“Hello, my name is Tom, and I work with the police.”
Tom lived a life of detail. Purposeful words chosen with precision. Varying tones, often tailored to suit specific circumstances. Yet, Tom’s gift was in listening. Listening to every detail and absorbing every word, he lapped up thoughts and stories in their entirety.
Five years of persuading people off rooftops could not prepare him for this day.
Tom got a call in the morning from his boss. The boss gave him an address. “Woman. Roughly in her twenties. How soon can you get there?”
He reached the building in less than twenty minutes. The woman was sitting on the ledge with her legs dangling loosely below. She appeared relaxed.
“Hello, my name is Tom, and I work with the police.” Tom begins. “I know you’re not here by choice.”
These people don’t believe that they have other options. That’s why they’re here.
“I’m here to listen to you.” He usually got people to tell him why they were on the rooftop. Tell me more. Did I get this right? How did that make you feel? Keep going.
“If you kill yourself, it would be a permanent solution to an impermanent problem.” People contemplating suicide do not believe that anybody can help them. This is where you come in. You have to, as much as possible, let them help themselves.
The woman regarded him curiously and finally, she spoke. Her response surprised him. “I am going to jump, but killing myself is not my intention.”
She looked out at the city. Glass, brick and metal sprawling. “The charm of cities,” She began. “So full of everything and yet nothing. Cities give the illusion of purpose but everything is really just hollow chaos. Like everything else.” She paused, silent for a few seconds. “When the charm is spent, we move on, roaming like nomads from one chaotic universe to another.” The woman looked at her watch. “Looks like I have one more minute.” She says.
“One more minute?” Tom realised that he did not understand what was going on.
The woman rose to her feet and stood on the ledge. “Before the portal opens.” Her skirt swelled around her ankles as it caught the wind.
Tom looked on in horror but maintained his composure. Years of negotiating taught him to stay calm. “You do not have to do this.”
The woman looked at him and smiled. “Some people are meant to stay in this world. And others, to explore.”
“Explore where?” All his negotiation and persuasion techniques were failing him. His words became desperate utterances struggling to latch on to the baffling conversation.
“We only live in one version of a possible universe. Imagine all the other versions and possibilities-” The woman grew impatient. She was running out of time. “-I’m sorry Tom. I have to go.”
“Wait! How do I get there? How do I ..explore?”
“You have to jump. Take a leap of faith! …And if you do not end up on the pavement, then maybe I’ll see you sometime.” And just like that, she jumped off.
Tom held his breath and waited for the familiar thud but it never came. His heart in his throat, he ran to the ledge and scanned the street below. He expected to see a body but the woman had disappeared. Confused, he pulled out his phone to call his boss when he noticed something very strange about the call log. The last call was from his girlfriend the day before. No call was recorded that morning. It was like the job and the woman never existed.
Tom looked down at the street again and then out toward the city. The city was filled with tall buildings, their magnificent and tangible height a metaphor for heights of success. The irony of people leaping to their deaths from buildings that symbolised everything that they once strived for. Tom made his life’s work about rooftops and he knew very well that the rooftop held different meanings to different people. Rooftops would never be the same again for him.
Tom thought about the woman and his mind brimmed with questions. Not knowing what else to do, Tom climbed the ledge and stood at the exact spot where the mysterious woman stood.
The city sprawled out in front of him. The wind echoed with the whispers of all the other explorers who had come and gone, but there were no answers, only ghosts.