[Note: Most of the names have been changed to protect the identities of those people whose names have been changed.]
In late 2000, I was living in Clemson, South Carolina and looking to move into a new apartment. I found a one which happened to be right next door to an apartment I used to live in, which was right underneath yet another apartment I used to live in. All I needed was a new roommate.
That roommate would be “Keanu,” so nicknamed for his love of The Matrix. I’d sorta known him for a few years—nice guy, a little quiet, a little strange. But considering my past roommates, that would be a welcome change.
Life in general was pretty darned good. I had an internship at a local high school and a job at a nearby textile mill. The apartment was not a total cesspool. My buddies Chip and Loopy lived within walking distance, next door to Chip’s cousin “Diana” and her best friend “Autumn.” Everyone was friends with everyone, and everything was hunky dorey.
Then Keanu started dating Diana, and it was all downhill from there.
It was a total mismatch. Keanu was naïve and withdrawn, Diana was worldly-wise and sociable. Keanu was into science fiction and his DVD collection, Diana was athletic and enjoyed outdoor sports. Keanu was on multiple antidepressants and antipsychotic medications, Diana was not.
Never mind how the two of them got together to begin with; nobody knows. Not even Diana. You know how you’ll pull into a parking lot or driveway somewhere and then suddenly realize–while still in the car–that you have absolutely no recollection of driving there? Relationships can work the same way.
It was a very one-sided relationship. He was totally infatuated with her, but she was in that car in that driveway. It was plain to all observers that whenever Diana decided to break up with Keanu—not in a million years would he break up with her—it would be bad.
That day was five years ago today: Saturday, March 10, 2001.
Keanu and I were headed to nearby Anderson for lunch. We decided to swing down by Chip’s place and see if anyone wanted to join us. Chip was out working at a construction site, but Loopy was there. Keanu went next door to visit Diana and retrieve an iron he’d loaned to her.
Fifteen minutes passed and my patience wore thin. The whole point of this excursion was food, and there was none in front of me. I went next door, and found Diana and Keanu chatting. Keanu said he’d be along in a few minutes, so I went back to Chip and Loopy’s and watched TV.
About half an hour later, Keanu came through the door, iron in hand and tears streaming down his face. He whimpered, “Can you just drive me home? I’m not hungry.” He went to the car. Loopy and I looked at each other, and knew what had happened. As I walked out the door, Loopy wished me luck.
I got in the car, and was ready to drop Keanu off at home. Then I remembered that Keanu had a gun at home. Did I forget to mention that? He owned a handgun. And a conceal-and-carry permit. Which you weren’t supposed to have in South Carolina if you took certain medications. Keanu had prescriptions for at least four of those medications.
Going home was out of the question. I said, “Look, I know you’re not hungry, but would you mind if I get something? I’m really hungry.” He said that was fine. So I drove to a nearby BK, placed an order, and started wracking my brain for a way to cheer him up and a way to get to his gun before he could.
Unfortunately, there was no way to console him. He was devastated. He was pathetic in the truest sense of the word. I felt badly for him, but it’s one thing to be sad and quite another to be sad and dangerously unstable.
Crying, he pounded my dashboard and screamed, “Why does this happen to me every single time?” He then slumped against the door, and asked, in a voice straight out of really bad film-noir, “Have you ever been in love? I have. Don’t ever fall in love. You’ll just get your heart ripped out… Do you believe in God? I don’t. Not anymore. You don’t know what it’s like to get that glimpse of Heaven and then have it torn away.”
As much pity as I felt for him, I was fast becoming annoyed at his melodrama. He then revealed some “deep secrets” that made him sound like a poorly-written stereotype in a pop psychology book: science fiction helped him escape from his “horrible” life; he wished he could be like Neo from The Matrix; he hoped to wake up one day and learn that this wasn’t his real life.
Finally came the cake-taker: Keanu said that the last time he’d been this depressed, he asked his brother to shoot him through the eye—and offered him twenty-five dollars to do it. He paused, and then made me the same offer.
This was so absurd, cowardly and nuts that it almost reformatted my brain. Someone had actually offered me money to commit murder—but it wasn’t that much money. Twenty-five bucks? I already knew the guy was cheap, but come on—twenty-five bucks was two large pizzas plus tip. It was how much my scumbag internship supervisor would offer me at the end of the semester to help a student cheat. Either murder was at a discount or cheating was at a premium that year. Besides, couldn’t I simply take all of Keanu’s money after he was dead?
Why pay someone to kill him when he could just as easily do it himself? Perhaps he knew he might lose his nerve, whereas a hired assassin would make sure the job got done. Or perhaps he knew that the person he asked would not actually shoot him, would instead take great pity on him, and would pay more attention to him. Maybe he believed that people who commit suicide go straight to Hell, and thought that he could circumvent that “rule” by paying somebody else to kill him. Clever, right? Alas, that God’s a pretty sharp fella and doesn’t get tripped up on technicalities.
