About fifteen stories below me, cars streak across the narrow highway that stretches continuously from east to west, beginning and destination disappearing into a compass of nihility. The city has fallen to the dark of night, but is wide-awake, alive with pinholes of blinking lights stacked to the sky, grazing the stars by their fingertips, spread endlessly into the rigid horizon. Rooftops pierce the atmosphere for miles, concrete treetops in an electric jungle. The anthropogenic illumination highlights the skyline with a brushstroke of bronze. This city never sleeps. People are either settling down or saddling up, regardless of time or sunlight. Everyone is bustling off to somewhere on the crowded sidewalks, wordlessly brushing shoulders in their imperativeness. Vehicles whiz at light speed beneath my feet, nothing more than trifling flashes of silvery ruddiness from such great heights. The city flickers to life, iridescent fairy lights drawing in throngs of people like moths to a fire, flooding lust into neon streets, peoples' names up in lights as immense as their dreams. The light from the conurbation diminishes the sparkling sky to nothing more than a blank canvas of blackish blue, as to make way for its own radiant light show. The scintillating spreadsheet is a like a dark pool, reflecting the stars from above, as if I'm looking down at the midnight sky, millions of stars twinkling back amiably.
My bare feet balance my weight between life and death, my whittled nails dangling over the ledge, my heels pressed deep into the brumal, rough concrete of the hotel roof. Tears daub my cheeks, slicing through the facade of makeup I've been hiding behind. The sliver of crescent moon hanging in the clouded sky mocks my lunacy. My life can go to directions right now: straight forward or straight down. Adrenaline thumps feverishly in my pulse. My hands quiver pugnaciously. Chilling winds lace hoarfrost into my damp hair and sting my misty face. I choke on thousands of thoughts and words with every beat of my heart. I've never been so downright petrified or mislaid before in my life. My footsteps thundered with confidence as I made my way up the metal stairs, but as reality set into my veins, that flame of confidence died down to a few wet ashes. Despondency, fruitlessness, resentment is what sent me up here, but those emotions faded with my buoyancy. Now I'm just frightened, fossilized, of myself and of the future, of now.
I've fantasized of this moment incessantly; standing over all creation, on top of everyone, control of my destiny in the palm of my hand. "The woman is perfected. Her dead body wears the smile of accomplishment," are the words of American poet Sylvia Plath in her last poem before she took her life. Those words carried me through hard nights and eased the small fear of these moments. They encouraged me, the lifted me up. My dreams of ending it were built around the hope these words lit in my heart. I will see the dawn in my dusk and I follow it in a single graceful stride, tipping over the ledge of today and into the better of tomorrow. My hair is plaited in the wind like thick black spider webs. My floundering boughs relax and follow the current of the warped zephyr. My eyes are closed, my crow-feather lashes trace my gaunt, pastel cheeks with a sole crystal tear dripping off my face and curving under my chin.
My body falls but my soul has flourished the golden wings of an angel and is sky bound toward forever, discarding shards of light behind as I descend. As my body mercifully hits the roadway I'm released. I soar away, summersaulting into the evening firmament, swimming midst the stars, fluctuating over unspoken galaxies, sailing through space and time without effort or care. I tread on air and slumber on moonbeams. I orbit with the moon and sparkle with the stars. I scald fuming flares with the sun and have tea with Mother Earth. I let my hair down and kick my feet up, tipping my top hat as the final curtain closes. The show is over; I can finally stop pretending and just be me. It is the ultimate Nirvana. These imaginings are so beautiful my eyes tear up rubicund and my soul becomes bloodshot with hope. I not once envisaged it to be so atrocious, so disturbing, so absolutely paralyzing. I always fancied it as resplendent and consoling, not this. Not gambling my being on ambiguity. Not panicking myself to insanity.
