When I was out on the ledge, officer Hinshaw was the kindly uncle I’d never had. I really liked his not asking first thing what I was upset about, but if he could call someone for me. When I told him that I was perfectly capable of calling anyone to whom I wished to speak on my iPhone, but that everyone could just go to hell as far as I was concerned, he winced a little bit, but then, before either of our hearts could beat twice, began telling me about how his younger brother had had cancer. I thought it was going to turn into one of those little talks about how dare I contemplate ending my own life when his brother had died a couple of weeks before. I knew I was supposed to mumble something like, “I’m sorry for your loss,” but I was finished with trying to do what people expected. He offered me a menthol cigarette, but I thought he might try to grab me if I accepted. I could picture feeling really awful if I caused his death, though I recognised that I’d probably feel awful only as long as it took me to, you know, plummet the 19 stories to the ground.
We didn’t say anything for a while. He smoked and I enjoyed the excitement I seemed to have generated down below on Wilshire Blvd.. He finally asked what music I liked, which I thought was a pretty odd question for someone about to leap to his death. I told him I hated talking about music, and would feel no closer to him if we discovered we liked the same stuff. He looked more sheepish than affronted, and I felt churlish.
I asked if he specialised in suicide prevention, or if he dealt with hostages too. “A little bit of everything,” he sighed. “Kind of whatever needs doing, you could say. Are you sure I can’t get you a sandwich or something, or a jacket? It’s getting a little bit chilly.” He was wearing a suit, I just a T-shirt. His blue eyes were full of kindness and concern.
I asked about his surviving family. I liked his saying, “Oh, you don’t really want to hear about my them,” rather than telling me about them in detail while his colleagues down below got the gigantic yellow mattress thing in place, undoubtedly at enormous taxpayer expense. He asked if a girl had broken my heart, or a guy. I liked that he said girl rather than the politically correct woman, though I sympathise avidly with feminism, and that he didn’t wink or smirk when he allowed for the possibility of my being gay. Which of course I am not, having not a gay bone in my body, nor even a tendon.
He pointed out that with the gigantic yellow mattress pretty much in place now, I was a lot likelier to just injure myself horribly painfully than to End It All. “You don’t look like the kind of guy who’d enjoy being in traction for three months, or needing multiple surgeries to pick little pieces of your pelvis out of your liver and kidneys and gall bladder.” He seemed deeply troubled by the thought of my being in pain, and the next thing I knew I was being roughly pulled inside the building through the window Hinshaw’s uniformed accomplices had managed to slide open soundlessly behind me.
A very different Hinshaw emerged as the two beefy uniformed cops who’d pulled me in handcuffed my wrists behind my back. His eyes twinkled avuncularly no longer. Indeed, you could almost see the steam coming out of his ears. “I don’t imagine,” he said, sneering, “you care in the slightest that my younger daughter had a soccer game this afternoon, and that Joanne’s lawyers are sure to cite my missing it in our custody hearing?” I began to protest — to assure him that I really did care, but he told me to STFU, and read me my rights, in a tone that suggested he wished he could rescind them.
I taken downtown and booked on suspicion of trespassing, reckless endangerment, and resisting arrest, and taken downtown, where I learned with dismay that the earliest I could be released on bail was the following morning. When I complained to the guard about the very weak WiFi signal in my cell, he offered me a dogearred copy of the March Vanity Fair, which I’d read back in March. I re-read the Jennifer Aniston profile and reconciled myself to having to watch television with other detainees until bedtime, just before which I was surprised to learn I had a visitor — Hinshaw! — who’d come to apologise for his earlier surliness. We chatted at considerable length, and watched NFL highlights. He showed me the photos of his daughters he carried in his billfold. I dutifully remarked on their prettiness, though they were both average-looking at best. By the time he left, I was fonder of him than ever, and after the judge released me the following morning on the grounds that someone so near to suicide had probably suffered more than enough already, we went to lunch together.
We’re now officially an item, Hinshaw and I. Maybe I had a couple of gay tendons after all.