When I was eight, my mom dropped my brother and I off at school.
As we pulled into the parking lot the Canadian flag was flying at half-mast.
“Why is the flag like that?” I asked my mom.
She was slow and hesitant in her response.
“A boy in grade five,” she swallowed heavy, “hung himself in his bedroom closet this weekend.”
I didn’t understand what that meant.
“It means that he won’t be coming to school anymore.”
“Why?” I asked, having no prior insight into suicide.
“Because his girlfriend dumped him and he was sad, so he killed himself.”
“You can do that?”
As I walked towards class, I remembered when I was 4 and had my first experience with death; my great-grandpa’s open casket funeral.
My dad told me to stay away from the coffin, but while he was out smoking a cigarette I snuck in and looked at his cold, lifeless body and poked him to see if he’d wake up.
In the school parking lot that day I understood that death was an option, not just an act of God.
My child’s mind came to associate feelings of sadness with suicide.
Life took on a new meaning; a video game that – if you’re bored of playing – can be unplugged, anytime.
Soon after, I was introduced to the music of Nirvana and felt a bond between myself and Kurt Cobain.
I’d always felt out-of-place as the artsy, writer kid.
Kurt made me feel alive in my own skin and allowed me to overlook other kid’s criticism that I was a nerd.
Kurt Cobain made it feel cool to be different.
I began to find comfort in my writing and drawing and it became a daily obsession.
I strived to write poetry that I could imagine Kurt Cobain singing in front of millions of adoring fans and made drawings I envisioned on album covers.
His music and odd-ball personality made me feel like there was hope in making a career out of creativity, something my father disapproved of, harshly.
Two years later, my mom and I were driving to the mall when the radio cut-off mid-song and there was dead-air for thirty seconds.
“I’m sorry,” the radio host whimpered, holding back tears, “that I have to be the person to tell you this.” I turned up the volume.
“Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home this morning with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.”
The car stopped and my mom’s eyes went wide with fear as she watched for a reaction in me.
I asked her to leave the keys in the ignition and leave me alone for a few minutes, and as soon as she shut the car door, I broke down in tears.
All of a sudden, the man who I aspired to be like had killed himself.
He too must have been sad like the boy from elementary school.
If my idol – who I frantically tried to creatively emulate – couldn’t find happiness in life, I was doomed to failure.
After Kurt Cobain’s death, there was a wave of copy-cat suicides, as teenagers were shooting themselves with shotguns every day in tribute to their fallen hero.
It worried my mom, so I didn’t have to go to school for the next few days.
Instead I laid in bed and plotted my own life’s demise.
My world crumbled, from this point forward.
My mind became consumed with death.
I began to plot the end of my life; write a few books and once people start to read them, kill yourself.
That way, I’d never be forgotten.
Years later, I tattooed 27 on my wrist, as if X marked the spot…