On May 17th, 1999, Richard Richmond entered the public library at 9:07 AM. He walked to the elevator and rode it to the 2nd floor. He found a seat by the windows and stared at his hands for 15 minutes. He pulled 3 books from the shelf and pretended to read them. 2 of the books were histories of Ireland. The 3rd book was a large collection of photographs by WeeGee. He said, “WeeGee” to himself and coughed. His cough was the dark cutting sort that means you will die if you keep living like this, you will never get better, your body has nothing left, too much of everything bad and so little of the rest.
Before entering the library he wandered around downtown for 1 hour. He picked up 14 cigarette butts and smoked what was left of them. When smoking cigarette butts from the ground he said “…” and “I don’t feel things, I do things.” But he did not do many things, and he usually felt bad.
Every year he suffered from 1 week of wondering “Why did my life turn out like this” and “Maybe I can live with my daughter and turn things around” before remembering, “I don’t feel things” and “My daughter hasn’t spoken to me in 30 years.” This week usually occurred between September 21st and November 5th but on 4 occasions occurred between November 6th and November 13th.
He forgot his daughter’s name. He remembered his daughter’s name. He said “Anna.” He forgot her hair color and eye color. He remembered holding her and thinking “….” He remembered not seeing her anymore. He remembered her looking at him sad with what was left. He remembered her combing her own hair. He remembered her hugging his leg and smiling at him with a front-toothless grin. He remembered 3 terrible things. He remembered giving her 4 gifts. He remembered her crying. He remembered 2 almost-terrible things. He felt foul and sweated across his left leg. He remembered staring at her drunk. He said “Anna” and “….”
After sitting at the seat by the windows for 5 hours he rode the elevator to the 4th floor. He sat down at a computer. Over the last 6 years he had slowly learned how to use the computer. He used the computer to play Solitaire and Minesweeper for 37 minutes. The library employee in charge of the computers ended his computer session with a note about “viewing objectionable material.” The library employee had meant to end the computer session of the man sitting next to him (= Richard Richmond) but made a mistake.
Richard did not know what “objectionable material” meant. He did not know why Solitaire or Minesweeper were “objectionable material.” He decided he was “objectionable material.” He felt bad. He decided to jump from the 4th floor. He walked to the glass barrier and looked down. He prepared to jump. Then he remembered, “I don’t feel things.” He said, “I don’t feel things” and backed away from the glass barrier. He rode the elevator to the first floor and walked outside the library. He sat in the park for 52 minutes. He left the park to smoke cigarette butts from the ground.
On October 12th, 1993, Richard Richmond pressed himself against the grass outside the Monroe County courthouse and waited to die. He waited 6 hours — the final 4.5 hours of which he was unconscious — until Susanne Regal and Thomas Tinnage, young lawyers working for the Monroe County Public Prosecutor Office (MCPPO), which was known to state prosecutors as “suicide watch” after 4 attempted and 2 successful suicides in the Office since 1987, including the death-by-hanging of 19 year old intern Brian Dillard in 1991, kicked him awake and performed acts sort of similar to CPR.
Before kicking Richard conscious Susanne thought, “I want to keep walking” and “I want to help him.” Thomas said, “Sir, are you alright?” He (= Thomas) thought, “I want to keep walking” and “I will help him because Susanne is here.”
When Richard came to, he stood up and walked to the library. He did not thank the young lawyers who saved his life. He thought “Maybe I can’t die” and “…” and “I don’t feel things.”
The lawyers stared at each other for 1.4 minutes. Thomas said, “You’re welcome” after Richard crossed the street. Susanne was worried. She thought about things that worried her and came up with a list of 17 things. She said “…” and “We just saved his life.” Thomas thought “…” and “I don’t know what just happened”.
At the library Richard walked to the 2nd floor restroom and vomited 3 times in the 2nd stall. He drank water from the drinking fountain. He found a desk by the windows and stared at his hands for 2 hours. He found a book of stories about growing up. He said “I am alive” under his breath 4 times. He stared at his hands holding the book.
