“You’re not thinking of jumping, are ya?”
It’s barely light when I climb onto the running track that surrounds the Central Park Reservoir, named for Jackie O who used to circle it, just like I’m about to do.
There’s hardly a soul in sight, except for a middle-aged man in a cheap, wrinkled suit, smoking, looking into the distance from the deepest spot of the reservoir. Occasionally you’ll see flowers leaning against the fence in memory of a past jumper.
He ignores my question, so I ask again, “You’re not thinking of jumping, right?”
“What’s it to you,” he says with what sounds like a Romanian lilt. “Can’t a man just stand here and have a quiet smuke?”
Technically, it’s illegal to smuke in the park, but don’t mention this since I see, all is not well with the Marlboro Man.
“I don’t want to intrude on your peace but, I’m not so sure you’re just having a quiet smoke. Are you okay?”
“Me okeey…OKEEY?” This seems funny to him. “I’m anything but okeey, so what?”
I ask myself, why must I be so conscious of others, because now I’m hooked into his plight with no plan to speak of. I then remember what a friend of mine says whenever she has a dilemma. Unlike me, very Catholic, she’ll think, What would Jesus do?
Well, Jesus must have been late a lot since he was always stopping to help someone. Feed them, clothe them, throw in a miracle here and there. Yes, Jesus was never on time, like me, who is supposed to meet another friend for coffee.
If he were here, Jesus would say, “So, got another smuke?” His sandals leaving footprints on the track.
Then he’d ask the guy’s name, something I finally do, forgetting my manners.
“Mac, ma name’s Mac.”
“Jesus, I mean Susannah, I’m Susannah,” I say, coming out of my biblical reverie.
“Mac, just spill it. What’s wrong. Money matters? Women? Are you wanted by the cops?”
Who the fuck was I channeling?
“Money, let’s begin with that. I’m bruke. I’m so bruke I can’t make ma bills. Am just sick and tired of Amurica. Came here for a better life, and it ain’t no better.
“Things have a way of changing,” I say, “they do. One minute life’s bad, the next better. I know all about this having ongoing money issues myself.”
“Well I got a weefe who weeps and weeps.”
“Where is she now?”
“Sleepin, like moost sane people.”
I took umbrage at moost sane people, but did that stop me?
“Got any money on you at all?”
“Why, you need a loon?”
I laugh despite the absurdity of the situation.
“No, just asking.”
“Well, I’ve got three. How bout I give it to you, and you can go to the vendor right along Fifth, and get a coupla coffees and surprise your wife.”
It wasn’t easy giving up my donut money, but shit, that’s what Jesus would’a done. Right? Damn that Jesus.
“Da ya always bother people this weey. Like, it’s none of your business what I’m doin.”
“You’re right. But, I hadda stop anyway. Just can’t help myself. I hope you don’t jump, honestly, cause then when things get better you won’t be here.”
I give him the three bucks, stuff them in his front pocket, then take my leave.
“Hey Miss…you’re not gonna jump are ya?”
At least he had a sense of humor.
I wave, say a Hail Mary for the hell of it, trying not to turn around, but do anyway when I see Mac, exiting by the Metropolitan Museum, that leads to the vendor.
“Well done,” said Jesus.