ESSAYS IN THE PAST (2): THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SUICIDE

Not too many days happen where I want to walk around New York on my own in the morning.

On April 30, 1947, I was standing on the 86th floor observation deck ready to begin my first assignment for the New York Times. The Times have been around for over three and a half years and I’m getting a lucky shot at a career with the company. I walk to a side wall facing away from the misty morning.

I slide my arm up my coat a bit to see the time. It is 9:50. In the next 45 minutes, the lives of two people on this deck will change forever.

I hunker down with a cup of coffee that is getting cold in one hand and a small green notebook in the other. Today’s assignment is a piece on the human condition. I grab my black rimmed glasses from my coat pocket and begin to write.

As I do, I notice a young lady with a tan coat and white scarf appear from my peripheral vision. She is holding a train pass and looks out of sorts.

We make eye contact, only briefly at first, and she places her formed pocketbook on the ground. She squats and sits with her back to the tower wall like I am sitting, about three feet from me.

I smiled and she looked the other way. She pulls a piece of note paper from her coat pocket and slides it secretly under her pocketbook. I wasn’t supposed to see it happen, but I do. The wind starts to pick up a bit.

The young lady sighs hard. Hard enough to break my concentration and I look up. We lock eyes again and this time I say “ Hello, this weather is uncanny”. She chuckles for a second and retorts “It is rather windy”.

I look down again at my work and continue to write some more. As fast as I look down, she removed her coat, folds it into a rectangle, places it atop her pocketbook, and leaps over the observation deck into the mist of the New York sky.

I stand up hard and fast. So fast that I have to grab the cold wall that separates people from life and death. I become lightheaded and dizzy at the situation. What just happened? My mind is a second or two behind the actual event.

By the time I look down over the deck I had hear the “pop” and “shatter”. I see Evelyn pressed into the top of a black vehicle. I pray that she didn’t hurt.

Commotion is going on below. I see a man taking pictures and a police officer running over to him with a white scarf in his hand. He met the photographer at Evelyn’s head.

I immediately want to get to the ground floor. It feels like hours, but I make it. A crowd gathers near the scene in an instant. The scene is thick with people by time I get there. I squirm my way to her.

She was only in my life for a few fleeting moments but she made an impact. What I see on top of that mangled car shocks me to the core.

She’s perfect. Evelyn is on her back with her feet crossed, clutching her pearl necklace, and her right arm over her head.

With all of the chaos of the day I finally finish my piece for the New York Times and sit on my bed in my tiny apartment up the street. The neon lights of the hotel across the street is the only light in the room.

My mind races the marathon of thoughts the entire night. Could I have stopped her death?

I pace the room a few dozen times and finally I give up and take a shower. By then it is daybreak and I hear the newspaper thump against my apartment door. I pull it into my living room and sit at my writing desk. I pop the paper open to the front page to the headline “The Most Beautiful Suicide”.

As the years go by I think about her often. I think about her face, her clothes, her smell. I remember the look in her eyes and how she didn’t hesitate to jump. Could I have stopped “The Most Beautiful Suicide”?

I tamp out my cigarette into the silver ashtray on my oak writing desk and blow a strand of smoke into the air. I fold the newspaper dated May 1, 1947 with the headline “The Most Beautiful Suicide” and placed it into my metal lock box with my other treasures. I slide it into the bottom left hand drawer of the desk and begin to type my last article for the New York Times.