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No Saint, No Martyr photo

This should have only been about one girl. In an even better world, I wouldn’t have to write about either of them. 

The first girl we’ll call Kim, since there’s no one you can give her real name to. Not only is she no longer with us, she is no longer with herself. 


The second girl we’ll call Luna. Luckily, while she is no longer with me, she is very much with herself; though some days it’s easier for me to think she no longer with us. I know that sounds bad, but sometimes the worst idea is also the easiest one to merely survive.


The first time I wrote about Kim killing herself, I disguised it behind a nihilistic police procedural: I wanted to find her truth through fiction. I wanted to convolute a mystery around a facsimile of her to keep me that much further from her truth, and because I wanted to protect both her and my grief behind a wall of crude bloodshed and alcoholic cop tropes. I knew police procedurals had fallen out of fashion—another reason why I chose that (re)tired noir subgenre: because I hoped no one would read it.


Truth: we don’t really need it anymore. Not when we have the Internet and its reverse-focus of social media. There are no more mysteries to keep us up at night. It’s all right there in front of us. 



Kim knew this, which is why she reserved the right to exit so deliberately, after leaving us a privileged viewing of her last words and thoughts on video, just seconds before she hanged herself. In a way, she wanted to make sure we were all on the guest list this one last time.


She had been making these videos—sometimes erudite pop-culture riff-rambling, other times humble updates on her crippling depression—for as long as we could remember, so there was no way to assume it wasn’t just another one, this last one. 


Unless we paid closer attention to the fact she was dressed up for a special occasion—glamorous in a black evening dress and white leather elbow gloves, a black dog collar banded around her neck, like an escort waiting for someone to take her away: her, from herself. Her tears told us, without telling us, she had been waiting for a long time. “At the end of the day, I love you,” she told the camera (us). “And you’re all going to be okay.” 


She reached behind her. In a playful, almost mocking gesture, she revealed a leash buckled to the collar—for discipline, so she could not stray. She pulled it upwards, a punching tug, tightening the collar, and sticking her tongue out the corner of her mouth. She repeated this a second time, not as funny. 


She uttered two fucks: the first one rang like an acknowledgment of how absurd this all was, or maybe to punctuate that this was really, really going to happen. The second fuck was slightly more drastic as she turned away from the camera, realizing just how late it had become. 


She walked out of frame.


“While it was still early evening, they were just too late. A body of a tiny but gorgeous Korean woman hung from a ceiling fan, dog collar choking her neck in permanence. The leash attached was coiled up tight like twisted wrought iron. As the leash reached maximum tautness, she began to slowly rotate in the other direction, implying she still possessed a post-mortem form of perpetual motion. A barstool stood two feet away from her dangling high heels, still rocking in that slight, slow pendulum, indicating the freshness of her death. Both stilettos pointed to where she should have remained standing in a better world. Her body subtly spun like a ballerina music box, or a cake in a display window, allowing a witness to be privy to every detail whether they wanted to or not.”


Her exit transcended morality, forcing a break in an imperfect storm. Everyone has a breaking point, just as everyone deserves a break. Horizons darken, blinding one to the merger between the horizon’s line and our path of unfolding amoral possibility. 




Kim was my very first real friend in Los Angeles at a lonely, uncertain (but thanks to her), transitional time. She zeroed in on me, bestowing her approval on another social orphan. She introduced me to everyone cool, allowing me to be somebody, an essential agent of situationist chaos, her and I, us all. 



So, when she left, I returned, very quickly, to a lonely, uncertain, and (thanks to her) transitional time. In many ways, she made me who I was, so when she killed herself, it was impossible to conceive. Many react to the suicidal: Why wouldn’t you want to see what tomorrow will bring? But the fact we can’t conceive of the finality of their action is nearly the point—as the suicidal aims not to be inconceivable, but unconceived. Some are simply fatigued from being re-born over and over again. 


Once further details came down the pike, I didn’t approve, but I understood from afar. How she couldn’t renew her immigration status because a judge frowned on her old domestic violence charge: a high heel in a boyfriend’s face. How our current administration was aggressively deporting people to their country of origin, even though Kim was found on the streets of Korea by her foster parents, before moving to America when she was only five years old. How she was seeing a married man who would never quite commit to her, forever the other woman. 


So, when your blood parents don’t want you, your boyfriend doesn’t want you, then your own country doesn’t want you, what would you do? I tried asking myself this through the shock I was in, through the membrane of coping machinations of numbness. 


Instead, I just started crying. “Left of the Dial” by the Replacements came on my car stereo, it possessed her spirit. I lost it, pulling over to see if I could find it again to get us home. Luckily, my girlfriend Luna was by my side in the passenger seat—she knew Kim well too, so we were going to go through his together. 


