[NON FICTION] A Stab at Suicide—I’ve Always Got a Joker in my Deck

A Stab At Suicide—I've Always Got a Joker In My Deck

by Max Barrie


I’m not a danger to myself… but what if living is unnecessary? 

         Frankly, unless death resembles LAX, I’m a supporter.  I DO worry about unnecessary suffering.  But we live in such a toxic environment, how can poison possibly be avoided?  On a planet where no one is safe, where no day is free, and enemies are at arms length.  The food is processed, the air is polluted, the water contaminated.

         I was born in August of ’82.  It was at Cedars-Sinai and I came out SCREAMING!  My theory is— as soon as the cold air hit me, I realized I had been evicted and hadn’t had time to get dressed.  My unsolicited birth would soon become a metaphor for my FANCY FUCKED life— with which I was rarely impressed.  And while breathing came highly recommended and everybody was doing it, I eventually concluded that a lot like college— life wasn’t for everybody.

         A bipolar comedian that I worked for in 2006 said to me— “Max, I’ve always got a joker in my deck.”  He attributed the quote to Hunter S. Thompson.  What the expression meant was— I can exit the game at any time by offing myself.  The saying made sense to me, so I had it tattooed on my left arm… which is now covered up by a scorpion.  In 2009 I awoke to an early morning phone call from the comedian’s Uncle.  He was sobbing and told me that my funny former employer, who’s career had stalled, was found hanging from a tree in a wooded area.  I didn’t really know what to say or how to feel… I hung up uncomfortably numb and thought of a joker— a devilish little clown with a shit-eating grin.  This was not my first experience with premature death, but it was the first time I knew someone who had intentionally cut things short.  It would not be the last.

         I never had access to a rocket, but my plan to leave earth had always been brewing.  I obsessed over death as a child and ultimately in my late 20’s I would make half a dozen BOOZE-FUELED trips to The Cold Spring Bridge out in Santa Ynez.  This was before the suicide barriers were installed.  I had read that out of all the jumps off Cold Spring no one had survived.  I would drive nearly two hours… from LA, down the 101 into Santa Barbara… then up into the mountains along Route 154.  Honestly it’s a miracle that I didn’t crash, kill anyone, or get arrested during any of these grisly expeditions.  I drove into the elevated darkness with one purpose each time… but once I arrived at the bridge I could never get out of my car.  Truth is I was petrified.

         By 2014 I BELIEVED my torture had at last outweighed my terror.  I was again fresh out of sober living, now WORKING in drug treatment, and soon back on anything 80 proof with coke… and I don’t mean Classic.  It didn’t take long for me to crumble… it never does once you add venom.  After a couple weeks the word was out.  My roommate wanted me gone, my family wouldn’t have me around, and I was back to lying and stealing.  How many times could I keep dancing this jig?  My feet were tired.  What now, another treatment facility?  Additional counseling?  More mindless prayer with nudniks… fuck that shit.  I thought— why not just quit while I’m behind?

         So I “tried” to kill myself.  And maybe I actually succeeded… maybe I’m dead right now and not really writing this?  Wouldn’t surprise me if Beetlejuice walked in and asked to borrow some Scotch Tape.  Anyway, when I awoke on April 9th of last year I snatched a bottle of vodka, stole a bottle of muscle relaxers, and gassed up my hybrid with a roll and a half of quarters.  Then I drove to a place where lots of people go when they’ve given up all hope— The Valley.

         I maneuvered my way down into Chatsworth, shut off my iPhone and parked my car in a low-key area.  My windows were tinted.  I climbed into the back seat and began drinking and popping pills…

Lights dim… 100…99…98…and frog thoughts… 

         Next thing I know I hear my roommate’s voice far off in the darkness: “Hey, where are ya buddy?”  Then we’re abruptly both in his car driving fast on the freeway— a lit cigarette falls out of my mouth and burns a hole in my jeans… suddenly I’m in some emergency waiting room… my Dad enters and I have trouble walking… a nurse helps me, then comes the charcoal.

         I don’t know how much vodka I drank and I’m not sure how many pills I took… but clearly it wasn’t enough to carry out my exit strategy.  I’m convinced today that had I really wanted to die I would have swallowed every pill in that bottle and never turned my iPhone back on.  Yup.  At some point I don’t remember, I turned on my iPhone, answered it and explained to my roommate where I was.

         My roommate was an 80’s James Spader asshole type, but I loved him in some bizarre non-homosexual us against the world way.  After all this happened he stopped talking to me… and now it’s like he was never really there to begin with.


         Many say life is bittersweet, and I can’t really argue with them.  But from my perspective if someone barfs on my Bay Cities sandwich, I don’t ponder the unsullied tomato on the end.  My lunch has been FUCKED and now I have to get back in line or walk over to Swingers— the most annoying restaurant in the history of food.  That’s my take on life.  If you talk to me about balance, I’ll tell you to shampoo my lunchbox.  The bad stuff contaminates everything else and I’d like to speak to God’s supervisor, Mr. Davidson.  On many occasions I see people trudging through everlasting slime… and I get why they want out and I believe it’s their right.  Whether the problem’s terminal cancer or stale popcorn, who says you have to stick around?  Life’s a gift, this bodysuit is mine, and that is fucking that.