Between the gaps of lucidity in my madness, I think of how beginning my story with a suicide is pointless and begin to question why I started at all. In just minutes, seconds, hours-I can't be sure as I stopped measuring my time long ago-I will be gone. Ultimately my story will be over, and yet it has just begun. There is no story, no future to spin a patchwork of words from. All I have the past dangling at my ankles to use. While it may be thick and juicy with all the lies, romance, drama, dark humor and sensual sex that women so profoundly crave in the pages of a book these days, it is also bleak and repetitive, a one way highway that leads right here: on this roof, under this night sky, and in the timelessness that drove me here. The afterlife is bound to be full of surprises, but my faith in anything, especially ink and paper, in wherever death swings me lowers every time I look down.
I could stay and continue to write, but the view is just too perfect. This is all too perfect-the night, the temperature, the moon, the city, and even this light smoky scent of the New York atmosphere and inexpensive perfume. This is exactly where I want to die. Fate wants me to be here. He NEEDS me here. I can feel it. Just like the moon pulls the tides against the beach, she also pulled me here.
If time hasn't forgotten me, nor will destiny. It is the fault of fate.I will just have to remain unwritten. I can deal with that though. I can deal with my story invisibly floating through space, unprinted and unspoken, just out of reach for those who are brave enough to grab it by means of heavy investigation. Words mean nothing; it is what is underneath them that matters in this world. Words are only the face of whatever lies under their rigid shapes and thin lines. I am simply going to be faceless.
The finale is just around the corner. It prowls in my own shadow, forestalling my momentous plummet. It itches to push me and soon it will. I draw confidence from the moon and all her glory, from the endless night sky, from the dusty wisps of clouds I can nearly touch, from the sharp, cold air. I stand and take a deep breath of it, inhaling so that coolness spreads from my head to my toes. I feel…infinite.
"It's time," Providence murmurs tenderly.
I marinade in the final poignant tang of my presence on this half of the glass, distress provoking needlelike nips on my spine. I tally backwards from ten in my head, relishing each last moment on my tongue, accumulating gallantry with abysmal breaths. Ten...nine...eight...seven...
"PIPER!!!!!" The voice strikes me like a flash of lightning, causing me to lurch forward. I catch myself by millimeters, drawing in a lungful so starkly I created a vacuum. Peter stands by the heavy steel door to the stairs, ten feet away from me. His flaxen hair thrashes riotously in the wind. There's this electric instant where we both know precisely what the other is thinking. He knows why I'm here and I know why he's here.
Our next moves are just too predictable. For a second we just stand, staring, decrypting our next life-altering decision. There's so much I want to tell him, so many loose ends swaying in the wind, just waiting to be knotted. But I cannot give up. I cannot embrace this insecurity. I must leave. I am going. We ended up going with our first, and probably worst instinct. He charges forward, running as fast as his denim-painted legs will carry him. This prompts me to jump, every morsel of bravery my body can concoct pushing me off.
I scream a horrible, bloodcurdling noise that involuntarily escapes my mouth as I trip to my fall. The pavement approaches with every passing millisecond. Gravity draws me in, creating a void of arctic air around me that cuts my skin with a piercing pain. Fear stops my beating heart dead in its tracks and clings to my skin like sweat. I'm just screaming, being sucked into my death. Suddenly my screams are drowned out by utter silence. Everything comes to a sudden but sound stop. Everything turns black.
And then silence.
A sacred peace floated over me, a content silence not waiting for the turn of coming events but merely passing by as a blessing. The silence died down to such nothingness it was almost ear-piercing. I could hardly hear the beating of my own heart or the harshness of my breath. Just darkness and the distance of my thoughts. I wasn't frightened, however; I was especially calm. My thoughts became centered. Every muscle in my body was put at ease. I felt oddly gratified, like I could just be there, wherever I was, forever. No questions bubbled in the back of throat, no uncertainties surfaced in the midst of darkness. I thought I was dead. I thought I had made it.
But suddenly, I'm awake, in the rays of blinding light, strong winds brushing against me. Panic stirs within me. I gasp, shocked at the feeling of standing and breathing again. Where am I? Who am I? WHAT am I? Am I a what? A clouded sky glides above me, frozen ground below me. I ground myself, feel my body, reconnect. I'm wearing a green corduroy jacket and a tight camouflage tank top, completed with a navy green cardigan between the two.
