He stood nervously on the ledge, his hands flung back to grip the steel railing. It was winter, and he could feel the skin on his fingers stick to the metal. But the cold didn’t matter. He had finally gathered the courage to come out here to the very edge, and all that was left was to take the final step forward. He looked down to the street below. There was no one there. It was just him and the silver light of the stars.
He inched forward so that only the soles of his bare feet remained on the cement. He leaned forward and felt his chest expand at the stretch. He squeezed his hands tighter around the railing. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, wanting to feel the cold air flow through his body and into his lungs as slowly as possible. He wanted to feel everything, for once in his life.
One more breath, he thought. One more breath, and then one last step. One more breath, and then…
“Patrick,” a woman’s voice said.
He opened his eyes. The street and the ledge and the cold were gone. He was lying on his bed with a blanket spread across his feet. Warm air blasted from the vent in the floor beside him. The lamp on his nightstand filled the room with yellow light.
He sighed, and then turned his head to the door.
“Patrick,” she said again, more softly this time.
He looked at her blankly.
“I was just…” she hesitated and gripped the doorknob. “I was just wondering what you’re doing.” Silent pause. “I was wondering how you’re doing.” She bit her lip and lowered her head, but her eyes stayed steadily on him.
Meeting her gaze, he was reminded of melted chocolate – her eyes were so sweet, so soft, so completely the opposite of anything with an edge.
He raised himself up on his elbows to see her more clearly. He realized he hadn’t taken her with him there, into his fantasy of the ledge. But she was part of his reality here, in this enclosed, warm, stuffy room that seemed to make his breathing shallow.
He gave her a slight smile that lasted only a second and said, “I’m OK.”
“Are you?” she asked, and started to take a step, but then abruptly stopped to stay in her place at the doorway.
He nodded, but she gave no response. He knew that meant she didn’t believe him.
“No, I’m not OK,” he conceded. “But I’m not worse.” I’m still inside, he thought.
“What can I do?” she asked, concern permeating her gentle voice.
He extended one hand out to her.
She smiled and walked to him, though the concern from her voice traveled up to plant itself firmly in her eyes.
He let her take his hand, and then with a slight tug pulled her down to lie face-to-face with him on the bed.
They lay in silence for a moment, and then he watched her eyelids close over the chocolate concern. He knew she had a fantasy of her own for him, and it did not involve a ledge.
He inched closer to her and felt the hot exhales of her breathing on his face. She was part of his reality here, but she would not be able to follow him out there onto the ledge. She would never be able to follow him.
The thought made him turn cold.
(Song: “Give In,” by The Bravery)