a study overlooking a garden, all laid out railroad style. This was better than heaven, as far as I was concerned. I was living the City life, finally, something I had always dreamt of doing. I wasn’t a rural boy, or a suburban boy, I was a real, live, cosmopolitan, worldly, educated City boy. And not just any city. The City. These were heady times indeed.
I made friends quickly, you may remember. I’d never been outgoing in my life, but, hey, this whole experience was about change, right? So I opened up, gave a cheerful smile, a gentle touch, and soon found myself at the center of activities, day after day. In fact, I started to organize “bar nights.” The school held official bar nights on Thursdays, since the 1L schedule was light on Fridays. It was an opportunity to informally meet our class representatives, other members of student government, 2L students who were open to being mentors, and occasionally an alumni. But Wednesdays started to be “Kirk’s bar night.” I don’t know how they became so popular. But on occasion we would have 50+ students in one bar, or club, no small accomplishment for a class of 250 students total, and an even richer accomplishment when the official bar nights only attracted a small handful, on the best of nights. Those were the nerds, anyways. Mine had all the cool, fun people. I’d never been cool and fun before, I was in awe and jealous of myself, how lucky I was. In fact, and I feel entitled to self promote here, when it came time to elect representatives for our 2L year, I ran and won the vote in the biggest landslide victory in school history. I can’t release the numbers, but the dean was impressed, as was his staff. I had made friends with one of his staff, Jillian, so I got special access, wink wink, nod nod. So I was happy, in a good mood going into the first summer. The The @@a
Well, I was only partially happy. See, my success in the social realm left me struggling a bit in the academic realm. I’m sure everyone student says they would never repeat 1L, and I can attest that is wise advice. No one knew but I often felt completely defeated, deflated, not at all like the type of student that gets a full ride scholarship. I should be able to answer every question, write the best papers, impress the teachers. None of that happened. In fact, by the end of 1L my GPA had dropped to a rock bottom of 3.0. I had never failed so miserably in all my life. This was exactly why I didn’t do new things, accept new challenges, because I might not do well. I was embarrassed to walk down the hall, couldn’t hold my head up high any longer. So it was great news about the election, since the school had just rescinded my scholarship for 2L since I had slipped beneath the requirements. I begged, I pleaded, I appealed to their Jesuit ethics, their history of tending to ları
the weak, but to no avail. Rules were rules.
The summer was exciting. I had signed up to attend an international studies, overseas, trip. Mainly because I needed to attend class so I could get a summer living expense stipend, but I was enthralled by the opportunity to go to Dublin and Prague. I barely even got to Canada growing up, let alone crossed an entire continent and flown abroad. I still pinch myself, having not been able to get abroad since, feeling lucky and privileged at the opportunity. As 2L representative my primary responsibility, besides being a liason between the dean’s office and the student body, was to plan, organize and attend all social events. This was something I could do, something I already excelled at, something in which I could get an A+. If only it counted towards something. Still, the joy and satisfaction was recompense enough. But that’s all skipping ahead. Time for a quick side note.
As always, I don’t remember how it happened, but I met a boy. He was attending business school at USF, on the other side of campus. I told you, earlier, that I hadn’t dated since I was 16, ten years prior. I figured it was time to let down my guard a bit, nothing that bad could happen, I already had a great social network, this was just icing on the cake. Only that icing ruined the cake, and the table it sat upon. I had no way to know what was coming. There was something different about how I pursued relationships. I didn’t dip in, didn’t test the waters, didn’t even bother to ask what the other was feeling. No, I went all in, all at once, all of me, all the love I could give, all the emotions I could spend. His name was Jason, as I mentioned earlier. We only dated for about a month, longer if you count the on-again, off-again courting stage. I had signed up for those summer abroad classes and I only just met him a few weeks prior. So I had to leave him, with promises and assurances that he would be always on my mind, that I wouldn’t even look at other boys, that I loved him with all my heart and soul. I don’t know what he promised in return. Certainly he did not give up his heart and soul. I suppose one of us had to be reasonable. He did give me a gift, though. I had been trying to get my cell phone carrier to provide international coverage for me, but there were so many barriers that I couldn’t accomplish it in time. So Jason gave me his work phone, an international phone, with a prepaid calling plan, so I didn’t need to worry about a thing. I promised to call often, and thank you so much, and more I love you’s, then off to the airport. I was so sad I had to leave him behind.
