While I encounter many things on my morning walks with the implacable Nita, today I was not expecting to be involved in what may possibly have been the poorest suicide attempt ever known to man. Or perhaps, nothing.
There I was, maybe 20 yards from my house, wondering why a grown woman spent the previous evening in a black cocktail dress waving around a wand made of joined straws and flowers pluck from my uber fancy cocktails trying to "Accio" everything in sight, and regretting the number of the cocktails I had, when a voice called "lady!".
I stopped and looked around.
I look up and standing on the lower railing of a second story balcony was a very pale bearded man.
"I need you to call the fire department! Now!" He puts a foot on the middle railing and looks like he's going to climb over.
"Whoa. Are you okay? Calm down."
"No, I need you to call the fire department or I'm going to have to come down!" More climbing motion.
"Okay," I say, trying desperately to remember stuff that people say in movies to jumpers. "Okay, I am going to go do that right now. I am going to run get my phone and call the fire department. And I want you to promise me you'll stay right there until I come back."
"JUST CALL THEM!"
I run to my house dragging a very confused puppy behind me, slipping on the wet flowers of the shedding crepe myrtle on the drive. And I am thinking of how ridiculously unhelpful I am in situations where people or animals are in pain. And I am thinking of a frog that got partially mashed under a sleeping bag that I had to kill with a rock on a camping trip because it was suffering, of fish that swallow hooks that we can't catch-and-release and heartbroken friends that I hover helplessly about, of victims of tragedies too terrible to comprehend that I spend hours thinking of the right thing to say without being able to accept that there is never a right thing to say.
And I can't find my phone. I'm tearing through the house in a panic when I locate it and as I head to the stairs my eyes are full of tears and I run to the end of the driveway sure that there is already a crippled body waiting for me that I will not be able to touch.
And the fire truck is already there. And the man is there, on the ground perfectly fine. So, there being nothing more to do, I caught my dog who was following me confusedly dragging her leash and continued on our walk.
"What's going on?" asks a woman a couple of blocks down that I pass quite often.
"I have no idea."
And I do not.
When I returned, the fire truck was gone. And a sullen little gloom sat upon me. I remember more than a year ago dealing with a man who had taken a bunch of drugs, then a bike ride to Borders in the middle of a hot summer day, and had ended this glorious spree prostrate on the sidewalk not far from where a stranger who seemed intent on throwing himself from balcony told me to call New Orleans' finest. The confusion, the frustration, the repugnance, the worry ... and the knowledge that the sky will fall at any moment.
Or am I being a Chicken Little?