Trigger Warning: Graphic and emotional content.
I was laid off in April of 2013 and since then have been a house-girlfriend. My natural rhythm is to stay up until the morning. I’m a night owl and always will be. On a hot summer night in June of last year I was up playing video games and had finally decided to lay down at about 3:15am because I had a doctor’s appointment in the morning. As I shut everything down and headed to the patio for a smoke, I started to hear wailing. From inside I couldn’t even tell what it was. It sounded like a wounded animal, but not at all human. As I stepped outside I was able to hear a little better that it was a person, but completely incoherent. As a good neighbor, not knowing what was going on, I called security and reported it. I didn’t go to bed. Instead I stayed on the patio to listen if someone needed help and to try to figure out what was going on.
After a few minutes it became clear that this wasn’t some loud asshole goofing off, but that there was something terribly wrong. And then I saw people coming out of our building and sitting on the sidewalk right under me. I could hear everything. ”Why, why did she do this?” interspersed with sobbing. ”Why did she kill herself? I just talked to her a while ago and everything was fine!” I stood frozen in shock as I began to cry uncontrollably. I immediately thought back to earlier in the evening when my boyfriend had been getting ready for bed. He had been in the bathroom brushing his teeth. He stopped abruptly and came and asked me if I had heard that loud noise. It was around 1:10am and I had been out in the living room listening to music so I hadn’t heard it. At the time we assumed it was someone just being noisy as that is life in an apartment building, but suddenly that noise took on new meaning. I wondered if…
As I stood on my patio weeping and trying to be quiet, the police and paramedics and fire department started to show up in force. The paramedics loaded a bunch of stuff onto a stretcher and started toward the woman’s unit, but were stopped by police. It was far too late and she was in such a condition that reviving her was not possible. And then I heard them say, based on her last communications and the condition of the body, she must have done this not long after 1:00am. I had to bite my fist and run into my apartment to not scream. My boyfriend heard her die! I was shaking and felt sick. I started to think about Pop. I knew I should sleep and not allow myself hear any more, but I also knew that that would be impossible.
For the next few hours I quietly cried on the patio and listened to the police, friends of the victim, paramedics, detectives, CSI crew, and eventually the coroner. I was witnessing firsthand what must have happened at Pop’s. It was surreal. I had to text my mom, who then called to talk because it was making me so upset. Yet I couldn’t force myself to stop paying attention to what was going on. And then I had the pleasure of leaving for my appointment as they wheeled out the covered body and ended up driving out of the complex in a procession of detective and police cars, CSI vans, and the coroner’s van.
After I returned home from my appointment in a state of shock and exhaustion, I called our complex to see if they knew about this. Something told me I should and I was right. They had no idea that someone died by suicide in a unit the night before. I told them what I knew, then hung up. I was in a daze. I was touchy for the next couple of weeks. The events from the two suicides melded into a storm in my mind. I talked about it as much as I could and eventually was able to move on. Or so I thought at the time.
My obsession with suicide started with Pop, but the new events pushed me to see if I could find out anything about my neighbor. Just her name. Something. But there wasn’t anything online or in the papers. Considering that my Pop’s obituary was two sentences, I wasn’t completely surprised. As I looked for information on her, I began reading other stories and then about the psychology of suicide. Somehow other peoples’ tragic events comforted me. I wasn’t the only one that had to face these terrible events and I wasn’t the only one left reeling. Ever since then I have gone through spells where I read about suicide a great deal. I imagine, well, I hope that eventually I won’t need to do that any more. That wasn’t a legacy I wanted.