The murky skies of the night before had turned into a bright blue sky by morning and the rain from the previous hours had given the air a freshness not felt by many for quite some time. Mark stopped his alarm clock and unconvincingly got out of bed to prepare for work. He had had an agitated night’s sleep, mostly because of an eerie feeling he had about a colleague at work who was seemingly very happy, even though she had suffered a great loss not long ago. The flashbacks of one of his most defining moments did not help either, as he felt his stomach curl because he felt the worst for her, given the sudden mood change. He felt the same all those years ago, but managed to pull through in the end.
With a combination of happy thoughts and morning preparation, he brushed these thoughts aside, made breakfast, brushed his teeth and set out to work. His office was not far from his home, but Mark would usually use the public transport regardless of the weather. This time around however, something made him decide to walk to work, and given that he had enough time, he started his journey.
While walking, he looked around and saw that many people were at the balconies, admiring the bright colors of the morning and taking in the fresh air. He started wondering whether or not he should walk to work more, as it gives him time to better plan the day ahead of him and to be alone with his thoughts without too much of a hindrance. His train of thought was suddenly interrupted when he found himself in the middle of a crowd. Surprised by this gathering, he started wondering what was happening and then noticed that they were all looking up. When he looked, he froze in his spot.
Dangling from the rooftop were the feet of his work colleague. The building being tall, he couldn’t quite figure out if she could hear him and without a second thought he ran towards the emergency stairs and started climbing them. Once up, he shouted her name:
Taken aback by the familiar voice, she turned to him, tears rolling from her eyes. It was the first time Mark actually looked her in the eye (she had a tendency to avoid looking at people) and noticed their beautiful sky-blue color. Coupled with her dark hair, it gave her a distinct note of beauty he did not notice before.
When Mark started walking towards her however, she became defensive:
‘What are you doing here? Leave me alone.’
‘See, now I can’t really do that, can I?’ he replied
‘You come one step closer and this ends…all of it, so I can finally get my peace and silence and get away from all the pity in everyone’s eyes.’
A bit unconvinced, Mark remained still, his heart pounding so hard he felt his chest was going to explode. Resisting the urge to move towards her, he hastily said:
‘Don’t do this Carla, please…’
‘Are you going to appeal to my logic? The logic of a person for whom the only thing that matters is the pain of being alone? Who’s had a never-ending series of sleepless nights when all she was capable of was praying for tomorrow to bring a new perspective? The person who’s always been told that there will be a time when she would be able to finally crack another smile and laugh again, even if it wouldn’t be for quite a while?’
Mark was suddenly reminded of all those years ago when his mother suddenly left and when his father, out of guilt and depression ended his own life. He remembered feeling the exact same way, viewing the world as this horrible place where all of happiness was gone and there was nothing worth living for and thinking that ending it would finally help him achieve the peace he craved for so long and so much.
‘There can be no logic in these moments, of that I am aware. So no, I am not going to appeal to your logic.’
‘What do you mean, these moments? Are you deaf or have you not heard that I don’t want your pity or remorse?’
‘Pivotal moments are when you come alive and do things you never though you were capable of. Think about how far you’ve gotten in the last few months, from junior to team lead, based on skills and hard work alone. It’s not something to take lightly. And no, I am not deaf. I have been where you are now, all those years ago. And I know how tempting this moment is. But whatever has happened to you, can’t be undone. You just have to think of the time you had, even if it went bad at some point. It’s one of the hardest feelings to achieve, acceptance.’
Thoroughly amazed at what she was hearing, Carla asked, tears still rolling from her eyes:
‘What happened to you?’
‘When I was about 10, my mom left us and my dad felt very guilty about it. I don’t know the whole reason, I think she just…fell out of love and didn’t want to have anything to do with him anymore. He felt guilty and eventually this guilt lead to depression. I was devastated when he ended his life, by jumping off a building nonetheless. And for a great three years I had a continued struggle going on in me until finally I snapped and made peace with the decision. I was going to do it after my cousin’s birthday party.’
As he was saying this, he moved a few steps closer to Carla, without her objecting.
‘So how come you changed your mind?’, Carla asked, the bewilderment on her face growing. She never knew this about Mark. He was a very nice person at work, and yet somehow she felt that he understood human feelings far better than any other people from work. For the first time she understood why.
‘My cousin is a very carefree and joyful person and he always enjoyed spending time with me. And after the whole incident, I went into hiding, not wanting to see anyone. He insisted on me coming to his birthday party. And having the company of him and several other kids our age and a gaming console proved to be some good therapy.’
Mark started moving even closer to Carla. Visions of her jumping started clouding his mind, but he managed to block them out, one by one.
‘It was during that day that the pain starting going away. I was playing a role and putting on the bravest of my faces during those three years, so as to hide the pain. And then one day, I realized the pain was gone. And even though I dreaded every tomorrow from those horrible days, that tomorrow always came.’
Mark was now next to Carla. She still had tears rolling from her eyes. In what was probably the hardest period of her life, she never knew there was actually one man who understood her beyond the fake niceties at work.
‘Were you ever able to be happy again? Does the memory ever fully go away? Do the nightmares of relieving the car accident that left you without your sibling and with your parents paralized ever stop?’
Given the hardship with which Carla had spoken these words, it was clear to Mark that this was probably one of the few (if not the first) times she actually told anyone about her loss. With a confident yet still a bit fearful voice, he said:
‘It all starts when you allow yourself the first smile. And it becomes even easier when you decide to go out with your friends or coworkers for an after work dinner, and stay for a while longer when they ask you too. In time, with small steps like these, you will be ready to laugh again. And the world around you will brighten up, your sleep will become better and the memories, while never fully dissapearing, will stop stinging so hard.’
The tension was now at very high levels. The crowd had called the police and an ambulance and the policemen divided into two groups, one being ready to catch Carla if she’d jumped and the other having climbed up the fire escape to the top of the building, getting ready to intervene should Mark, who did not observ them, needed help.
With an almost mechanical gesture, Mark raised his hand in order for Carla to be able to grap it and take her down and said:
‘Your life feels empty now, I know of this feeling. Please, don’t waste this precious gift you’ve been given. Start filling it with memorable moments. In the end, you will learn to laugh again.’
Carla’s tears had all but stopped now. She was still sobbing a bit, but she managed to calm herself down almost completely. She looked at Mark, then at his outstretched hand…and then she grabbed it, allowing herself to be pulled away from the edge of the roof.
The crowd below started cheeing and clapping their hands while the policemen from the roof escorted Mark and Carla safely downstairs, where Carla was then taken in by the doctor in the ambulance for some well needed rest and a general check-up. Mark kindly asked any and all people to give Carla her space and then sat down right next to the ambulance. And as he looked around, he felt that the sky was even brighter than before while the sun was giving him the benefit of a warm feeling he longed after this event.