I grew up in a small town that didn't have cable TV until 1987, so I didn't see MTV until I was 18. Our little gang, four white boys and me, gathered in Tim's house to watch our first music video, U2's "New Year's Day." It was fucking amazing. And though I am not currently a U2 fan, I remember them fondly because they made me want to play guitar.

Tim, our host that day and the smartest dude in the class, didn't make it through that year. He'd been hearing voices for a few months but hadn't told anybody. And those voices quickly convinced Tim that he was the devil and needed to kill himself.

His suicide note: "I did this to protect you from me."

I left that little town for the Emerald City and became a studio musician, a versatile six-stringer of local renown. I don't write my own songs. And I refuse to join a band no matter how many times I've been asked. Legend has it that I rebuffed Kurt Cobain. It's not true—he never asked—but I would have said no to him, too.

Whenever I fly home, the descending plane passes over the service road where Tim shot himself. I look down and imagine that I see Tim's red truck. I imagine him fighting the voices and deciding not to kill himself. He, like me, would be at the top of the staircase leading down to middle age, and would have likely gone to work on the family farm. I imagine him walking through an unharvested wheat field, only minutes before the threshing. I imagine him golden. I know he'd be happy doing the hard work but anxiously awaiting the fallow winter.

To live means to kill. To live means to die. To live means to survive your own damned life. recommended