The doors of the elevator opened and spat him out onto the roof of the building. He stood still for a minute, to collect his bearings and to adjust his eyes to the vast view his recent microcosm had now been violently expanded with. He still didn’t want any of it. He took his steps carefully, looking almost as though he contemplated the concrete on which he tread them, idly calculating the rate of conversion of potential energy into kinetic energy as he let his foot touch the ground just as the other was taking off for the next step. That’s all he took pleasure in, now. Details.
He looked around, more from habit than any desire to look around or to look for something, and he saw her, looking over the edge of the building, seemingly deep in thought. He slowly walked up to her, careful not to make a sound, in order to not disturb her reverie, which captured him now as nothing had in the past few months. The last few moments of life sure had a heightened sense of the world you were leaving. He could feel her brain think.
She, in turn, kept looking over the edge, mesmerized by something it was hard to tell if even she knew what. Suddenly, she turned around and looked right into his eyes and said, “The goddamn cars honk too much, you can hear them from even 54 stories high.”
He looked at her, struck dumb by her sudden address of him. Finally finding his voice amidst a mist of confusion, he mused, “I didn’t know there were 54 floors to this building.”
“That’s what the button on the elevator says. How did you get here, then?”
“I guess I just didn’t notice it.”
She started a little, at that. How did you not know what floor of a building you were going to go to? It was like stepping onto a bus and buying a ticket to the last stop, not knowing where that was. It meant you weren’t interested in where it took you, so long as it was really, really far. Or, in this case, really, really, high. “Why’re you here?”
“Let’s just say I wanted to see acceleration due to gravity for myself.”
She cocked an eyebrow at him, at that line. Fine, if he didn’t want to tell her. It wasn’t going to stop her asking him, anyway. “Too bad, I thought we could jump off holding hands.”
“Why’re you here?”
“I just told you.”
“No. I mean, how is it that when I want to kill myself in peace, you’re here at the same time wanting to do the same thing? Why do you want to jump?”
“It’s a long story.”
“I would say we have the time, considering the only thing we have an appointment with is jumping off this building.”
“Fine. I’ll tell you if you tell me why You’re here.”
He considered that. “Fair enough. My kid killed himself because my wife ran away from me with another guy because I was too busy working.”
“Ah. You’re… what? You seem academic.”
“I’m a scientist, if that’s what you mean by academic. I make drugs for a pharmaceutical company that’s going to release something I patented, soon.”
“Why do you want to jump, then? Isn’t it more messy than popping cyanide or something? I’d guess you could get that from your lab.”
“Well, seeing as how this is the end and all, I figured I should do something I really wanted to, before I quit it. The one thing I’ve always wanted to do, since I was a kid, was fly. So I figured I’d take the leap, and believe I had wings, if only for a moment.”
“Why don’t you go bungee jump or something, if you want to get your kick? Why come and bother me on this day at this time on this building?” She asked him almost accusingly.
“Oh, I didn’t think of that.” He said, amused by his oversight. “Doesn’t change anything now, though. If you want to be alone, I could go leap off the other side of the building.”
“I didn’t mean to sound rude, sorry.”
“You haven’t told me why you’re here.”
She smiled at him, her hair taking flight in the sudden gust of wind, so powerful at such altitudes. “I don’t have any reason why I’m here. I think that’s part of the problem. There’s nothing I could call my life, that calls me back to, y’know, them. The people walking on the streets, the people in the cars, those buzzing in and out of the building. It’s like they’re all going somewhere. I’m not, I’m stationary, I have nothing to go to, and nowhere that I come from. Why crowd the population when I can do something useful by killing myself, I figured.”
“That wasn’t so long.”
“Not unless you’ve lived it.”
He could see the loneliness on her face when she said that, almost bitterly; he could almost feel the calm acceptance of her fate, her conviction that her entire life up to this point was directed towards pointing out to her how insignificant she was. He felt a tinge of sympathy.
“I don’t want your pity,” She perceived it instantly. “I’m glad I at least understood my purpose now. Some people live their entire lives not knowing what that is. Maybe they were also supposed to jump off a building, and never knew, even when the end came. How sad is that?”
He ignored that, and answered it with another question. “Why do you want to jump?”
“I figured it’s the easiest way to make an exit. I don’t have the guts to do anything directly self-destructive, like hanging myself from a fan or slitting my wrists. It’s too much pain. I think this is the most fun way to do it.” She was almost childishly excited, as she said it.
“Shall we, then?” He was itching to jump. It was like the past few months, he had existed to sort through his affairs, just so he could live this one moment with all the spirit left in him.
“You’re in a hurry. Don’t want to stay and chat longer?” She pouted.
“I think it’s been long enough, as it is.”
“Suit yourself. Go, jump.” She moved aside and motioned her hand.
“I didn’t mean to sound rude, sorry.”
“You’re going to have to make it up to me, then.”
“And how do you propose I do that?” He was intrigued. The last few minutes of his life sure seemed more interesting than the rest of it.
“Hold my hand and jump with me. I’m suddenly wondering if I don’t have the guts for even this.” She looked at him, almost pleadingly. Men look at you pleading to have their lives spared; she wanted her death.
The man silently assented. They climbed the parapet and swayed lightly in the wind, almost falling before they meant to. They looked at each other one last time, for the moment of death was to be experienced alone, and not by looking another person in the face. They jumped at the same time, feeling the rush of the strong wind against their faces.
He was elated. He was falling at a great speed, and the beauty of the moment stopped any flow of thoughts he may have been having. All he could sense was the cold wind biting at his face, like the flames of a fire lick a pan before it is placed on a stove. The ground was rushing up at him with great speed, but all he had eyes for was the happiness inside, washing away his wounds.
She felt content. Here she was, falling towards her impending death, welcoming it with open arms. All she could feel was happiness, the same happiness felt when a killer shoots his mark, when a mother gives birth, when a director watches his movie’s release. She was achieving her purpose, and the knowledge gave her all the peace she needed.
That night, the local news was buzzing about the curious incident with the couple holding hands and falling to their deaths. Speculations were abound, as to the miserable story that would have brought them to the act.
You know the truth.