Saturday, February 10, 2007

February 10: Crimson

I stared out the window watching the scene unfold before me like an episode of CSI. Two police cars blocked the path in the park on either side of a concrete barrier. A shiny plastic yellow boundary encircled the space, swaying and stretching in the stiff wind. I saw an officer rub his hands together and stuff them deep into his pockets. It was a cold morning.

Another man walked away from a plain white van. He ducked under the tape, a measuring device with a long handle in his hand. He walked around to the other side of the barrier. My eyes followed him and for the first time I saw the object of their concern. The top of a grey, balding head encircled by a crimson halo that spread from one ear around the top of his head to the other side was barely visible behind the white concrete. A man lay motionless. The officer joined the man who was preparing to take measurements. Pages from a legal pad blew up in the wind. He laid it down on the barrier, just above the carefully stenciled words: "Honor," "Dependability." I watched as one of Tulsa's finest placed a coffee cup on top of the notepad to keep the pages from blowing.

I took in the scene like I did the countless hours of crime shows that blared on hour after hour when I lived with my ex. A man's life became an object, a curiosity. I felt ashamed, yet deeply aware of my disconnection from what was just yards from my window. I stepped away, poured some coffee, and tried to go about my morning like I do any other morning. I picked up my journal, and stared at the blank page. The cat jumped in my lap and rubbed her head against my stomach. I pulled her in close, clung to her. With her in my arms, I got up and walked to the window again. Two men dressed in black suits, ties blowing in the wind, black gloves covering their hands, stood outside the boundary, waiting, their heads turned toward the river. They paced around nervously. A black hearse had replaced one of the police cars on the path. The back door was open, waiting.

Was it suicide? Was he murdered? I squinted to see the words on another side of the barrier: "Decisiveness," "Faith." The two men in suits turned quickly and slid under the boundary. I walked away.

I turned on the water for my shower, and slowly undressed. I wondered about his life. Was he one of the homeless men I see everyday in the park? Did he stop there after driving around in the middle of the night? Did he have a family? Friends? Tears streamed down my cheeks. He was no longer an object to me. He was a person, a man who lost his life, whether at his own hands or the hands of another, a man who spent his last moments in anguish. I thought of my own days of anguish and torment, days not so far gone, days when all it would have taken for me to be that man was one small decisive step around a dark corner of despair. I shivered and stepped into the shower.

I poured the last cup of coffee into a travel mug and grabbed my car keys. I walked to the window to look again, one last distant glance. A fire truck was parked on the street near the path. Three firefighters busied themselves with a rake and a shovel and a bright red plastic bag. The life force of a man that once pulsed through his veins is now hazardous waste. I watched as they spread a grey powdery substance. They walked back to the truck and climbed in. I put on my coat and gathered my things.

I walked down the stairs and out the door. When I got to my car, I looked up. The scene was like any other morning. The emergency vehicles were all gone. The yellow boundary was removed. The crimson halo no longer glistened in the bright sunlight. A group of runners breezed by the barrier, their conversation light, their eyes fixed on the path in front of them. The space is sacred now; their actions seemed blasphemous. I walked across the street and stood on the path. I stared quietly at the place where the crimson halo encircled the man's head. Just above it was the word "Enthusiasm."

Rest in peace, my brother.

2 comments:

Scrivener said...

Wow.

Linda (FM) said...

This morning there are three single sunflowers on the spot where his head lay. The words "Lack of" have been written in above the word "Enthusiasm." So sad....