There was a group of maybe 20 of us, some attending only the Dublin trip, others, like me, who signed up for both Dublin and Prague. It seemed so exotic. Besides, summer courses were more about the experience than the education. This was actually a golden opportunity to quickly and easily raise my GPA, with just a modicum of effort. Besides, the company was fun, I was meeting new people and was going with some of my closest friends, there was nothing that could go wrong. Nothing.
I feel, in retrospect, a little like the Titanic. Built strong and beautiful, guaranteed quite brashly that she couldn’t sink no matter what the tempest may bring. I was like that. Thought I could survive anything, especially with a lover back at home waiting for me.
Well, briefly put, the Dublin leg of the trip was beyond fun. Even the classes were fun. And after class all of us, including the professors, would find a new bar to go to, even, once a gay bar. Everyone was having the time of their lives. I certainly was, at least. My main complaint, which I still complain about, is that shots of alcohol are pre-measured, even the bartender couldn’t override the system. I grew bored quickly with trying to make friends with the bar backs. What was the point, if I couldn’t get a stiffer drink, free shots, anything special at all, really. But I had a good time regardless, perhaps more sober than I want to be, but still enjoying the frenzy of activities. When we weren’t busy at the bars, I would call my parents, or call Jason, or meet up for a Guiness factory tour, along other things. Yes, you do get free drinks at the tour. Unfortunately I gag on dark beers, so I gave my samples to my friends. They didn’t complain. I did get lost once, on my own, in the rain. I wasn’t even sure I was headed in the right general direction. Luckily I ran across a cute guy, exiting his hotel, who pointed me along the way, I wasn’t really that far at all. I tried my best to seduce him, I had the apartment free for a few hours, but apparently he was just being nice when he helped, he wasn’t coming on to me. I did meet up for sex once, though. It was a guy I met from Adam4Adam com, the newer version of gay com. It was internationally popular, so it didn’t take long to entice some boys out to play. I was the exotic one, from California, a bigger state than their entire economy, I was tan and cosmopolitan, sleek and suave, I was exactly the conquest they wanted. I met him at a luncheon in the botanical gardens, hosted in the greenhouse. It was an experience, looking out over the campus of Trinity College, one of the most beautiful campuses I had ever seen, with students frolicking in the grass, walking hand in hand down the cobblestone sidewalks, rushing to and fro. I sat there with my gin martini and savored the moment. I don’t remember with the guy I met. I remember introducing him to my friends, as if to legitimize what was going to happen. I must have taken him back to my apartment. I was staying in student dorms with five other guys. There were three bedrooms, two baths and a fully stocked kitchen. A far cry above America dorms, with three people squashed into a room, no kitchen or bathroom, in an old building never retrofitted for such use. Luckily I never had to stay in dorms, I always had my own apartment, near campus. I worked, so I could afford it. Anyways, I’m sure he and I had sex in my room, very forgettable, though that may just be my memory, not any failing on his part. Certainly no failing on my part.
It was about three weeks into the course, which was only three or four weeks long before heading to Prague. All the students were taking a train out into the countryside, idyllic Irish countryside, with castles and everything. I wish I had been able to go with them. Actually, I wish what happened next had never happened at all, that I could have still lived a normal life. It wasn’t in the cards. I got a call from Jason, or maybe I call him, either way, he wanted to break up with me. And he was turning off my cell phone service so I couldn’t contact him. What the fuck was happening? Did he have a new lover? Did I call too often, or not often enough? Did I not say all the right things, do all the right things, to show my love and devotion? I’ll never know. What matters to this story is my reaction. At the time of the call, I was alone in the apartment, getting ready to join the others as they waited for the train. Prof. Donovan was scheduled to oversee this trip, so she and her daughter were out on the lawn already. Excitement was in the air, like electricity, you could hear it and see it zipping back and forth. This was our first trip together, aside from getting here in the first place, and there was no homework assignment due for this visit, it was purely extra curricular. Optional, technically, though no one in their right mind would refuse the offer. While everyone else was killing around in the bright sunlight outside, it was a beautiful, cloudless, warm sunny day in Dublin, perfect for seeing the countryside, I was inside, silently breaking down, breaking apart.
