The troops were called in to handle an “incident” late that night. Gearing up in the locker room, I realized I hadn’t had time to grab an extra belt. Oh well, in this kind of situation you can only be as prepared as you come, and hope that your skills are sufficient.
None of us knew why we were there – at least not at first. We’d been told they’d fill us in on the way. One more experienced officer did know however, and he wanted us mentally prepared for what we were about to face.
“There’s been an 11-45,” he said. Attempted suicide.
“And it was successful.”
I nodded, keeping my face blank as my mind flew, not to the last suicide I had dealt with, but rather, the first.
A shining light of bubbly personality, my friend Adam was as sharp and as flamboyant as they come. Always mischievous and always with such Presence – his loss left gaping holes in our lives where something good used to be.
Missing wasn’t unusual; he’d lost his phone so many times I never knew what his number was. But then, they found him.
Seventy-five feet high. Hanging from an electrical tower against Merced’s March sky.
Even in death he made his presence known.
And six months later, the ripples could still be felt as I stood halfway around the world. In Morocco I wrote:
doesn’t echo here,
never filled these rooms,
but his presence is
as strong as the
of my heart
against the walls
A hole that only he could fill
my shrink but remain ever still
upon the tear-stained walls
of my heart.
The walls on this night were stained by something much more visceral.
Red-brown streaks on a closed grey door.
Caution tape and bookshelves serving as improvised barricades.
We weren’t meant to see the scene but not all doors were closed so tightly.
Eight stories of stairwell is a lot to keep contained and to the untrained eye I suppose that lump of pink on the step could have been a rather large wad of gum, but I knew better.
I could tell the Inferior Frontal Gyrus from the Occipital Lobe, and I know when both are staring me in the face – plastered to the wall or sliding down the steps. Remnants left from a mind long gone.
The job had me standing there for hours. Wind whipped up by the elevators wafting the subtle smell of raw meat into the hallway.
It was past midnight by the time we were able to leave, as the library closed, students slogging home bleary-eyed, completely unaware of the scene just on the other side of the wall from where they had sat studying for so many hours.
At the end of the night, the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing had other officers asking if there was anything we wanted to say. But, what can you say in the face of death?