By Rebecca Lederman
I’m a crisis counselor. My job is, quite literally, to convince people not to kill themselves, but I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts ever since I can remember. In the past 6–8 months, though, I hadn’t quite noticed the feeling because I became busy with some other things going on in my life. Nonetheless, I have found it gradually slinking back into the picture except this time around it felt like an old, perhaps unwelcomed, friend stopping by for a visit. Because I have a history with thoughts of death and the like, I didn’t feel the same yearning for meaning I once had. In fact, I’ve been facing a lingering apathy or quite some time now, and yet every day, 50 hours per week, I convince people to live, to find their meaning, their hope… in this vast unknown universe we call home.
Every day after work I walk a dog, Jasper. Jasper is a pit bull mix, he’s strong as hell, and he will pull me incessantly for the entire half-hour walk. However, twice a week for the past two years I’ve walked this damn dog because his owner has always asked me to and has been ready to schedule walks on my time. Broke as I am, depressed as I am, it’s hard to pass on easy coffee + gas money. So I committed to walking Jasper after work. Sometimes I suspect she thinks I need it more than Jasper does. She often gives me food and little “holiday tips”. She’d often chuckle at me when looking at some of the outfits I wore. I still remember one summer, I had shown up in snow boots and a winter coat, 20 minutes late because I had just rolled out bed. She had Jasper ready to go in his leash and made not a single comment of disgust at how bad I looked. To this day, she still hasn’t asked me why I don’t bring a poo bag with me. Sometimes, I really do remember; other times, I’m not so lucky. Jasper shat on the sidewalk once. I didn’t remember that day, so I just ran.
One day on my 75-minute commute home, I dreaded walking that dog, but I continued to remind myself that I had committed and it was extra money. I thought about how I was ready to die, that there isn’t much I feel is worth experiencing, as so many people have the same experiences as me. I’m no individual. I felt like there was nothing left for me to do that someone else hasn’t already accomplished in a bigger and brighter way. I know little to nothing that there is to possibly know in this universe. I thought about how I’m sort of isolated with myself. It’s like looking at life through a small room, never able to truly get out of my own head and participate with others in our little fraudulent community.
I hated every minute of that “walk”. In reality, we got half a mile away from the house (5 minutes in) and he started pulling back home. He really knows how to piss me off, that dog. He pulls so hard, and I’m paid for a half-hour to endure this nonsense. It’s not always like this, though. Sometimes our walks are tolerable, with minimal pulling. Last night, this was not the case. It was dark and cold. We both were probably thinking the same thing about one another. Eventually, after killing 10 more minutes leaning my entire body weight in the opposite direction against his pulling, I sat down on the sidewalk and decided to sit there for the rest of our time and pet him. He was anxiously staring in the direction of his house, and I noticed he was way to chubby for his harness. I don’t know why, but it kind of annoyed me. Eventually, after distracting myself, I noticed the time was up. I let him drag me back to his home.
When we got back I unhooked his leash, unstrapped his harness, and quickly opened the front door. I was ready to get the hell home. I wanted to drink. His owner appeared at the same time I was about to let him in, and she giggled, “You scared me.” She smiled. I faked a smile and wished her a good evening.
For some reason, when she responded: “You too!!” It warmed my heart a little bit. She almost sang it the way she said it. It reminded me of the quirky texts she’d sometimes send me when asking me to walk her dog. You know, those little Bitmoji pictures? She’d sometimes send me the funniest ones, and I wondered if she realized how silly they looked. I could see that she really meant it, and she really enjoyed that I came to walk her dog. For some reason it made me feel needed, like my life mattered just for a moment — to her and Jasper — in a way that maybe another person couldn’t easily replace or surpass because it relied on me existing. At the very least, twice a week for two years, I mattered.