Deja vu hits me at full speed. I know exactly where, who and what I am. I am me. Me, three years ago. I remember this day, clearer than forever before. Black pavement sweeps athwart the terrain, embracing the natural gait of the Earth. Autumn's concluding leaves gently sail to the ground on squalls of wind. Fall hit its peak last weekend, the gamut of leaves flamboyant and vibrant, the reds ruddier and the oranges livelier than they had ever been. Now most of them had fallen to the ground, and those that remained on the trees were subdued and hanging by a thread. The ones on the ground were shriveled and graying, and crunched under the slightest compression. Their splendor had long passed us and all that lingered was the nuisance of raking their carcasses into black trash bags. Under the stratum of deceased leaves, the swards of grass were withering too, browning and flaccid in the virulent cold. Winter was loitering underground, anxious to jump out and whitewash the world with its scaly acrimony.
Padding across the sidewalk, I smile inevitably. It feels so amazing to be back here, in my homeland, on my turf so to speak. It felt so familiar. My feet walk without thought, following their instinct. I knew this place like the back of my hand. I had memorized every alley, shortcut, highway, main road, blind pedestrian area and road like I had the alphabet. A sense of belonging was present in the rhythm of my steps. The houses rolling past me were like photos in an album, each one bringing forth some slight reminiscence, finding some lost piece of me. I beamed at each one, extracting memories of people and happenings from their curtained windows and wooden doorframes.
1902 Honeydew Ave. The Ramones had lived there, a young couple with a three year old named James. He was adorable, big and round and warm like a teddy bear with huge glassy eyes and curly brown locks. I used to babysit him at twenty five dollars a night,. I remember playing Thomas the Train with him, the two of us cozied up on the living room rug building endless cities or wooden train track for Thomas to explore. I remember how he screamed for his mother the first night, how I had to bribe him with several chocolate chip cookies to calm down.
2190 Mora Lane. It was Jackson Burroughs's house, my elementary school sweetheart and best friend. I used to go bowling every Thursday night with his family. He helped me build my first fort in my backyard. When it was still considered innocent, we used to have sleepovers. We'd watched cartoons, build army bases out of sheets and chairs and fill up on junk food until the crack of dawn. In the summer, we would raise tadpoles from the creek behind my house. Our tightness ended in fourth grade. By that time I had sprouted tiny breast buds and I reckon he had small changes going on as well. His parents caught us stealing an ungraceful smooch on my front porch one evening. My mom was able to laugh it off, but with the Burroughs's strict views on abstinence, immunity was hardly an option. That was the end of sleepovers for us. The gap between us widened from fourth to fifth grade, until we were merely friendly neighbors rather than friends. I could picture us rekindling in high school, but I know that will never happen now.
I felt like in every house leading to my house there was a candle burning for me, guiding me to my kindling. I caught my breath as I turned the corner to Aysel Boulevard, my home village, my native land, the center of my very being. I grew up here, in the yellow walls of 2102 Aysel Boulevard. I stand at the end of the sidewalk leading to our porch. It was exactly how I remembered it. The piecemeal of green and brown that made up our front yard was frayed and untrimmed but not too tall. Multitudes of colored flip flops and mismatched potted plants litter the three stairs to the porch. Two wrought iron chairs furnish the porch, a pale blue sweat shirt draped over one, a faded yellow pillow on the other. A big curtained window leads to our living room. A screen door makes our cobalt entrance look gray. Ocher yellow bleeds through the blinds over my mom's room. I am overcome with ecstasy. I sprint up the stairs, tripping over our piles of shit. I throw open the screen door, practically breaking down the second one. I scramble through the living room and down the hardware halls, bursting through her door at the end of it.
And there she is, crossed legged on her bed, one hand tucked into a bag of Cheetos, the other flattening out the pages of a novella. I feels like so long since I've seen her. I am defeated by such great emotion I near fainted.
"Mom!" I scream, throwing myself on the bed beside her. Her arms wrap around me, cheese puffs and book thrown aside.
"Piper!" She replies excitedly. I release a heavy sob, unable to speak. "I missed you, too," She whispers.
"Mom…" I sob.
She extends her arms out of the hug so that we're face to face. I am so happy I can barely stand it. Fireworks implode in my heart.
