Monday, August 18, 2014

Richard Cory

With the recent passing of Robin Williams, I was reminded of the poem "Richard Cory," and of a young man I knew forty or so years ago.

First the poem:

“Richard Cory” by Edward Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town, 
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown, 
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king, 
And admirably schooled in every grace: 
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread:

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night, 
Went home and put a bullet through his head. 

The young man I knew–call him Lawrence–was from the days when I taught martial arts at a school back down home. He was a college student, twenty-one, as I recall, showed up for class one day in a new Porsche.

He was tall, fit, blond, blue-eyed, a good-looking kid; and, I found out later, rich. His parents had died in an accident a few years earlier, and left him several million dollars.

He was enthusiastic as a student for the first month or so. Very likable guy. Funny. Smart.

One day, he showed up in a new, Tweety-bird-colored Corvette. 

So, what happened to the Porsche?

Got rid of it.  'Cause, you know, the 'vette gets more women, dude.

You serious?


I just stared at him. Handsome, funny, bright millionaire college kid, and he felt as if he needed a Corvette to get women? I shook my head. Jeez.

A few months later, he stopped coming to class, White-Belt Syndrome, and that was that.

Except a couple months past that, I picked up the newspaper and saw that Lawrence had died in a tragic accident, involving a shotgun. At home.

The story was, he was cleaning it and it went off. That didn't sound right to me–it's kind of hard to accidentally kill yourself with a shotgun.

So I contacted a guy I knew on the local police force and asked him what the deal was.

Suicide. Lawrence put the muzzle under his chin, thumbed the trigger. Messy. One of his relatives had words with the local law, and the story got spun. Better an accident, hey?

When somebody who seems as if he or she has it all takes that route, there's always that wonder: Why would they do that? But depression knows no class, nor does it care about wealth, nor popularity. I was stunned when Richard Jeni killed himself, and again when Robin Williams did. But, you never know. What you see isn't all there is.


Joe said...

Everyone is fighting their own battle. With some it's easier to see.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Once you don't have to fight to survive, lots of people find themselves wondering why they should survive. I suspect (no numbers behind this) that a lot of people would be better off with a damn job they needed to go to, in this area.

William Adams said...

It's not just having the job, it's having the discipline and the will to go to it. Being hungry or needing to make payments will focus some people, but not all.

My best friend in high school was often out of work, mostly because he just couldn't bring himself to care, and when he cared, he was too busy having fun to ensure that he made it to work --- he blew off an interview which my boss (his mother's cousin) set up for him, which I'd've killed to've had.

Hung himself.