Norman Mailer and I have a few things in common. First, I’m selling his home in Brooklyn Heights. But mostly, we both have had a fear of heights. Here is how I deal with my fear.
I saw a man kill himself on the F train last week.
I was coming from a real estate closing with two delightful clients who had purchased their first home. The air was crisp, my buyers were happy, my business was doing well, … it was a good day.
I positioned myself on the subway platform to minimize the time spent at my eventual exit from the train as we New Yorkers often do. Then that voice came in: “Look Up”. As the train approached, I saw him flying sideways in front of the train, an athletic move, his faced turned towards me so he wouldn’t see the collision, a woolen hat on his head. At that moment time slowed down. I wanted to run and stop the train. I knew what was happening. I had to avert my eyes. He neatly slid under the force of the train.
Large flocks of crows have been visiting my bird feeder upstate of late. They scare off the goldfinches, and juncos, and nuthatches, and they even spook the large mourning doves. Yesterday morning I heard their loud arrival and went to my window to watch. Part of me wanted to shoo them away for disturbing ‘my’ songbirds and another part said no….just watch. They were beautiful, chaotic, loud and a bit scary. Then all hell broke loose. They started to fly in all directions, some bumping into my windows, frantic. A hawk flew into my vision, not unlike the flight of the poor soul in the subway, capturing one of the crows mid-air. It took the squeaking bird to my terrace floor and gradually killed it with it’s talons before flying off with it’s breakfast.
Both of my parents killed themselves. It would be so easy for me to fall into story after witnessing that tragic event last week, to relive those events in our family’s lives and how it has affected us. And I did, for a short while. But ultimately, that serves no one.
That state of watching, of observing events is a gift, a choice, a practice. I diminish the vitality of life when I create a tale around ‘my’ little songbirds being pushed away by the murder of crows. Nor do I honor the man in the subway when I make it about my pain instead of his.
I do not know his name. This is the only article I could find online. I wonder what stories he was telling himself? I wonder what stories my mother and father told? And what stories am I still distracting myself with?
My heart goes out to his family and friends and to the subway conductor who had to see this and feel some very difficult feelings. But mostly my heart goes out to the man with the woolen cap … may he find peace and healing.