A LONER'S LEAP : On That Morning, at That Crossroads, There Was No Turning Back

Lady, you nearly made a royal mess of what was left of my morning.

If you rate a mention on the 6 o'clock news this evening, I'll be too busy to know. But I expect that, within 24 hours, I'll know as much about you as will any halfway decent member of the news-reading public. An article is bound to appear someplace, with all your vital statistics and perhaps a few quotes from a grieving loved one speculating about why you took that dive from the Barham Boulevard overpass onto the northbound lanes of the Hollywood Freeway.

For now, I'd rather not know the details. My shocked imagination is writing and revising your death scenario, opting for the more pragmatic possibility that ultimately made me witness to the bloody aftermath of your irrevocable decision.

My personal scenario is much more mundane. Day began with the transgression of oversleep. The alarm went off at 6:30, but it was 9:30 when I jumped up. I had barely enough time to bathe, dress and tend to pressing correspondence before leaving to make my usual run to the P.O. box and then an 11:20 appointment with my favorite dentist in Reseda.

I did a frantic leaving dance, double-checking to see if I had turned off all the lights and the Mr. Coffee, followed by a two-minute scramble for my eternally mislaid keys. If I'd been on time, I might've been behind the wheel of one of the vehicles that struck you and kept going.

In minutes, I was racing up Wilton toward the Hollywood Boulevard on-ramp. I figured it would take a mere 15 minutes to make Reseda, speeding ticket notwithstanding. But instead of merging with a light stream of traffic, I waded into a bumper-to-bumper jam. I made a quick exit at Cahuenga. Finding a pay phone (haven't gone cellular yet), I got the receptionist. She green-lighted the hasty rescheduling of my appointment, giving me another 20 minutes.

Zipping back up Cahuenga, parallel to the freeway, I was dismayed to discover even worse gridlock before the entrance ramp, which was closed. A small white hatchback weaved boldly through the Day-Glo orange cones, violating the Caltrans dictate. Equally brazen, I forced my way into the slightly faster-moving left lanes. Relaxed into the incremental flow, I hit the AM dial. 1070 was in the midst of its broadcast about an unknown woman who had fallen to her death at the Barham overpass, barely a half-mile ahead. An apparent suicide. her body was still on the freeway, an investigation under way.

Well, no wonder!

Creeping toward Barham, I inched toward the right to see what I could see. Several emergency vehicles and cars, most likely those of witnesses, were parked on the shoulder. A small crowd stared down at your body from the overpass. A man in a sky-blue shirt held a camera at his neck. There you lay, under the yellow tarp, guarded by police and highway patrolmen, the area marked off with yellow tape. In spots, there were mounds of flesh, some flattened in a trail of skid marks. A few yards away lay a single brown loafer, as if you'd been knocked right out of your shoes.

There are no clues to your race, size or hair color. But that well-worn shoe punctuates my scenario for you--the one about a woman's failed struggle in a metropolis gone mad, where the only politics is survival and success is measured in multiples of zero. She finds facing yet another sunshiny day intolerable, knowing she hasn't got the quarter it takes to call for help. I feel what I imagine to be her pain. Then I imagine the pain of flight that must be gnawing through the guts of those who hit and ran. Would I have stopped? I don't know. Life on fast-forward has negative side effects--a certain hardening that starts in the wallet and works its way to the heart.

As I exit the Ventura Freeway at Reseda, I hit the FM button. A blast from 106.7 clears my neurons. And suddenly, I'm struck ironic by the hard-driving rhythmic lyric of Ziggy (David Bowie) Stardust and the Spiders from Mars cranking "Suffragette City":

" There's only room for one and here she comes, here she comes . . . ahh, wham, bam, thank you, ma'am. . . . "

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