"Silence & Suicide"? My husband Thomas Friedman calls his latest column "Silence & Suicide"? I thought we weren't supposed to talk publicly about his depression?
He swears that the news meds will help. They look a lot like the vitamins he used to insist I take. When he claimed I had a vitamin C deficiency.
While the silences are nothing new and come whenever reality intrudes in the fantasy world he lives in, one where he is a "great man," the suicide attempt was new.
It all started innocently enough. Thomas Friedman was having a night with "the boys," doing manly stuff. Todd S. Purdum wasn't able to make but he had a used jock strap delivered. The boys liked that.
The boys were Thomas Friedman, Nicky K, John Tierney and Juan Forero. Forero wasn't officially an op-ed writer but he wrote like he was. Besides, they need five for poker and Thomas Friedman wasn't inviting Davy Brooks after the sock incident.
I wasn't as overjoyed as Mrs. K. She was really excited about the prospect of getting Nicky out of the house. As she put it to me over the phone, "Betinna, I love him but when he starts that pouting . . ."
"You want to take a sledge hammer to his head and repeatedly bash his skull in?"
"No . . . "
"You want to string him from the ceiling, grab your tweezers and painfully remove every hair on his body?"
"No . . ."
"I want him to just go away."
I could relate. Sometimes, I'm looking around the apartment and thinking how much nicer it would be (and smell) without Thomas Friedman around or, sometimes when I'm in bed at night and his nose hairs are fluttering with each window shattering snore, I start thinking how much more comfortable the bed would be without his clammy feet and assorted "explosions" throughout the night. He always blames it on a "sour stomach."
So I could relate. And Mrs. K is such a good friend that it didn't bother me that I was having "the boys" over at our place. Mrs. K said next time they'd use her place but we both know Thomas Friedman has to hold court.
So there he was holding court. And at some point, after the boys were done playing with Todd S. Purdum's smelly jock strap which they enjoyed flinging at each other and then shrieking like little girls, when either Nicky K had a death wish or he just wanted to needle Thomas Friedman.
"You know who should be hear?" Nicky K asked grinning.
"Who? Richard W. Stevenson? He's off with Bumillie on an extreme Elite Fluff Patrol mission!" laughed Juan Forero with the laugh of a man who obviously rarely got to laugh and said with the edge of someone who has more often been the butt of jokes.
Everyone, including Thomas Friedman, leaned in anticipating one of those raunchy jokes that Nicky K is so fond of when Mrs. K isn't around.
Enjoying a rare moment in the spotlight, Nicky K grinned before spitting out, "Davy Brooks!"
"Yeah," John Tierney said which was, not surpising from his writing, about as much as he could contribute to a conversation.
"Where is he?" Juan asked flaring his nostrils.
Thomas Friedman eye balled Nicky K but Nicky was too self-amused.
"He's not allowed here," Nicky laughed, laughed so hard he spit a little of the salsa. "He's not allowed here because Thomas Friedman saw him in a sock and felt threatened."
"He has big feet?" John Tierney asked, not surprisingly, in an oblivious manner.
"It wasn't on his feet!" Nicky K giggled. "It was on his appendage! An appendage that has reminded Thomas Friedman of all the cruel high school locker room days with catcalls of 'baldie' and 'shorty!'"
Thomas Friedman exploded. I don't think Juan Forero saw the saucer before it flew into his nose. Dishes were flying everywhere as Thomas Friedman, with amazing speed for such a large man, lept across the table and landed on Nicky K.
Nicky K wasn't laughing. He was screaming.
"Get this fat ass off me!" Nicky screamed.
"Fluffy!" Thomas Friedman snarled slamming Nicky K's head against the floor. "Fluffy ass! I have a fluffy ass!"
Then Thomas Friedman kept banging Nicky K's head against the floor with each repeat of fluffy.
John Tierney turned to me and asked, "Shouldn't we do something?"
That's about as action oriented as Mr. Passive gets apparently. But Juan Forero was no help either.
"Oh, no! I never get involved with situations like these! I don't even watch situations like these! Look, I'm turning my head! I'm looking the other way! Just like when I'm escorted around in Columbia!"
Realizing I was my own and anymore blows to the head might actually manage to do damage to Nicky K's brain, I took action.
Grabbing the portable phone, I stood a few yards away and began speaking into it, "Why yes, Mr. Keller, Thomas Friedman is here."
That got Thomas Friedman's attention as he continued his death grip on the neck of the eye bulging Nicky K.
"Keller!" Thomas Friedman said, practically cross-eyed in his anger.
"It's for you, Thomas Friedman," I said to him. "Bill Keller says he wants you back in the Sunday paper."
Thomas Friedman tossed his head back and cackled.
As he began swaggering to the phone, Nicky K attempted to catch his breath.
"Go, you idiot!" I hissed at Nicky K.
"Thomas Friedman speaking," Thomas Friedman said, his chest wide and full with self-importance. "What is it you have to say, Billy?"
"Move!" I yelled at everyone.
Grabbing Nicky K by the elbow, as though he were escorting a woman to a formal dinner, John Tierney began leading Nicky K to safety while Juan Forero covered his own eyes with both hands and stumbled towards the front door.
"Betinna!" Thomas Friedman bellowed. "I think Keller hung up on me!"
"Call him back," I said stalling for time. "I'm sure it was an accident."
As the three finally made it out the door, I thought of how I'd be the one picking up the chips, the broken dishes and scrubbing that blood off the carpet. The fun never ends at casa de Friedman.
"Betinna, there's no answer!"
Hearing the front door slam shut, I felt I could at least be honest.
"There was no call from Keller," I sighed. "I made it up to save you from a trial and jury."
"WHAT!!" Thomas Friedman hollered sweat dripping from his enraged face. "You have made me the laughing stock! In front of all my friends!"
Picking up broken glass, I muttered, "You don't need my help for that."
I forgot how fragile Thomas Friedman's ego was. He gasped. He shrieked. He put his palm to his forehead and left his mouth hanging wide open.
"I can take no more," Thomas Friedman said calmly as he reached for something near some broken glass.
For a moment I was worried but then I saw his fat, chubby fingers grab the strap of Todd S. Purdum's jock strap.
"I am going to kill myself!" Thomas Friedman shrieked and ran towards the bathroom clutching the jock strap to his mouth.
"Don't try to stop me, Betinna," Thomas Friedman cautioned.
Who had time to? Salsa on the walls, blood on the carpet, broken glass all around.
Four hours later, after cleaning the mess, I found him face down in the bathroom. Rolling him over, I took Todd's jock from his mouth and nose and Thomas Friedman began coughing and and coming around.
That was the big suicide attempt. And it was just days ago. So it struck me as very strange that he'd reference it in his latest column.
But as Mrs. K once put it, as delicately as possible, "Betinna, you are married to a severe drama queen."
That's putting it mildly.
the new york times
todd s. purdum
the common ills