You left without a goodbye. Did you come to the waterfront looking for answers? Wanting a last minute intervention? Someone to stop you? Or were you hoping for a moment of peace when seeing the beauty of the water, and the stillness of the night, but it wasn’t enough? Maybe you stumbled to the shore without even noticing because you felt so empty inside? Did you leave your family shocked and grieving or did you lose touch with them a long time ago? Were you cold and hungry and sick of this unusual week of snow and ice? Or was it your heart that was broken?
I’ll never know. But I said a prayer for you. And we fought back tears for you who were someone’s child once. A security guard stood vigil some distance from your body, after placing an orange net over you. He couldn’t cover the blood in the snow or the fact that he was upset. He smoked cigarettes and stomped his feet to stay warm until the coroner and police officers could arrive. All he would say was that you shot yourself sometime last night.
Rocky and I kept walking but our minds wouldn’t leave you alone in the snow on the waterfront. We had been on a mission to get coffee at Starbucks. Now that seemed shallow and empty but we kept going because we didn’t know what else to do. We wondered if you were one of the many homeless people we’ve come to recognize in our city? People we hurry past every day on our way to wherever we think we need to get to in such a rush.
Once in line, ordering coffee, we found ourselves choked up when the barista asked us how we were. We tried to tell her your story, the one that we had decided was true but was clearly made up from what little we knew. After all, we had not seen your face or the color of your skin. We didn’t know if you were young or old; male or female; homeless or distraught or both. We had only seen the outline of your body covered with a net. And your blood spread out across the snow. The barista nodded absently to our comments and said, “Have a nice day!”
I turned and noticed a disheveled man sitting at a table in the coffee shop with nothing on the table in front of him. He had his hood up and kept his head down hoping to be invisible, I suppose, while trying to get warm. But I saw him because I was thinking of you and what drove you to end your life at the waterfront. I asked him if he’d like to have a coffee and he gave me the briefest smile. I picked out a turkey sandwich from the deli case and bought a large coffee with milk for this almost invisible man who I would usually have hurried past. He was sober and grateful and gave us another smile and said “thank you.” He was a little warmer and a little less hungry today because of you. I’m guessing you felt like you didn’t matter but you still do.