It was Christmas time, in the early 1980’s. I was working evenings from 3pm to 11 pm afternoon shift at Central National Bank’s operations on East 9th and Euclid, downtown Cleveland. My friend Connie had picked me up from work as I had no car and/or bus money at the time and when she was driving me home I asked her if she could drive by way of Cleveland Public Square so I could see the Christmas lights. Working this shift and being without a car I had not seen the lights this year and really felt like I could use a little Christmas cheer. As Connie and I drove west on Euclid from 9th Street we heard someone yell and saw something drop to earth in front of us but on the sidewalk. It turned out it was a young woman. A young woman who had been up on the roof of the Arcade and she had fallen to the ground.
She lay silently crumpled face down. Her dark hair spilling all around her She was dead. She still had her beret on.
Then suddenly Chuck, my brother-in-law was there before my eyes, he knelt by this little young woman and gently called her name and checked and she was dead. Then he explained his partner (he was a maintenance worker there) was her boyfriend and they had been up on the roof trying to hang some Christmas decoration or banner for the upcoming holiday season that would hang down the front of the building and she had slipped. I looked at my poor brother-in-law. He was in shock, and he had to get back onto the roof and console his friend and partner who had just lost the love of his life this night. I just remember thinking how strange this old life is bringing us all together on that pre-Christmas night, Connie, Chuck, this poor girl, her boyfriend and myself. Connie and I stayed until the police came. Then we drove home through those freezing cold deserted pre christmas streets with the streetlights blinking and the entire world come to an end for a beautiful girl in a beret laying quietly near the curb in front of the Old Arcade.
What a life. I still don’t understand. So easy to be here alive and happy on an early Christmas night and suddenly gone the next. I don’t get it. I know in the blinking silence of that Christmas night there was howling pain that interrupts lovers joy and then suddenly unforgettable loneliness forever. All in the blink of an eye. What a life.
Odd how life puts you in certain places at certain times and you look up and there’s your family. 12 am on a cold december night standing over the body of a young woman. Really odd these life connections.
Photo courtesy of Cleveland Memory at www.clevelandmemory.org