a moment in time

One of my best, best friends, Jeff reads my blog from time-to-time…he happened to read the post about the car accident I watched last week which reminded him of a moment he expereienced in Cleveland a few years ago and was inspired to write a poem.  I wanted to share it with you because I was moved and touched by it.  I was in his shoes by the end of the poem, doing in my brain what he actually did in person.  It’s sad and chilling but sometimes those things form a moment of beauty and I think he captured it really well.  He is an unbelievably generous guy who’s emotional life is always very present, I’ve always admired him for these attributes.  Enjoy. (The formatting is a little off from his original b.c of the copy and past from document to blog, but you get the idea.)

I didn’t know him personally, but we breathed the same air  – Jeffrey A. Wisniewski

My neighbor killed himself yesterday.
I didn’t know him personally.  Only his unyielding face.
Only his stride while walking each of his three dogs.
One at a time.  Methodical movement.
Every morning, every afternoon.
Gray t-shirt, blue jeans, white worn sneakers.
Green winter jacket, blue jeans, white worn sneakers.
Methodical movement.  Gray hair.
His routine became part of mine, but
I didn’t realize that until yesterday.
We would make eye contact as I drove past.
Me, smiling and nodding hello.
Him, staring through me with unforgiving eyes.
I thought it was me.  Smiling at him.  Nodding hello.

His wife was always the more personable one.
She talked in passing
about the cheap breakfast diner just a walk away.
She offered me the shot of Jack Daniels
when I locked myself out of my running car, 10:30pm one snowy night.
When he answered the door, he looked bothered.
I thought it was me.  Knocking on the door.  Asking for help.

But no.  There was an internal dialogue I would never be part of –
a dialogue that ended yesterday.
An unyielding argument.  Unforgiving.
He had lost.  He had lost
in his fighting attempt to simply stay afloat.

I was the one who called 911.
She stood in the driveway as I pulled around the corner,
“Call 911.”
It was barely a whisper.
Her enigmatic face still in my mind,
the desperate crack of her voice still in my ear.
“Call 911.”
Those words had never been spoken to me before.
My thougths unsure of how to process the request.
Confusion.  Disorientation.
Her eyes hollow and lost.  Void, yet boiling over.

I stood in the street with my phone to my ear
looking for their address, as she ran into the garage.
Their car was in the garage.  He was in the car.
She screamed, hitting the glass, ordering him to wake up.
Then I saw her change.
I saw her see the truth.
He was gone.  Her husband was dead.

Fire and EMS were still on their way.
What do you do?  Tell them not to come?
Because I knew.  She knew.  We’d both seen the truth.
Moving stillness.  Loud silence.
Sirens from several directions.
Other neighbors arrived, faces I had never seen.
They heard the screams.
We circled around her, still keeping our space.  Not
intentionally making her the uncomfortable focus, but still,
we circled her.  What do you do?  What do you say?
Her pain’s cloud engulfed her.
I felt her fear.  I saw her unknown.
She was lost not knowing where to turn.

I made my choice then; I hugged her.
I needed her and she needed me.
We were just scared.  We were just human –
and, in that moment, we were just together.
They circled us then.  She was not alone anymore.
“I’m so sorry.  I’m just so sorry.”
I opened my heart.  I took her weight.
Her cloud included me then.
I breathed with her, held her, squeezed her shoulders close.
Her sobs muffled, hidden against my coat.
I ran my hand over her head with the cordless phone awkwardly propped between us.

I barely knew her, but we breathed the same air.

That moment was imperfect.

That moment was life.

Our breath was real.

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