I made my way across the intersection of SW 11th and Jefferson, en route to Safeway for the makings of what would be an early Saturday afternoon brunch. As I walked along the sidewalk with Safeway to my right, I peered curiously at the construction site across the street that would eventually become Eliot Tower.
Jefferson St had pretty much been shut down for the day due to the construction. Red construction-site tape was hung in a line down the middle of the street, with a 20-plus story crane ominously looming above it all.
A crowd was starting to form at the far corner of the Safeway, across from the construction site - but everyone was facing in the other direction. The crowd was looking at the apartment complex that sits on the southeast corner of 10th & Jefferson.
It was a horrifying sight: a woman who lived in the St. James Apartments had committed suicide by jumping off a fifth story balcony, hitting the street sign before the sidewalk impact.
"...hey, I'm just covering my bases here" she said as we walked into my building's lobby on a hot autumn evening.
"Oh I'll cover your bases."
"What does that even mean?"
"I don't even know!"
We were both laughing at our absurd conversation, and at ourselves in general, as we rounded the corner to the elevator. Eric was standing with a silly grin that suggested he'd heard every word. Eric was a phenomenal neighbor who owned a loft two floors below mine.
"How are YOU two tonight?" he asked as she and I laughed like teenagers. I was thirty three years old, but it took nothing more than a fun date to me into a kid all over again.
"We were out playing in the fountain" I replied with a beaming smile, pointing to my wet shoes & jeans. "Do you know the waterfall fountain across from the Keller Auditorium?"
"I think we might be in somebody's wedding photos..." my date said.
"Do you think we were?"
"I think we might be."
"We're waaay cuter than them anyway."
"Oh, I KNOW."
Eric didn't say much - not that there was much to say. He just grinned and wished us a good night as the elevator stopped at his floor.
"I wonder what he was thinking?" my date wondered aloud.
I woke with a startle.
"What the hell was THAT?"
The silence in my second story loft was deafening as I laid there wondering what had rocked me out of a deep sleep... and then it happened again:
Somebody's car was backfiring in the street below. Men began arguing about what a piece of crap the car was.
"Great" I thought, looking at the clock. It was a chilly morning in early spring, and I was wide awake with no reason to be. I could try to go back to sleep, but why bother. "I might as well just get up, make coffee, and get my day going" I thought. Not that I had anything to do.
Actually, I had a hell of a lot to do, I just didn't know it yet.
I was about to lose my job. They'd tried to get me to quit the day before, but I'd been completely oblivious. "Look," I'd told my new boss when summoned to a meeting with him and his boss, "what we've been doing has made us pretty successful, but if the decision has been made to go in a new direction then so be it. Count me in. Let's come up with a plan and put it in place." But the new boss already had a plan. He wanted key staff to quit so he could start over with his own people. I was on my way out.
Darkness filled my bedroom, except for the glowing green from my alarm clock, and a hint of light in the hall that told of the sunrise to come.
This was a new low in my life. I was losing my job and feeling stranded in a city I couldn't possibly hate any more than I did. And I sure did. Lucky for me, I'd signed a contract with a twelve month noncompete clause, so I couldn't work again in Dallas anyway even after being fired.
But I looked into the hall at the sliver of sunlight that had found its way through the canyon of skyscrapers outside my window, and I thought forward, not back. I'd created the mess that was my life, and there was no one but me to undo that mess and make it right.
Three moments in time, all from years ago: Death in the early afternoon, youthful bliss in the early evening, and a new beginning born from a miserable early morning. Oh, the contrasts.
I've never viewed suicide as an answer to one's problems. Problems can be solved, joy can be found, but death cannot be undone.
It's worth noting that the second of these three moments marked the beginning of a long term relationship that would fail, but the tragic end did not negate the blissful beginning and middle. Pain finds us all, but it's essential to keep it in perspective.
I wonder about the woman who killed herself on Jefferson Street that afternoon nearly six years ago. I wonder who she was and what had gone so horribly wrong to drive her to that point. I'm no stranger to suicide, but the failures I've experienced in my life have taught me to embrace the simplest of successes and joys that I find. My father killed himself when he was only 35 years old. I wonder what joys he missed out on by choosing an early ending. Maybe there was a new beginning just around the corner for him.
I think back on the lows in my life, and I consider the beauty of where I am today. It was my actions in the worst of times that led me to the best of times. I only wish I could help others to see that they too can get from there to here if they so choose.