I landed in Manchester, England, dropped my bags at the hotel and raced out into the rain to begin my 48 hours in England’s 2nd largest city. I decided to get out of the rain and do the Old Trafford tour and headed to the Victoria train station. It took me a while to remember that I could speak English again and expect it in return. Or so I thought.
“The tram’s not running. Didya hear why?” the Metrolinks employee asked me. I shook my head.
“There’s a jumper at Arndale.”
English, yes. But I had no idea what he was trying to tell me. A jumper. Someone jumping onto the tracks? Someone who jumped the queue and didn’t pay? Something completely different? I was clueless. And I guessed Arndale was a place, but it meant nothing to me.
“You’ll have to take the bus. Follow me.”
So I followed this gray-toothed man in a Metrolinks jacket back out of the train station while he peppered everyone we passed with the same question.
“Didya hear there’s a jumper at Arndale?”
“Police have everything blocked off. There’s a jumper at Arndale. You’ll have to go around.”
He turned back to me as he positioned me just out of the rain. “He picked a ‘ell of a day, din’t he? The bus’ll be along in 12 minutes or so.”
Naively, I still hoped for the best.
Soaked from the waist down where my umbrella failed me, I boarded the bus with the other passengers who’d been derailed from their tram. We got on and gossip volleyed back and forth.
“Hear he lost his job.”
“Oy. My heart bleeds for him,” one man said sarcastically. “He’s not the only one.”
“If you’re gonna do it, do it straightaway,” one twentysomething said as she shook the rain off her pink head.
“Can’t he jump faster?” someone else said behind me.
So it was a suicide jumper. I’d been afraid of that. The police had blocked off several streets that also intersected with tram rails. It was 11:00am.
I finally connected with another tram that took me to Old Trafford and forgot about my morning. Then, around 4:30pm I headed back the way I’d come, taking the tram to Picadilly where I’d transfer back to Victoria Station.
But when I got to Picadilly, there was a Metrolinks guard blocking the escalator to my tram.
“Sorry, miss, you’ll have to go back to Picadilly Gardens and then walk. There’s been an incident and the city center is blocked off.”
An incident. The jumper. He must have done it.
Sure enough, as I wandered in circles trying to figure out which direction I was headed, I came across the yellow taped barricade near a building emblazoned with Arndale at the top. I saw the police erect a blue tent just down the block, close to the building. It was only about five stories high there; a parking garage. Before the tent went up, I saw a blue tarp on the ground.
So he’d done it not long before I’d arrived. He’d spent the day on the roof of the Arndale Mall from what I surmised. He’d stood in the rain deliberating all day. Soaking wet and depressed beneath the steel grey skies, he’d jumped. I wonder how many times he’d wavered and what finally drove him to jump?
I thought about him all evening. The sun broke through the clouds and turned the sky a silvery pink. It was a beautiful sunset, but he missed it.