Now that we’d firmly established that he was suicidal, I was worried that he might grab the wheel and steer us into a concrete pole. I picked up a pen, in case I needed to jam it into his neck. I told him that if he kept talking about death, I’d drive to the police station and let them deal with him. He quieted down, closed his eyes, and tried to sleep.
At last, some time to think. My first priority was getting to that gun before he could, because obviously I didn’t want him to kill (in descending order of concern) me, Diana, anyone else, or himself. We couldn’t go back to my place right away; he knew where the gun was and I didn’t. So I drove back by Chip’s place–which, again, was right next door to Diana’s–and saw that nobody was home at either place. Wherever Diana was, she was safe for the time being. I parked at Chip’s, and told Keanu that we were going to have a drink so he could calm down and we could talk about his problems.
I found the spare key, we went inside, and I poured Keanu a glass of something potent. He drank it. I poured him some more. He drank it. I gave him the rest of the bottle and told him to go take a nap. He went into Chip’s room and closed the door. So far, so good.
I couldn’t leave Keanu alone, so I needed someone else to search my apartment for the gun. Chip and Loopy had both gone to work, and I had no idea where Diana and Autumn were, which was just as well because I didn’t want Keanu anywhere near them. So I called my friend “Red.” I explained the situation to him and told him to come over ASAP. When he showed up, I gave him my key, and said, “There’s a gun in Keanu’s room. Find it, put it in your trunk, and come back.”
Red drove off to find the gun. Meanwhile, Keanu had called his dad, “Poppy,” and told him about the breakup. Poppy asked to speak to me. Keanu gave me the phone, went back into Chip’s room, and closed the door.
Poppy sounded more annoyed than worried, which gave me the impression that this sort of thing had happened a few times before. He asked, “Do I need to come down there?” I told him that if his suicidal son had a gun in the apartment, then yes, he had to come and take the gun away from him. It was a violation of the lease, and it was unacceptable for anyone in his condition to own a gun. Poppy said he’d be in Clemson in a few hours, and that he’d be spending the night.
Then Red called from my apartment to tell me he couldn’t find the gun. I told him to come back to Chip’s place and keep an eye on Keanu while I’d go back to my apartment and find the gun. I hung up the phone, opened the door to Chip’s bedroom…
…and Keanu was nowhere in sight. I froze. I had visions of him sneaking out the window, walking back to my apartment, arriving there just after Red left, finding the exceptionally well-hidden gun, and killing himself—possibly after he’d thrown a homicidal rampage in there somewhere.
I looked straight down. Thank God, there was Keanu, still alive but passed out on the floor. Apparently he’d tipped over some laundry baskets and he blended in with the scattered clothes. He still had his trusty iron in hand, and nearby was a pad of paper, on which he’d written a suicide note (pardon the grammar, he was drunk):
“Love You, Mom and Dad and [his brother]. It’s nobody’s Fault, just a manner of time. No medicine to help what I feel except Me than I am. Diana, This not your fault. You know what hurt the worse is you didn’t even cry? I guess I didn’t mean that much huh? Remember always, Keanu.”
Red showed up and kept an eye on Keanu. I went back to my apartment, went straight to Keanu’s room, and immediately found the gun underneath his mattress. Why Red hadn’t checked the most obvious place, I’ll never know. I took out the clip, made sure the chamber was empty, and hid the unloaded pistol in my bedroom. I put the clip in my pocket and went back to Chip’s place.
I could finally start to relax a little. Red and I decided that it was now safe to bring Keanu back to my apartment, and that’s where Poppy was driving anyways. We dragged him into Red’s car and drove him home.
When Poppy showed up later that afternoon, he had a short chat with his son and then asked for the gun. I retrieved the empty pistol, and handed it and the clip to him. That was unquestionably the most stupid thing that I have ever done in my life.
Less than a foot from my face, he smacked the clip into the gun and loaded a round into the chamber. I got more than a little bit nervous. Was he going to shoot me? After all, mental instability tends to run in families. Was he going to point it in my face and start lecturing me about my tone on the phone? Or wait a few days or weeks and then give it right back to his son?
I detected some aggression. Perhaps it was merely frustration that his son was suicidal yet again. Perhaps he thought I had emasculated Keanu by taking his weapon away. Perhaps he was a psychopath. Whatever it was, I should never have given that man that gun. I should have kept it myself and denied knowing anything about it. It would have been safer.
Now that Keanu was relatively safe and wasn’t going anywhere, I just wanted to get away from him and Poppy and be anywhere else on Earth. Red went home, and I went over to Chip’s place. By that time, Chip was off work, and Diana and Autumn had come home. We agreed to get the hell out of town and spend the night at Chip’s folks’ place up in Greer.
