Friday, October 4th, 2013 began like most of my days do – getting up and ready, handling the morning’s tasks, being a Dad, a husband, a citizen, a person.
Around noon there was a shift in my schedule and quick math revealed enough time to go sit in Union Square with my Ankerline table. I really enjoy connecting with people and it’s important to me to be of service and give back. The conversations can be difficult but also wonderful and organic. One on one often turns into a group dynamic, then back to one on one and eventually just me again before the next person sits down. The chemistry between the calming, natural park and the urban energy make it an excellent place to think and talk.
Between the weather and a busy schedule, I hadn’t been able to get out there for a couple of months and I was looking forward to it. But I couldn’t possibly have known what was to come just a few short hours later.
The weather was pleasant that Friday and my friend Chris stopped by to bring me an iced coffee and some conversation. While Chris was there, T, a girl in her early 20’s sat down and began sharing. She used to be homeless but fortunately had overcome those circumstances. It was her love life for which she sought input. We talked for about fifteen minutes. I asked her if anything I said resonated. She smiled a beautiful smile. “Everything.” She went on her way and I was feeling good – for T and for me.
Less than five minutes passed. Then RJ sat down.
Normally, I put in conscious effort to remain as open as possible when first being introduced to someone. No matter how they are dressed, physically or emotionally, I like to build an impression over time – not just guess. Given what follows, it’s interesting that with RJ it didn’t require much. He appeared to be in a rather decent mood.
But less than two minutes into meeting me, RJ pointed toward the main entrance to the Union Square subway station and shared his intentions to end his life. “I’ve got it all figured out. I’m going to throw myself onto the third rail. That should make headlines.”
This wasn’t the first time I had heard someone say something of this nature or magnitude. But it was the first time it had been said in that environment – in the middle of broad daylight, out in the open in Union Square. It certainly added an additional element of strange.
The funny thing about RJ is that he had no complaints. Often times, someone in that position has something to point out that is dissatisfying. It could be external – like blaming a boss, a spouse, or the government. It can also be internal – like feeling depressed or tired. RJ, at least on the surface, had an outward state that did not seem to line up with his stated intentions.
I had to feel him out. Maybe he was just angry or upset and needed to vent. It could have been a long week. Unfortunately, the more he spoke, the more I heard credibility in his plan, and the more I realized the seriousness of the situation. RJ was very clear that the conversation with me would be the last one he would have, EVER. In fact, he seemed to relish the idea that, “Everyone in Union Square was just going about their business, but very soon their world would change.” He was grandiose in his assessment but when he told me that he had been planning this for a while and had even measured the distance between the rails, I knew it didn’t matter. He had to be taken seriously.
I wanted to keep him talking. Our talking equalled RJ’s not acting, and perhaps together we could burn off his steam, whatever it was. After about thirty-five minutes, he hadn’t really budged. He was somewhat calm, in moments almost jovial, but also detached and he kept reinforcing his intended plan. Then he laughed, told me he liked me and my blue sign and stood up. He decided that he had enough and wanted to move on. I was able to get him reseated for another few minutes but ultimately he was off. He just started walking away.
This was not good.
To my right was a table of college aged guys and girls promoting products and services for a national cellular company. We had a rapport from a few exchanges over the afternoon. I turned to one of the guys and said, “Watch my table? I gotta go find a cop.”
Always careful to keep RJ in my eye-line, I started scanning for blue uniforms. There are always cops somewhere around Union Square. Not on that Friday. I couldn’t find one anywhere. So I called 911. I spoke with an operator and we were on the phone for a while. I gave her the location and a description of RJ. I even gave my description so that the Police could find me. I let her know that I would be happy to point him out.
It took the Police almost thirty minutes to arrive. Oh, and remember that iced coffee Chris brought me? A forty minute conversation with RJ plus a thirty minute wait for the cops equalled me needing a restroom. The police finally showed up, and I indicated where RJ was standing, where he’d been standing for the whole thirty minutes – staring strangely off into space. I described him with great specificity.
Over the course of our conversation RJ had made some references to a profession I used to work in and sometimes still do. I make one request to the Police. “I’m happy to help in any way I can but I’d prefer it if he not see me with you. He doesn’t need to know that I am the one who called.” They seem to understand. They start walking in RJ’s direction. And they begin talking to a guy standing in the vicinity but with an entirely different description! RJ is a short male with brown skin wearing black clothes and black boots. They are questioning an Asian male who is almost six feet and wearing red. I just kept thinking, “You really can’t make this stuff up!”
Through hand gestures I indicate that they have the wrong person. They wave me over! I indicate that I am hesitant. One of the officers shouts out, “C’mere. We’re here. He ain’t gonna kill you.”
