Sitting on the ledge, she thought what a terrible waste of time her whole life had been. She had spent her childhood well-behaved to the degree no one had paid her any mind, she had spent her teenage years so out of control no one had heard a word she said, and she had spent her adult years dedicatedly avoiding everything she had ever actually wanted. It was quite sad to come to this with only miles of time falling away below her.
"Sniff, sniff," she snorted. "Woe is me," she said to the wind. "The best thing about dying alone," she screamed into the void before her, "is that you can do it however you like." She had spent her life living in a snow-shaker's world of fear, fear raining down on her head like the ashes falling onto her hair. So this time, she swore, she would swat it.
When she swatted, though, she teetered, and then she almost fell. She hadn't been on the ledge for all that long, she realized. Perhaps she would be better off if she played by the rules. Stricture Number 1, it appeared, was: "No Sudden Moves." Stricture Number 2 was: "Make Life-Changing Choices." Stricture Number 3 likely opined upon her fate.
One-two-three, what a horrible game of hopscotch her life had turned out to be. "You know," she told herself, "this is nothing to sneeze at." In fact, the likelihood she would be immortalized in this particular mortality was terribly high. The inevitability a depressed writer would one day make her his cash-cow with a dramatic retelling was terrifically great. She didn't like heights or cold weather, but at least a story ran through it.
She wondered, was there a "better off" for her? If she were somewhere else, it was possible she would have had more hope. Although, in this new world order of terror, that could mean sitting in the living room wondering if that was the stink from the garbage can he hadn't taken out again, or if that was the odor of bio-chemicals creeping softly in upon you. She was thankful that here, at least, the Boogey Man was no longer in hiding.
For the first time, rather, it was as if the Boogey Man was her new
best friend. He was like the big, fuzzy green monster she had drawn as a child. She could feel the deep wet of his large greenness next to her, see the warm glow of his round eyes through the smoke, hear the soft thud of his huge feet at the end of his long legs banging against the building.
Would anyone even miss her? She had been brutal, not firm. She had been moody, not passionate. She had been unkind, not honest. Above it all, she tried to feel as if she was not sorry for a bit of it. Hadn't she succeeded in becoming something other than milquetoast-hated, but not ignored? Anyhow, everyone spoke well of you at funerals.
She had to admit her feelings had been hurt when the two people holding hands went by the window. In that moment, as she spied them shooting vertically down through and past where her view of the city had been, she was blown away by the depth of their commitment to each other, by the simple strength of their two clenched hands, together.
Immediately afterwards, the sour taste of jealous bile had lodged into the back of her throat. She had even gone so far as to choke on it. "Cough, Cough," she shouted after them, as if they would have had time to acknowledge her standing alone in an office filled with an explosion of useless papers, as they sailed by. She was sorry for that now.
Because the reality was that she was angry her boyfriend wasn't there with her, for her, in her most final of moments. She didn't have a boyfriend, actually, but if she had, she knew now was when she would have become mad at him for not being there for her needs, in this last. But if she had a boyfriend, there was at least the outside chance he would have realized later that he loved her and spent the rest of his life honking into a Kleenex.
Now, she didn't know if she would have deserved it. She wasn't pregnant or planning a baby, she wasn't very old or very young, she was adopted and so she didn't even really have a family to speak of. She probably wouldn't even register in the final tally. If a man found a small bit of her somewhere, he probably couldn't even tell it had been a piece of her.
"That is what I am so tired of believing," she wailed at the top of her lungs. She felt as if this was one of those times she was supposed to make a decision. Decisions had always been her undoing. "I am so great!" "I am so awful!" She could never make up her mind.
"Put it to yourself this way," she told herself, "would you prefer baptism by fire or death by destruction?" But that was too politely vague. She tried to put it to herself another way, "Would you rather run into the face of it or run fleeing from it?" She took her own silence to point out to herself, "This may seem like an exercise in splitting hairs. It's not."
And she did have a point. No matter what decision you made about yourself at any given moment, whether it was life or death, talented or incompetent, total loser or superstar, at any subsequent second you could be immediately disproved, the hand of God slamming down onto your head so fast and final that you folded under it like an accordion -- or not.
The fear was the reason every minute of her life not spent at work had been spent lying still and prone in the middle of her bed with all the curtains drawn as piles of food containers grew upon the floor. She had believed the only sure thing about change was that nothing would ever change. Could things be different? Wasn't this her life's lot?
Now, looking back, she could see there was no bed in her office, rendering her paralysis an old and impossible dream. "Does anyone have a pillow?" she called out to the clouds. And so then, she proclaimed, "I have been burned, but I have never yet let myself fall."
After all, it was possible that someone's hand would reach out for her as the air consumed her. It could, in fact, be that someone would make a comfortable landing space for her far below. She did not yet know, but she did know that what she knew, well, she knew that already. Why not, for goodness sake, try something different? "Different times," she said to anyone who was listening, "call for different measures!"
Right then, that was when she jumped. And, in the end, it turned out, finally, really, in fact, actually, that was the best decision she ever made in her whole long lifetime.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Her articles have appeared in Salon.com
, Harper's Bazaar
and the LA Weekly
among others, and her visage has appeared on programs ranging from Politically Incorrect to CNN. Currently, she is writing a novel, Reverse Cowgirl
, which is "a surrealized account of her many journalistic adventures through Porn Valley, USA".