Suicide 1: N___ was two classes above me in seventh grade, while his brother, E___ was one class behind, in fourth.  N___’s curly hair was cut in a proto-mullet, with wavy lines shaved into the sides, and he maintained a light wisp of a mustache, so blonde and light that it looked like a trick of the sun. He wore neon-colored clamdiggers and short-sleeved shirts as though he were a California native trapped in land-locked Colorado. Whenever I visited his brother, who lived two blocks away, he regarded us with an indifferent air, the way a queen ant ignores the workers scurrying around her.

There was conflicting news of his death: some people said that it was an accident, that he had shot himself while playing with a gun; others said that it was deliberate. E___ missed two weeks of school, and when he came back, I treated him gingerly, with no mention of N___, even though N___’s presence hung over E___ like a bubble.

I was afraid of grief—not E___’s grief, which made him walk as though the floors of Parklane Elementary were pools of wet clay. That grief was evident, palpable. No, I was more afraid of N___’s grief, a huge, unknowable thing that could swallow a person up in an instant, in an irreversible contraction of the index finger.

Suicide 2: My cousin H___ was a police officer in the Los Angeles, and my family drove to California for her funeral: my parents, sister, aunt and uncle all crammed into a van. There was no stopping in Las Vegas for a run at the casinos, no pauses except at gas stations, where I was allowed to look at the candy but not buy any. H___, too, had shot herself. I remember her round face, her feathered, neck-length hair, and how, once, on a previous visit, I had slept in the same bed with her, and she advised me: if you fart in the middle of the night, the least you can do is lift up the comforter to let it out.

By then, though, I had been thoroughly brain-washed by suicide-prevention filmstrips; suicide I now considered the highest act of selfishness. The closest I ever came to suicide was holding a kitchen knife to my wrist and thinking, I could do it, I could, in teenaged high Romantic mode. But the practical truth of it, I knew, was more unbearable: a closed-casket ceremony, her fellow police officers sitting stiff-backed in folding chairs, her boyfriend gripping the brass sides of the casket so hard that it shifted on its base.

The question I wanted to ask E___, the question I wasn’t able to ask H___ was Why? But I suspect that even if they could have answered, it still wouldn’t have made sense. There is no why. There’s only the act. The doomed lovers in Double Suicide proceed to their fates with mechanical certainty, and the black-shrouded Bunraku puppeteers look on, anguished, as H___’s mother clutches a framed photograph of her, repeating, No one’s as beautiful as my H___. No one.