I stared down into the busy streets below. People hustled along the sidewalks going about their own business and lives; they didn't even notice that I was there. My life was worthless. I had everything that I held dear taken away from me. First my job, then my house, and, more recently, my wife. They all were but bitter-sweet memories to me now.
I stared down at the hundred foot drop below me, all you have to do is take one step, a little voice in my head told me. I took a deep breath and managed one last look across the rooftops of New York's many skyscrapers. I inched closer to the edge. It only takes one step.
"It's beautiful up here isn't it?"
I spun around, almost tumbling off the edge as I did so. After regaining my balance, I stared, bewildered, at the woman who made her way towards me. Her stiletto heels made no sound on the concrete roof.
"Wha-What do you mean?" I stammered.
She smiled. It was a smile that showed her endearing kindness. "I said, don't you think it's beautiful up here?" She leaned close to the edge and stared at the horizon.
Not wanting her to know my true intentions, I cleared my throat and said, "Yeah. I guess so." I leaned on the ledge a few feet away from her, silently wishing for her to leave.
"New York is such a wonderful place. It's full of love, kindness, and forgiving. It warms me up inside to think of such wonderful things," she continued.
I scoffed, "All I see is hate, death, and crime. There is no beauty in this place."
Much to my surprise, she laughed. "That's because you're looking at it from the wrong angle. The world is like a blank canvas and we are the artists. We have to turn it a certain way before we can paint the beautiful picture."
I merely nodded. Come on lady, just leave already!
She stepped away from the ledge and held out her hand to me. "Come. I want to show you something."
I folded my arms over my chest. "No thanks, I think I'd rather stay and…… Enjoy the view."
She took my hand anyway and pulled me away from my destruction. With a frustrated sigh, I allowed her to lead me from the elevator and onto the streets. We strolled down Main Street, hand in hand. While she hummed and looked about her surroundings, my face was set in a scowl as I pondered a way to escape.
"Oh look!" She pointed to something in front of us.
I squinted as I tried to looks for the thing she was pointing at. "What am I looking at?"
"That man, the one in the suit."
Sure enough, she was pointing to a middle aged man in a grey business suit and a red tie. He had a cellphone pressed to his ear and a briefcase in his other hand.
"Yeah, so what?"
She leaned closer and spoke in a hushed tone. "That man's wife was murdered a few months ago. At home, he tells his ten year old son to never give up, no matter how hard things may seem. If it wasn't for that little boy, I think he would've given up a long time ago."
"How do you know that?" I asked, matching her tone.
She winked and pointed to a man playing the cello up ahead. "That man is homeless, jobless, and starving half to death, but he still sees the world through the beauty of his instrument. He's out here every day playing for bystanders." When we walked by, she dropped a dollar bill in the man's case before we continued on.
"I think you misunderstand him. He most likely drank all his money at bars, was fired from his job, and couldn't pay the bills to his house so it was foreclosed on. He probably just happens to play the cello," I said.
"Just because it may appear to be that way, doesn't mean that it is," she said, her smile never wavering.
She turned us down a different road leading towards Central Park.
We walked down by a large pond where different species of water-fowl splashed around in. The woman still kept a firm hold on me as she stared up at the trees. Curious, I followed her gaze.
"What are you looking at?"
"The trees," she simply said.
"Why, they're just trees."
She shifted her hold from my hand to my arm and rested her head on my shoulder. "Like the man and his cello, the trees are more then they appear to be. While most people see them as bark, leaves, and branches, some see them as mysterious beings that hold many secrets. Could you imagine the many things that trees have witnessed? If a tree could speak, they could tell us so many things."
I stared up at the branches; the sunlight trickled through it and onto the sidewalk like a spotlight. As she continued to ramble on about the life of trees, my mind wandered. How many things could a tree have bore witness to? Could they have stopped acts of violence and murder if they could? I looked out at the ducks in the lake. Don't the trees get tired of seeing the same old thing day after day? Don't they get tired of watching the ducks? For the first time in months, I smiled. Maybe that's the beauty of it.
She saw me staring at the ducks with a smile on my face and said, "They know nothing else. To them, the world is and endless sea of tests. The most important being the test of life. If they could paint a picture of the world, it would this little pond right here."
I suddenly found myself back in the cruel reality of my situation. Ducks and trees weren't going to get my life back. How could this woman be so naïve? "Why are you telling me all this?"
"All in good time. There is one more thing I must show you," she said and led him in another direction.
They walked by an elderly woman on the bench who was feeding the pigeons. It was a typical sight in Central Park. She tilted her head towards the woman and smiled.
"Mind telling me her story?" I asked, guessing that the elderly woman's story was the next to tell.
She smiled, "Looks like you finally caught on." We stayed silent as we passed a couple. They paid no mind to us as they passed. "That old lady is 69 years old and lives in an homeless shelter a few blocks away. The only food she gets is from the soup kitchens around town. She has six grandchildren but none of them would help her out."
"How did she get the money for the seeds to feed those birds?"
"Some people will hand her a dollar every now and then."
"Why doesn't she use it to buy more food or something?"
Her eyes grew soft. "That's where the beauty of her story comes in. Forty years ago, she met a handsome young man on that very bench. It was love at first sight. Both coming from poor families, their dates consisted of sitting on the bench and feeding the pigeons. Long after her children were grown and gone, they still continued to come. A few years ago, her husband died of natural causes and she lost her house soon after. Though her house is gone and she was abandoned by her living relatives, she will still come and feed the pigeons. This helps keep her husband's memory alive."
A tear slid down my cheek as my mind lingered on the old lady's tale. The woman led me out of the park and back onto Main Street. We were silent for a long time before she asked:
"Now do you know why I told you these things?"
I was too engrossed in my own thoughts and memories to answer.
She continued, "I knew what your intentions were when I saw you on the roof of the building. I decided to intervene and talk you out of it-"
"-By showing me the true beauty of life," I finished for her.
She nodded and presented me with two roses. "Now, go and do something that you haven't done in months, and then continue on with your life. Remember, don't look for negatives, look for positives."
Somehow, I knew exactly what she meant and I watched her disappear in the crowd of people.
I wound my way through the graves if the cemetery. I kept the roses close to my heart as I searched for her grave. Not looking where I was going, I tripped over something that was concealed under the leaves. Brushing them aside, I found a headstone that stuck up slightly from the ground. It read:
Though Leukemia may have taken her life, she never lost sight of the beauty of the world.
I could have sworn that I heard her sweet voice come to me in the gentle breeze, but when I looked, she wasn't there. Another slid down my cheek.
"Thank you, for showing me how to live again," I said to the stone.
After placing one of the roses on her grave, I headed off to find my wife's head stone.