Friday morning, I saw a dead guy. He was lying on his back under a sheet in a pool of his own blood. I saw him from above. His running shoes, untied, were off to one side and his car keys were at his feet. I deduced that he had jumped from one of the higher floors of the parking garage where I park by the courthouse. I guess he could have fallen or been thrown, but it seemed more likely that he chose to make the leap.
A few feet away from him were what looked like two smashed blood oranges, or maybe ruby-red grapefruit. There was no blood between the grapefruits and him, and they didn’t look like any body part that I know of. Why the smashed citrus fruit? Did he lose his balance while juggling on the top wall of the garage? Did he leap with a orange in each hand? From his perch on the parking garage he could have seen Minute Maid Park. Was the fruit a message to someone? Or did he use it to get his range, tossing grapefruits off from the floor he chose to make sure that the path was clear and that he would make the desired splat?
Later in the day I saw the fire department hosing off the smear he’d left, and his head and right arm were outlined in blood. I guess he bounced when hit—losing his shoes and keys and smashing his head open—and landed with the wound upward.
I doubt that it hurt much. At least, it couldn’t have hurt for long. And it surely hurt less than whatever he was trying to escape.
I respect suicide as the ultimate act of self-determination. We should be able to decide, without being second-guessed, when the pain and horror of existence are too great to endure. But suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness too, an abnegation of selflessness. What friends and loved ones mourn him deeply tonight, blaming themselves and wishing they had done something—anything—to stop him? Parents? Siblings? A wife and kids? A faithful hound? In escaping his own pain, how much pain did he bequeath to people who deserved it no more than he did?
I imagine his fall from the 10th floor of the parking garage, 130 or so feet in the air. It would have taken about 2.8 seconds, top to bottom. One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thou—crunch.
I think about that.
2.8 seconds is a lot of time for thoughts to pass unbidden through your head. In 2.8 seconds a guy might realize that he really had something to live for. In 2.8 seconds he might think of his parents, his wife, his kids. In 2.8 seconds he might realize that he’d made a terrible mistake and change his mi—