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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Joe Palinsky Responds to The Christmas Suicide of a College Professor

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Joe Palinsky read The Christmas Suicide of a College Professor and offered the response, below. Joe was my student and was there the day that Rachel Wetzsteon observed my class.

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I remember when she came in and observed the class. I have a weird story to add to this. I left school the semester after your class, and returned in the fall of 2009 for two more semesters.

During the spring semester, sometime after winter break, I was walking around the Atrium near the offices of English professors. I was waiting to talk to my advisor, who was busy with other students.

I stumbled upon a box that said FREE on it. It was full of poetry books, text books, all kinds of fun surprises. I grabbed a few collections of poetry and of literature and went about my way.

Later I mentioned to friends on campus about the box, knowing they would be interested. After we returned to see what was left, one of my friends mentioned how sad it was. I was obviously perplexed.

"Why is it sad?" I asked of her.

"These books belonged to the professor that committed suicide."

It hit me in a weird way.

I never made the connection between Rachel Wetzsteon, the woman who observed our class that day in 2007, and the box of free books I found in the hall.

I also have an unconscious habit of collecting things from those who have committed suicide. I have articles of clothing, books... and I don't know how this collection started. Slowly, unknowingly, I would acquire things that later people would tell me the story behind. A jacket from a boy who died sad and alone on another coast, far from his friends and apartment... a t-shirt from a man who couldn't keep above anymore and who left no note... books from a professor... it is jarring, but... I also feel that I pay respect to them by holding on to what they left behind.

Even though I didn't know all of these individuals, their sadness, their longing, permeates the space between the living and the objects the dead have left for us to discover.

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