my friends and i were hired as extras when flubber, a remake of the absent-minded professor starring robin williams, came to shoot its basketball scenes at stanford's maples pavilion. it was just after the start of my freshman year, i was seventeen, and it was fantastic: we spent all night up in the bleachers eating oreos from the craft services tables and waiting to stream out the doors for the occasional crowd scene. fresh from babysitting and food-service jobs around the country, none of us had ever been paid so much to do so little. after one of our walks, i joined the crush around williams and introduced myself; "now you know what it's like in the quad at noon," i said, and made some forgettable joke about cows. he did me the kindness of laughing—who knew better how good it felt to get a laugh?—and shook my hand, and a current of joy ran through me. when we wrapped, we were all wilting with exhaustion—except, of course, for williams, who was plucking characters and imaginary instruments from the air at four in the morning to entertain the crew just as he had been when we'd arrived twelve hours ago.
a year and a half later, a nurse at the university hospital wheeled my bed up to a wall-mounted phone so that i could call my mother and tell her i'd tried to kill myself. i've been thinking about what sort of feeling i'd share with robin williams if i could, and i thought at first that it would be how i felt delivering that news—but shame doesn't save people.
can love? as andrew solomon writes in the noonday demon, "love forsakes us from time to time, and we forsake love. in depression, the meaninglessness of every enterprise and every emotion, the meaninglessness of life itself, becomes self-evident. the only feeling left in this loveless state is insignificance." could all of our anecdotes and multimedia tributes and exhortations to look out for one another have made a difference? do they make any difference now?
i'd share the shore re-exposed when the tide of my depression went back out, no one but the moon to damn or thank for it. i would share being nineteen. i don't think he was able to feel that.