Friday, October 14, 2016

As I write this, the apartment three doors down from me in my building sits quiet. Inside it, blood, sadness and worse stain the closet walls and floor. As the blood still dries, my whole building, a two-story, courtyard structure, where all doors face the pool area and are many times open, is as quiet as I've ever heard it. The doors are closed, TVs are quiet, conversations hushed or non-existent, and there is no foot traffic.

I was at work when the police cars arrived around noon, and men armored in swat gear with their guns raised and ready, snuck through our pool area and quietly knocked on the window of one of my neighbors who was home. After they got over their shock, he asked them about the man in the apartment across from them. They said they knew him by first name only. An officer stayed with them as the others banged on the door. No answer. The officer, who was also holding a shield, then told them to shelter in their kitchen after the building owner arrived with the keys.

I got a text at around 2 PM from my upstairs neighbor telling me that our neighbor had killed himself inside his apartment. As I sat in my cushy job in my luxury office building, there was a full investigation going on in our little close-knit building. Crime tape, forensics investigators, and eventually the coroner were soon to follow. People in the neighborhood were Tweeting about it, asking a local news blogger what was happening on our corner. Warner Bros Studios and their offices are across the street, I can imagine the faces pressed to glass as the activity unfolded front stage and center for them.

As her news sunk in, I checked the man's Facebook page, knowing he didn't have any privacy settings. It was there that I learned he hadn't acted rashly, but that he'd committed pre-meditated murder of himself. His last post was a suicide note, where he detailed his dissatisfaction with his life, finances, career, and that he was tired. He stated that several times, "I'm tired." He was down to seeing his teenage daughter once a month due to his ex-wife, with whom he had a contentious relationship, moving further away with her second husband. A second husband, this man had told me, who hated him with a passion. He wrote that he'd been thinking of ending his life for a few weeks, and had stolen a friend's gun and five hollow point bullets. He ended his post with, "SO I got the gun, loaded it up, and blew my head off." Yes, that was the tense he used, as if he'd already done it and was recalling it from the other side. Because, unbeknownst yet to the people who saw his post, he already had. In the comments under his post, I read as his friends tried desperately to figure out if he was okay. I sat there with the answer, but it was not my place to deliver it.

When I got home from work, the building was silent. I forced myself to look at the man's door. Had I not been texted at work I wouldn't have known anything had happened, except for the too silent silence. The neighbor who had the police knock on her door had removed the crime scene tape after everyone left, feeling it was insensitive to what had occurred. His next door neighbor, an unflappable guy who works on the Conan O'Brien show, came outside with a friend. We met eyes, his face fatigued from a collection of muscle movements as he had processed the day's events. We spoke. He hadn't heard the shot. We live in an older building, and sounds don't travel from side to side, because of the good quality of the plaster walls. However, I later found out that he had shot himself in his closet, which explains even more why he might not have heard it. I like to think that's because even in his state, he didn't want to risk the bullet hitting anyone else.

This man was someone who in the last few months I'd kept at an arm's distance, the few conversations I had with him revealed that he was simmering close to the brim. He wasn't a bad person--far from it, and wasn't outwardly hostile, but it was clear to me that he was troubled and harbored deep anger. A few months ago, he showed alarming symptoms of this when it was communicated to him by apt management (a dumb move from a rookie, not the landlord) that I'd asked that he be told not to leave the front door of the building wide open all day, every day, as it was a security risk and advertisement to thieves. He irrationally overreacted, then profusely apologized. However, it was enough for me to establish a boundary with him, and I told him upfront that was the case and why. A friendly boundary, but a boundary. I also know that the span of his life when I encountered him, that I wasn't seeing him at his best. I was seeing him, now I can say with a good degree of confidence, at his unraveling and at his worst. So I know, and want to state, that the person I described is not a summarization of who he was as a whole.

From what I knew of him, he was a talented pianist and keyboardist who had worked in various aspects of the music industry. He was a recovered/ing alcoholic (I don't know the proper term for someone who is now sober, no mean feat). At 19, he had come here from Vancouver to be a musician, but never really broke in or made a name for himself. He was 58 years old, and from what his friends posted, he was talented at keyboards and songwriting. I think of that 19-year-old, who had no idea that 40 years later, the events that would become his life in the town he was looking at with such potential and promise, would drive him to such an act.

So, now I sit in my quiet building, in my quiet apartment with the aftershocks of a desperate act silencing the walls around it. That silence, that fills the vacuum after something loud and violent has intruded on an ordinary day.

I'm finishing this post three days later on a Friday, halfway through the work day, on my way to a much-anticipated weekend. That night, "The Night Of," I didn't sleep well, thinking of what was just a few doors down. The remnants. I'd wake, and in my half sleep haze would wonder if his ghost was lost and wandering around, confused at what had happened. If that ghost hoped that what he'd done was just a dream and now he was glad to be alive. Or, did he know and was walking around with regret?

I hope he found the peace he was looking for. I'll end this post with a apt sentiment one of his friends posted on his Facebook page, "A good man was lost today to depression, he sunk, and couldn't bring himself back to light... So he became light."