dear mr. williams…

Hurt

I never met Robin Williams.

I never met Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijneither either.

But I used to stare at his paintings for half hours at a time when I lived in D.C. Tears would sting the corners of my eyes before sliding down the arcs of my cheeks at the hallow (and free to the public) grounds of the National Gallery of Art.

I never met Rembrandt.

But he pulled at a string in me.

Humans are like mirrors.

Most of the time, all you see is the shiny side; the one glossy from the recent Windex bath. Looks real nice.

But push a mirror forward, and start pulling at the brown paper covering on it’s backside. You’ll see a dark and drab and dull material in front of you.

It’s not pretty and there’s nothing sparkly about it.

Your hand is quick to pull the brown paper back over the spot, trying to make it look like it was never uncovered.

Because nobody wants to see the backside of something so bright.

I’ve spent the better part of my 2014 trying not to let the dark side of my mirror get the better of me. A relationship breakup spiraled me into daily binges of doubt of self and doubt of the thing I love more than life itself: other people.

After months of internalizing, one desperate visit to a therapist and one very shaken come-to-Jesus with my best friend—“L, you’re going into dark places and it’s really hard to watch”—I knew one of my last remaining options was to attempt to trust myself and other people again.

So I moved into a new apartment with strangers. And I started rock climbing with strangers. And I started creating again.

Being a visual person, I also decided that I needed an image in my head of someone who was funny and had overcome things and choose to keep going on.

Maybe it’s because I’d recently watched Good Will Hunting. Maybe it’s because so many members of my family have dabbled in the medical field—doctor, nurse, mental institution patient, physician’s assistant, drug and alcohol rehabber.

Either way, the image that popped in my head was one from many years back.

It’s a scene from a movie called Patch Adams. Patch is a medical student, played by Robin Williams, who wants to become a doctor. But he also wants to keep his human-side to him; it’s how he’s actually able to relate to and help people. There’s a lot of resistance along the way from folks resistance to his ways—professors, colleagues, a girl—but despite it all, Patch stays positive and keeps going.

Then something bad happens.

Something really bad.

The scene after that something-really-bad flashes to Patch standing on a cliff: he’s thinking about jumping.

He has the right to jump.

Because everything is shit.

And for a split second, you wonder.

Is this how it’s gonna end?

But it doesn’t.

Because Williams doesn’t jump.

The image makes me happy. Makes me hopeful. Makes me believe.

So I keep the image in my head, and pull it out when I need to.

Because Williams pulls at a string in me.

_______________________________________________________

“Did you,” my friend stops herself. “Nothing.”

“What?” I ask. Something’s wrong. I can tell something’s wrong.

“Nothing. It’s your birthday. I don’t want to.”

“What?”

She looks at me.

“Did you hear about Robin Williams?”

“No, what?”

I say it quietly. We’re in Austin’s ACL Moody Theater and the musicians will be coming out in a minute to sing and play their guitars.

“Oh, so you have heard.”

“No. What.”

She looks again.

“He died.”

And I know right then what happened. I don’t even have to ask even though I know the answers to the questions that start pouring out of my mouth.

He jumped.

The tears start stinging at the corners of my eyes.

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