From Here to Eternity/Magnolia/Tues Oct 2/9:45 pm: Officer Moss reports: "At approx 2145 hours, the complainant received a phone call from her boyfriend. According to the complainant, the boyfriend sounded distressed, intoxicated, and depressed. The boyfriend told her that he was going to jump from the Magnolia Bridge and die where his son had died [earlier in the year]. Further, the complainant stated that her boyfriend has talked of suicide in the past and has acted like he was going to do it in the last couple of months. She did not elaborate as to how he had acted this scenario out.
"When I arrived, I contacted the victim. He was still on the phone with his girlfriend. The boyfriend was obviously intoxicated and there was a bottle of liquor at his feet. The bottle was about two thirds full. Further, the victim was depressed and visibly upset. He told me about the loss of his son and the feeling that he needs to be with his son and to do this—he has to die where his son did. He stated, 'My girlfriend is concerned for me and she has every right to be. I think of suicide all the time because I lost my son.' After talking with me for some time, he suddenly realized I was writing down everything he was saying and his demeanor instantly changed and it was apparent that he was trying to control the situation. He instantly said, 'I am not suicidal, I love myself.'
"The realization that he was going to go to HMC for a mental-health evaluation caused him to change his attitude in an attempt to resolve the situation by having us just let him go. Further, several minutes later, he broke down and started crying and said, 'I do want to die.' He was unable to cope with the loss of his son and I truly believe that he poses a definite threat to himself if he does not receive treatment. He believes that he is responsible for his son losing his life and cannot see a future without him."
Let's consider this piece of information for the remainder of the column: "[The victim] suddenly realized I was writing down everything he was saying...." A man is on the edge; he is about to jump and end the suffering caused by the recent loss of his son; he is confessing his pain and desperate situation to a police officer. As for the officer, he is writing down what the suffering man is saying. Something is not right with this arrangement—suicidal man talking/reporting officer writing. That something has to do with our sense of the great emotional distance that exists between the practice of writing and the practice of listening. The practice (and appearance) of writing, unlike the practice (and appearance) of listening, shuts out the surrounding world and focuses on the operation of writing, the spelling of words on a piece of paper, the formation of sentences, the checking of punctuation. In short, writing does not listen. And yet what the suicidal man needs is not a writer but a listener.