The MCPPO was located in rooms 301-317B in the Fuller Building on 1432 W. Western Ave., 3 blocks from the courthouse and 4 blocks from the public library. The building was tall. It contained 13 offices divided between 12 stories and 1 basement. On February 3rd, 1989, Senior Assistant County Prosecutor Lindsay Hill walked onto the roof via the service stairs and jumped to her death. It was the Office’s second attempted suicide since 1987. The other attempt, by the janitor Bob “Foggy” Isleton, was unsuccessful. The MCPPO’s 1st attempt to fire Bob “Foggy” Isleton was unsuccessful. MCPPO’s 2nd attempt to fire Bob “Foggy” Isleton was unsuccessful. The MCPPO’s 3rd attempt to fire Bob “Foggy” Isleton was successful. Bob “Foggy” Isleton’s unsuccessful suicide attempt occurred between the MCPPO’s 1st and 2nd unsuccessful attempts to fire him.
Lindsay Hill did not leave a note. She was 43 years old. Her sort of boyfriend, Tim Reece, who was, in Hill’s words, “not technically her boyfriend” but “complicated” and “frustrating,” a casual not-sure-what-this-is at odds with Hill’s otherwise professional middle agedness, cried at the funeral, leading interns Chris Timing and Amanda Cress to speculate that it was Lindsay, not Tim, who refused to commit to a more serious and defined relationship, until, of course, she (= Lindsay Hill) committed fully and completely to a relationship with death. Following the suicide, MCPPO management held 8 grief counseling meetings. 3 of the meetings were mandatory. The 5 voluntary meetings were attended by 3 people. Amanda Cress was the only person who attended every meeting. Sitting in the final meeting she thought “I am at this meeting, so I am not working” and “….” 9 months after the final meeting she thought “I am glad I went to those meetings” and “Suicide is the most terrifying thing in the world.” She did not attempt suicide or think about attempting suicide.
Richard Richmond was born on June 9th, 1949, in Bloomington, Illinois. There was a childhood. There were two parents. There was one parent. There was a half-way-father-like fill-in. There was a history of drinking, the tired excesses of unemployment, the preponderance of no school, the preponderance of hard work, the preponderance of no work, the preponderance of mild beatings, the preponderance of those “I can’t say that,” “he is beautiful,” “I am shit” whispers before sleeping, the preponderance of not quite maybe next year will be better, “…” “I will beat the living shit out of you if you look at her again,” the preponderance of dreaming, the preponderance of constipation, the preponderance of hygiene anxiety, the preponderance of “where can I go without shoes,” the preponderance of the cough, the preponderance of not talking to the red-haired beauty next door, the preponderance of not preparing, the preponderance of falling, the preponderance of weathered looks, the preponderance of “I’m sorry sir,” the preponderance of “sir I’m going to have to ask you,” the preponderance of “I knew him.”
Lindsay Hill prepared breakfast for herself. She thought, “I want breakfast in bed.” She ate cold cereal at the table. She thought of 415 reasons to leave her apartment. She wrote down 387 reasons on 15 pieces of 8.5″ x 14″ yellow, lined paper. Reason 16 stood out from the other reasons. It was 8 sentences long and combined a childhood memory with a positive feeling about the tree in front of the MCPPO. The tree was roughly identical to the tree in front of the house in Ferndale, Maryland where she lived between 1954 and 1962; the tree she swore was inhabited by fairies until she turned 11 and stopped believing in fairies. She thought, “1961 was the best year of my life” and “….” The childhood memory was brief. It involved a girl called Brooke and a girl called Sarah. They sat together in the grass. Lindsay braided Sarah’s hair. Brooke said, “You are my best friends.” It was perfect.
Lindsay Hill wrote reasons for 6.5 hours. She received 3 phone calls from the MCPPO. She received 2 phone calls from Tim Reece. She received 4 phone calls from 3 men and 1 woman at small desks selling health insurance, cutlery, kitchen cabinets, and magazine subscriptions, respectively. She did not answer the phone. After writing the 387th reason she stared at her hands for 39 minutes. She thought, “I don’t believe myself” and “…” and “I forgot something.” She fell asleep at the table for 7 hours. She ate cold cereal. She drove to the office. She climbed to the roof.
All people and places in the story are fictional and any resemblance to real persons living or dead is coincidental.