The details, such as may actually be know, are scant and it’s nothing I would really pursue doggedly like the intrepid reporter I might like to aspire or even pretend to be when the reins on my brain have been let loose to wander.  My assumption is that sometime on Sunday night or early Monday morning Jesse Huestis chose to end her life.  My phone was being pointedly ignored so that I could flit through my day without human contact but, like television viewing or standing on the roof smoking while watching the locals go about their lives on Haight Street, my voyeuristic tendencies compelled me to up the volume a bit to listen in.  It was my roommate who I also work with and there’s little precedent for such a call, especially after only having left the apartment a couple of hours ago.  “Have you talked to anyone at work today?”

-What’s wrong.

It’s not quite like some months back when similar news had spread about another coworker’s death.  Late in the evening on my way to the timeclock and what amounts to freedom in my world I was stopped by a manager; heart-attack.  Someone I knew but had little contact with beyond a polite nod whenever paths were crossed.  Perhaps more importantly there was no questions– people have heart-attacks. It was sad, regardless of how well you knew him, but it wasn’t anything beyond that.

When I started working Jesse was gone, a ghost that people mentioned, that flyers advertised benefits for on every wall.  I didn’t attend– didn’t know her and hadn’t made friends to hang out with yet– but you could tell she was revered amongst my co-workers.  No one ever went into details about what the benefits were about but you heard vague mention of illness.  You figure it’s cancer.

Her return was along the lines of Jesus’ entry of Jerusalem and soon she was seen here and there, moving about in the distance and always in the company of someone.  She’s pass my little work station and at some point one of us introduced ourselves to the other but it was nothing special.  But since she was cute I eventually managed to bother her outside one evening when we were both smoking and we would, whenever chance would have it, have little conversations from time to time afterwards.  One night I stood outside while she clutched a bundle of boxes to her waiting on a cab.  She was moving in with her sister and she seemed enthusiastic about it.  Whatever hardships she’d stared down in the past were being left behind, it seemed, and life was slowly getting back on track.

She disappeared again suddenly and no one ever talked about it within earshot of me but by this time I’d been “promoted” to an self-contained department and wasn’t privy to all the store gossip.  I took it for granted that she was back dealing with her illness, whatever that may have been. When she returned the second time it didn’t seem to be quite the celebration as it had been before, but maybe that’s just because now I was working with her.

Consequently we slowly began to get to know one another a little better. Her time away wasn’t quite what I expected– after a falling out with her sister she’d moved back in with her mother and had broken up with her boyfriend.  I didn’t really know what to say to that beyond sorry because I didn’t know her well enough to say anything beyond that. Don’t really know why this news came to me at all but as she’d said once before, “I don’t know why I’m telling you my life’s story” so maybe it’s just my open face, eh? She told me how she had, since her second return, been put through the ringer trying to resume her old responsibilities, having to basically prove her worth all over again and argue with the front office about what she did at work. I felt bad because I knew a little more about that than her personal life, but all I could say was sorry again.

Regardless of what could only be considered a serious shit-storm she still seemed upbeat and normal, at least to me.  She still wandered around and talked to her friends, still talked on the phone and made plans, laughed and talked alongside the rest of us up in our little attic office. We developed a relationship of gentle bickering and put-downs and seemed to get along alright.

Friday afternoon she asked me to come outside for a cigarette.  She’d just told one of our little crew about a minor fuck-up and was concerned that it wasn’t “her place” to do so.  Meanwhile I felt bad that I left it up in the air for her to do after I figured out who’d fucked up.  I told her she’d done nothing wrong, she hadn’t risen above her status and she’s acted appropriately.  No one could have possibly been offended by her pointing out the error.  I think she felt a little better about it.

“I had a brain tumor” she tells me and I’m not sure how we’ve even gotten here.  She tells me how her right leg is still fucked up from treatment, a procedure which extracted most of a tumor from her head, even after intensive therapy.  “I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom by myself”, and still there was problems remembering things and thinking straight.  Does sorry cut it?  I tried one out but it just hung in the air about as worthwhile as an umbrella in a hurricane.  So I asked her about it, how treatment was going.  Going well, she thought, her last MRI had been clear and slowly, after brain surgery and six months of not being able to walk and having to deal with one of the scariest illnesses ever.  The worst part was feeling helpless afterwards, still feeling helpless, still having problems with her leg.  “I just want you to know that I’m not stupid, just gimpy.” I told her about my own history of not being able to walk and we joked about the gimp club.  We could have meetings, I suggested. “But no one would ever show up… We’ll all be too busy gimping around.” Who has brain surgery and jokes about it afterwards?

I beat her out the door Friday and patted her on the head as I passed.  See you.

Work yesterday was a strange affair.  If I hadn’t know– if it hadn’t happened– I wonder if you could have seen the difference.  Apparantly Monday was rife with sobbing but Tuesday just had a pall cast over it.  I avoided the attic office not eager to talk to anyone.  What can you say?  Sorry? Eventually I had a talk with the manager up there, who had known Jesse since they started the store up. “Can you imagine someone that’s in so much pain they choose to end their own life?”

That’s the crux, of course.  This wasn’t a heart-attack but a decision.  This was someone who pretty much endured some of the worst that life can throw at you and survived, a little gimpy but still ready to give you shit for a laugh… All that to give up in the end…

Categories: Hesitating
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