Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Freefall

They found three pairs of clean underwear in his suitcase. Three pairs. I mean, when someone has three pairs of clean underwear left, surely they were planning on sticking around, at least for three more days. But sometimes there is an open window on a high floor and the call of a chilly night. Sometimes there is too much champagne and carbonated good cheer and a wedding when all feelings come to a head. Sometimes you step off and wish you hadn't but it's too late to reach out and there's no ledge to break your fall.

We were at Perth for my graduation. Staying at a relatively pleasant hotel in the heart of the city. I was doing my headless chicken impression, rushing around trying to catch up with half a dozen people, ploughing through Cabernet Merlot (with the occassional Shiraz), breaking a lot of promises I made when I left (I am coming back in March for graduation and when I'm here, I swear I'll call and catch up with you) and telling myself I didn't feel nervous about the whole graduation she-bang.

OK, so there I am, it's an ordinary night and the friends I am out with are giving me a lift home. It is one in the morning and the streets are deserted. But when we approach the hotel, we found the place cordoned off with crime tape. The police are there, looking grim, and I feel my heart leap into my mouth. My Mom is in the hotel, and if anything has happened to her, while I have been out gallivanting...

The police officer allows me behind the tape, when he discovers I am staying at the hotel and escorts me to the lift. There is a large woman in an inappropriately tiny white boob tube wailing on a sofa at the reception and another guy, on another sofa, who simply looks stunned. Bad vibes, bad vibes all around, I feel myself start to shake.

"What happened here?"

"You don't want to know."

"No, really, my mother was here and I do want to know."

"You don't want to know."

And that was that. I am convinced that a rape or a murder had taken place downstairs and my voice quavers as I call out to my mother to come open the door for me.

"Oh my goodness Jenny, do you know what time it is? Don't you realise you have your graduation tomorrow?"

"Um Mom, what happened here? Did you hear anything?"

"What do you mean? I was so worried and I tried to find your number to call you and look at the time..."

"OK, OK, I couldn't get a cab back and finally they had to send me home, but...the place is crawling with police and there is a woman bawling her eyes out at reception. Something happened here...didn't you hear anything?"

"No. Now go to sleep. You have to wake up early tomorrow. Try not to think about it."

Yeah, right. Like that is even possible. I toss and turn all night, squinting at the little digital clock near the bed which tells me it was all of 5 in the morning at one point. After that I refuse to look. My heart is tripping as I imagine all the nightmare scenarios that could have taken place downstairs. Or maybe even upstairs where I am. Suddenly I don't feel so safe anymore.

The next morning, I flew around half stoned trying to get ready for graduation. I was too nervous to be sleepy and I slapped on tons of make-up and squeezed into a floor-length ballgown, over which I threw the graduation robes. Not the scarf because I didn't know how to put it on, or the mortarboard, as that could come on, once I had reached the venue.

I met a guy in the lift with a clipboard. He looked like he belonged there. I was feeling a little diffident after the brush-off by the unsmiling policeman, but still...

"Are you with the hotel?"

Smile. "Yes. Why?"

"What happened last night?"

"A wedding guest jumped out of his bedroom window. He died. Naturally the rest of the wedding guests, to say nothing of the bride and groom, were really upset about it."

"Oh my God!"

"Yes, it was pretty awful."

"I don't know what to say..."

It was not what I had imagined, but horrendous nonetheless. I mean, this couple's wedding would be always tainted with the memory of this suicide. A jilted lover? Too much champagne? A depressed friend who didn't think he could go on?

What thoughts passed through his head as he climbed on his bed, opened the window and looked out into the chilly night? That life had become too unbearable, and here in the hotel room with the large unbarred windows, he was just a step away from oblivion?

Those three pairs of clean underwear, would seem to suggest different. That he hadn't planned on ending it all. That he had enough optimism to go on. If only for three more days...and then three more. And three more again.

Surviving the minutes until they turned into years and then, decades.

2 comments:

goldennib said...

Wow, what an incredible story.

I am always saddened when I hear of someone who felt they couldn't make it through the next minute or even second.

Jenn said...

Thanks Nessa.

Yeah, especially during a wedding!