For How Much Longer
©2017, George J. Irwin. All rights reserved.

The sun is brightly shining in a perfect blue sky without a cloud.

Why does it seem so black? So ugly?

It hurts.

From neck to shoulders, it is as tight as a vise.

Across the chest, the weight is punishing.

And the heart. And the gut.

Legs feel too heavy to move.

Hands are clenched tighly into fists.

It hurts.

The pain has been here for so long.

It is unbearable.

For how much longer can this last?

Life partner has said goodbye forever.

Children are grown up now and have moved on, not heard from.

Parents are gone. No siblings.

Dead to the former in-laws, of course.

Others promise and then don't come through. There's always something else they need to attend to.

They couldn't stand being near the suffering. They were afraid they would catch it.

It would be more sincere if they just said I Won't Make Time. Sorry. No, not really.

It hurts.

Specially selected gifts were sent, flowers were bought, cards were mailed. Time was spent, unselfishly. Nights on end sometimes.

The caring given will not be returned. Companionship will be with someone else.

Just give, dare not ask to receive, it won't happen. Don't be silly.

For how much longer can this go on?

It is a short walk to the railroad tracks.

Trains pass by frequently, at speed. No chance to stop in time.

It would be over in seconds.

A tiny voice in a backchannel of the soul says a single word.


And why think that this is really any different? There have been how many billion broken hearts across all of time? How many thousands of sad songs? How many sorrowful poems? How many films and plays about losing?

Did those not come from dark feelings too?

Yes, from people who had talent to do something with them.

Stories with the happy endings are worse. Fairy tales. Not to be believed. Cruel false hope. Attractive, worthy people find each other. Immoral ones take advantage of the innocent. And the rest are left behind to watch helplessly. Happiness eludes everyone else, and happiness laughs in their faces.

Unless there is utility in the acquaintance.

Being responsible.

Being loyal without question.

Seen as just making up for flaws. How inconvienent. So sad, too bad.

Yes, that was it. Too damaged to keep, too useful to throw away.

Just a disposable diaper.

It hurts.

How many people feel like that?

Used, lonely? Without anyone?

Is it not a pandemic? Has it not always been?

But it is felt one person at a time, deep inside.

Hidden behind a manufactured smile that no one bothers to see through.

For how much longer can that smile remain?

There is a bridge not far away that crosses a deep river.

One jump and the pain will be gone.

No one else will be hurt. There might be nothing to clean up.

The voice is a little louder.


Now, the times are too hard. Life moves too fast. It is like being a buggy-whip when the automobile emerged. It is a rotary phone in a digital, wireless world.



Unneeded. Unwanted.

What there is inside to share, has been assigned a value of zero.

For how much longer can this be ignored?

There are pills in the cupboard.

All of them can be taken at once.

Sleep would come peacefully and be eternal.

The body might not be found for days.

The voice is more insistent now.

No. No. No! Do not do this. Do not think this.

And the voice is directly challenged.

Why not? What difference would it make? Who would notice? Who would care? For how much longer can this last? Why not be rid of the pain for good!

Because there is a chance, the voice replies. There is hope. You know that. You are worthy. There is a magical world out there. There is so much left to do. You don't think so now but you will never know again if you give up. You don't see this now but you have a beautiful heart. Let it shine for the one person for whom it can always shine. Hold on.

And I love you, says the voice inside, even if no one else does.

The darkness relents, ever so slightly. A single sunbeam breaks through the blackness of the perfect blue sky.

The pain slackens, no more than just enough.

And yet the voice is challenged one last time: for how much longer?

The voice replies.

For now, just one more day.

Thank you to Jonathan Meiberg (Shearwater) for the word "Backchannel" and the song “Backchannels.”