Right now I’m sitting on my bed. It is 2:02 AM on July 22nd, 2017. The lead singer of Linkin Park died two days ago, on the 20th.
I’m not a huge fan of Linkin Park. My sister was a listener for a year or so, but I never took the initiative to seek out their music myself. Thanks to my affinity for staying up late, I saw a notification on my phone announcing his death at whatever hour, most likely between 1:00 to 5:00 AM, the time when I’m still lucid enough to comprehend information but not clear-headed enough to retain a lot of details once enough minutes have passed. I had to input ‘Ches’ into the search bar on my laptop to double check his last name. I used Autofill to confirm the date of his death. In other words, I’m not the best person to make any sort of comment on him or the circumstances surrounding his death. Well, mostly. This article isn’t entirely about him. Whether it’s because of some hidden narcissism that requires me to make everything about myself, or empathy that means I relate on a basic level to someone who has almost nothing in common with me demographically (including but not limited to: age, gender, race, and marital status) other than nationality is up to you to decide, dear reader.
I am qualified in another way, though. In the October of my sophomore year in high school, I took the scarf my mother had bought me for my birthday, hung it over my bedroom post, and let my neck fall limp on it. I knew it was just past 7:00 AM at that point because my sister had snappishly yelled up the stairs about walking to school alone if I don’t get ready on time. She left me alone, wheezing, as I had to force myself to relax and not let my legs keep my body upright; the post was low to the ground and my knees touched the floor because there was no other suitable place to hang any kind of rope from, infinity scarf included.
As I slumped on the ground in a mockery of the kneeling position, I couldn’t keep my eyes closed or make my ears tune out the sound of my breathing. Instead, my eyes settled on the textbooks I had stacked on a chair nearby. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was really the way I would die, staring at a stack of books while hearing the harsh sound of my own breathing. I was going to die an ugly mess, just as I had lived.
Except, I didn’t. For a reason I didn’t fully comprehend, and one I still don’t understand, I stopped. I got up and retrieved my phone. I googled a suicide hotline and called them in tears. She asked me what was wrong
“I tried to k-k-,” I sobbed. “I tried to kill myself.”
“Okay” she said. She asked if there was someone who could help me, or something similarly generic. The entire time I was on the phone I was hysterical and in tears, and yet she sounded bored. I have never been able to figure out how someone could remain calm to the point of apathy when they dealt with people on the brink of self-inflicted death. Either way, I had to stumble down the stairs and through the hallway before bursting into my parents’ room in tears. My father was already at work, and my mother was still asleep. Upon hearing my panicked shout, she got up, groggy from sleep, asking what was wrong.
Still in tears, I shouted out, ”I tried to kill myself”.
“Who were you on the phone with?”
“A suicide hotline.”
She took the phone from my hand and exclaimed she didn’t understand what was wrong with me and my sister. I find the irony just as funny as it is cruel, given that I have always suspected my sisters’ cutting was at least in part due to her, just as much as she made me want to commit suicide. The threat of leaving for our home country (we are immigrants to the US) was more than enough. Giving your daughter a gift that she repeatedly stated she didn’t like (scarves make me afraid of choking, and this one was an infinity scarf, no less) was just another sign of how little she seemed to care. This blatant insensitivity combined with the screaming and threats were enough; the fact that this bled into our school life and hurt our ability to function as normal human beings was the tipping point.
Not that I didn’t already have trouble with that. I make eye contact for too long or too infrequently. I have trouble talking in public, and my penchant for long stints awake at night lead to a lot of philosophical wallowing, compounded by reading articles online. Sometimes I just lay back and try to take in what I read, overwhelmed by emotion at what I just read, and soaked in the endless possibilities the universe presented. Sometimes, I wish that night could last forever, and I could stay alone, reading and imagining all the beautiful things that could happen, and keeping people out – the unpredictable factor that caused so much grief not just to me, but to each other and the planet as a whole. Often, those times overlap, as contradictory as it may seem.
I believe that Chester felt the same way, in a sense. He didn’t stop himself from dying or deal with grades and parents; at least not in the way I did (and still do). I believe he felt the same way about the world, that the greatness of human beings was limitless and at the same time limited by its own nature. He was probably all too aware of his surroundings and actions as he waited to die.
Of course, I don’t know that for sure. Only he can know that, and there’s no way to verify this. Because he’s dead. Because he committed suicide. Because he killed himself. Whichever synonymous sentence you pick, it’s important to realize that there’s no nice way to say it. ‘Passed away’ is a personal peeve of mine, because it cushions the cold hard truth. There’s nothing nice and soft about death, and while I didn’t know him personally or even as a follower, I think it’s fair to say that Chester Bennington felt pain as acutely as I have, or possibly even more, and the we should grieve his death in a way that doesn’t trivialize that pain. Grieving over him should hurt, hurt a lot.
Featured image: This image was originally posted to Flickr by Kristina Servant. The image has been licensed for fair use by the creator under the Creative Commons license – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). No changes were made.