Harry passed away the day before voting opened.
‘Lost another vote for the Greens,’ I said to myself. ‘If they don’t get in, I’m blaming you.’ Gestured at the air like he was there, in little pieces or invisible or both.
Stood at the voting booth the next day and realised I didn’t even know what electorate he would have been voting in, where his parents’ house was. That’s how long it had been.
Found out from a friend by text message and she apologised for letting me know that way, but it didn’t make any difference, hearing it in person or through some electronic haze I couldn’t comprehend. He was dead either way; I didn’t need to commemorate the moment I found out. My brain did that for me anyway. Kept replaying it.
‘Harry Richardson has passed away.’
Felt like doing something stupid like reaching out to everyone I knew in some thinly veiled Instagram story.
‘Reach out if you’re going through it.’ Something like that.
‘Don’t be found by your family when they come home from church,’ I wanted to say.
‘Don’t leave us singeing memories of you clear out of our brains because they might as well not have happened.’
‘It should be too scary for you to do.’
‘You’re allowed to sleep throughout the day; you can actually just sleep through the day if that’s what you want.’
‘You don’t have to do anything societally normal.’
‘The aim of the game is to stay alive.’
I lost sleep over it, frowning at my ceiling. Not crying, just frowning. Filtering through my memories like they were a carded system till I found his face and I’d been meaning to tell him something, the next time I saw him. I’d been meaning to gather our loose connections up, you know? I’d been meaning, I’d been meaning-
Couldn’t focus the next day.
‘Lost another day of study, because of you.’
Passed is too gentle of a word, he didn’t cross the void gently or seamlessly. He ripped his life out of his body with his own hands and held it up before throwing himself headfirst into that warm, bloody unknown. The guts of the universe. The beginning and the end of everything.
And I get it, I do. The weather forecast keeps telling you that it’ll be sunny next week, you just have to wait.
I once asked someone who didn’t have depression what they thought it looked like and they said like going through the motions. A half-life, a quarter-life, a segment, a segment of a segment. A series of robotic movements outwards and across; a series of pale conversations.
But you just wait! You just wait for next week!
One thousand remedies, twenty-five hundred salves for addled minds. Exercise, seeing friends, reaching out, reaching out and grabbing hold, holding tight, holding on.
White knuckled, sweating, panting, gripping.
It’s going to be so fucking sunny next week.
Saint John’s Wort, meditation, the sun, D3 in lieu of the sun, magnesium for sleep, melatonin for sleep, can’t get melatonin in New Zealand, late-night online ordering melatonin for sleep.
You won’t believe how fucking sunny it’s going to be next week! It’s going to be SO FUCKING SUNNY!
Oh god. SSRIs, MDMA, micro dosing acid, micro dosing ketamine, googling ketamine therapy, there’s only one place and it’s in Auckland, health insurance won’t cover it, you don’t even have health insurance.
JUST WAIT! PLEASE JUST WAIT! JUST WAIT FOR NEXT WEEK YOU HAVE TO WAIT FOR-
I knew because we’d talked about it, when I was going through it and he wasn’t. This was in our early twenties and we were outside Chaffers Street New World.
‘When you beat it, it feels so good,’ he said. I was going to buy spinach, he was going to buy vitamins.
We both squinted at each other at the crosswalk. He had hazel eyes like me. He had.
How fucking nuts that he now knew what came after. He’d looked it straight in the eye with no fear or maybe some fear or maybe we will never know how much fear or if there was fear or the absence of fear. Did he write a note? Did he leave a note? Did he write one? Did he say sorry? Did he say sorry I am so fearless? Sorry for nothing? Fuck you, fuck me, fuck everyone?
He didn’t write me anything because we hadn’t spoken in months. Not out of malice just out of that slow fade out you get with certain people when you stop drinking so much and stop taking drugs.
That’s how we’d started seeing each other. He was a friend of a friend and I saw him out one night and we had a little packaged conversation. Somehow we found and took MDMA and ended up watching the sunrise over Oriental Bay on some public but private lookout, carved into the hill. I sat on this old plastic deckchair in front of him, long grass pushing through the slits in the back. It was so brilliant; it would have been brilliant even without the drugs. I threw cigarettes back over my head to him and our wobbly chains of smoke met up in the sky. Then he walked me back to his place in Aro Valley.
I looked at my skin in the mirror in his bathroom and it looked haggard for the first time in my life but he didn’t care. When we woke in the afternoon, he said we looked alike.
‘Because of the eyebrows,’ he said.
‘We look like Capricorns,’ he said. His birthday was one day after mine in January. We were goats hanging onto the edge of a cliff. We looked like being so close to falling.
‘Goat-fish,’ I said. If the cliff was above an ocean, we’d be fine.
He invited me to his birthday party every year. I invited him to mine.
‘Lost the war I won,’ I said, after I’d voted two big ticks for Green in his memory. Though I probably would have gone for Labour. I lay down afterwards in my room alone, but he was there, in little pieces. I was so sure he was there.
He lived across the road from friends of mine and one night after work, I went round to sit in their spa bath with them. We rolled cigarettes and filled the little room with steam and smoke, trapping it inside with us. We got out, put stickers all over our naked bodies and took photos, because we were 21. I crossed the road barefoot, damp and hot and shiny; Harry came to the door. For some reason I wanted to have another bath so he drew me one while he sat in his room and made art. In the dark, the water looked like molten silk and the stickers lifted off my skin and rose to the surface. Like debris, like detritus. Like little pieces.
I imagined the funeral before it happened; seeing old friends and musing over what terrible circumstances these were to reconnect. Maybe someone would smile and look down, maybe there would be tears before the service even began.
I worried about not crying, I worried about being urged to speak, I worried about open caskets and religion and how he’d done it. I couldn’t remember what religion he’d been raised inside of, but I knew the rules of Catholicism and if heaven was real, he wouldn’t be allowed in because of what he’d done. What he’d done, as if it wasn’t an issue of what we hadn’t done. ‘We’, the collective, ‘we’.
When he and I were ‘we’, we went to the supermarket. We went to a film when the festival was on; we watched the sunrise together. And it was sunny, for a day or two. I cannot stress this enough: it was sunny.
The last time I saw him was on a friend’s rooftop on New Year’s Eve. I had taken a tab of acid and was watching the lights of the Cuba Street Night and Day roll together and come apart.
‘It’s so good to see you,’ he said.
‘It’s so good to see you,’ I said.
What I should have said was: It’s going to be sunny tomorrow, Harry! Come look at the sun with me! Come outside, come do anything. Come do anything except sit in that little room in your parents’ house and wait for them to leave for church. Come and wait for the season to change, don’t go screaming into the dark, don’t wring yourself out on your bedroom floor.
It’s summer! It’s my birthday in two weeks! It’s your birthday in two weeks! We have so many birthdays left!
I should have reached out a hand to him, stopped him from leaving.
Come outside! Come outside! Come outside!