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There is no good way to start this story. A friend of mine killed himself on New Year's Eve, and the question on everybody's lips, the one right after "How was your New Year's?" is "My God, what happened?" Sometimes I just tell people that a friend passed away. The delicate treatment doesn't work, though, because everyone wants to know the details, or they assume it was a car crash in some far-off state or that I, at 28, have been hanging out with an aged friend who just happened to pass on, ever so gently, perhaps in a slumber lullabyed by me.
None of this is true. What happened was this: shortly after midnight in the dark outside a ranch party in Texas, an extraordinary and near-perfect friend loaded his handgun, put it to his head and pulled the trigger. His name was Mark He was drunk as a monkey - which he often was - after an entire bottle of Scotch, and yet still pulled it off. All of which is the worst thing in the world to me, to innumerable people and especially to his wife of 18 months. But it's certainly no response to someone who's inquiring about your holiday. The next question is always "Did you see it coming?" as if it were something written in the stars. There are a million lines leading to the idiotic convergence of guns and alcohol, and any one of them could have been stanched, given enough warning. But there was no warning.
He wasn't the only one who brought a gun to the party. I spent New Year's out West with Mark two years ago;…