BY MIA PENNEKAMP ’20
Content Warning: This essay references suicide.
Maybe you were in a bar in the West Village. Maybe it was the beginning of fall, early October. You put on a tight turtleneck and suede high-heeled boots, skinny jeans, lipgloss. Maybe you woke up feeling like you couldn’t hear properly, like your ears needed to pop. But you walked 20 minutes into the Village anyways, trying to keep up with the boys in your suede high-heeled boots. Maybe you felt like you were leaving something behind as you hobbled down the narrow staircase, finding yourself in a dark basement filled with colored string lights and large TVs playing college football games. A wristband strapped to your arm, allowing for five hours of bottomless Bud Light.
Maybe your phone started to buzz in your purse, a beautiful white structured bag with a gold buckle, a 21st birthday gift from your mom. Maybe you had gotten it just last month.
On the screen, 15 calls and texts from old and dear friends — as old and as dear as a friend can be at this age.
Maybe the friends you have in your youth, who’ve seen your vulnerability thrown up onto the fabric seats of your Prius, will always be dear. Their developing, honest, uncertain and generous capacities as familiar to you as your own. Old and dear. The ones that float with you, maybe through months — or years — of not speaking. Time passing as you’re each carried over and under and through new shit. Like you were with the waves, on that perfect day in your memories: when you had the naked chicken fights. These currents creating space distinct from distance. You still feel close to these bodies. Like you could find one before drowning.
Maybe you were newly 21 in a bar in the West Village when you found out she had taken her life.
Maybe she was only 20. Maybe you read the news through messages on the screen, through Instagram DMs, through “I hope this is still your number.” Through old nicknames you hadn’t heard in a while. “Mimi” you read, and “I love you”s and “I can’t believe it”s.
Maybe your ears popped. Maybe you cried. Maybe somebody asked you if you would like to leave. Maybe you stayed. Maybe you were scared of walking back up the narrow staircase and standing on the street in the light. Maybe you thought about her, and maybe you will think about her sometimes often and sometimes less for the rest of your life.
Maybe you’ve listened to this call. Read these texts, emails, test results. Maybe you were there. Maybe you were 21, or 16, or 34, or 56. Maybe it was her. Maybe it was your mom, your dad, your brother, your nana, your abuelo, your baby.
Maybe you don’t know what to do. That’s okay, I think. Respond to the messages, “I love you too.” Hug your boyfriend. Look for the Krispy Kreme donuts you used to eat together every morning in the parking lot. With the box of a dozen, leave her six. But you don’t know what to do with them, so leave them outside. Let it rain. Eat the donuts and cry and swim to a body. Don’t be afraid to leave the dark bar and stand on the street in the light of that day.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/ resources for a list of additional resources.
The Mount Holyoke counseling center offers free short-term counseling. Call 413- 538-2037 to schedule an appointment. If you have an emergency at night or on the weekend, call 413-538-2037 and follow the audio prompts.