In Sixty Seconds

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In sixty seconds, the course of my day changed. The course of my life, even. But the day started out as normal and uneventful as any other. My eyes fluttered open to the blindly bright light streaming in from my window, overlooking the Manhattan skyline. The same pigeons were peached on my window sill, looking at my name. I had once wondered if I should have given them names, but they were usually gone, off and flying far away, across the tops of city. As I dressed in the same clothes I always wore, I received an SOS text from my neighbor, Mrs. Riley. Mrs. Riley lived on the floor below mine and had mothered three awfully misbehaved children. Those children were the source of my babysitting fund. Although I hated having food thrown at me and having my hair pulled by four year old fingers, I could deal. I'd get over it.

It took sixty seconds to ride the elevator eighteen floors down the the lobby, but that was totally normal. As always, I had to wake Ron, the Betty White of doormen, to let me out. I hurried out onto the clean, manicured sidewalk and headed down the street to buy my usual cup of coffee and same old paper. On the checkout line, however, I spotted a Snickers bar, and bought that too. I thought that would be the only change in my day. I couldn't have been more wrong.

I strolled slowly back to my building, enjoying a fresh new morning that came with the comfort of my city. I saw a pair of mothers pushing their newborns in strollers together and I wanted to hold one of the children in the air. I saw a homeless man weeding through garbage cans and I wanted to give him some money, but I had just spent it on the Snickers bar. I saw a tightly wired business woman striding purposefully toward her waiting town car, barking into a blackberry, and I wondered if she had ever wanted children or if she had ever given money to a homeless man. I crossed the street to my building. For the second time that time, something completely unexpected happened. However, this was much more drastic than a Snickers bar.

A man, or at least I guessed a he was a man because I couldn't see him from the eighteen floors below, was standing at the edge of the roof, along with the pigeons. From far below, I couldn't make out any of his features or who he was. He looked so small from way up high. Then, he began to get bigger. He grew in size and closeness as he stepped off the roof of my redbrick building. The pigeons had chosen that exact to take flight. But they had wings. They weren't using the pavement I walked over everyday as a landing pad.

I never saw him make contact with the sidewalk. I had dashed for cover behind a nearby mailbox. I had dropped my paper, Snickers, and coffee, which hit the street before the man did. I never saw his face or his hair or eye color or what he was wearing. I never knew he was. I did, however, hear everything. A scream, the kind that comes from the bottom of one's soul, the kind I hear from the apartment below mine late at night, after the three awfully misbehaved children had given into sleep. A crack, one that had been building for eighteen floors, one calm morning, and whoever knows how long before that. Then silence, the kind I could only imagine as what the man who had jumped was hearing on the roof, a peaceful and disturbing remoteness of someone who had finally stopped running, stopped caring, stopped feeling. As I opened my eyes, I looked up on the other side of the street. I expected safety, clearness, an unscathed, clean sidewalk, free for walking and not dying. I was stupid.

The business woman had stumbled from her car, looking uncertain and horrified from the carnage and her blackberry, like a highly competitive tennis match. The mothers who had been walking their children in tandem ran to shield their children's eyes, as if this would be the traumatic event that would build future therapy bills, even though these babies wouldn't remember it anyway. But what made my heart plummet faster than a man with an eighteen floor drop was the homeless man I hadn't given money, looking up. He was not hysterical or traumatized like the others who were wigging out over the battered body strewn across the sidewalk. He stared up at the top of the building, where the man had jumped from. He had been unlucky enough to have been sprayed with blood, X-ed across his dirty, unwashed face, like crimson frosting on a hot crossed bun. His gaze remained locked on the top of the building. I knew what he was thinking. He was imagining how easy it would be to take his own life. Finally, he began to walk away.

As he began to stroll slowly down the street, I helplessly wondered what I could do. Try and reason with him? Offer him my Snickers? Climb over the mess of a body in front of me, past a sleeping Ron and hurry up eighteen floors to my apartment to get him some money? No, I just watched him amble thoughtfully away, blood smear, garbage and all. High above him, the pigeons seemed to touch the top of the clear sky, their wings spread wide and heads high in the air. As the homeless man became so small that I couldn't even make out what he looked like, I knew that some sixty seconds in the future, he would be lying on a sidewalk as well, altering the events of another person's day and life.





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Danika G. said...
Aug. 26, 2010 at 9:32 pm
Wonderful Dan! Simply wonderful, I agree ^ chilling in the most satisfying way :)
 
owlsane This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 26, 2010 at 8:37 am
Oh my god, Dan. This gave me chills. I absolutely adored it. You go, Glen Coco!
 
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