They say every city looks the same, every wall, every window, every face. That in this thing we call life, there is no such certainty as being alone in an ocean of your own kind, flailing as you duck beneath the surface one last time, trying to breathe when the city sucks the air straight from your lungs.
It wasn’t always this way, I arrived with hope of a new start, a new life waiting to be fulfilled. I walked down each sidewalk with a smile and a nod; they were never returned. I’d wear my hat at a jaunty angle, polish my shoes and strut; I’d show those small-town, small-minded Joes I’d left behind. Yes, I’d show them. But I didn’t.
And in such ways is the life sucked from someone, bit by bit, one happiness at a time. Before long, my chirpy demeanour had vanished like a streetlight in the smog to be replaced by something dour, something un-me. I became reclusive. It is not something I am proud of nor would wish on another, but here we are dealing with cold, hard facts. If I hadn’t been such a coward I might never have left my apartment again — via the stairs, anyway.
And so it was each dawn before anyone else was up to witness my weakness I’d lean out over my balcony railing and imagine letting go. On Monday I’d be gripping tight, Thursday testing my fingers and by Sunday just using my feet. It wasn’t such a bad way to go, I imagined, fast even, but not for me. I couldn’t abide the thought of splatting on the street and someone bad-mouthing my choice of clothes, the leering many, the cop making one more note in his dirty, little book.
I tried to hold out but the city heat sapped the last of my resistance and I at last succumbed. I dressed in the suit I’d spent almost all my savings on when I’d first arrived, the old lady that fitted it tutting at the shirt beneath, and stepped outside. Night, blessed night, that was my signal to leave, and without a second thought, I did it: I jumped.
It was the strangest thing to hear the rumble as of a giant’s stomach, see the sky light up like when the circus visited in my backwater home, I even smiled. And then came the rain. It fell faster than me, though it defied the laws of physics. I was engulfed in the tears of the Holy Host — washed clean, one might have said. I landed sodden, cold, and as light as a feather, twenty-six floors down and a perfect two-footed finish. Nobody saw me. Nobody cared. But I did. All of a sudden, I cared.
I still love the rain each individual raindrop another lonely soul cast from Heaven. We gather in pools by the roadside, in shop doorways, the underpass. We swirl and swish to a breeze others can’t feel and delight in the freedoms afforded us. We are free for a time all raindrops together. We are free. Either that, or I never jumped at all? I’ll let you decide.