This is a story about climbing. Up to the roof where they won’t see, feet on the edge of a cliff, the edge of a cliff on the cusp of the city.

This is a piece de resistance, a futile one if you will, but an act of rebellion at that. This is dancing on the edge, to feel alive when the act of living has become something of a dull rust that pervades the essence of what it is to be.

This is a man, putting on his best suit, and entertaining the idea of nothingness. He sits feet first, hands gripping the side of the building.

When looking up to a building from below, a height of 17 stories seems rather unimposing. It is only upon reaching its height, and looking over into nothingness, that the full extent of height is realized. This man, the man in our story about climbing, he feels tiny, insignificant, and relieved.

The night is set to have high winds, and the sound of it whips through his ears and his hair and his face. It hits him, square in the jaw, as he sits with his feet dangling over the edge, planted squarely so that his shoes do not come off and hit an unsuspecting passerby below. He thinks it funny, how very concerned he is with a shoe hitting the ground, and how little he is concerned with tumbling through the air to sudden doom.

He wonders if anyone had any inkling about what he was contemplating, as if the ripple of ill thought could be felt, carried on the wind to some other place, entering the mind of some unsuspecting counterpart who would dismiss it as paranoia or ridiculousness. He likes to think that way. To him words are tangible things that are carried out on the air that we breathe in large comic font and bright colors. They hang around your head and your body, cling to you until they are forgotten or made meaningless or meaningful by action. He sees them here now, the words, all of them, rising up from the city streets and coming together in big giant blobs of red and blue and green.

He taps his feet, over and over again to make sure he can still make sound, for he feels as though he is outside of his body watching himself from across the street, waiting to see what the poor sucker on the ledge was going to do.

He did not pick an inconspicuous time, an oversight he realizes as those on the ground begin to look up at him, the cars whooshing by in the cool clear evening, creating strips of red and white that blurred together if he squinted.

People paused down below, unsure, maybe they were seeing things? Perhaps it was a prank of some kind. Some kept walking, others took photos, maybe one or two of them called the police. He feels almost like a child, the way they look at the world with a fascinated peculiarity, like everything is slanted to the left and just a little bit too big.

Perhaps at the end of it all, he is an exhibitionist? He thought this to himself, seeing the growing spectacle down below. It is not, in retrospect, the greatest of times to contemplate life on the side of a building.  But, unlike almost all of his life, this plan was not entirely thought out.

He had cut his hand in the morning, on a razor blade accidentally picked up blade first. He remembered looking down, a tiny bit of blood trickling from his hand onto his toothbrush, feeling nothing. If you had asked him, he could have sworn he heard the tiny drops of blood dropping in slow motion. For whatever reason, he picked up his toothbrush and ran over it with his finger, spraying the entire sink with fine red dots.

There was something about the silence, and the white of the sink with the red of the blood, and the pink of it all when he washed it away. It made him think of a sunset, the way the sky turns pink and orange and red at the end of the day. It made him think about the sky and how crowded it looked from the window of his office, or from the bottom of the buildings down below. The sound of the tap was like a waterfall, filling the entire room with noise.

Some say all they desire in life is peace but what if peace and quiet are all you ever hear and the sound becomes as deafening as a truck horn. He looked at his hands, and somehow they were her hands, somehow all he could see was her hair and her skin and her voice floating through the air in blue and orange and yellow.

He saw her in the mirror, turning on the tips of her toes and laughing like she used to laugh.  He saw her walking through the bathroom in nothing but a white towel, her hair reflecting in the light as she stepped into the shower and asked him if he would come with her. He saw her lying on the bed, her hair covering her face, her curls looking like spilt honey all over the white sheets.

She had told him once that recklessness was the advent of the lost. That anyone with something to lose stays put. He believed her initially, she seemed like an explosion, ready to go at any second, holding off so long as he loved her just enough, but the thing with that kind of love is enough is never enough and too much is always too little. She told him she was reckless, but he was never quite sure what that meant.

He grips tighter, the brick cutting into his hands. He wonders if she would have approved of this, been one of the onlookers below shouting “fuck yea” or something like that. He wanted to tell her he was sorry so he said it into the wind, said it into the nothingness in black and blue hoping it might get to her somehow.

When he left her, she told him “we are not at fault for the things we cannot handle, for the pain we cannot endure.” He thinks he used the term “too much”, or something along those lines, too much for me, something like that.

We are not at fault for the things we cannot handle. He believed this once, before today, before he saw her name on his cell phone and pressed ignore because he was about to get on the train and didn’t feel like dealing with “too much.”

He believed it, before the crowd on the ground and before the news exactly four hours ago when an announcer said a woman jumped in front of a subway train. He hadn’t even paused, checked to see the name, it didn’t even occur to him. “Nobody could possibly have seen this coming”, is what the reporter said, is what her friends said, what her mother said. He had never met her mother.

He thinks of it now, feet still dangling on the edge except now there is a policeman behind him that is calling him sir and asking him to “come down please.”

“Come down, please.”

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Authors note: Can’t decide where I want this story to go, how do you think it should end? Let me know in the comments!


12 thoughts on “Seventeen

  1. This is absolutely beautiful! Does it need to go anywhere else? You might even consider stopping it at “…orange and yellow.” I’ve been the man on that ledge (figuratively)…and I’m still there…comfortably. I’ve no need to jump. It’s not looking over the edge that frightens me. It’s looking back…and I don’t expect to ever come down. I’d prefer to learn to fly…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “strips of red and white that blurred together if he squinted,” “spraying the entire sink with fine red dots,” “He taps his feet, over and over again to make sure he can still make sound” (I’ve done this), “looking like spilt honey all over the white sheets.” What beautiful lines!
    Wow – this story touches me, pulls me in, makes my heart beat fast and yearn for something. Her? His feelings? The rush of excitement? I don’t know, but I want to wrap the story around me, read it over and over until I have it memorized. I didn’t want to answer your question. I think he’d say “No. This is too much. Too reckless.” And walk away. That’s me though, Mr. Average. I knew a reckless woman once, a long time ago.


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