Remember I said the I was too emotional, too quickly, in relationships? Remember how I said I had avoided them for ten years, scared of what might happen? Well, this is exactly what “might happen,” a textbook example, a larger than life example of what I had feared. Before, there was just a nebulous fear, I couldn’t pin down what I was afraid if or what, exactly, might happen that would be so awful. Now, I knew precisely what that fear was about, how it had protected me all these years, now surfacing, breaking through, breaking me.
I was violently shaking, convulsing, dropping to the ground. A million thoughts were flying through my mind. My vision narrowed, then went completely black. I couldn’t see. My heart was pounding through my chest, so hard and so fast that I thought it might just give out, then and there. Sounds were rushing all around me, rushing through my ears like waves crashing inside a seashell. I couldn’t breathe, something big was stepping on me, making me about to puke, only I couldn’t draw enough air for that. My eyes were bulging out, my skin clammy, no, sweaty, sweat pouring out of every pore to cool my overheated body, giving me chills. I was grasping, grabbing all around me for something to which I could hold myself, contain myself, stop myself. My brain was working in overdrive. I could literally feel the blood pumping through my body, up to my brain, whirring around, processing thought after thought in rapid succession, trying to protect me by shutting down. I didn’t want protection, though. I wanted it to end. All of it. So I reached out, under the bed, as best I could figure, where kept my medicine. You see, I’d been medicated all these years, but had never reached a point where I understood myself, never reached a point where the medicine started to give me some reprieve from life’s harshness, never felt that I could brave it alone, without the medication. There were a few strong pills, mainly sleeping meds and anxiety meds I don’t recall how I obtained them, which doctor I saw. I think it was just the school clinic and my internal medicine doctor. I hadn’t been to a psychiatrist for a long time. Maybe once, yes, I think once, while I was in 1L, I made an appointment at UCSF. I was starting to come unglued, but didn’t know it yet. At any rate, I didn’t receive much oversight on my medicine, and certainly had no one to call in a psychiatric crisis. Anyways, I managed to grab a bag of pills and dragged them out into the open. I couldn’t see, my vision was black, I could barely feel, even, my body shutting down to protect the core, leaving the extremities without blood or oxygen. It didn’t matter. I knew what was in that bag. The thought had never crossed my mind before, else I’m sure they wouldn’t have given me these particular meds. I’d never felt the need to take more than the prescribed dose, oh, maybe one extra here and there, but nothing unusual. So the sensation I had when I grabbed those pills was entirely foreign to me. There were voices clamoring, screaming at me, vying for my attention. I didn’t want to hear the voices. I didn’t want to feel this pain. I wanted, no, needed it to stop, using whatever means necessary. If one sleeping pill was good, a whole bottle is better. If one Xanax relieved anxiety, 20 of them would make me feel great. And popping a few extra Zoloft, well, that was pedestrian, but they were there, so I might as well. It’s not like I could see or feel to sort and count them anyways. I was in shock, in crisis mode, barely breathing, attempting to flee, not fight. I grabbed each pill bottle, reached for my water bottle, I know it’s here somewhere, just keep flailing and you’ll run into it, opened the pills, no one had bothered to give me child proof caps, and dumped bottle after bottle after bottle down my throat, finally finding the water to swallow it down. It took a second. I felt relieved, knowing that I had stopped the pain. Then I realized what I had done. My senses were coming back, I was re-entering reality, and all I could see were empty pill bottles and a strange feeling inside. I leapt up, still dizzy but determined, lurched towards the door, raced down, or maybe fell down, several flights of stairs, the outside, to the train station, where everyone was waiting. My mind was blank. All I could focus on was getting Prof. Do novel’s attention, somehow make her understand what had happened. I caught up with the group just as they were boarding. Prof. Donovan was in back of them, shepherding them forward, into the train, like little children who need instructions for the simplest matter. She had a heart of gold, but not sure she thought much of us. We were a little too carefree, this was a study abroad