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Poem By Neil Hilborn

Joey always told me, laughing, as though it were actually a joke, that he wanted to kill himself but it was never the right time.
There were always groceries to be bought and little brothers to be tucked in at night.
Don't worry, Joey isn't gonna kill himself twenty more seconds into this poem; it's not that kind of story I'm telling here.

Joey got a promotion and now he can afford antidepressants.
Joey is Joe now.
Joe is a cold engine in which none of the parts complain.
Joe is a brock someone made out of fossils.
If you removed money from the equation, Joey would have been painting elk on cave walls.
People would have fed him and kept away from high placed because goddamn, look at those elk.
I think the genes for being an artist and mentally ill aren't just related, they're the same gene, but try telling that to a bill collector.

We were seventeen, and I drove us to punk shows in a station wagon that was older than any of us.
We were seventeen and I bought lunch for Joey more often than I didn't.
We were seventeen and the one time Joey tried to talk to me aout being depressed when someone else was around, I told him to shut the hell up and asked if he needed to change his tampon.
You know that moment when the cartoon realizes he's taken three steps off the cliff and he takes a long look at the audience like we're holding the last moving box in a half empty house.
Joey looked like that without the puff of smoke.
He just played video games for a half hour and then went home.

I once caught Joey in my dad's office, staring at the safe where he knew we kept the guns.
Once Joey molded his car into the shape of a tree trunk and refused to give a reason why.
I once caught Joey in biology class, staring at a scalpel like he wanted to be the frog, splayed out, wide open, so honest.

There's one difference between me and Joey.
When we got arrested, bail money was waiting for me at the station.
When I was hungry, I ate.
When I wanted to open myself up and see if there really were bees rattling around, my parents got me a therapist.
I can pinpoint the session that brought me back to the world.
That session cost seventy-five dollars.
Seventy-five dollars is two weeks of groceries, it's a month of bus fare, it's not even a school-year's worth of new shoes.
It took weeks of seventy-five dollars to get to the one that saved my life.
We both had parents that believed us when we said that we weren't oka, but mone could afford to do something about it.

I wonder how many kids like Joey wanted to die and were actually unlucky enough to actually pull it off.
How many kids had people who cared about them but also had to pay rent?

I'm so lucky that right now I'm not describing Joey's funeral.
I'm so lucky we all lived through who we were to become who we are.
I'm so lucky.
I'm so…lucky.

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