We stopped for dinner in Anderson and discussed the day’s events. Diana said that when she told Keanu that it was over, he started crying and flipped out. During his ranting and raving, he never put the iron down, so it was swinging all over the place. She would have gotten the revolver out of her bedroom and made him leave, but he was standing in her doorway, swinging that iron. He left after half an hour to ask me to drive him home.
After Keanu left, Diana drove to campus to pick up Autumn, and went to the construction site to find Chip. When they told him what had happened, he was furious. If he hadn’t been stuck at work, he probably would have found Keanu and beaten him to death. You don’t mess with family.
We got to Greer and told his parents the story. Diana went to her parents’ house and told them the story. The next day, Diana—a member of the university’s sharpshooting club—would be given a higher-caliber revolver.
Thus ended the strangest, scariest day of my life.
When I told this story to a friend who was once Keanu’s neighbor, he said, “You know, I always wondered why you moved in with him”—nice of him to warn me ahead of time, right?—and gave me some more background on Keanu’s bizarre behavior. For instance, Keanu usually doubled the dosages of his medications, and when his prescriptions ran out he’d simply forge new ones. That explained a lot.
Keanu should have just withdrawn from his classes and gone home for the rest of the semester to get his life together. Instead, he stayed, and of course there were more incidents–but nothing even half as bad as the day Diana broke up with him. He showed up at Diana’s place a few more times, and followed her around on campus a couple of times, but Chip convinced him to stop it.
His relationships with the rest of us were irreparably damaged. He was humiliated about what he’d done, or what had happened to him, however you want to look at it. In April or May, he grew tired of the “humiliation” and moved on campus—while still on the lease at my place. From that point until I moved to Jacksonville in July 2001, he paid $250 a month for an apartment in which he didn’t set foot. Fine by me.
Just before I moved out, I found the iron—the one he’d swung around at Diana’s, the one he held onto while still drunk on Chip’s floor. He had been in such a rush to move out, he left it behind. Scrawled on it in blue ink was the word “Goodbye.”
Wherever he is, I hope he’s alive, and healthy, and happy… but frankly, I also hope that I never see him again.
This entry was posted on Friday, March 10th, 2006 at 2:03 AM.
5 Responses to “The Suicide Iron.”
- PaxonGator Says:
March 11th, 2006 at 12:08 AM
I can see somewhat where the guy was coming from, as I ended up starting down the same path he did. However, I hope he made the same choice I did and said it would be better to simply look ahead for the next day.
- Loopy Says:
March 11th, 2006 at 2:29 AM
You forgot to mention what happened the next day.
When I got home, no one was there, and I had a vision of you guys duct taped up in a crawl space some where.
After find out what happened the next day the fool came over and told me “he didn’t try to kill himself” in an urgent tone. Again he was weepy, which made him a sissy but I didn’t know if he still had the gun. I had to call you to make sure he was gun free. You then came over and yelled at him and he left, but not for good.
Lets not forget what he wrote on the iron…Goodbye!
I would also be remiss if I didn’t relate the old chestnut about the time he took my computer for “Granit”. I still giggle when I think of that one. Then there was the time he informed me that the movie “Clash of the TItans” stole all of there CGI from The Matrix. If you never watched the movie, here’s the thing, it came out in 1981. Unstable much?
I have no idea if ti’s true, but I hear tell he graduated from MUSC (I wish I was kidding). For those of you who dont know that is the MEDICAL UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA! creepy stuff.
I still can’t believe that it has been 6 years, still seems like yesterday.
- Vincent Viscariello Says:
March 11th, 2006 at 12:00 PM
For starters, it’s been 5 years, not six, you maniac. And weeping doesn’t make one a sissy–after all, he’d just lost another love of his life–but paying someone else to shoot you does make you a sissy.
Before anyone complains about my yelling at him the next day, I think I had right to be angry at him for scaring the bejeezus out of absolutely everybody–and besides, we were headed for a Hooters or a Fatz and I had to settle for BK.
Multiple sources have confirmed that he did get a Master’s from MUSC! Good for him, and hopefully he’s got everything else straightened out.
- Loopy Says:
March 11th, 2006 at 4:12 PM
I will concede the weepy part, but all things aside he was a sissy. At least someone wasn’t threatening to kill him if he saw the girl who dumped him… at least I don’t think they did. Speaking of “Red” in your post, have you talked to him lately? Just wondering if he ever changed his ways or not.
- Vincent Viscariello Says:
March 12th, 2006 at 3:03 AM
Last I heard, he’d changed for the better… but that was before I moved to Jax, so it’s been 5 yrs.