program after all, but she enjoyed her time as much as we did, joining us at bars, taking us out on field trips, telling us about the city, buying us rounds of beers. Beer was ubiquitous there, like coffee in Seattle. It was just unimaginable that you couldn’t like beer, the darker the better. Well, I didn’t really like beer, but it sure was a more cost-effective way of getting drunk than buying those miserable, measly shots they call a drink over on the other side of the bar. I mean, really, how do people get drunk off that? How much would you have to spend? This was no Castro 2-4-1 special, no dollar pitchers of cosmos, leaving you in a stupor, but asking for more, no, this was pre-measured shots in prepared cups, simply adding juice or soda to those glasses lined up, like McDonald’s used to do with their sandwiches, all pre-made, just waiting to be ordered by some poor fool. I wasn’t going to tip for the art of throwing soda into a cup, so I just took my very cranberry drink with a splash of vodka and joined up with the rest of the group. At least I was getting my vitamin C and antioxidants. Anyways, I found Prof. Donovan, about to board the train herself, pulled her aside making motions of urgency, and whispered to her that I needed to get to the hospital, right now. The poor lady. She never signed up to take care of suicidal students. Luckily for me, though, she remained absolutely professional, telling the group that something had come up and she would meet hem back here later, then she grabbed my arm and practically dragged me back to her on campus suite. It really was quite lovely, with two bedrooms, overstuffed chairs, a living room and dining room; this use be where they house the seniors, or student to with special status. What I wouldn’t give to have a place like that to myself.
In Ireland, you customarily call the doctor for a house visit, then he or she refers you to the ER if necessary. The doctor pulled up, wheels still spinning, in his black car, with a black suit and black briefcase. He hurried inside with Prof. Donovan, to those overstuffed living room chairs, where I was sitting at the table, slowly but surely losing consciousness. There was no point in questioning what had happened, Prof. Donovan had to fill in the gaps as I fell ever more comatose. He took my vitals, obtained a brief description of events, then placed a call to the hospital. Prof. Donovan was instructed to immediately take to the hospital, where a doctor was already waiting. I don’t know why they couldn’t call an ambulance, probably because it would have been no faster than her taking me, it was just down the street. We did get slightly lost, but still made it in record time. I went to the ER window, showed my passport, was met with knowing stares and glances, then the door to the ER opened and I was hustled in. Prof. Donovan followed.
I don’t know exactly what happened. Probably because I had lost consciousness by that point. All I remember is walking up in a small vestibule with Prof. Donovan. I had survived. The psychiatrist was called as soon as I woke up. I knew Ireland was a Catholic country, so I stepped around the issue a bit, expressing my fear that their religion would affect my care, being gay. He had to assure me multiple times that Dublin was very open-minded, and I was receiving the best care available. Unfortunately, the best care was inadequate. The doctor prescribed Zyprexa, a very potent, fast acting anti-psychotic. No one flat out told I was psychotic, but the choice of medication said it all. Prof. Donovan placed a call to the Dean at USF, to determine how to proceed. I wanted to pretend it never happened, and continue on to Prague. Instead, she was instructed to book me my next flight back to San Francisco, where the Dean would meet me, and to buy me three doses of medication, enough for me to get to the States where better, more intensive care was available. So it was that I spent the night on the cold, hard floors of the airport, watching nervously as armed soldiers marched around the facilities. Air France had allowed me to reboot my flight for a small fee. Well, small in comparison to the cost of the ticket. My friend’s dad’s secretary had booked the tickets for us, and I was paying back my friend. Sean, if you’re reading this, I apologize deeply for leaving you on the hook for that expense. I hope that there is a future in which I can repay the debt. I boarded the plane the next morning, and arrived back on a non-stop flight at San Francisco 12+ hours later. I certainly took advantage of the free wine, even for coach passengers. I wasn’t going to go home sober. When we landed, and finally disembarked, I walked right into the expecting hands of the Dean.