"Mummies and dummies continue to fuck like there’s a pussy shortage and then reproduce like rats.  There’s too many of us, there’s not enough resources, and global warming’s gonna melt all the ice by 2040.  Death may actually be a much needed vacation."

         Mummies and dummies continue to fuck like there’s a pussy shortage and then reproduce like rats.  There’s too many of us, there’s not enough resources, and global warming’s gonna melt all the ice by 2040.  Death may actually be a much needed vacation.  I think most of us just have contempt prior to investigation.  I’ll tell you what’s worse than death… yesterday I was in an Uber carpool with two Asian girls who couldn’t stop saying “LIKE…” gangsta rap was on the radio, and the driver only took streets where the magnified sun seared my skin off.

         That said, and even though I happen to be pro-choice long after birth, I do have soul.  It may be a warped black pretzel, but it’s still edible.

         Here’s the BIG PROBLEM with killing yourself, unless you’re Kris Jenner.  Kidding.  But honestly, a stewardess who gobbled cocks in Calabasas and then sold her children for shekels?!  We’re so gullible.  The PROBLEM is when you take your own life, you’re also destroying other lives.  And that will never be ok in my estimation.  When I was drunk and high I used to wanna believe it was nobody’s problem but mine.  But I often got behind the wheel… and I said regrettable things… and I didn’t show up for work… and I once pissed in someone’s dryer until it wasn’t a dryer anymore.  When I was under the influence it quickly became everybody’s problem.

         We often feel that we’re separate or different just in general, but it’s amplified when we’re depressed or ready to check out.  Fortunately or unfortunately we’re not independent.  Everyone’s a part of something more than their own ass.  People are connected, lives are tied in with other lives.  You’re a link… and it’s not polite to break the chain for selfish reasons. 

         That comedian who hung himself had a wife and three small boys at home.  He had a sobbing Uncle who called me… he had other family and friends and people he worked with… he permanently and negatively affected other lives.  We could even go a step further and discuss the ripple effect of that.  It’s kind of like barfing on that Bay Cities sandwich.

I’ll end with this…  

         I never thought I gave a shit until I met Adam in treatment last year.  We shared a room for thirty days and I fuckin’ hated him immediately.  He walked loud, he talked loud, he left his shit everywhere.  He was a spoiled cunt muscle who regularly begged me to write a screenplay with him, only he had no story.  Adam had migrated from bumblefuck to Beverly Hills after college and basically struck gold… but then he lost everything… even his trophy wife.  All day long this putz would talk about every cent he made and squandered, and in group he would explore his new life with, and I quote— “mediocre women.”  He actually said this.

         I complained to him and about him, I shit—talked him, I ignored him.  In my eyes he was a spoiled child who’d run out of DoubleStuf Oreos— Mr. Veruca Salt.  But sometimes he sat with me in front of the TV and talked about killing himself… and I still didn’t buy it.  He just wanted sympathy, so once I said— “Ya know Adam, some people have to leave the party early.”

         He checked out on a Friday after his thirty days were up, while I stayed on for an additional month.  I remember he hugged me by the front door in the morning and grabbed his bags.  He got in the backseat of a small Honda, but he had that Lincoln Town Car look in his eyes.  I never saw him again.

         Adam texted me the next day saying he was out with friends, but still complained about his horrible life.  I think I told him to “hang in there” or some bullshit… then deleted the text.  Then on Sunday Adam went to a shooting range, coincidently in The Valley… and he blew his head off.

         When word got back, everyone in the treatment facility was visibly shaken.  The patients, the doctors, the staff.  I even saw some tears.  I didn’t feel anything at first, but I did think about Adam’s parents back in the small town where he came from… as he was an only child.  And while I wish I had been more compassionate and less judgmental during his life, I don’t take any responsibility for his death.  Shit… maybe a little.

            That first night after he died— when I got into bed and the lights went out, I was instantly flooded and overwhelmed with memories of Adam… one of him eating chocolate cake in the living room with his hands… he said to me: “This is the stuff that makes life worth living.”  Then I thought of that joker— a devilish little clown with a shit-eating grin… and then a voice in my head told me I needed to live.  These days I’m not so sure anymore.

Max Barrie is a writer and artist currently based in Los Angeles. The son of screenwriters, Michael Barrie and Sally Robinson, Max was born and raised in Beverly Hills, California. With acerbic wit and self deprecating humor, Max documents his life growing up in the shallow, superficial depths of Beverly Hills and the Hollywood machine. In his multiple part autobiographical series, entitled A Trendy Tragedy, Max will explore his bouts with addiction, prostitution and his search for identity in a landscape that is rife with temptation and false ideals.