Tonight, I saved someone’s life. My 14th, in fact.
I kinda screwed up.
I had just seen some friends perform a reading of a few short plays written by W. B. Yeats at Pianofight, a theater-slash-bar-slash-music venue-slash-restaurant on Taylor Street between Ellis and Eddy. Turned left, heading back to Market Street and the bus that would take me home.
The man walking toward me looked like trouble.
Not trouble for me, for himself. Short, probably Caucasian, he dressed entirely in black with a black hoodie pulled over most of his face. In the shadows he looked almost invisible, but this was no mugger looking to surprise his victims like a well-camouflaged Stonefish or Gaboon Viper. He had gotten so drunk that even with his feet spread wide and his arms held out for balance and a healthy dollop of good fortune, he could just barely stand. He looked down at nothing with his jaw slack and eyes glazed. He looked up at me.
Then he walked out onto Taylor Street into fast incoming traffic.
He stopped, turned to look at me, and tried to give me the finger except it was too hard for him to do. Yes, he was that drunk-slash-stoned.
An all white van zoomed past him, right where he would have stepped if I hadn’t yelled at him. The driver did not honk at the man, nor did any of the cars following him. No one could see him in the shadows.
He tried once more to give me the finger, but once again he could not. “Hey, I was trying to help you!” I shouted.
The man leaned to me with his palms up. I cannot feel certain, but it appeared that he was crying. Then he turned again and walked into the middle of the street.
But the light had turned red and the street had emptied of traffic.
Once again, the man turned to me with his palms up. I cannot feel certain, but it appeared that he was crying. Then he turned again and walked all the way across the street to safety. And that’s when it hit me.
He had tried to commit suicide.
And I had ruined his evening.
Far worse men than him in far worse shape than him have turned their lives around, and I hope he does, too. I would hate to think that I had done him an unkindness by saving his life.
Vonn Scott Bair