Sunday, September 12, 2010

DOING MY BEST

I called Whit at 3 AM from the ledge
of a building in New York City

“don’t jump!” she screamed
into the phone

“no, no. Of course I’m not going
to jump.”

“well, what the hell
are you doing up there?
Get down!”

“I can’t. I’m stuck. I shimmied up a drainpipe
for some reason, and now I’m stuck
on top of this stupid building!”

I heard her laugh
and say in the background, “my friend
is stuck on the roof of a building
in New York City!”

there was more laughter on her end
while I circled the building
looking for a way down

how or why I’d climbed up that drainpipe
was a total mystery
and was fast becoming
a total pain in the ass

“isn’t there a door or something you can
go down through? There must be
a fire exit, like in the movies.”

“oh, shit.” I growled. “this is another on of those
times where it feels like I’m in the movies
except it’s the fucking movie
of my life.”

I looked over the edge again
it was maybe four or five floors to the ground
there was a steel doorway in the center
of the roof

“I see a door. I’m going to go through it. Stay on the
phone with me, will you?”

“of course I will. I wanna hear what happens!”

I took one last look
over the side of the building
and moved towards the doorway

in the movies and in real life
a character has to sometimes choose between
a visit to the hospital
or to jail
and for some reason I wasn’t any longer
feeling invincible
like I was back at the wedding
when I had stripped down and jumped in the pool
in front of hundreds of people I didn’t know
and to the supreme annoyance
of the security guards

“I’m about to open the door
if it’s not locked.”

the door opened smoothly and silently
and I stepped quietly
down the stairs

“I’m only going to speak if something awful
happens, okay? Otherwise I’m going
to try and be as quiet and sneaky
as possible.”

Whit laughed in acknowledgment
as I reached the bottom of the stairs
and began moving through large rooms
filled with piles of old chairs
you would find in a cinema
bolted to the floor

although there were dim lights on
I heard no movement as I ghosted through
the rooms and descended
flight after flight
of stairs

on the first floor
I took a deep breath and whispered, “this is it. I’m
going for it. If I hear an alarm I’m just going
to run as fast as I can, so I might have to hang up
the phone.”

with that I shoved open the door
and burst out into the silent, foggy darkness
of 3 AM
in some suburb
of what I hoped was Brooklyn

“I’m out!” I hissed into the phone, looking
in each direction and skipping off towards the street
lit with yellow streetlights

“oh, god. I’m so glad you’re safe! What the hell
did you climb up a drainpipe for?”

“I don’t know, dear. I never know why
I do these things.”

“do you know where you are?”

“no.”

“do you know what you’re gonna do?”

“nope. But I think I should walk for a while,
get away from here.”

then there was the silence
of somebody
trying to help from a thousand miles away

“well, be safe, ok? And no more climbing up onto
building, all right?”

I smiled at the night
at my life
and my luck
and said, “I will do my best.”

1 comment:

christina k. said...

You may never see this, part of me hopes you will, part of me hopes you won't. I hear my mother's words in my head, "Never live with regret." So I was compelled to admit how nervous you make me feel, even if I know little about you. I know that you have eyes that tell a story, even when your lips never seem to. I know you watch me when I'm there at the bar, just as I hope you are. I know you would love to pack your bags again and take off into a world you haven't seen before. But this town, these people, we all feel a sense of entrapment. I'm leaving soon. I may never say these words to your face. But one day, you'll read them. and maybe then you will understand me.