"It's been so long," Mysteree whispers, her eyes becoming red rimmed.
We lie together, holding each other. Mysteree whispers comfort into my ears, reciting familiar stories of my childhood to me, telling me about her life, reminding me about mine. Warmth spread from my head to my toes. We eat Cheetos. We talk. We lie in still. We enjoy togetherness. It is amazing.
As I am beginning to doze off onto her shoulders, she tips my chin up with her gentle fingertips. "Piper…" She whispers.
She stares at me for a second, her icy eyes penetrating deep into my soul. I'm suddenly aware of how her eyeliner is thickening on its own, pulsating into gothic rings, until deep shadows of sparkling duskiness have sunken full circles around both her eyes. Her white tee shirt is beginning to stain ink black. She takes my hands between both of hers. I notice her cuticles blackening. Toner drips from her hairline. Murky fluid is leaking from the walls and begins to deluge the floor in syrupy meres. I feel it seeping on the back of my neck. Mom's' face is completely covered in the dark blackness.
I go to scream, to protest, but the vulgar liquid fills my mouth, running down my throat. In mere seconds the room is completely obscured to the shadows, my mother's hands still touching my face. She was nothing but a faceless figure in the dark, a genderless being in the shape of a generic human. It's truly a horrific sight. She opens her mouth, an indention forming in the ink, more obscurity running into it. Her cold hands grip my cheeks harder.
"Amor fati," her voice sounds like it's being sucked into her body. She drowns deep into the black swamp, her hands releasing my face. She disappears into the dark, leaving nothing but darkness, like my eyes are closed. But suddenly I'm released back into reality with a hard smack. Someone is slamming into me when I'm just inches from the ground, gathering me in one arm. The forceful impact creates a sharp pain in my sides, one that I could easily compare to getting stabbed (I know how that feels from experience).The wings recede under my skin and the loamy feeling of liberation is replaced by pure frustration. My legs scrape the pavement with exceptional force before I ascend back into the bitter winds. My underarms suspend me from someone's forearms.
I'm still screaming as we swoop back up awkwardly, somehow, then down again, and attempt to go up again but crash into the concrete. We do a few ungraceful somersaults before retreating back to stillness. It's completely silent, the usual white noise of the city in the distance. For a few moments I just lie there, panting like a dog on a summer afternoon, letting my brain process the most horrifying fifteen seconds of my life. Heavy breathing trails behind my pants. The heavy breathing of someone else. I'm sprawled on the ground, that someone else's body doing the same upon me, our legs tangled in an awkward web. I open my mouth to speak, but knots twist in my stomach and my dinner starts making its way back into the world. I puke like a sick animal. Someone Else's hands gathers the hair off my shoulders and into a ponytail, as I throw up my guts onto the gravel.
I don't stop puking until I've puked all the contents of my
stomach out. I try to talk, but choke on my own breath, coughing
like a pack-a-day smoker. A hand rests on my shoulder. I whip my
head around to see who the culprit of this horrible miracle is. A
figure, male nor female, is kneeled beside me, clothed all in
black, from the hood over their head to the leather boots laced
up to their knees. All I can see is their eyes, glowing like a
cat's in the inky aura. Their green eyes are tender but stiffened
with cobalt streaks of bitterness and anger. A fluorescent white
M had been clumsily printed on the front of the black sweatshirt
pulled over their shoulders. A ski mask conceals the rest of
their face, but as I decode the shape of their shoulders I see
now a man rather than a sexless being. I go to speak, to blow up,
to demand why, but he draws his finger to my parting
lips, bearing through me with those eyes.
"Thank me later. The ambulance is here,"
I see the cherry colored lights casting red streaks on the slick brick walls that confined the ally. My mysterious savior has vanished without a trace. Not even his ghost remains, as if he had never existed. I feel lightheaded, feeble, fatigue. The gravel digs in my skin. My heart races under my chest. I panic, fleetingly, trying not to slip under. But I let go. Bright lights flash and voices yell, soon everything falls to darkness, the lights and the sky abating into an abyss, being swallowed into a fluttering blackness as I faint.
Am I free?