Friday, January 21, 2011

Behind Closed Doors

There is a street a few blocks over from my house that is very pretty. Tall palms trees and sidewalks usually filled with dog walkers and kids rollerblading. Impromptu games of hockey are played in the street. Doors are left open during the day as children run from house to house visiting their friends and there always seems to be someone sitting on a lawn chair enjoying a soda and chatting with a neighbor. There is even one of those portable basketball nets that someone has moved to the curb where their trash cans would normally be, inviting anyone with a ball to shoot some hoops. At Halloween, the neighbors on that street go all out, elaborately decorating their homes, dressing in costumes to hand out candy to the kids and drinks to the adults and so many people flood the block from the surrounding streets that you feel as if you're part of a Mardi Gras crowd. They are no less festive at Christmas. Most of the street put up light displays, winding long strands of white lights up the tallest palm trees or wrapping them around the trim of their homes. On the Fourth of July mini flags are posted on the lawns and kids decorate their bikes with red, white and blue and follow a fire truck up and down the streets in a makeshift parade. It feels like a happy street, not unlike the one I live on - only with better coordination on their holiday celebrations. Last week, a woman on that block tried to commit suicide at six in the morning. She misfired and shot herself in the face. A surgeon friend of mine told me they often see that in the ER because despite how determined someone is to commit suicide with a gun, they often flinch when pulling the trigger and instead of firing into their mouth, they shoot up or to the side, causing a non-fatal (but still awful) injury.

I'm up at 4am on most mornings. Not by choice. But I find it is the only time of day where there is true quite in my life. My family is asleep, most of my friends back East are still snoozing or just waking up and going to work so I can't even distract myself by calling another time zone. I write from 4 to 6 before I start my day. I heard the ambulance cut through the silence of my early morning work time. Its sirens where loud but brief, followed by two police cars which raced to the scene. I didn't find out where they were going or know what had happened until I read a small article in a local digi-paper, not even an article really, more of a police scanner report describing the incident on the lovely little street a few blocks over.

I asked friends of mine who live on the street if they knew who it was and how she was doing. But none of the three I asked were even aware it had happened. They were asleep in their beds or in the shower or listening to talk radio while getting ready for work. They didn't hear the ambulance which was gone long before they left their houses for work or to take their children to school. No one on the street had told them about it. It happened and it was over.

I was caught off guard by how much I was saddened by the incident. I felt badly that behind all those doors on that lovely little street there was someone so sad, so desperate, a woman my age, with kids and a husband and maybe a dog or two, that she would try to kill herself at six in the morning and no one, not her neighbors, her friends, or even her family knew how badly she was suffering. She might be another mom at our school or someone I pass and smile at while picking out ripe fruit at Trader Joe's or wave to when I take my infrequent early morning power walks down her block. It felt like we should have known, shouldn't have missed her pain. But somehow, because everything on the outside seemed as perfect and idyllic as the street she lives on, everyone missed what was going on behind closed doors.

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