Several days ago -- [This piece was written in February 1995] -- I learned of the suicide of a young friend. He had gassed himself in his car inside his garage. He lived alone. What leapt almost unconscionably to my mind was that he had gotten short-changed by fate and was spitting in the face of life. His fearlessness and strength of character to my mind are unquestionable, but why this kind of self-annihilation at 26 years of age?

This is Shreed Daquires’ story.

Shreed was sexually abused by his stepmother when he was between the ages of 10 to 13. He couldn’t admit it to himself or anyone until he was well into his 20s and had left home. I met him through a mutual friend when he was twenty-one years old. Ironically, his stepmother was a well-known professor at a university in Toronto whose classes I had taken. On hearing of her stepson’s accusations – he had gone to the RCMP with the allegations – she initiated a vigorous legal defense. Within a year, he was forced to publically withdraw the charges. However, Shreed’s father believed him almost at once. Back then when he was being abused, Shreed’s father was seeing someone else and his stepmother was lonely. The couple was estranged. They’ve been divorced for years since. Shreed’s father hummed and hawed about the whole fiasco and eventually told Shreed to buck up.

I think Shreed did.

Shreed’s personality in his later teenage years became regimented, as if he had grafted a new insecure one onto his old happy self before the abuse. He lost himself to it; his spunk fled him as did his joy in living. Making money became an important goal, but as you know, that alone couldn’t possibly make anyone happy, certainly not him. For some years he was depressed. To go near alcohol or drugs was as fearful a proposition as he could imagine. He was terrified of the abyss. He’d get disoriented at the slightest amount of wine and make incoherent and inappropriate remarks, even to strangers. No one liked partying with him. Perhaps so much anger was locked inside that he feared to let his emotions go. Others I think sensed this in him, and none of my close friends really liked him that much. Perhaps they thought he was dangerous.

Though he was raised a Muslim, it was Christianity where he found comfort. To raise the topic of the vast godless void made him spiritually quake, and though he knew me as an avid atheist, we never discussed religion directly, but surprisingly, he loved to philosophize. Other than being his confidante, this was where our friendship fit together, late nights under the stars talking about matters such as love, existence, mind, knowledge, truth, beauty, justice, wisdom or in an expression: the meaning of life. When I would have wine, he would revert to tea. Caffeine was about the only stimulant he could tolerate. He didn’t seem to mind my rambling. It was the trade-off in our friendship I suppose. He would endure some nights with the boys on the town as well, but not often. They’re a merciless lot when drinking and they ridiculed him into utter silence anytime he showed up. Plus he detested the bars, and really, the whole rove of modern human activities, even eating out brought him no delight. Being a tall, demur, well-framed Guianese man, he found female partners easily. Toronto is a haven for ardent young men, but this too he cursed as too much, too easy. It was something superficial and even dirty in his mind, a pale reflection of what it potentially could be, I suppose.

Being married and monogamous, I never took his complaints seriously, and my views on Muslims’ attitude toward sex is harsher than that of Christianity’s. Their god seems to pimp, and Islam seems to have it's fair share if misogyny. If you martyr yourself for Allah, he’ll reward you by putting 99 virgins at your disposal. It seems fair to only lesbians and male sluts, and where do the 99 virgins come from? Are they perhaps unbelievers? For Shreed, sex was never as good as he imagined. His mother had ruined it. He told me once he hated it; it jumped out of him like poison–it hurt painfully if he left it too long but he hated to do it, even when loneliness drove him to it. If he ever sought relief, he felt nauseous afterwards.

I never saw him pray, but he went to church in the mornings, and often twice on Sundays. He was devout and his relationship with God was apparently close. His mother was at the funeral, an overweight belligerent woman – a fellow atheist – ugh! Few there knew of her sin against her son. Indeed, much of the crowd at the funeral hall was her university crowd, wearing the masks of intelligentsia with it’s false smile and elitist sneer. I didn’t stay long, the sandwiches tasted off. I must say, I look at Shreed’s life sometimes as an empty one. I loved the man, but in the end that meant little. I have an internal policy to never go after anyone’s religious convictions no matter how self-injurious they appear to be. Maybe for Shreed, I should have made an exception. Neither Christianity or Islam served him well. He often complained to me that he had no joy or pleasure in life; in a sense I was his opposite, I would dance to the edge of night even while getting grey hair. I should have taken him down that hard path: how to live a well-regulated and happy life without religion.  I miss him.