Pursuit of Happiness
October 3rd, around 12pm, with my dog off leash and Kid Cudi’s song “Pursuit of Happiness” in my ear (for the first time!), I start up on Emerald Trail, off Ronoake Street (South Side Slopes of Pittsburgh). As I make a turn up the trail where there is a creek, I see what looks like a coat hanger with a coat on it on a tree branch up ahead. I get closer: it’s a body, a suicide. I call 911 and give them a description — a white male in his twenties, in athletic shorts, in a windbreaker-style coat, with a black face mask under his nose, inside a noose. They ask me how he looks, I say: “Blue.” Police arrive, I wait for a detective to answer questions, looking at the man’s body, thinking: “Bodies outlive minds.” An hour or so later I turn back down to go home, dog-walk interrupted. Later tonight, I decide to make my way back up there, needing, I feel, a sense of closure. I take a picture of the tree, nothing has changed, it is as if nothing happened. But, of course, it did. Someone’s parents somewhere are finding out this terrible news. Another pursuit of happiness interrupted … but by what? I have to accept this uncertainty, this mystery, this strangeness of being. On the way home (after my evening venturing out), I run into a guy with a dog, I had seen him on this trail a few times, we introduce ourselves. I share the story. “Really?” says Mike and tells me that last night around 8pm he was out on the trail with a flashlight (as it was getting dark) and he had spotted another flashlight in the woods; after a moment, he continues, the other flashlight was turned off. “Hmm,” I mumble, adding “Good chance it was probably our guy, looking for a right branch.” “Our” guy — what does that mean? It means something, I guess, to me and possibly to Mike. Life is a strange walk in the woods. Kid Cudi’s song will never quite sound the same in my ear.