It was going to be better than when my best friend died of a drug overdose two years earlier. Since he had lived in another state, Luna had never met him. So, she scolded me for grieving too deeply. “He was my best friend,” I pleaded with her. “I don’t care who it was,” she said. “Three days is just too long, it’s not normal. And you’re wearing his clothes now? You’re obsessed, like some kind of like, ambulance chaser or something…”


Now, we were going to go through this together.




Kim’s memorial was attended by about seventy broken-hearted men and a smaller handful of women she kept close. I read a piece I wrote analogizing her to a comet. The next broken-hearted man who read after me described her in the exact same way, a comet. He and I had never met before. 




While it was too late to stop Kim from leaving us, there was still an unfolding emergency to protect parts of her that only her innermost circle was privy to. Kim was not a celebrity, but she was a notorious fixture of L.A.’s underground history, now more so since she was gone. Both sincere mourners and salivating vultures came out of the woodwork, the latter who didn’t acknowledge the value of privacy. We began getting harassed by a reporter who claimed to know her, claimed to love her, yet didn’t know certain details about her, particulars we were keeping under lock and key, out of respect for our friend, the dead.  


Since the reporter didn’t have all the gory details, he wanted to create a mystery.


There was no mystery.


She was sad.


His aggressive tactics only made our death-grip tighter, our disbelief bolstered. The surreal cruelty of his probing split us in half, dissociating, one hand holding her secrets, the other holding his throat. Perpetuating L.A.’s tabloid lineage under the guise of investigative reporting, he aimed to do a first-person expose tell-all, opting to use himself as the center of her universe since she could no longer be. Our pride was just being part of her innermost orbit; we would not be pulled by his gravity. 


I’m trying to do this story to get Kim’s feelings out there, but there seems to be a lot of secrecy and rumors about her death as if people are ashamed of how she died instead of why she died…


She died ‘cause she was fucking sad, bro.




It is sad that not one of her friends wants to stand up for the truth, especially with all the rumors multiplying. She deserves to have her true story told, but if none of you want to clue me in, I guess no one will ever know…


The truth is that she was sad and life is not really a story, bro. 



Shame on all of you. She had something she was trying to say. You gatekeepers want to claim her memory all for yourselves, while the rest of us have no idea what really happened. You and the rest of her so-called “friends” are just competing for her legacy, to speak for her, when she should be speaking for herself…


She spoke, bro.




Back at home, where I assumed Luna and I were going to go through it together, the walls began to close in. Miraculously, Luna snapped back from the tragedy immediately after the memorial. I, however, still couldn’t quite find the right compartment that would accommodate the immensity of Kim erasing herself; it defied physics, not just the human spirit.


I kept wanting to call Kim to make sure Kim knew that Kim was dead then ask Kim why I didn’t see Kim at Kim’s memorial. 


I needed more time, more than Luna would allow. Since was already done grieving, she expected me to be done. 


This was her way of going through it together, being done with it.


But the accumulation of her and I fighting every day, for as long as I could remember, made me realize how long I had been also mourning Luna and me, and I saw no choice but to end it, her and I. 


Because not long after Kim’s memorial, Luna began threatening to commit suicide daily whenever she didn’t get her way—a cruel, yet effective manipulation, since I was still in vulnerable grieving limbo. The forbidden act of suicide was now assimilating into a last-ditch viral language; in stereo, one speaker recently blown, beckoning me to put my ear closer to it, while Luna continued to scream in my other one. I was quickly suffocating between an exit warning and an exit proven. 


Was she jealous of the attention I spent on Kim’s passing, assuming the only way to my heart is if she too, may pass? Or was this merely the inevitable ramp-up, the climax after years of denial stacking, because I was scared to death to disagree with Luna because of how she would react? In our partnership, she wore the top hat, and this was her last black rabbit to pull. 



I was terrified to be home— a shadow of the woman I loved screaming how much she hated me because I was scared of what she might do, so she would threaten to again to see if she could break me further; there was only one way to go further.


I was terrified to leave home – the shadow of the woman I loved would be alone in the dark without supervision.


I was terrified to return home – the anticipation of finding her dead was a constant thought that kept me from straying too far.


So, when you can’t stay (in your body) or leave (in your body) because you fear you might return (to a body), what would you do? I tried asking myself through the membrane of coping machinations, of numbness. 


I hate you, don’t leave me.


I’m too frightened to love you, I’m too frightened to leave you.


And for one honest moment that I will never forget because I vowed to never think about it again: suicide suddenly deceived me as the light and truth; where it doesn’t take a saint to be a martyr.