By: Gabriel McSherry
Note: The ending of this play landed strangely to me. It is an odd depiction of suicide, and it doesn’t need to be realistic because fiction is limitless but given how important and serious the topic of suicide is, I felt it necessary to write an alternate ending that would be more interesting in my eyes.
Of course, I didn’t want to take my own life, that was all in Jihei’s head. He was right about there being little for this world to offer me. Honestly, I’ve always felt that way. Ever since I was a young girl my mother and I got by with very little and does he really think the decision to take my own life hasn’t crossed my mind before? I almost did it once down by the stream next to the willow. That willow saved my life by the branch snapping before my neck did. The strangest thing occurred after that happened. Suddenly, a calmness settled over me and I started laughing uncontrollably. It was then I realized how pathetic the attempt to take my life was and embarrassed to even try it.
Who was I kidding? It felt so right in the moment, but I needed to fall seven feet from a tree to realize what I would be throwing away. Whether there be a life after this one or not, the risk wasn’t worth it anymore. When I landed in the sand next to the river, the sand never felt so smooth. I could taste the wind on my lips again and hear it flow through the land. I can’t remember the last time I felt that. It’s like I was awakened from this deep slumber, it just had to be real for a second; the threat needed to exist right before my eyes.
Now Jihei is where I was those so many years ago, seeing that willow as an escape from life rather than death. And this time he want’s me to go with him. He is convinced there is another life waiting for us, a life that does not cut or stab. It’s ironic how we both have stabbed his wife O San in the back.
I admit it I knew he had a wife when we fell in love. I even knew they had children together, however I have never felt such love with anyone else and I’ve been longing for it long before I climbed the willow, and still long after I fell. No doubt my penance will come someday for loving someone who has betrayed those who love him, but I kept thinking if I could only hold onto this feeling one more day… Days became months flying by at the speed of sound until I found myself here sitting at my desk writing this memory of what exactly happened on the night that changed everything.
Yes, I told Jihei I would follow him into his afterlife only after trying to convince him to stay in this one with me. The idea of relinquishing your life before its due time is only constructed by the strongest will of thought. Once it is built in your mind, it is difficult, sometimes impossible to gather reason against it. Jihei blames himself for falling in love with me but also my existence. And him betraying his family and concealing his love was too much to bear. So, the idea was to go down to the Willow tree (picked out by myself) after sunset and hang ourselves. But I well know that tree does not take life; but returns it.
On our walk down with our ropes in hand, Jihei was pale and quiet, unlike his state when talking about the life waiting for us.
“Is everything alright my love?” I spoke.
Jihei cleared his throat. “Of course. I was just thinking about my children and how I will miss their faces.” He replied.
The wind started picking up and I could taste it on my lips again. It was blowing right throw an adjacent pear orchard to our path where I could taste the sweet pears on my lips.
“Mmmm do you feel that?” I asked him.
“Koharu, I feel almost nothing.” He replied fiddling with the rope in his sweaty hands.
As we reached the tall gangly willow, the harbor bell could be heard in the distance, calling all the lost sailors at sea to return safe. As I started untangling my rope, Jehei collapsed on the sand in sobs.
“I… I can’t” He choked. “I don’t have the strength.”
I shook my head and sat down beside him; the sand just as smooth as I remember falling between my fingers.
“It does not take strength to leave.” I said. “It takes strength to stay.”
We sat in the sand watching the full moon rise over the bay. Before sunrise we threw our ropes into the fading tide and watched them wash away.
Reflection: To me the only beauty that suicide can bring is the strength to overcome it. To notice what wasn’t noticed, to remember what was forgotten are the gifts overcoming suicide can give- and so much more. A story that romanticizes suicide isn’t right or wrong, it just does nothing for me. It makes me feel nothing, so I tried to write something that makes me feel. When it comes to Koharu’s position, sometimes words are not enough. Sometimes the only way is to show.
When writing this I thought about the ending to Mystic River. An innocent man is killed and thrown into the river leaving behind a wife without a husband and a son without a father. And the words that Jimmy delivers after stabbing Dave are “We bury our sins here Dave. We wash them away.” (Mystic River, 2003) That is such a powerful line that I needed to say something similar but inspires hope.
Chikamatsu, Asataro Miyamori, Robert Nichols, The Love Suicide at Amijima, Publication Japanese Series, Cambridge, Ontario 2000
Mystic River, Clint Eastwood, Warner Bros. 2003Krysinska, K., & Lester, D. (2006).
Comment on the Werther effect. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, 27(2), 100. https://doi.org/10.1027/0227-5910.27.2.100
Till, Benedikt, et al. “Determining the effects of films with suicidal content: a laboratory experiment.” The British Journal of Psychiatry 207.1 (2015): 72-78.