Aug 1, 2008

"You could do it," he was saying. This was my friend I sometimes run into at the Polo Fields. Lately, he's been depressed. "You could actually do it," he kept saying. "What?" I asked. Usually, I don't take his depressions seriously but this time clearly something was the matter.

"What is it?"

He stopped to tell me. The dust swirled at our feet in the late afternoon as it does there on the track.

"I read an article the other day that those people who jump off the bridge, and survive obviously, have this moment of terrible regret. They realize the mistake and that moment of anguish is unholy."

I thought of those people dropping out of the World Trade Center, hand in hand.

"And I remember, do you remember this? The story about the orchid grower, the orchid man from South San Francisco, you know, worked in that place that sells orchids. I can't remember the name. And so he went to the bridge with his young daughter, threw her over and jumped after her. Can you imagine that? Can't you imagine the howling of that man. And the mother who jumped and her son who years later jumped. And that whole business about looking at the city instead of the ocean, because how could you face the nothingness of that, how could go through with it without the comfort of a city view. I know all that. I've read all the stories. I get it. And still. I have lately less to go on. You remember that man I told you about?"

I knew right away who he was talking about.

"Just got up early one morning and shot himself, with his wife upstairs and his son, everybody just about to get up, and what about the damage he's caused. If he knew that, he would never have done it. I know all that. I get all that."

"'But still' you're saying."

"'But still,' I'm saying."

"Talk to me," I said.

"I can't. That's the problem. It's no use. I can't."

So we just stood there, for a very long time. Everything going down. As though you were in the trough waiting for the bow to come up and the boat to follow. But it's the moment of not knowing, that horribly beautiful moment of not knowing whether it will come up.

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