How to Lose Hope (And How to Find It in a Sandwich)

03/27/2015 04:22 pm ET | Updated May 27, 2015
Lauri Patterson via Getty Images

At some time or another, you will lose hope.

Life will get hard, there will be tragedy. A friend will move away, a brother will die. You will hear bad news. You will lose your job. You will be dealt a blow.

Around your house, the surface of everything will feel the same to touch, but it will not give you the same pleasure, the old satisfaction. Sunny Sunday mornings will find you unable to rouse yourself, or you will only rouse yourself, testily, to snap down the blind. Because, darkness. Because, emptiness. Because, no one, not even your wife, understands what you are feeling or how to make it right again.

And without quite knowing it, hope will be lost.

It will leave you, quite purposefully, on the subway or sitting on a park bench. It will slip away from you sneakily---out through the open window of your car, while you are flying down the I-96 expressway. You won't know it is completely disappeared, until you need to find it again, of course. There will be frantic accusations to your wife: Have you seen it? Did you move it? WHAT DID YOU DO WITH IT? And then, you will begin the angry search under the cushions of your couch, in the medicine cabinet, in the pocket of your jackets. Retrace, rewind, where could it be?

But you will not find it, it won't be there, it won't be anywhere.

Hope, when it is lost, is very hard to find again.

What to do, what to do? You will do what the nothingness tells you.

Wait until everyone leaves in the morning, walk the dog. Pull down the window shade in your bedroom permanently and peel off all your clothes, piece by dreary piece. It is the dark slush of wintertime, throw your sweater down, heavy jeans on the ground. Socks wet from the snow. Play Frank Sinatra, his sad songs are enough to split your rib cage in two. You like the feeling, now that hope is gone. What'll I do, when you are far away, and I am blue. What'll I do? Lay in bed, under the comforter, curled on your side. Don't answer texts, if someone calls, they know you won't answer anymore anyway. Any-more, any way. When hope is gone, any message sounds like a dreary monologue.

Or maybe, just drive right to the bar right on the city's edge, the one where the neon sign reads "B_R." Old men sit smoking on faux leather stools and drinking Pabst from cans, oblivious to laws or cancers or daytime decorum. Sit at the counter, ask for the beer special. Drown your loss in a frosted glass. Inhale the late morning bar room mustiness, a pastiche of all the marriages that died there, the addictions that bloomed and flowered, the emptiness that remains, whole and staid, in a place that time has tried it's bloody best to forget. These are my people now. Say this out loud, to yourself and to them, it won't matter much if they hear you. These are my people. Peer at the man in the gigantic red sombrero and the "DARE TO SAY NO TO DRUGS" t-shirt, nod your head conspiratorially. He raises his glass, to you. To you, friend. He knows about losing hope. He lost it a long time ago. This makes your stomach hurt.

Drive home from the "B_R," windows cracked, zipping dismally down the same expressway that hope flew out on. Drive through the neighborhood streets, you hear the church bells ringing at the corner of town. 1:21 in the afternoon, what time are they marking? Who the hell cares about 1:21? Who the hell cares at all?

Rest your head on the steering wheel, Thursday afternoon in your own driveway. The snow clings, in muddy clumps, to the edge of the pavement, the grass is brown but there are strands of new growth poking through. March is dying and spring is growing, mossy and greening. You would have loved this day, before.

There is no one home, when you open the garage door and you are glad.

There is no one home, but there's a note on the fridge, under the souvenir Key West magnet. Turkey sandwich on the second shelf---thought we might take a walk tonight if the weather stays nice--Just a thought. XO, ME. Punctuation like a telegram, low caps and high caps, all mismatched in her churlish, childish script. This is how your wife's mind works, one long runon sentence of thoughts.

Run on: thoughts.

You are there with a piece of notepaper, in the kitchen, all alone.

There are men in sombreros and 80's t-shirts, drinking beer at noon on Thursdays. There are babies being born and grandmothers dying. Church bells sound out times of little consequence, in the steeple across town. There are drug deals in fast food bathrooms and vows being made, with Elvis as officiant. All in this minute, there is all the hope and no hope in the world, weighing down and setting free the balance of possibility. There are wives writing notes with broken crayons, slicing turkey sandwiches with dulling knives from the butcher block. Biting their lip as they hunch over, thinking of her partner, with the sad face, words forming out of a speech bubble hovering over her fuzzy-haired head. Just a thought.

There are sandwiches in the fridge and prospects in the gutters. But there is a walk, if the weather stays nice.

You weren't expecting this today. You were ready to climb back into bed, back to the business of waiting out the afternoon. But you pull open the handle of the fridge and it is there. On the second shelf, sure enough, there is a promise.

Between the pieces of bread, you know, that finally, you will find one small sliver of hope.

Not the hope you lost, not the one that was missing. But something more durable and easier to hold on to---a hope that was given, with the sole purpose of having it be found.


Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.