Walking through Central Park never smelled sweeter than today. The promise of new life was everywhere: in the lovers and sunbathers, in the tinkling laughter of children, in the pink blossoms, and the bluest sky.
And yet where my mind went was to a passage from a novel, The Last Life, by Claire Massud.
It was April when I read the book, and I was in the village of Menerbes, in Provence, not far from where the story is set. A translpanted Algerian family owns a Mediterranean resort for the well to do French. On a perfectly potent Spring day, the teenage protagonist’s father gets in his car, drives to a deserted road and after sitting alone, feeling the air and smelling new life all around him, takes his own life. What I remember was that the narrator thought Spring was too beautiful and promising for her father to bear.
The morning I read that, I missed breakfast at the house where I was staying. Instead I stayed in bed reading and listening dreamily to the sound of a visitor’s voice coming from the kitchen. When I heard him leave, I ventured down for coffee and to tell my hostess about that poignant passage. For a few seconds, she looked at me as if I’d slapped her. Then she began to speak. The local policeman of the village who’d just left had dropped in for much needed solace. Unsure he could stand to do his job another day, he told her he had just cut down an older couple from a tree in their orchard. They simultaneously hung themselves that very morning. “Suicide is most rampant in the Spring,” he said.
No matter how hard I try to understand wanting to leave this world, especially when everything else is coming to life, the only thing that makes a flicker of sense to me is if it’s because Spring, so full of earnest assurance, is always fleeting before our eyes.