When I was 17, on a Saturday morning at about 8am on my way to work at HMV in Coventry, a woman in her late forties jumped off the car park over Fishy Moores fish and chip shop to her death, landing centimetres behind me. After hearing what sounded like a gunshot, I turned to look for a shooter but it was actually the sound of her body impacting on the ground. Initially I didn’t see her, she was that close, but when I looked down there she was, dyed red hair, her body broken and torn. She was still alive and she looked at me, I will never forget how she looked at me, as though she wanted to tell me something. She tried to raise her arm. I wished I had had the courage to hold her. Before my eyes, she died. Her death was reported in the local paper a few days later. Just two lines, something like ‘Woman, 47 commits suicide’ together with a bit about her mental illness and how this was not the first attempt to take her own life. I think of this woman now, as thirty years later I find myself at the same age she was when she decided that life held nothing for her. She has come to symbolise for me the voices of women who suffer in silence until they can’t take any more. I always wondered what it was that she wanted to say to me.
I also reflect on how I wouldn’t be here to tell you this if there hadn’t been those few centimetres between us.