Was it cold on the ledge? Did the wind cut at you?
Did the lakeside damp wet your clothes, making them cling and clutch? Did the fog condense on your face, making it look like you were crying, a little lost girl on the 42nd floor ledge screaming for the firemen to stay back?
It sure looked cold from the ground. Sorry the show went on.
It was a radio show, a live taping of a novelty news quiz. Each June, the crew of that show clusters in the deliberately ramshackle Frank Gehry bandshell at Millennium Park to do a free live taping for the assembled thousands.
I was there with my friend Jill and a workmate of hers whose name now escapes me. He had a pituitary disorder that made him take on all the physical traits of a giant except for the height. He was one of the most elegantly dressed men I had ever seen.
And you were there too. You never joined us on the grass for wine and Indian food, although the next day’s Sun-Times said you spent 13 hours threatening to take the quickest route down.
It was the nearly giant who alerted us. He went off to find a restroom up to his fussy, charming standards. He left Jill and me to drink wine and laugh with the news-savvy bon mots of Tom Bodett and laugh at the painfully unfunny Amy Dickinson.
It was a cool, foggy night. The mist gave a movie star cast to the falling light. Then our friend came back and told us there was a jumper on the ledge of a lakeside condo highrise.
Try to pay attention to a radio show after that, just try. It can’t be done. Once we spotted you, a little black pixel playing some Atari with the white pixel rescue workers, we couldn’t tear our eyes away. The white pixel would approach then retreat, no doubt propelled back by your threats. Approach, retreat. Back and forth, a game of Pong threatening to Frogger you on the street below.
I’ve seen people grasp and strain for one more second of life and you decide being in your own last few minutes might be a good idea? Asshole! Poseur!
I neither know nor care what brought you to the ledge of a luxury highrise for luxury people. I neither know nor care if your problems are petty or huge. I neither know nor care if walking in your shoes would have brought me to that same ledge on that same night in that same damp wind. I don’t know. I can’t care.
I’ve lost people to the s-word you threatened. You are not forgiven. Neither are they.
My consolation is this: When you stood on the ledge and spread out your arms to scream to the world “LOOK AT ME LEAVE ME ALONE STAY BACK STAY HERE!” the gathered crowd was watching a funny radio show. If a tiny giant hadn’t been too fussy to piss in a Port-O-John, not a soul in the crowd would have noticed.
You took to the ledge to stage your final show. No one watched.
Was it cold?
Written in spring 2010