“Everybody Belongs Here More Than Me”

A phone rings once. A soothing female recorded voice plays. 

FRV: Thank you for calling the National Suicide Hotline. We are here to help.

From out of nowhere, a male recorded voice. 

MRV: For English, press “1” now. Para español, toca el dos.  

A sigh into the receiver as we hear a touch tone dialing 1. 

MRV: Thank you. (Pause.) In order to better serve you, we would like to find out if you or the person you are calling about is a veteran of the United States Military. If you or the person you are calling about is a veteran of the United States Military, please dial “1” now. Otherwise, please wait on the line while we transfer you to an available counselor to help you.

Another ring, and Tracey picks up. 

TRACEY: Hello, this is Tracey.

CALLER: (Calm, soothing voice.) Hi, Tracey, how are you.

TRACEY: I’m fine. And how are you? 

CALLER: Oh, I’m fine, Tracey, just fine. Listen, I’ll be honest, I’m not actually suicidal.

TRACEY: That’s perfectly fine. Are you calling about someone you know?

CALLER: Yes, actually, I am. Ha. How did you know that?

TRACEY: Well, I just assumed. It’s the only other option.

CALLER: Right, right. I bet you’re pretty perceptive, being a trained telephone suicide counselor. Listen, even though it is my friend I’m calling about, I wonder if you can help me.

TRACEY: Yes, we are happy to offer advice to anybody who feels they need it, even if it’s not for themselves. I’m sorry, I’m Tracey. What is your name?

CALLER: I’d rather not give my name, if that’s okay.

TRACEY: That’s perfectly fine. And you say it’s your friend you’re calling about?

CALLER: Yes. My friend, whose name is — I’ll just pick one for the purposes of this conversation — Tracey. No, that’s your name. I can’t use Tracey. Let me think of another one.

TRACEY: Okay.

CALLER: Uh, this is embarrassing. I can’t think of a single name other than Tracey. And of course, my own, but I already said I don’t want to give that to you.

TRACEY: That’s okay. You can use Tracey.

CALLER: Okay. Well, it’s a man I’m talking about anyway. So it’ll be a man Tracey. Anyway, what I wanted to ask about Tracey is, how would I know if he is very close to killing himself?

TRACEY: There are many, many signs to look for —

CALLER: Right, right, right. I mean, like, what are the major ones?

TRACEY: Well, has he ever attempted suicide before?

CALLER: Now that’s an interesting question, you see, because his — Tracey’s — mother says that he almost killed himself once by traveling down a snowy hill backwards on an inner tube, but actually, I realized that I’ve done a very similar thing myself and I’ve never tried to kill myself at all.

TRACEY: No? That’s good.

CALLER: No, as I said, I’m not suicidal at all.

TRACEY: No?

CALLER: Very healthy.

TRACEY: No? That’s good. Well, to get back to your friend Tracey —

CALLER: No, my friend’s name is — yeah, right. It’s Tracey, I almost forgot.

TRACEY: Right. Another sign of suicidal tendency is, has he ever been depressed?

CALLER: Well, he drinks a lot.

TRACEY: Oh, okay. That could be a sign.

CALLER: Drinks a lot, like, and takes his clothes off more freely when drunk.

TRACEY: Uh-huh.

CALLER: And actually, in that state, like, piss drunk and mostly naked, he actually improves at most sports. It’s the most amazing thing to see.

TRACEY: Right. I’m starting to think this is a prank call, uh —

CALLER: No, no, no. Please don’t hang up. This is a real call, a 100% real call. I really need your advice, Tracey.

TRACEY: Okay. So tell me something he’s done recently that makes you think he’s suicidal.

CALLER: Right, well that’s where I’m looking for advice, because it’s not so much things that I’ve seen. It’s more like things that I don’t know I should be looking for.

TRACEY: All right. Like, has he said that he doesn’t feel like he’s any use to anyone?

CALLER: Well, I don’t know that I’ve heard him say that. He isn’t — of use to anyone, but I just don’t know that I’ve heard him say it.

TRACEY: I’m sorry. Could you repeat that?

CALLER: Look, Tracey. I don’t want to waste too much more of your time. I just want to know if there is, in your professional opinion, a particular sequence of actions I might take that would encourage — persuade — my friend Tracey to inflict some sort of violence on himself, either lethal or otherwise. Because if  I know exactly how that were to be done, I would be able to to the opposite of that and, uh, Tracey would be able to live among us for perhaps just one more day.

(Pause.)

TRACEY: Are you there?

CALLER:  I’m sorry. I’m tearing up just a little bit, Tracey.

TRACEY: That’s perfectly fine. You can take whatever time you need. I just — I’m not sure I totally understand what you would like me to do.

CALLER: Do suicidal people sleep with other people’s girlfriends, Tracey?

TRACEY: Uh — well I don’t know —

CALLER: Do they lie about it for five months and pretend you’re too stupid to notice that something is different?

TRACEY: I think —

CALLER: (Now crying.) That’s what I’m asking, Tracey, because in my book, if person like that isn’t suicidal, then they should learn how to be very quickly, because a person like that does not deserve to live.

TRACEY: All right, if you like I can refer you to a counsellor.

CALLER: But you’re a counsellor, Tracey, and so far you haven’t given me anything. Do you realize that for fifteen minutes you have done the exactly opposite of counsel?

TRACEY: That’s — not true —

CALLER: All you do is ask questions, but where are the answers, Tracey?

TRACEY: I’m afraid —

CALLER: Where do those come from, Tracey?

TRACEY: I’m afraid that I don’t have all of the answers. And, it’s hard to hear, but sometimes the answers have to come from you.

CALLER: Oh, what a load of you-know-what that is! I am going to hang up now, and I want you to know I have not enjoyed our conversation and I do not plan on paying the charge that appears on my phone statement from this call.

TRACEY: Okay, the Suicide Prevention Hotline is a free service.

CALLER: Good-bye, Tracey, I hope you go to hell.

TRACEY: Good-bye.

(He hangs up. Sobs for a little while.) 

CALLER: Ach. Government workers.

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