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<death in the afternoon>

On Shakespeare's birthday, spring comes to New York City, and police fish a dead woman out of the east river.

The warm day glows in late afternoon. Joan and I walk toward a small park that lies atop the river. In a town like Seattle, the path to the park would be a pedestrian's dream of dramatic staircases. Here in New York City, you have to sprint across FDR Drive to get to the park and pier. Through traffic roars by on overhead ramps; local traffic at ground level will run you over if you don't look both ways before dashing across the highway.

The momentum from our run carries us to the end of a line of commuters waiting to board a ferry. The commuters all seem to be staring at something. We walk off to see what it is.

A boy about 12 years old stands at the rail, looking down at a floating pier that forms a sort of walkway to the ferryboat. A half dozen police officers in mixed black and white uniforms have formed a small circle around something on the pier. Until a few hours ago, the thing on the pier was a woman.

"She jumped," the boy says, nodding in the direction of the Brooklyn Bridge. "From there."

One of the officers uncovers the dead woman's face. A moustachioed man in a pale suit takes photographs. Then they cover her in a white sheet. It does not look like it looks on television.

"Her belly was real big," the boy says.

"Maybe she was pregnant." Joan shudders.

The officers wait for whatever is supposed to happen next. A gate is released and the commuters file onto the ferry. The boy leaves. Joan and I walk through the sad park. We walk to the Gap. We walk back down to our neighborhood. We keep walking because we are not dead yet.

The streets hum with diners and daters, excited by the pleasant weather. We're hungry and try a new Mexican place. It's good and it's dark and the traditional Mexican music is soothing. The afternoon was warm but the evening is a bit cool.

24 April 2001
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