I lost it all
One day, I woke up, and realized I couldn’t go on
One day, my lover broke up with me, while I was overseas
One day, I overdosed, lay comatose, sprawled on the bedroom floor
One day, I wish it all would end
I was a star
The envy of my peers
A player, yes
But a body of the best
Something was missing
Something felt wrong, deep inside
Something went awry, somewhere, sometime
And I don’t know what it was, and I don’t know why
I never let on
No one ever knew
If I couldn’t understand it, why should they?
That’s my biggest regret today
And I had it all
The fates were on my side
Where did I go wrong?
How did I stumble, how did I fall,
Into this abyss, so deep,
Even I can’t see the light of day?
It just happened, one day
My lover rescinded his love
And my heart broke
Unknowingly, ungratefully, unexpectedly,
I went insane
My heart beating wildly inside my chest, I was gasping for air, screaming but no one could hear,
Watching my world turn bleak, no, turn dark, turn empty, my vision failing, my pulse pumping,
The ocean racing through my ears,
And I was
I saw it happening, as if it were to another
Crumpled on the floor, spasmodic tempo in my muscles, convulsing back and forth
That I couldn’t survive, that I didn’t want to survive, that without love there is no life, without him there was no me
In that second,
I lost it all
The will to survive
The desire to see another day
The ability to move forward
And so I reached, excruciatingly, painfully, spasmodically, to the pills under the bed,
Ambien, klonopin, xanax, god knows what else,
Trembling, seizing, I unscrewed the fucking child proof caps (who decided I needed those?)
Counted out a few…
No, fuck it, I decided, somehow conscious enough, I’m not going to slowly slip away,
I wanted my lover to see a grotesque image of a contorted body clamoring for air, swollen, spastic, eyes bulging out, shitting my pants, grabbing violently, puking blood…
I wanted him to feel my pain and know, deep inside, that he was the one that caused it all, that his act of betrayal had sealed my fate, that the blood I spewed was on his hands
I grabbed the full bottles
Dumped them down my throat
Gulping the poison
And I was happy, blissful, knowing death was near
There’s something so good and right about seeing your end approach
I was playing God with my own life
Sealing my own destiny
No more questioning
Some half witted fucked up spawn of Satan, with his pitchfork not yet concealed away, with his stupidity scrawled across his leering face, with evil in his eyes,
Oh if I could only describe
He came to me in my moment of bliss, as the sun was setting on my worldly existence, as the light at the end of the tunnel grew ever near, as I prepared myself to leave my body behind and enter a new world, as I was happy, for the first and last time I could ever remember, I lay convulsing but unaware, dying in this world, eager to fly to the next,
He came to me
And pulled it all away
I was destined to live
Fuck him, fuck my friends, fuck the doctors, fuck the establishment,
I nearly had it all
And then I lost it all
-(No) Loss, personal writings, 2014
In this chapter we finally see where the chaos began, where my life forever veered off course, and how it happened. It was, yes, simply a breakup, unfortunate and sad, but nothing to cry over, let alone die over, but my mind operated differently. That abandonment was just the start of an inexorable cycle, in which I was whipped around by the vicissitudes of life, out of control, living (and dying) anew each day. Next chapter I explain what happened my 2L year, why it seemed so strange, looking in from the outside, and how life, and death, became more complicated every day. Dublin was just the beginning. Let’s watch now how the rest of me unraveled. Take a break and have a strong stomach before reading the next section. No, it’s really not all that graphic, I can’t remember the bloody parts. I can only real events to the point where I lost consciousness, and rely on doctors and nurses and friends to relay the rest of the information to me. So, here’s my story as I know it. This is the crux of the story, so please devote your time and attention. I’ll make it as brief as possible.