It appears that our neighbor has committed suicide. It appears that my love wasn't enough to save him. Or rather, it appears that I didn't love him at all, because I didn't even attempt to know him.
What I did know of him was this: that Georg came home one night saying he caught a glimpse of his apartment as he passed him opening his door one evening. "Sparkling clean," he said, "and it smelled amazing." This started his week-long obsession with finding the perfect candles so we could mimic that home-smell perfection. Then, when the apartment complex installed new door locks, I didn't realize he was at his door down the hall, asking me in a friendly voice how to change the door lock code. My door was already shutting behind me, and Sophie was being particularly fussy, so I ignored the question, justifying that I didn't really know what to tell him myself (Georg had changed it). And a few days ago, a neighbor stopped at his door to ask for milk (all the stores have sold out in the area) and while we were in the parking lot, unloading Sophie, I heard him welcome her with the friendliest and booming voice. He ushered her inside and I could hear them small-talking. I remember the slight desperation in his voice, and I thought, "he sounds lonely."
Yesterday I thought about making some loaves of bread for our neighbors, leaving it on their doorsteps with a note, something like "knock if you need anything." But I didn't. I never tried to know him, and I didn't leave that loaf of bread on his doorstep. Instead, I let him live his life undisturbed, taking no interest or responsibility for his happiness.
So tonight we heard heavy footfalls and loud voices in the hall. Georg checked the doorbell camera, and we saw paramedics and a police officer, all wearing masks and gloves. Worried that the pandemic had come to our building, I put Sophie to sleep quickly and stuck my head out the door, thinking I could ask a paramedic as we had a right to know. Instead I saw a body being carried in a bag; I saw the cold feet. I froze. My hand covered my mouth instinctively. I felt compelled to watch them carry him out down the last flight of stairs. "Georg," I stated, turning around and shutting the door. "I just saw a body. No stretcher. A body. The feet looked cold."
His face blanched. After a moment, I opened the porch door, where I could hear the paramedics talking loudly. "Cause of death: suicide. The pills are at the bottom of the bag."
We stood there, both of us frozen as the night air blew coldly, staring at the ambulance. It drove off slowly, no lights flashing.
We sat on the couch together, having no words. After awhile, I began speaking, expressing my guilt. Then Georg left to review the news, "Aftershock in Salt Lake," he said, "And another earthquake in Croatia."
What is happening? I thought, and while I sit comfortably with my family. What is happening?