I wasn’t certain what I was going to do, as I had no skills and nothing to offer but an expensive college degree. I know Smith got you places, New York and Cambridge and all that. But it’s come to mean less, college. They start companies at nineteen and become billionaires and buy bowling alleys. I don’t want to generalize, but unless you come in the form of a Sylvia Plath app, these tech kids probably don’t care much about you.
But getting older is actually not so awful. One of the good things, for instance, is the growing ability to make sense of the past. What I see now at forty is just how easy it was, with no purpose other than feeling good and making money, to become unequivocally lost.
Henry looked at me, and I got it. He wanted his wife to be more than just a stripper. He wanted her to be a story. He knew what I didn’t yet, which is aside from birth and death, stories are everything.
I wasn’t interested in dancing, though,” she said.
“Just being looked at?”
“Adored,” she said.
My father would tell me about how some people survive hardship, while others, inevitably, don’t. How in those situations, no matter how much I like thos people, it is important to create distance. How a drowning man will pull you down with him, even if he doesn’t want to.
I want Henry to have a had a good ending; I know he didn’t have a good ending; I’m back at the beginning wondering how he ended. There’s the guilt, of course, because maybe I could have done something. But also, my chemical makeup can’t believe that the blissful oblivion could be better than laughing in the bathroom with me.
I’ve figured out after all these years, is that I don’t live quite as largely as the two of you did. I don’t feel as much, and that makes life survivable. When I’m wandering around in the night, I don’t go all the way to the edge. I can make it all blank and just wish for things.
So here’s what I wish for you, poet genius. Here’s what I wish for Henry, the friend I didn’t save. I wish that you were correct about the whirling blackness. That the oblivion was, in fact blissful. And that, in the dark space, your dried up heart–withered from overuse–finally found the blood you were looking for. So that as the air seeped out of your lungs, the rest of your body was able, finally, to bloom, to burst, to blaze.
Katie Crouch, “Making Sense of Suicide with Sylvia Plath” (essay)