The Face in the Mirror: When I first started working I wanted to do something in the evening. So I went to a creative writing classes. I was the only male in attendance, surrounded by women who were 40+
It was basically a forum for people to present ideas on the books that they would never get round to writing.
Then Dave joined up. A guy approaching his 40’s, fat, unshaven, no style and little confidence. I was still just a kid but even I could make eye contact with post menopause women.
The only interest I remember him having was that he liked Doctor Who and wrote fan fiction about it.
When he was asked to introduce himself to the class and what he wanted from it, I remember him saying
“It would be great to make friends here”
Despite hardly being a cool guy myself , I thought “What a fucking loser”
He listened carefully to what other people read in the class – not actually looking at them, but with his head straight forward.
And during any breaks he stayed rooted to his seat, though his body language was much clearer that he wanted to get involved in group chit-chat.
He would not make friends by keeping quiet. I thought
Through observing him I could tell that he had opinions to add to the discussion but never got the confidence to speak up.
Instead his fat face perspired round his neck beard and he got redder as the class continued.
Being the only other male in the class I did feel that it was my duty to strike up a conversation with him. But to be truthful I was a shy kid who had only just turned 19 I didn’t really want to make small talk with a man twice my age.
Therefore I never did open a conversation with him.
He came for a few weeks and then he was not seen again.
I didn’t really think of him at all for the three weeks in his absence.
Then by the fourth week the teacher made the announcement
“I’m afraid I have some bad news, Dave committed suicide…”
This was a major shocker for me, this was the first time I had experienced death in my life.
For the guy who made very little social impact in the class he dominated break-time gossip.
“Apparently he went to a B&B to do it?”
“Why would he do that?”
“I suppose he just wanted the attention from it…”
Days later I felt a hinge of guilt and one sleepless night I started asking myself questions
- Did he have no one else in his life?
- Was him going to the creative writing class a last ditch effort to do something with his life?
- He said he wanted to make friends, perhaps if I had done something to build a friendship?
- Why would he do such a thing?
- Why was I so judgemental about him?
The fact that I thought Dave’s suicide was down to my decisions is laughable. A lot of reasons for why he would do such a thing would be speculation. I would never know the face he saw in the mirror
I put myself in his situation and concluded the only way I would consider commiting suicide was that if I felt my life had spun out of control, that I had no hope, no family and nothing to look forward to.
Despite my original contempt for the man in life, I now felt pity in his death. It made me realise what a waste it all was, particularly as I had developed the theory that his death was related to the hopelessness with life.
I felt a shudder, this was a man I could easily become if I did not create and make opportunities in my life – I need to do more than go to a creative writing class and attend the gym every so often.
Dave may have been unhappy in his life, perhaps thought that he was insignifcant. But the effect of his death made Dave quite a significant part of my psyche towards self-improvement.
When I woke up in the morning I looked at my face in the mirror and I realised that the only person stopping me from having a long, succesful happy life was myself.
That day I began to plan how I would change.
Image copyright James M. Lane