I‘m going to read you a story today. I know that you want to know why I keep reading you these stories. You think that my characters are going to show you who I am, you want to catch a glimpse of my soul by understanding who’s doing what and to whom.
Well, I can only hope that you can see what you want to see.
On Top of the World
He turned left on 23rd Street, his head down. He knew every building on that street by heart. Glass covered office buildings, high rise apartment buildings covered in red brick, concrete burning from rooftops that were too close to Heaven for comfort. A mosaic of the new century.
He passed the biggest art gallery in town. The paintings that hung on the white walls melted in the heat, sculptures made from marble or metal shone pretty. All with price tags glued to them. Art priced like canned soup in a supermarket.
Something fell in front of him. He stopped to examine the strange object that had almost hit him in the head. A shoe. His eyes darted around, trying to find an explanation to such a curious event. Then he looked up. On top of one of the buildings, he saw a small figure. A shadow in the blinding light.
He ran into the building and climbed up the stairway. Two steps at a time, his heart throbbing inside his chest. His legs grew tired after only three floors. Sweat was sliding down his forehead, down his temples and cheeks. His neck was burning red, his eyes hurt. But he climbed floor after floor, holding the shoe in one hand. He rushed through a door and found himself on the rooftop.
On the edge of it a woman, her eyes closed, her long black hair fluttering in the breeze. A hundred feet below, death. He froze. His feet sinking in the burning concrete, he knew. A single wrong word and she was dead. He knew it all too well. Yet he began to slowly move towards her with his back arched, barely breathing, holding onto that shoe with the most extraordinary hope.
“What are you doing?” he asked, waving the hand with the shoe.
The woman turned around and opened her eyes. She sighed.
He moved in a little closer. “Hey,” he yelled, “what do you think you’re doing?”
Her eyes were wet, her face pale, almost translucent. He stretched his right arm toward her, his fingertips nearly touching her elbow. That’s how close he was. Down, people resembled dots on a canvas.
She stared at him as if she had been waiting a lifetime for him to arrive. Her eyes wide open, her teeth clenched, her fingers balled into fists, her lips murmuring something he couldn’t understand.
He knew he couldn’t be her hero; he wasn’t strong enough to be her savior. But, nevertheless, he had to do something. Anything. Her heels hanging in mid-air, hanging on the verge of a shallow but deadly abyss, she was not going to become just another newspaper article.
Her shoulders quivered. She grabbed his hand. She hugged him, her hands locking around his neck. Tears came down her cheeks.
In that summer afternoon, in the air that was too hot for comfort, she was smiling. With her eyes closed, she was happy.
Finding your hero when so many were trapped inside those huge concrete towers was nothing short of a miracle.
Two hours later, they were both in a coffee shop, eating ice cream. Her hand was still shaking, spilling ice cream on the table. A storm was running through her veins. She grabbed him by the hand. Her lips moved slowly. “Thank you.”
He was afraid to ask, but there was only one question on his mind. “Why would you want to do such a terrible thing?”
“Because I had nothing left to live for.” Her shoulders shuddered in pain. “But you saved me.” She smiled shyly.
“You can’t count on others saving you every time you want to do something stupid.” His voice was gentle.
She grabbed his hand. Her eyes said “thank you.”
He smiled at her, stood up. “I have to go now,” he said.
A moment of silence, a clock ticking somewhere far away.
He turned around. She grabbed him by the arm. She was crying. The palm of her hand slowly caressed his face. Her head tilted, she tried to kiss him on the lips.
He shook his head violently and pushed her away. “I can’t be that person for you,” he said and showed her his right hand. A wedding ring curled around his finger. Infinity, death, in sickness and in health, a love that was not hers reflected on the rings golden surface.
“I see.” Words fell over the tip of her tongue, rolled on the floor, begged, and kneeled in front of him. “I’m sorry,” she said as tears began to drop from her chin.
He opened the door to his apartment, took of his shoes, and slammed the door shut. His brain was wobbling inside his skull, his legs were sore. He walked into the living room. A black guitar was crucified on a wall.
He took off his shirt, turned the lights on. Hanging on the walls, pictures of a woman. Smiling. He walked over to the guitar, ran a finger across its strings, sighed. “I saved someone today.” His voice was warm, echoing inside the empty apartment. “I am no longer afraid,” he said and took of his wedding ring and ceremoniously placed it on the coffee table.
He went to the kitchen and washed his hands. On the wall, a clock was breaking time into little bits of pain, little bits of hope and terror. The sun was long gone, spreading light on the other side of the world. He walked back into the living room and turned on the TV. The local news. Stories about people he didn’t know. Tragedies that felt less than real, that felt less than a dream.
He was going to watch TV until he couldn’t keep his eyes open anymore. He was going to drink a lot of beer. Then he was going to go to bed.
In the pitch black of the night, his wife’s warm body, melting with his own, was going to feel as real as anything else in that dark world.
Her body shivering in the dark, she stood on a rooftop, her eyes closed. She threw her shoe toward the sidewalk.
Someone was going to see it, someone was going to run all the way up there, to the top of the world, and tell her what she needed to hear.