Although long after the rash of deaths at Kenton North, it wasn’t until 1992 that I was shown very plainly that you do not fuck with a suicide. That year, right before I was to graduate from Simmons College, one of my classmates - thin, shy, Indian – hung himself in his dorm room. Although the high-strung hippies that flocked to Simmons were pretty freaked out, this was old news to me and even if it wasn’t I was going through an especially self-absorbed period and probably wouldn’t have cared much either way.
However, when this young man killed himself he left a note for Leon Bernstein, the dean of Simmons, challenging the dean to make sense, or something approximating sense, out of his suicide. Although this challenge would’ve been refused by most of us, at least in the name of good taste, Bernstein was not one to forego a challenge. And boy did we pay for it. Bernstein directly confronted the young man’s death and the self-absorbed reasons behind it as a large part of his Commencement Address that year and it spread a dark shroud far and wide over the proceedings. Bernstein made the classic error of confronting the suicide head-on, and a suicide’s silence is deafening. The dead boy’s passive-aggression turned Bernstein into a bully before our very eyes. He could not pull it all back around into something positive, something life-affirming by the end, and by the time he realized he was out of his depth it was just too late. The Address stumbled to a close and even the presence on the dais of Martin Scorcese and Sonny Rollins could not dispel the huge cloud of shit-mist he had sprayed in every direction. Our graduation was, at least temporarily, ruined.
Never forget: suicide is an act of aggression. Do not fuck with a suicide.