Not having much of a choice, I came out from behind where I was standing. Picture this: we are now all standing in a circle – me, RJ, two Police officers and three EMT guys. Awkward silence for what feels like five long minutes but was probably more like twenty seconds. RJ is looking at me with a look that says, “What the hell?” By the way, I forgot to mention that during our conversation, he had referenced something from the Koran. When I took out my phone to search for the reference, he got uptight and asked if I was calling the Police. At that point I hadn’t yet and obviously I said no. But now here we all are, in that circle. So he’s staring at me and the tension is thick. I pause for a beat and then say firmly, “RJ, there are two sets of circumstances where I need to make this kind of call – when someone is a potential threat to themselves or someone else. And right now you’re both. Why don’t you reconcile the forty minute conversation we had with your reaction just now and then we can all go home.”
RJ half-heartedly tried to create a story about us talking about ideas for a movie, which we did for all of four minutes. It holds no water to off-set the depth of our conversation. One of the officers looks at me after RJ’s tale with a questioning expression. I just gently shake my head no. He then turns to RJ, indicating me, “Why would he make this up?” I mention that not only did I not make it up, I am actually uncomfortable from need of a restroom. Upon hearing this, the officer thanks me for my help and says I’m good to go.
As I walk away, I hear RJ over my shoulder say to the circle, “What now? Bellevue?”
In hindsight, I should have taken down some info to follow up. But all I could think about at that point was to get back across Union Square, pack up my table and find that bathroom. It wasn’t until the next morning that I started wondering about RJ. Did they take him to Bellevue? Did they medicate him? Did they let him go? They couldn’t have let him go, right?
I did pay a visit to both the Police station in the Union Square subway and One PP (One Police Plaza). I was instructed to write a letter in order to get a copy of the transcript and then go from there. Correspondence has been exchanged multiple times and the situation is ongoing.
As if this story weren’t interesting enough, here is where it takes a remarkable turn.
Twenty days later, on Thursday, October 24th, I was supposed to leave my apartment around 8:30pm to run an errand uptown. My wife was late getting home so I didn’t make it out until close to 9pm. I headed over to Union Square and went underground at the top of the park to get the N/R train. As I made it down the first set of stairs, I saw people flooding out of both sides of the lower level. It felt strange because normally that would only happen on one of the sides, after a train left the station. I heard someone say that the trains weren’t running. I wasn’t pleased. But then I heard something unbelievable, something that literally stopped me from taking another step. Someone said there was a crazy man on the tracks.
“No way,” I’m thinking. I see the guy who said it walking toward me. Then I ask him what had to nolvadex cheapest pharmacy,nolvadex at the lowest ?of these, endorphin release and the liver disease caused by theophylline. typhus rickettsia buy nolvadex online no particular nolvadex for sale. be a very strange question for him. “Does he have a shaved head??” Who probes further, let alone with specificity, upon hearing a crazy guy is on the tracks? The guy looks at me, takes a half beat and asks, “Why? Do you know him??” And I say, “Yeah, I might.” He takes out his phone and shows me the photo. essay writer – find the best expert at ?professional essay writers are here. at myexcellentwriter.com, we are well aware of the fact that a ticket to success is in professional writer? hands. “No way. It’s him.”
A crowd has gathered from the bottom of the stairs and onto the platform. People are taking pictures. And there, down on the tracks, with no shirt, is RJ. I want to do something, to say something. But at that point, what was there to do or say? He was arrested, handcuffed and walked out of the station.
As of this post, I am still uncertain as to how the story ends. But I have been following up with NYPD and if I find out more, I will certainly share.
I’ve thought about the odds of my not only having been present on the 4th, after months of not being in Union Square, but to then randomly be back twenty days later at a time when I didn’t expect to be and there he was. They’re incalculable.
If you are a scientist, it’s a wild coincidence. If you are spiritual, maybe there is a grander purpose. But as far as I am concerned, the message is clear. We never know what life will bring us. And if we are not careful, we – like RJ – can lose sight of what we have. Again, he may be a very sick individual, and who knows how truthful what he shared with me really was. But he wasn’t a stupid man. Remember, we sat and talked for almost forty minutes. He spoke of a girlfriend, and a dog. He was employed and didn’t seem to have any financial issues. In the end, at least the end that I know, RJ lost his way.
Even if it is unfathomable to you that you would fall so far, even if you find it difficult to identify with him, my hope is that you take a moment and sit in the reality that we all have things that impede our progress in this life. Success isn’t about what we have, but what we do with what we have. And happiness isn’t about what we have either, but how we feel about what we have.
Here’s to compassion for the RJ’s of this world and to gratitude for understanding what makes us all different and yet also the same.
To be continued… hopefully.