Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Are You Sitting Down?"

Pete asked. So, of course, having been sitting down, I stood up at my desk.

It was awful news. Sometime yesterday afternoon, when the kids were in school and Pete and I were in Seattle and our neighbors were all at work, including Harry's wife, Harry went into the backyard and killed himself.

***

He walks miles and miles each day around the neighborhood, two huge miles-long laps in the morning and two huge miles-long laps in the afternoon. He wears the same clothes and hat each time, clad all in blue, and he walks no matter the weather. Thin and tall, of course, what with all that walking and a vegan for a wife. For years, I'd see him around, and I'd wave, but he very rarely looked up. For years, I'm sure, even if he had looked up, he would not have returned the wave.

***

Five years into our living a stone's throw away from him, I quit my working gig and was around far more each and every day. But it took that wonder mutt dog of ours, the one who came into our lives as soon as I quit, to break the ice. He is definitely not a dog person, but his wife is most assuredly. And with the thaw with his wife came the thaw with Harry. And while never one to chit-chat with me, he'll come upon me and the kid and the dog or me and the wife and the dog, and he'll talk about books he'd read and science and math and his environmental work and, maybe, like everyone else in the neighborhood, good ole Crazy Ed around the block.

***

Now nearly 13 years have passed since first I laid eyes on them, and I really don't know him much better than the first time I waved to a non-response in return. I know his wife far better, and she is someone who likes my kids and loves my dog and tolerates that damn cat of ours who loves nothing better to sun herself under their bird feeders. And Harry? That not-really-a-dog-kind-of-guy? He pets the dog from time to time. And he chats with me about topics I know so little about. And he waves on his walks every time he sees me now.

***

I don't know his story. It isn't my story. It is Harry's story. And he's taken it with him. And that makes me sad.

3 comments:

Jocelyn said...

It's incredibly sad--especially, in retrospect, to realize how very Not Okay he must have been feeling for so very long. To finally have a moment of "Oh, wow, I had no idea" after it's too late to help is so sad for everyone.

His poor wife. Poor Harry.

Patois42 said...

That's it, isn't it, Jocelyn? You so quickly discerned what is the most profoundly sad part of it: I didn't know and it's too late for that lack of knowledge to have any impact. And so I just randomly cry (and get sick) as the reality sets in.

Sarah said...

Oh, God. So much despair all around us.

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