Four years ago today, Friday August 13 2010, I was wondering where the fuck my brother was.
It wasn’t like him to not come home at night. But no matter, I had a party to be. I’ll ask him what it was he did all night tomorrow. Tomorrow came and he never did come home. Nor did he that next night. It wasn’t until Sunday morning when my uncle and father found his body in the woods down the street from the house we grew up in did I learn where he went that night.
Suicide isn’t glamorous or courageous. It is an act done by a person that truly feels there is no other way to escape how they feel.
My brother’s name is Paul Caraway and he was twenty-one years old when he decided living just wasn’t his thing. I’m sure there are people who are up in arms over my casualness of his suicide. I’ve been told plenty of times about the families who have to deal with family members doing themselves off, escaping their duties. It’s selfish. It’s cowardice.
I’ve been that family that has to deal with the aftermath of a suicide. I call tell you about my heartbreak or my own depression fueled drug addiction. I can tell you about how after my brother committed suicide that I would drive down the highway just on the verge of swerving over onto oncoming traffic. Or the suicide letters I wrote and never fulfilled.
I was the coward. I wanted to die and I couldn’t even do it.
My brother was my best friend. As we grew up we were shuttled from house to house and eventually ended up in foster care. The day we were picked up we were driven to a beautiful big house and told this is where we were going to live. We were lice-ridden, poor children who never had anything. As you could imagine, we couldn’t contain our excitement. It wasn’t until I was out of the van and the door closed that I was told it would just be me. I cried. As a girl who grew up with only brothers I wasn’t accustomed to crying in front of anyone, but I cried to the point of hiccups. I wasn’t worried about my parents or other siblings, I was worried about the boy in the van that I thought I’d never see again.
My amazing grandmother eventually won custody of us and we reconvened in Kansas City. We’d often go “exploring” , walking for hours at a time talking about god or politics. Even as children we had this peculiar heightened obligation to stay knowledgeable.
Paul was a shy, funny guy. A genius in some sense with an IQ score of 165. He also had an extra tooth that he would point out as making him special. Something I’d always laugh at, who the fuck wants an extra tooth? The guy made fun of me for having dimples. I told him it was also special, to which he replied, “webbed toes are special, too.”
My brother went to a college preparatory academy, the same one that I eventually tested into. He dropped out before I entered my freshman year but I still heard all about him from upper classmen. “Caraway? Are you related to Paul? Man…I remember the time he climbed the top of the school building. That guy was my hero.” Or, “You’re related to Paul? That guy is hilarious!”
It’s some impossible shoes to fulfill, I tell you.
I knew he was depressed. I was depressed, and we often talked about it. At one (marijuana-induced conversation) point we concluded that the way to live forever was somehow to kill yourself. I forgot how that actually panned out but we thought we were fucking geniuses.
His first suicide attempt was April 2010, an early morning when my dad busted into my bedroom screaming to get up. Not accustomed to my dad being around or people bursting into my bedroom, I woke up in a daze. I walked into my brother’s room to see what he was doing in this commotion only to see his wrists bleeding and a shoelace tied around his neck.
I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a knife before returning to his room to saw off the restraint around his neck. How ironic, I was worried about cutting him while attempting to cut it off before it strangled him, whereas he was worried I would cut if off in time. When I got it off he laughed.
It was five in the morning, I was confused, crying, and my brother just laughed in my face after cutting off the shoelace that was strangling him to death as our father attempted to stop the bleeding from his wrists.
I slapped him the face. “Why would you do this? Why would you do this to me?” I asked him as the EMTs arrived. They carried him off on a stretcher as he gave his most convincing remorseful-face.
The state put him up in a rehabilitation center to try and get him evaluated for medication. As a couple of aides were escorting him from one building to the next he politely thanked them both for their service and told them again, very politely, he would be leaving then, before taking off and jumping a six-foot fence and eventually running the eight miles home. That was when my grandmother called me. I rushed home, from where I can’t remember anymore, before cornering him at a friend’s apartment where he told me he was going to shoot himself in the head.
One of the most incredibly saddest moments of my life was when I had to call the police on my brother. They came out and confronted him. Apparently by the law, they can only arrest him if he openly admits to wanting to kill himself, which he did.
He must have known the law, which makes me wonder if that was just a cry for help. They took him off to another rehabilitation center.
I skipped school the next day and proceeded to the county courthouse. I was eighteen years old and had no idea what I was doing, but I filed the paperwork to have my brother involuntarily committed on act of insanity. I fucking tried.
I went and visited him a week later. He was smiling and even apologetic. He told me he was “such an idiot” that he’d “never do that to” me again.
It was a couple good weeks. I was busy working, about to start college, and even getting married.
On August 12th, I bought fake ecstasy. (Drug experimentation was something we did often. Don’t get me started into that story about him tripping Dramamine when I was trying to sneak in one night YEARS ago) When I told my brother about it, he wanted some. So I gave him some money to buy it and let him borrow my car to go get it. When he came back he decided to go watch a movie, I went on a walk to the park.
I didn’t see him that night, but the next morning we all woke up early. My grandma wanted the family to go to breakfast. Me, him, and my uncle (who is now deceased) rode in the same car. My brother asked about about some good liquor to celebrate with. I offered Disaronno, my uncle- tequila.
Later that day, as I was getting ready for work, my brother came into my room. He asked me if I was really happy. He wanted to know if I was really in love, if I’d be okay. Then he gave me a hug. It all seemed so weird, and out of place, but I thought he was just being emotional and/or drunk. (Both very plausible excuses)
That was the night that he took his shoes off, pocketed a handful of my dad’s sleeping pills, and walked down the street to the woods with a bottle of Disaronno to never wake up again.
He was so set on the idea of dying, no one was going to stop him. Trust me, I’ve been paying for it ever since.