I’m writing this for two reasons: to help me get my thoughts in order, and to set forth my account of events. It is easier to quell rumors when there is a written record to refer to. Not all of this is in the papers yet, but there’s nothing here the police don’t already know.
This past Thursday morning, my ex-boyfriend Bobby tried to kill himself.
It was not the first time. In December, while I was still dating him, he overdosed on prescription meds. His mental health had improved considerably since then, however. He was seeing a psychiatrist and a counselor, and the prescriptions they gave him seemed to be working. Even after I broke up with him on February 21, he seemed to be doing okay. (I would never have broken up with a suicidally depressed person; if nothing else, I would not have cared to live with the guilt afterward).
So Bobby was doing better. He and I were settling into an agreeable friendship. But then he got word that he was about to go back to jail, and so he decided to die. He had told me on several occasions that he would rather kill himself than be locked up again.
I did not know at the time that he had gotten in trouble with the law again. That came to light later.
On Thursday morning I woke to the sound of sirens—ambulance, police, more firetrucks than I could count, and the ominous white van. I don’t know what its exact purpose is, but it only shows up for very serious situations.
Normally I do not gawk, but considering the number of emergency vehicles present, I decided to see what was going on. When I stepped outside, I found Bobby’s suicide note affixed to my door.
Going down the stairs, I saw a person being carried on a stretcher. It was Bobby, still alive.
The other events I learned about somewhat out of sequence; for the purpose of this story, I’ll relate them in chronological order.
Bobby endeavored to kill himself with something explosive. He has a passing knowledge of chemicals, and he chose as his location the storage room of the next apartment building over, which houses flammable substances. Whatever concoction he came up with, it was strong enough to rattle the whole neighborhood. (I slept through it, all unawares.)
Bobby sustained severe flash burns, but did not die. The explosion did penetrate into the first floor and started a fire. A family of three was injured, the father seriously, with third-degree burns. Last I heard he was in stable condition.
The property damage was extensive. The residents and pets of two whole apartments have had to be evacuated until such time as the structures can be declared safe.
My initial response was sorrow for all of the victims and all of the suffering. My heart was breaking for Bobby. He had sought to free himself from his problems, but the plan backfired. On top of everything else he was suffering, he now had to bear the guilt of accidentally causing harm to all those people. I do believe it was accidental. Bobby has many faults, but even at his worst I cannot see him deliberately hurting innocent people, and he has a soft spot for children and animals. If he had anticipated the devastating result of his act, he would never have done it. Either something went wrong with his chemicals, or he was so irrational and distraught that he forget to consider that something might go horribly wrong. Whatever the case, he would now have to live with the responsibility of his actions.
I cannot begin to comprehend what he is enduring. He is my friend. He loves me, and I shared a relationship with him, and though I ended the romantic component of the relationship, I still care for him and love him in my own way. Of course I do: he was very good to me, and he has many sterling attributes. I would not have dated him for half a year, otherwise. Because a man I care for is suffering, I am heartbroken. I’m coping with a major dose of empathy, for Bobby, for the people he hurt, and for Bobby’s family.
But I, my kitties, and my apartment are fine. From Thursday morning through Saturday afternoon, my sorrow stemmed strictly from compassion. The only personal anguish I was suffering was in grieving for my friend.
Things have taken on a new dimension this afternoon, thanks to a long chat with Bobby’s brother. Unbeknownst to me, Bobby had recently reverted to his old ways, lying and stealing. On top of this, I discovered that Bobby had lied to me during our relationship.
I entered that relationship knowing full well that Bobby had a criminal past. I was on my guard to detect deceit, but not once did he set off alarm bells. His behavior was occasionally immature and irresponsible, and in fact, that’s why I broke up with him: after the second time he violated his parole, I told him I was leaving the relationship. My hope was that he would see the consequences of his irresponsible behavior, to wit, smoking marijuana (which I do not object to, unless one is facing a drug test) and driving with an open beer in his vehicle. After that second strike I ended it. I regret that his parole officer acted with more leniency than I showed.
As I was saying, I was aware that I was dating someone with an ugly past who sometimes showed very poor judgment. But though I watched for it vigilantly, I never detected a single instance of his abusing me in thought, word, or deed. Bobby loved me completely, this much I’m sure of.
But he did lie to me about his past and his present, as I discovered this afternoon. His lies were designed to paint a more sympathetic portrait of himself. I tried to be watch for them, but Bobby’s a professional-grade liar. His lies were not meant to hurt me, but they were lies nonetheless. He deceived me.
It hurts, now, to discover this betrayal. And his actions of late smack of betrayal, too. He was so close to turning things around. He was devoted to his sick father, acting as a fulltime caregiver—in my book, that nearly qualifies him for sainthood. Even in the giddy opening days of our relationship, I always took a backseat to his dad. And he was doing honest work, and cutting back on his alcohol, and seeking help for his depression. But then (though he hid it from me) he started drinking more and started stealing again.
I don’t know whether to be angry at Bobby per se, or angry at the demons he has endured his entire life. It is patently clear that Bobby is mentally unwell. He is suicidally depressed, obviously, but I think his mental problems are much deeper and uglier than I can comprehend.
To what extent should I hold him accountable? It is not possible for me to know.
So I am enduring two conflicting emotions toward Bobby, anger and compassion, and on top of that I am feeling hurt and betrayed. I am having to reconsider the tender feelings I had toward a man who was a good and decent friend to me. This is the guy who loved my cats and could kick my ass at scrabble, who repaired stuff around my place gratis and who, just last Monday, rescued me from a bug in my apartment. This is also the man who lied, deceived, and stole, and whose actions led to serious violence, destruction, and injury.
As I understand it, Bobby has been released from intensive care into custody. It is almost certain that he will spend the rest of his life behind bars. I predict that he will find a way to kill himself, once he goes off suicide watch. Regardless of how much he contributed to his own problems, the fact remains that he is in tremendous pain—and if there is a bright future in store for him, then it will take someone more perceptive than myself to see it.
It is a sad story on every count. I grieve for the victims, for Bobby’s family, and for Bobby himself. I am disconsolate at the loss of my own friend; I am equally disconsolate at my own loss of innocence about the nature of that friendship.
Please, if you are a praying sort of person, send out a prayer for the folks affected by this story. If prayer is not your cup of tea, I’ll take good thoughts instead.