An excerpt from electric buddha has logged out

by Jamie Fristrom

My first thought when I read your suicide note was that I didn't need your shit. I just wanted to come home, chat a little on-line, and then collapse in a heap. But no: you had to try and scare me with your "I've really gone and done it this time" crap. I had been dealing with your suicide thing ever since you had reached puberty. "What do you think it will feel like when I take my final breath?" you would say. "Will I finally reach enlightenment?" Or like that time at Kurt's party where you locked yourself in the bathroom because Sondra was being a bitch to you, and you said you were going to slit your wrists.

So I untangled myself from my stressless chair and went out to the hallway, leaving my computer on. Your door was closed. Light was coming through from underneath. I decided I shouldn't knock, I should just push through and bitch at you.

I expected that you would be lying under your mountain of blankets, bong in one hand, book of Chinese poetry in the other. Or gazing wistfully out your window at the apartment complex across the street. Or in lotus position, listening to the Dead on your headphones so loud that I would be able to hear it from where I was standing.

Instead you were lying on the floor with a spiderweb of clotted blood covering your blue face. Your gun was in your right hand and a towel was under your head, soaked in blood. In fact, there was a lot of blood everywhere. Too much for the towel to absorb. I guess you didn't realize how much blood there would be.

You really did it. You actually killed yourself.

For a second I thought you might be faking. Like that guy in Harold and Maude. I wondered if I should take your pulse. I sat down on your bed. I had to think.

Your eyes were open just slightly, tiny white slits. "Gabe," I said, out loud, remembering what I went in your room for, "I'm sick to fucking death of you always saying you're going to commit suicide just to get attention. You asshole."

The air in your room smelled a little musty, but there was no rotting meat smell or anything like that. I walked out to the living room, searched for the phone which turned out to be in the discontinuity of the Point Discontinuity Couch — I didn't feel right about using the phone in your room — and dialed 911. "I think my roommate killed himself," I said.

The 911 lady asked me why I thought that.

"Well, there's blood everywhere, and he's got a gun in his hand — maybe I should take his pulse?"

The 911 lady wanted to know where I was.

"In the living room."

My address, she wanted to know. Oh. I told her my address. I answered question after question. She kept me on the phone until I heard a knock at the door, and two cops entered our apartment. I wondered what they must think of the cluttered boxes, books, pieces of junk furniture. Would they arrest me for the red plastic Swiss Dairy milk crates that I stole from Safeway? ("WARNING: UNAUTHORIZED POSSESSION OR USE OF THIS CASE OR OBLITERATION OR DESTRUCTION OF THIS CASE OR THE REGISTERED BRAND, IS PUNISHABLE BY $1,500 FINE MAXIMUM, IMPRISONMENT OR BOTH PENAL CODE SECTIONS 565 AND 566") They could have been the same cops that called Bradley a nigger, a Laurel and Hardy pair, both with mustaches, except they couldn't have been, since this was Walnut Creek and that was Orinda. I pointed to your room. "He's back there."

They left the door open, letting in cold. The fat cop (Laurel? Hardy? I don't know which is which) went back to your room. The thin cop took the phone from me and started talking to the 911 lady.

"He's dead all right," the fat cop called out. It bothers me that it was so easy for him to tell. Couldn't they do CPR or something, try to bring you back? Like on TV?

The thin cop told the 911 lady that it was a death, all right, and they would handle it from there and hung up. Then he started asking me questions.

"What's your name?"

"Calvin Hildebrant."

"What's his name?" He pointed back to your room.

electric buddha. "Gabriel Neuberger."

"Where'd he get the gun?"

"I don't know," I lied.

"How long have you known him?"

"As long as I can remember."

"How well were you two getting along lately?"

Officer Fat came out of the hallway, talking to various people on his walkie talkie: the coroner, the police station, the hospital. The questions continued, and I answered them in a daze, I don't even remember what I said. Did he do drugs? What do you mean, he was a dead head? Who are the Grateful Dead?

And people kept showing up: two more cops — one of whom was female; a couple paramedics; and the coroner.

At one point the woman cop came out of your bedroom and complained to the fat cop. She took her cap off, revealing short, clipped hair kind of like her words — short, clipped, precise. "There's no note."

"Suicide note? It's on my computer," I said.

"What do you mean, your computer?"

"I'll show you."

I took them back to my room. As I passed by your door I caught a glimpse of your jean-covered leg, a glimpse of blood-soaked carpet. I pointed to my Apple II plus.

She read the screen and asked, "How do I know you didn't write this yourself?"

I tried to explain it to her, stammering a little. I said it was e-mail from you, that I'd need your password to log on as you and write it, that it was a thing called ChatNet, where we all logged on from our homes and talked to each other electronically. She obviously thought it was weird, and kept antagonizing me with her questions until the fat cop came into my room, put a hand on her shoulder, and whispered something in her ear.

She thrust out her jaw. "Don't wash your hands," she said. Then Officer Fat escorted me out of the room while she re-read the note.

It was like bad cop-good cop. The fat cop asked me how I was doing.

"Can I see him?" I asked.

He didn't think that would be a very good idea, and asked me if I had people I could talk to. I told him sure.

"Because his problems are over," he said. "Right now I'm worried about you."

That was nice.

From your room I heard cop voices: He sure is a dead head now. Where's the bullet? In his throat. Yuck. Do you think the roommate's in shock? Cheap gun. You find the registration?

So I just sat on the Point Discontinuity Couch and waited, answering the occasional question from the authorities. As I was giving the coroner your parents' address and phone number the paramedics took you away, wrapped up in a plastic tarp like a big roll of outdoor carpeting.

The fat cop recommended that I find some other place to stay. "His problems are over," he repeated.

The woman cop said she needed to take my computer as evidence.

"Why?" I asked.

"We have to keep the suicide note. It's standard procedure."

"I can print it out for you," I said. I tried to explain to her that the note wasn't even stored on my computer — that if she turned my computer off, the note would be gone — she freaked out at that, saying that I was withholding evidence.

The fat cop put his hand on her shoulder, his fingers dug into her. "A printout will be fine," he said.

I went back into my room to print out the note, peering into your room on the way. There was just a stained carpet and bloody towel where you used to be.

When I gave the woman cop the printout she stared at it suspiciously and then left.

"You should leave the window open in your friend's room, keep it aired out," the coroner said.

"Should I clean up the blood?" I asked.

"That's above and beyond the call of duty. If you want to, you can use these: wear a couple of pairs on each hand." He put a box of latex gloves on the table.

And finally, they were gone, shutting the door behind them.

It was like six in the morning.

The fat cop came back in one minute later, because he left his flashlight behind. He found it in your room and left again.

Copyright © 1996
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