I was told that the man across the street had hung himself.
I was taking a walk in my neighborhood when this moment from my past sprang to mind. The opening line seemed like a good way to start a story. Then I wondered, should it be written as fiction?
I was told this by the man living next door to me.
This much is true. I don’t remember whether I saw the police or read about it in the news, but I remember what the neighbor told me.
He seemed unable to cope with what he had seen, and needed me to hear him as he processed the event.
This was a man who once yelled at me for touching his garbage can after he put it out on the street for pick-up day. We were not friends.
He told me he had walked past the man’s open garage door, and saw his body hanging from the ceiling.
What does one say in response to that? I don’t remember saying much of anything.
The man had been out of work for a while, according to the neighbor. His wife had left him and taken their child. The financial pressures were probably what sent him to his end. Neither of us really knew the man well enough to have seen this coming.
What would we have done, either of us? We all kept to ourselves.
I offered words of comfort to the man, and praised him for handling the situation so well. He had called the authorities and closed the garage door, to prevent anyone else from passing by and seeing what he now could not forget seeing.
To be honest, I had a morbid curiosity to ask what the man had looked like. Was it anything like the way a suicide is portrayed in the movies? Of course, I did not ask him.
The crime scene tape shivered as an evening breeze blew down the street. We stood together for a while longer on the lawn between our houses, looking at the house across the street.
Really, I just wanted to go back inside. I did not feel comfortable listening to this man, this stranger, as he fought back tears.
With a silent nod, he thanked me and returned to his porch.
See, fiction is probably a nicer way to write this up. I could start off with a description of a happy community in which everyone greeted each other from their driveways. And then, as a stinger, I could end with the line instead of opening with it.
I was told that the man across the street had hung himself. It was how I met the neighbors.