Tuesday, February 3, 2009
A discussion of sorts, between me and those down on the roof, had begun. Obviously the big question was, "Are you coming down?" In response to that question, I yelled back, "I don't know yet." "Well what's the problem Bobby?" someone hollered up at me.
I looked down at the faces of the firemen, police, and others, gathered on the roof, studying their expressions. They looked weary, angry, and to some degree concerned, as they stared back up at me. "Why are you doing this?" shouted another voice. "I wanted to make a point," I answered. "About what?" came the response.
Before I could answer, another voice boomed upward, "Are you going to kill yourself?" "No!" I fired back, "I just wanted to get paid for my work. I just wanted someone to know what happened to me. I never got paid, so I can't even pay my rent."
"Well how's this going to help you get paid?" someone shouted. My eyes angrily searched for that questioner in the crowd. "Well I got your goddamn attention, didn't I?"
A long moment of semi-silence filled the vacant space between us, until another voice shot up at me saying, "Well come on down so we can talk about it." "Not yet," I snapped back, "not just yet."
The faces below began showing their displeasure and frustration. It was clear at that point that getting me off the tower was their only concern, as opposed to giving a shit about any reasons I had for going up there in the first place.
Believe me when I say that I understood this point, but I was not going to meekly climb down without making them understand mine as well.
The secondary issue of getting arrested, if and when I did come down, was also front and center in my thinking. "Anyway," I yelled, "You're just going to arrest me if I come down, so what's the point? If I stay up here you can't arrest me."
The absolute logic of my statement sent the faces below into a suppressed frenzy. They turned towards each other, and the faint sound of their heated conversations floated up to me. My remark had pointed out the futility of the situation, leaving all of us stumped and handcuffed to this pathetic standoff.
Here we all were. Them down there, waiting to corral me, and me up here, refusing to get corralled. Like a game of Texas Hold-em, we had bluffed our way to a stand still.
About then, a lone fireman stepped forward shouting, "You know there's 10,000 volts running through that tower." I peered down at him and shouted back, "I don't care, man." Looking dismayed, he countered with, "You're lucky you didn't get electrocuted." I stared back in silence as he added, "It's off now, we cut the power." He lingered for a moment looking up at me, then shook his head in disgust and melted back into the crowd.
The growing restlessness from those below in acknowledging they were hog-tied by my refusal to cooperate, was only enhanced by their sheer inability to do anything about it to this point. It wasn't as though they could run up and grab me by force, so they were ham-strung and knew it.
Unfortunately for them, I knew it too. I was also aware that they were none too happy down there, but I'd made up my mind not to get arrested, so I held my position.
After some more discussions below, another person stepped forward with a different approach. "Hey Bobby, he yelled, "Yeah?" I yelled back. "Dr. Ferguson is here somewhere, will you talk to him?"
Dr. Ferguson was my psychiatrist at Edgemont Hospital, and I liked him. I also knew I could trust him, from experience. "Yeah," I shouted down, "Get him up here, I'll talk to him."
After about five minutes, Dr. Ferguson appeared on the roof below me. In his late 60's, he looked somewhat rattled but friendly as always. "Hi Bobby," he shouted up at me. "Hi Dr. Ferguson, how you doin?" "I'm fine," he said, "Now what's it going to take to get you down from there?" "They're just going to arrest me if I come down, Doc," I yelled.
"If I can guarantee that won't happen, you'll come down?" he yelled. "Yeah," I shouted back, "I'll come down." As I watched the goings on from above, I saw Dr. Ferguson turn back in my direction and position himself directly below me again. He gave me his personal assurance that I would not be arrested or taken anywhere by anyone.
That moment is burned into my mind forever. It was that moment when I made a decision that would forever change my life. As long as the ordeal had lasted, my decision to end it took only seconds, the same number of seconds it had taken for me to decide to climb the tower in the first place.
I remember clearly, as I'm writing this, what my thinking was as I readied myself to leave the tower. I was suddenly faced with an insane dilemma created by my exhausted mind. It flashed in my thoughts that, after all that had happened, I could not just simply climb down and end it.
I felt too connected to the tower itself, and to all the people who had witnessed this insanity, and had stayed for hours to see what would happen to me. I felt strongly that I owed them something more than to merely climb down at this point; we had shared too much.
This diabolical concept and misplaced sense of loyalty towards absolute strangers, for me, was the powerful and destructive force in full control of my actions. I languished there on the dull steel, which had been my home for nearly 4 hours, thinking, "I can probably jump from here to the roof, it isn't that far."
The distance was misleading, after viewing things from much higher. I had wrongly measured the distance with my eyes concluding it was safe. "I can do it," I decided, "I can do this." I moved my body into a position directly above where Dr. Ferguson had stood minutes earlier.
As I stared down at my chosen landing spot, the faces on the roof stared back at me. Their expressions soured as they quickly saw what was happening.
They began waving their arms, making gestures with their hands, as if they were trying, by some invisible force, to stop me and hold me where I was on the tower. With eyes wide they started yelling, "No! No! Don't Do That! No! No!" as my body left the safety of its home.