Not knowing what to do, I think of my friend Janice (Maloney) in Chicago. Bless her heart, as she would say. She volunteers a night or two a week at the local crisis call center on the suicide hotline. She is trained to talk to the caller until she is relatively certain that she has succeeded in pacifying and talked the person out of the suicidal track. I wish I had her training, her patience and her compassion. Nothing I can do about the training, but I can certainly conjure up some patience and compassion. I put myself on a sympathetic friendly stranger’s mode.

We demolish a large pizza washed down with beer while I let him talk. I try to tell him about all the positives in life. I try to tell him that the test of a real man is to survive the storms. I tell him, that his ailing wife loves him and needs him more than ever. I try to paint a pretty picture of how everything’s going to turn out alright in the end. At the end of two hours, I feel I have helped him sober up enough that he doesn’t repeat his threat of driving off the cliff. Would have been an easy thing to do, as there are many of them along the coast, especially near Carpentaria where he lives.

But I feel reasonably certain that having had a chance to unload what had him so devastated, he seemed no longer a threat to himself. Before he drops me off, he apologizes profusely for burdening me with his problems, but thanks me as profusely for letting him pour out all that had bottled up inside of him. Thanks again. You just may have saved my life! He self consciously hugs me before getting back into his car. I watch him go around the cul-de-sac of Linfield Place and then swing out and turn left on the main road. I take comfort in the fact that his driving is straight and steady and he observes the turn signals. I watch the tail light in the distance and can’t help but imagine it going down a cliff. But I don’t think so.

© Haresh Shah

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

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Next Friday, November 22, 2013

OF PINOT NOIR AND THE BURLAPING

Jan Heemskerk, the editor-in-chief of Playboy’s Dutch edition  and I take a trip to California’s wine country north of San Francisco and visit various wineries and their owners and the winemakers. Quite sophisticated, and then take a long and winding mountainous road to a little town called Boonville, which prides itself in its exquisite Pinot Noir. Nothing had prepared us for the wonderful evening we spent with the men and the women of the Pinot Noir country.

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