“I’m Still Here” by Daniel Pope

I’m Still Here

*content warning: suicide, self-harm, addiction

Suicide slumps in the passenger seat, checking his watch. “Are we there yet?” Suicide asks, and I say: “Not even close.” He just smirks at me with his spatulate jaw, an icy crackle in his eyes. Though he isn’t what he used to be, his white shirt, as always, is immaculate.

I brake for a red light and a bar halts in the passenger window, neon banner in the darkness. Suicide asks if we can go inside.

“You know I can’t,” I say.

“Man, you were more fun when you were drinking,” he says. “You never have fun anymore.”

“I have fun sometimes.”

“No you don’t.”

“You’re just upset that I don’t listen to you anymore.”

“You listen. You’re talking to me right now.”

I listen because he’s an old friend. But we’ve grown apart over the years. 

“No we haven’t,” says Suicide. “You’re just pretending we have. We’re as tight as that day we went to urgent care. Remember? The day you—”

“I remember,” I say.

“You haven’t changed. And you never will. You’re not better than me.”

“I know,” I say.

“All this time and I’m still here.”

And so is the bar, neon smeared across the glass. 

But then the light turns green and I drive away. 


Suicide is always there when I need him. On the days when living is too intense, he whispers fantasies into my ear, dulling my senses. “It’s not real,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be real.” 

“Life is easier with one foot out the door,” he says.

This is what Suicide does on that long-ago morning before I go to urgent care. I am wasted, and Suicide spoons me in bed.

“You can always get out of here,” he whispers. “It’s not a big deal.”

His breath sends tickles skittering down my back. “Man, I said you could crash here for a week.”

“You’ll love the next place.” 

“In fact, you’re not here,” I say. “You don’t even exist.”

“It’s a giant, beautiful hotel with a great continental breakfast. You never have to wait to use the waffle makers. And they never run out of batter.” 

“Shit,” I say. “I love waffles.”

“I’m so glad we had this talk,” says Suicide.


But it isn’t enough, and he knows it. He doesn’t even try to dissuade me from going to urgent care. After speaking to a series of professionals they lead me to a social worker, a thin, sweaty man in suspenders with an I.D. badge dangling sadly from a lanyard. 

“It’s our society,” I tell him. “We’re just a bunch of self-enclosed atoms that yearn to connect into molecules. But can’t.”

“It’s capitalism,” the social worker says.

I don’t know what to say.

“Capitalism has created a society of individuals whose only mode of expression is consumption, which is mediated by the market,” he says. “The market is an abstraction. The things we produce are mediated by this abstraction such that each commodity loses its unique qualities and takes on a frictionless exchangeability. That our social labor—the work we do with and for each other—is reduced in this way, turned into a mere vehicle for exchange value to feed the market, is why we feel so alienated.

“But what we call ‘capitalism’ or ‘society’—they’re massive assemblages of countless imbricated systems with infinite variables,” the social worker goes on. “Sometimes we take refuge in abstractions when concrete truths are more difficult to face. I’m going through a pretty nasty divorce.” 

He scratches below an eye with the chewed-up cap on the back of his pen. 

“Anyway,” he says, “as true Marxists, we must look at the real conditions of our existence and work from there. Why did you come to urgent care today?”

I’m too exhausted to lie. “I was going to kill myself,” I say. 

“That’s a pretty good reason,” he says.

“Could I please have some Xanax or something? It would really help.”

The social worker chews his pen. 

“Well, you just said you were going to kill yourself,” he points out.

Suicide, who has been silent this whole time, is inspecting the counter. He finds a glass container of cotton balls.

“How about a gun, then?” I say.

The social worker stops chewing his pen and writes something down on his little legal pad. Meanwhile Suicide, emboldened by my therapeutic failure, holds two cotton balls at his nipples. 

“What the hell are you doing?” I snap.

The social worker furrows his brow. “Just sitting here, I guess,” he says.

I barely hear him. Suicide is doing a sexy little dance. God, he is beautiful. 

“But in a broader sense,” the social worker says, leaning back and chewing his pen again, “what’s anyone doing? Surviving.” 

“But at what cost?” says Suicide, holding a cotton ball at his tailbone, hopping like a bunny. 


Later that day I go to the library and emerge with a stack of books about Mental Illness. As I read on the couch, a community of abstractions is born. I serve us drinks. 

Negative Body Image and Addiction talk over each other, both making what I assume are great points. Childhood Trauma throws a very compelling tantrum. 

But they all just grow louder and louder, drowning each other out with explanations. 

“Okay!” Suicide shouts. “Party’s over!” 

“He invited us,” whines Childhood Trauma.

“Well I’m disinviting you!” Suicide says.

He ushers them out. They comply, grumbling, Addiction tucking the half-empty whiskey bottle under his shirt.

Then the toilet flushes and Self-Loathing emerges from the bathroom, his face twisted with disgust.

“You’re out of toilet paper,” he says.

He sits on the couch, staring me down.

“What do you want,” I say.

“I’m not here for the conversation,” he says. 

