The Closest I’ve Ever Been to Suicide

In the wake of the tragic death of Robin Williams, many people have attempted to make sense of suicidal tendencies. Some have explained it quite well, others have pooh-poohed it with disgraceful heartlessness. Below is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, “Blue Blood, Green Heart,” describing the fateful day in 1994 that was the closest I’ve ever been to suicide. You can hear more of this chapter on the replay of today’s episode of The Tufts Get Going, “Suicide: Choice, or Compulsion?”

Monday, December 19: At about 9:15 am, I got a call from Neil Nemser, a life insurance salesman who was serving as the Church Treasurer. This man had, on numerous other occasions, demonstrated his deplorable lack of sensitivity. Unlike the Pastor, Nemser’s coal-raking had no tact, no subtlety, no barely-controlled disappointment. It was full-on, Riot-Act-reading, no-punches-pulled bullying. Given a choice between shooting his foot off, and handing me a compliment, he’d choose the former. Though he was not my real boss, he was the one whose wrath I feared more than any other.

And here he was, fit to be tied. “I just called the bank to make the transfer, to cover the checks I wrote last Thursday, and that $50,000 wasn’t there! Those checks are going to bounce today!”

OH SHIT !!!!

Hastily I hung up the phone, grabbed the $50,000 check, and raced out of the office to my car. I floored the accelerator to get to the bank, my heart racing at 180 beats per minute. For the trillionth time I wished I could turn back the hands of time and correct my mistake so that nobody would notice the difference. If my boss caught me out of the office (even though on official church business), he too would be mad at me.

The bank was several miles away from the church. At a speed that would have been the envy of any Daytona stock-car driver, I got that precious cargo to the bank, and was back before anybody noticed my absence.

After taking several deep breaths to restore my blood’s depleted oxygen level, I called Nemser and informed him that the deposit had been made, and hung up.

You would think that this should have been enough to satisfy him.

Not a chance.

He called back, even angrier than ever. “How could you forget $50,000 ???!!! You’ve cost us five days’ worth of interest !!!”

That did it. My hang-on-for-dear-life grip on my credibility facade, already too fragile, was finally strained beyond all endurance. At last, my only remaining scrap of dignity shattered into a million tears.

I disgraced myself, bawling like a baby. “This is the real reason I’m leaving,” I screamed, “because I can no longer stand to be yelled at by people like YOU !!!”

When I tried to explain what had happened, how the volunteers did not know they were supposed to ask for this special check, he accused me of trying to pass the blame off onto someone else. He called me a “LIAR!” and numerous other epithets which decency’s sake prevents me from repeating. He ranted and raved for all the world as if I had stolen the money, rather than merely misplaced it.

By now I was begging for mercy. I tried to tell him I’d been in a clinical depression for months, even had to take drugs for it. “Fine!” he snapped. “Then talk about it with your therapist!”

That was the lowest blow of all — and flatly inaccurate, too. I wasn’t even seeing a therapist, hadn’t seen one since I was 13 years old.

And how sexist it sounded. If I had been a man, I’m quite certain Nemser would never have had the damn gall to say such a thing.

When his tirade was finally spent, I was utterly broken beyond all hope of repair. Reduced to a blubbering, quivering mass of protoplasm. Overwhelmed with shame. Ruined. I was never going to live this one down. Nemser had led me be to believe the scandal would be so damning, that no future employer would ever touch me.

Only one thing could expiate my “sin,” and that was to annihilate myself. Surely that would be enough to appease even his rage.

By 3:00 pm that afternoon, I had made up my mind. I was all set to do it. When I got home that night, I would leave a suicide note that would be enough to make my parents sue the hell out of the church. Then, I would stab myself in the stomach.

And then it happened. Upon arriving home, this message awaited me on the answering machine:

“Hello, this is Lee Starkey, of Starkey, Beall & Company, calling for Rosanna Tufts. You had come here for an interview two months ago. We have decided that we would like to offer you the position, starting in January 1995, at $10 an hour. If you would like to accept, please call us back at 825-2750. Congratulations!”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

I had forgotten all about Starkey, Beall & Company. After two months of waiting, I had given up hope, figuring they had probably chosen somebody else by now. I played back the answering machine to reassure myself that it wasn’t a delirious hallucination.

$10 an hour . . .  that was a fairly respectable improvement over the $8.50 I’d been getting for the past two years with no raise . . . better than what I’d convinced myself I could realistically expect.

I steadied my voice, so that it would betray nothing of the ordeal I’d just endured, nor of the scandal I’d just been threatened with. This was my last and only chance. I wasn’t going to let anything “blow it.”

I called back and accepted the job.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s