There are no coincidences…
It had been a weekend blitz of Hunter Thompson and a Fear and Loathing about the state of the universe.
I have a perverse need to channel Thompson on a regular basis – like a narcotic you throw in the back of the freezer – saying you’ll never use it again – but knowing full well you will. You never give it up, you simply bide your time – borrow from it more likely – always crawling back to the sweet mania of thoughts moving at a thousand miles an hour.
I’m still in this haze of manic uppers and Monday morning downers, pedalling my way to work where I’ll lift and load and move three tons of books from here to there – Dylan playing in my ears. I just get on Broadview when two cop cars comes screeching around the corner – coming up off Dundas – sirens blaring, lifting streetcar track dust like a rooster tail behind them. Screeching left they then blow west down Gerrard Street.
Sirens. Sirens. Sirens everywhere. “Jesus, what a way to start a Monday morning!”
But then I too turn on Gerrard and I see what the hullaballoo is all about. And in an instant my eyes take in the whole scene: the cop cars, the sirens still in the distance, the man standing on the railing of the bridge, the Don Valley freeway directly below him.
Out of the corner of my eye a horrified mother picks up her little girl and runs off and away from the scene.
“Jesus Christ!” I think to myself. “It’s a jumper!”
It’s amazing the details you can take in a split second. Running shoes – unlaced, Nike; baggy jeans, black tank top, dishevelled hair, the vacant and far-away look in the man’s eyes.
He looks Hispanic. Maybe Middle-Eastern. Olive skinned. Could be from anywhere. He’s young. Might have been born just down the block.
I overhear a cop call in to dispatch. Someone needs to stop the traffic below.
“What are the logistics of that?” I wonder. “How do you stop a freeway of traffic, at 10 in the morning? On a moment’s notice?”
An Aboriginal friend of mine – hard as rocks – a thought-she’d-seen-it-all type – had a jumper fall not ten feet in front of her about ten years ago on Shuter Street. The guy somehow got himself on the roof of St. Mike’s hospital and leapt to his freedom.
She said it really fucked her up. She says she still dreams about it.
But I’m a deer in the headlights. Other pedestrians are gathering. Construction workers building the new Bridgeport Hospital across the street are putting down their tools. Drifting closer. Traffic slows. Kids are pointing. I hear the steady hiss of the passing traffic below – swooshing under us at 90 k an hour.
Unlike the belligerent cops I saw policing Yonge Street last Friday and Saturday night during Caribana, these guys are wonderfully calm and non-threatening. They try not to force the issue or get in the man’s personal space. They know what they are doing.
I notice that a firetruck slowly and quietly, pulls up to the far end of the bridge. The driver angles the truck across Gerrard, blocking east-bound traffic from passing the spectacle.
One of the police officers keeps talking to the man. He never stops talking to him.
And then, after a few tense minutes, the spell is broken – something is said – and the man looks down at the talking police officer. The man has come back to the here-and-now. He looks down behind himself – at the passing traffic, and then again at the police officer.
The cop offers his hand and the man takes it. He kneels and steps down off the railing and is immediately detained and handcuffed.
The spell then breaks for all of us. Mothers start moving off with their kids, the construction workers turn and go back to their jobs, and I pedal off in the directions of work…
…and not five minutes later, waiting for the light to turn green at Carlton and Church, I watch an eastbound cabbie miss the red light and slam into the front end of a south-bound mini-van, spinning them both through the intersection. Pedestrians scramble over to see if anyone is hurt.
The light turns green, I put my head down, and just keep pedalling…