In his silence he is the most eloquent of them all. His genius is in refusing to explain himself. His great power is in refusing to leave.

But Suicide comes back from the door, glaring. He disappears into the kitchen and emerges with something flashing in his hand. 

Self-Loathing stands. “There’s no need for that,” he says.

Self-Loathing is stronger, but Suicide is rasher. He is willing to risk it all. It’s in moments like these, when he chases Self-Loathing to the door with a knife, that I love Suicide more than anything.


Once we are alone, Suicide comes back with the knife. It winks at me in the light. 

“Just do it yourself!” I cry. “Please!”

“That’s not how it works.” 

He hands me the knife.

“It could all be over,” he says. “Right now.”

“No,” I say.

“No more fighting with me. With yourself.”

“You’re just an abstraction!” I shout. “A fake abstraction!”

“Sure, Xanax would have been cleaner. A gun would be more masculine. And if it doesn’t work, cutting does not demonstrate serious commitment.”

“You don’t exist! You’re not even here!” 

“But that’s because most people slash horizontally. The trick is—”


I push Suicide. He slams against the bathroom door, which opens inward to admit us.

Once we are on the ground, I am almost tender with him. I unbutton the cuff of his immaculate shirtsleeve and roll it up. He doesn’t resist. I push the tip of the knife gently into his soft forearm, murmuring like a lover as I apply steadily more pressure until something is breached—the flesh opens, embracing the blade, which I draw toward me, unzippering his skin, watching his eager blood rise and fall in dramatic streaks.

Torqueing his neck awkwardly, Suicide admires my work. Then he smiles at me with such warmth and gratitude that for a moment I forget to breathe.

“Thank you,” he says.


And then it’s just me. The blood on the bathroom tile sucks at my skin. I try to stand, but when I see the dark ribbons flowing down my arm, I slip. The knife drops to the tile with a bright clatter.

The first thing I feel is relief. The urgency of my sickness, which was before a dim photo negative in the back of a dusty, buried filing cabinet, can now be corroborated in vibrant color. Can no longer be denied. 

But then I feel it, a deep animal resistance to death. The panic enters me beat by beat, a marriage of blood and fear, squeezing the air from my lungs. The air pulses with black spots. I can’t really move my wounded arm, so with the other I reach across to the opposite pocket for my phone.

My red thumbprints shine purple in the phone’s blue light. The blood confuses the touch screen, so I have to wipe it a few times on my shirt. Finally I manage to dial 911.


Sudden darkness clamps down on my eyes, extinguishing the sick fluorescence of the ambulance. Then for a while it’s like looking out the window of the subway, into hurtling shadow.

Another light flashes on in an adjacent tunnel. Through iron bars, I see distant passengers on another platform who stand with their arms crossed, waiting for a train going the opposite direction. But which direction I’m going, I do not know.


But when I’m revived, bandaged, and plugged with a needle that drips cold life into my scraped-out veins, I know. I’m not in a hotel. I don’t smell waffles. I smell feces and disinfectant. I’m in a hospital.

I am alive.

But a hospital is so like a hotel, a washed-out space on the margins of time, that for a while it seems there is no difference between life and death. I drift in and out, enwombed in a blank numbness. Gray hours slosh through my brain like murky rainwater through a culvert. 


Then comes the important part, the part where I am supposed to change. I drive myself to an institution and check in. There are counselors and group therapy and pamphlets and yoga and pills. There are conspiracy theoreticians and journaling sessions. There is withdrawing in front of a tiny television screen that plays Groundhog Day on VHS. 

Then one day I am discharged. I’m given my things in a jangling manila envelope. I drop my keys—my left arm has some nerve damage—but I just pick them back up.

I know what’s going to happen so I walk through the parking lot from row to row, taking my time. I’m not especially desperate for tomorrow. I’m not especially desperate for anything. Something in me has been pleasantly blunted. 

Finally I get to my car. When I open the door, Suicide is sitting in the passenger seat. 

“Good to see you again,” he says.

He, too, has lost his edge. But when he grins, though his beauty is less copper and more verdigris, I’m still moved by it. And though I knew he would be there, I still drop my keys again. I still shut my eyes, feeling the anger mount, and picture myself wrapping the car around a telephone pole somewhere in the middle of the night, sending him through the window and into the jaws of the moon. 

“Thought you’d gotten rid of me?” he says.

At that, the anger wilts, and I picture myself leaving a glass of water on his bedside table. And this is what gives me the strength to bend over and swipe my keys from the concrete, then swing myself into the car and put the key into the ignition. This is what gives me the strength to keep silent, watching the sun gild the dust on the windshield as Suicide sits beside me in a haze of growing agitation, itching below the band of his watch. Because he needs me more than I need him.

“Well, you haven’t,” he finally says, his voice frilled with panic. “I’m still here.”

“I know.” I turn the key and the engine snarls through my bones. “So am I.”

Daniel Pope is a writer and musician from Seattle. He has an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers-Newark, and his work has been published in Narrative Magazine, the Bellevue Literary Review, and Gulf Coast Journal. He is working on his first novel.

Categorized as Issue Ten