A couple of years ago a man walked in front of my moving truck in an attempt to commit suicide. (Him attempting; me—well my truck—interfering).
Making that kind of contact with a human body is a not a feeling that you can really describe easily, or at all. My foot trembled on the accelerator the entire way back home from the scene. I knew I should pull over and regroup but I wanted to be away from the scene so bad. I felt like I was looking up from a damn grave!
I feigned anger about the whole situation after that night even until now. I had to shell out $500.00 to repair the damage done to my truck, I complained. There was a lien on it and no way around it.
The man, Darnell was his name, lived.
Darnell had only been released from the mental ward, which was a few blocks from the fateful intersection, a few hours before our lives intersected at that awkward angle.
I was emerging from a red light, in the far left lane of a three-lane thoroughfare.
I was leaving my new yoga class, heading to the post office.
I was just getting into trying-to-get-my-shit-together mode.
It was early May and my summer had just officially begun. My grades were in the system and I had high hopes of getting accepted into a workshop in San Francisco with one of my favorite writers. I had a bunch of fruit in the fridge and had just made peace with my inability/lack of desire to keep writing my dark-ass thoughts down.
I watched Darnell step into the street as soon as the light turned green. WTF? He crossed the path of the tractor trailer. It was in the far right lane. I moved my foot from the accelerator, not really believing that Darnell was not going to stop walking. This muh—don’t he see the big flashing hand?! He sauntered in front of a sedan traveling in the middle lane like he was strolling in the park. He never looked at me. Never looked at any of the approaching cars. He practically walked into my truck like he hoped he was gonna be invisible to me.
I was trying to stomp the brakes, but my foot was trembling so badly, I only pressed it like I was heading to a yellow-turning-red light.
Darnell’s body lifted and hit the ground only a few feet away. I couldn’t see him over my hood. I started wondering how I would deal with killing a man even before I reached for the cell phone in the passenger seat. I wondered what death was feeling like to him and what living beyond it would mean for the rest of us and I couldn’t make any of it matter.
I dialed 911 and my eyes were turning glassy; my throat real dry, but my body was stupidly numb. I couldn’t make myself feel the emotions that were supposed to happen according to all the stuff I’d seen and heard about tragedy laying at—dern near on—your feet.
My voice didn’t even tremble as much as when I’m on stage reciting. My heart was beating fast though.
Plain clothes cops were jumping out of an unmarked car from the right lane by then. They had on bullet proof vests. Ambulances were coming from the rearview. The plainclothes had seen the whole thing from a few cars behind. It’s not your fault! Are you okay? Calm down. The 911 dispatcher was dismissing himself from my call as he heard them in my other ear.
I mostly nodded answers and longed for water. My throat was so-o-o dry.
“Is he dead?” I managed handing over my license and stuff.
Darnell didn’t die that night.And I still don’t have my shit together.
I never made it to San Francisco that summer either thanks to the $500 repairs.
I pretend, still, to be angry with Darnell. I could’ve shown him ways to die that wouldn’t have cost anybody anything I tell folks. Suicide is so selfish I say because that is better than trying to explain what happens when a body decides it needs to break because bending is, on the other hand, too generous.
You know how it’s alleged that we’re only separated by 6 degrees from any living person on this earth? I’m the fool who wonders why nobody ever calculates how many degrees separate (or connect) the dead and dying. When I run into (no pun intended) people like Darnell I feel like I’m looking in a wacky mirror at myself.
And I wonder what they, you know, the Darnells—see. If there’s even a reflection at all. Or do they feel invisible? And if you’re invisible and the folks around, like I was to Darnell, are invisible too, what’s so selfish about his behavior after all? I figure sometimes you probably have to look out for self; the world be damned. Well, maybe that’s what he was thinking. Then I start to wonder if, maybe, he ever learned to; found it worth it to learn to, bend.