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I watched flamenco in Granada on autopilot, hardly processing the click of the dancers’ heels on the floor, wondering who would call the EMTs if I weren’t there.
Every Shakespeare lover has a different interpretation of Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy: To be, or not to be, that is the question— Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?
Except he began calling me late at night, calls that were mostly filled with the staticky hiss of the phone as he tried to figure out what to say. If I, as one of his good friends, worried constantly about his mental health, I couldn't imagine how she was able to handle the pressure. They broke up in the spring of his senior year in high school, and Thomas and I began dating as soon as I came home for the summer.
That summer was idyllic, mostly because I was leaving for a semester in Spain at the end of August and we wanted to savor the time we had together. He was finally taking medication and had gone to a therapist a few times.
At the end of my senior year, I went off to the University of Virginia, and he stayed in Richmond to finish high school. He couldn't bring himself to care about things he’d previously loved. I told him that what he was describing was a classic case of depression and tried to get him to seek help.
Hunching over a cup of cold tea, waiting for him to call and tell you he’s OK, and knowing that he’s not capable of that kind of communication.
Sometimes, sharp memories of the phone calls we’d had would bubble up in my mind, but I’d push them back down. This didn't last for very long.* * *While I was in Spain, Thomas rarely told me what was wrong, but he would sometimes blurt out snippets of what was really going through his mind when we talked on the phone. His medication made him sick, so he would go off it for weeks. Although I tried to get him to see a counselor at UVa’s psychological services, he skipped the appointments I did get him to make.
He wasn't learning his lines for a student production of Macbeth — not because he wasn't trying, but because he couldn't. I wrote him letters every week, each one exhorting him to get help. I found myself standing in vineyards in southern France, ignoring the fragrant smell of the dirt, worrying about whether Thomas was taking his medication.
I knew that, logically speaking, Hamlet’s words had little to do with Thomas' predicament — Thomas was not suicidal, thankfully — but they kept echoing through my mind.
Was it really nobler to suffer, if suffering meant going it alone?