Friday, October 10, 2008
Sometimes I am glad I don't have a car to drive to work.
Normally, I'm not much of a fan of Friday mornings. Most often they're Thursday night's awkward, fuzzy-headed curtain call. But this Friday morning was a different affair.
I'd just hung up the phone with a good friend of mine. And Like most mornings, I proceeded to peddle my bike across the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge. As I reached the part where the going up starts to go down, a man without either a home or a shirt stood, looking down toward the water. The tattooed head of a black panther screeched on his chest.
"Morning." I said.
"How high you think it is?" he asked.
He asked again.
I touched the brakes and slowed a bit and responded, "I don't know man-- 70, 80 feet. Pretty high."
"I can do it," The Panther spat back confidently.
I pulled hard on both brakes and whipped the bike around. "You can do what?"
"Jump it." said The Panther.
"Yeah, you could but you'd die."
"Maybe... I could do it."
"Nah man. You'll die"
"I could make it."
"OK," I said.
"You smoke?" The Panther asked.
"Don't do it man. I mean you could... that's your thing, but you'll die."
He just stood looking out over the water.
"I mean if you don't die, that shit'll hurt."
"Yeah." He thought for a few seconds and I stood straddling my bike looking at him. "Maybe I'll base jump it. I base jumped a 90 foot rock once. Shoot opened so hard, I ripped my asshole." With both hands he gestured toward his grundel reminding himself of the harness.
"You ripped your asshole?" I queried.
"Yeah, and my pants"
"Yeah man. I wish you had a cigarette. You don't smoke"
I shook my head.
"If you can do 90 I bet you can do 70. I'm gonna wait till the Titans are playing really good and walk out here. Light a cigarette and throw my shoot. And swim over there and drink a Bud Light on that dock," The Panther mused.
"Well, I mean they are 5-0. That's pretty good. I don't think they have ever started this good," I said. He looked back at me, so I carried on. "You'll be on TV. Probably nationally, maybe Sports Center."
"Yeah, I'll wait. You have a good one brother." The Panther looked out over the Cumberland with a fire in his eye.
"You too man."
I couldn't say that I talked him down from the bridge. Cause either way it would have made for a good story. And there's a part of me that'd like to know what a grown man hitting water after jumping such a long way would look like and sound like, and he probably wouldn't have died-- it's not that tall. It was the way he went about it. He didn't seem particularly sad or hopeless or forlorn, he just seemed like he didn't have anything better or more interesting to do today than jump from a bridge.
Scoring a parachute for an NFL game day proved the trump card and might have made life seem like there was something down the road worth planning for. I hope The Panther finds his parachute.