How many years have to pass before you finally find it in you to forgive someone? Is 18 years too long to let actions and events fester, to bubble up and corrode inside like a freshly opened can of Coke eroding away at raw piece of meat? And what if after all those years it isn’t really forgiveness you are granting, but an apathetic acceptance that you’ll never understand anyway so why even give a shit?
I last saw Markus on 12 May 1996. Three days later he was dead. About a week later his funeral had come and gone but the seeds of indignation towards him had just been planted. I was the last member of my soccer team to see him alive. I drove him home from the Irish Canadian Club early that Saturday afternoon after watching Manchester United beat Liverpool in the FA Cup Final. He talked the whole way home about his job, about his girlfriend, about our undefeated soccer team, and about whatever else he could think of saying. This was a man on top of the world and he let everyone know it.
By the Tuesday, he was gone, found hanging from a beam in the basement of the apartment he shared with his girlfriend. She was away, visiting relatives, and Markus took this opportunity to take his life, a belt secured around his neck and the roof. This was a man we all loved, that we all wanted to be like, and just like that, I loathed him.
He wasn’t the first friend of mine to kill himself. Two others had done so before him; one even killing his mother and father first. But Markus was different. I knew Markus better than any of them. It’s cliché to say but he was like a brother to me, to many of us. Hell, he could have been my older brother with his cocksure attitude, his rapier-sharp wit, and just enough “asshole” to give him the edge in the sporting arena. And I had only known him for three months!
When I heard it was a suicide I stopped mourning and started hating instead. I have no other word to describe my transformation of feelings towards him. He hadn’t done anything to me. Besides friendship, which should never be discounted, I had nothing invested in him. He didn’t owe me money, hadn’t planned a life with me, hadn’t made any promises he was never going to keep. No, he was just a friend, a teammate, and a genuine soul in an often-muddied world. Once I knew it was suicide, I forgot all I liked about him and could only focus on the cowardice of his actions.
I have heard many people say they “wouldn’t have the balls to commit suicide.” To them, I only have two words, “Fuck you.” You think it takes balls to commit suicide? Try finding the cojones to push those feelings aside, to man-up and face the demons that afflict you. Find that hair on your nutsack and choose to go on, through the pain and hardship. Markus didn’t. Markus opted for the easy road, leaving the bumps and hazards to those he left behind.
The girlfriend he left behind, now saddled with extra mortgage payments, and an unending supply of questions that answers were never to be found for was left to straddle the bumps and hazards. Markus left his pain with her. How can I possibly look towards him with the same admiration again? At the church, the morning we buried him, and the first time I heard how he died, I sat and watched the tears on the people who loved him. I shed none of my own. And it’s not like I refused to let myself cry. I just couldn’t. I felt the only people worth crying for were the ones struggling to find the strength to continue and clean up the mess that Markus left behind.
I think about Markus less often these days, but he still enters my mind from time to time. Like many of the people who have shaped me, have molded me into the man I am today, his presence is there, helping me make decisions each and every day. And while I think about him less often, the hate has barely subsided. You would think that time heals all wounds, that the slow passing of experience and failure would help soften the blow his cowardice has inflicted on his memory for me. It hasn’t.
It hasn’t gone, but my cognizance to let it rule me has. I won’t change his actions, will never be able to know why he did what he did and let down so many people. But I won’t accept that suicide was his only option and he made a brave decision when he found solace at the end of a leather belt. It is not my place to forgive him; nor is it mine to judge him. I have found myself doing far more judging than necessary.
The sad truth is that while Markus, a man who I have loathed for his actions for the past 18 years, keeps popping into my head from time to time, the days are long gone when I wonder what his girlfriend is up to and if she has coped. The tragedy of my shortsightedness, my willingness to castigate someone who will never bear the brunt of my damnation, is that a person who needed help, and may have still needed help, was left unaccounted for. And sadly, her name escapes me such is the absence of her from my memory banks and history annals.
Maybe by admitting it is time to move on, to just not give a damn anymore, I’ll finally be able to come to terms with myself. Why I wrestle with it I don’t know. Maybe if I succumb to feelings of indifference, rather than feelings of ire, I’ll finally be able to see Markus smiling again, that same big smile he had when I circled back from scoring my first goal for the team after he played a brilliant ball behind the defenders for me to run onto unchallenged.
It would be nice to see that Markus again; rather than the one whose character to me has more cracks than the old leather belt he chose as his getaway vehicle.
*Names have been changed