It was about 60 years ago. That night when I was faced with a decision. I was young, lonely, and my life had no meaning. One night. That's all it took! But, it changed my life forever. Why, you say? Well, because that was the night I killed a woman.
When I close my eyes, I can remember it as if it were yesterday. I can see everything so clearly; as if watching another person, who looked like me, stepping towards the edge. It was the end of the day, I was in a bar having a drink, wearing a black t-shirt with jeans and nothing else but a red scarf. It was the middle of fall and in New York that means cold as hell.
Anyways, it was late, but I knew I couldn't go home to sleep. There was something on my mind. Something bugging me. It had me wondering back to earlier that day when I was sitting in Central Park. The cold bit at my cheeks and the wind tugged at the trees, so much so that their red leaves fell, ever so careful, towards the ground. I was admiring this when it happened.
A bird was limping its way to the end of one of the highest branches on a nearby tree. Thick, deep red feathers covered its body. It made its way to the end of the branch and looked up. First I thought it was trying to fly with the way it awkwardly threw itself in the air. But it didn't. Not a muscle was moved. With its beak to the sky, it plummeted to the ground. I jumped up as if I was struck by lightning, but when I got to the little bird it was too late. A broken leaf dropped and covered what was left of it.
So, there I was sitting in this bar trying to come up with a reason or some type of solution as to why this happened. Why did this happen?
“Why? Why? Why? Why? WHY?” I screamed. All around me heads snapped up and stared my way. Out of the corner of my eye, the bartender eyed me. I didn’t care. It was unfair. Why did this bird get to have the easy way out?
My mother had died two years ago. She was the strongest person I had ever knew. Mmm, she had made it through 18 years of raising me, homeless. We had lived everywhere! From hotels, to motels, to shelters, and back. Outside. The ground. This friend and that friend. Child, we had been there and done it all. The stress. The pain. The heartache. She survived all of that! But she couldn't survive a simple car crash. Why?
“It is a sign. It is a sign that says we can no longer justify living this way. We must follow by example.”
Breanna. She was always the negative one. She was always ruining things with her crazy banter.
“Why?” I said.
“Because we are not happy. Are you happy? Do you wish to continue going on and living this way?” Breanna asked in a hushed mumble.
I could feel eyes, eyes boring into the back of my head. There were people watching me.
“But mommy, mommy will make it all better. How much longa mama? What's the rweason? When will we be happy?”
Carly. She was the youngest, so sweet and naive. She could never understand.
When I was a little girl, my mother always used to say things would be okay, that everything happens for a reason. The little girl in me, screamed.
The bartender was too close to me.
I stood up and looked around. Carly was right. How much longer did I have to suffer, before things got better? I was only 21 years old , but I felt like I was 60. The weight—it was crushing me, suffocating me. A constant reminder of those nights, sleeping on a bench in the park in the rain to my mom's face cold, dark, and haunted. There was nothing else to live for.
“Joy, Joy will help, she will know what to do,” I said. Would she? I ran out of the bar the darkness outside, had been waiting for me. It was colder than usual, and the wind swirled around me like it was confused on where to go.
I had been seeing Joy for three years. She's the one who diagnosed me. You see, the stress from being homeless as a child had me working hard so as to not repeat that experience. I was overwhelmed. I wanted to forget. That’s when I met all of them, my friends: Breanna, Carly, and Farrah. I hated them sometimes, especially Breanna; they never left me alone. But often times than not, I was glad to have someone who understood.
I was standing on the curb, as Breanna waved in a cab. I was faced with a dilemma and didn't know what to do. Did the bird really jump on purpose? Could birds even do that? Did it know what it was doing? It looked so peaceful!
“I just don’t see the point. What is the point of going on with this life? What is the point, Sam? It will never be the same without her, you know and I know it so why not save ourselves the misery?” Breanna said as we got into the cab of a red taxi.
“We are not living, we are just here, existing, for no reason whatsoever. Why continue hiding from the pain. We should end it. Right now—today.”
Breanna was just talking from pain. She was nothing but a ball of built of hurt, anger, and pain. It was hard to ignore her when she got this way, and trust me, she was always pressuring me. Every time I made some little improvement in life, I felt like she was waiting to pull me back down. “Get your ass back down there, Sam. This is no place for our kind. We don't deserve to be at the top”, she'd say to me.
“I'm making progress. I am making progress. Joy says I'm making extraordinary progress every day. Every day she says that.” I said to Breanna. And I was. I think.
I pulled my red scarf tighter around my neck. Carly unwound it again. She didn’t like tight fits.'
I didn’t know what to do or believe. My friends were always in my head, jumbling it up and confusing me. I remember talking to Joy about it one day.
“Ok and how do you feel about that?” she said. I looked up at that woman thinking is she insane?
“How do I feel about what you say, the fact that I’m losing my mind?
“Oh well I just feel all warm and fuzzy and peachy cream inside. Thanks for asking.” I lifted my chin and put on a wide grin.
“How many times do I have to tell you to stop calling me that, my name is Breanna. I don’t know who the hell Sam is.” She leaned back in her chair.
“Ok. Breanna! Just take a deep breath, we’ll figure this out together.”
I don't quite remember what went on from there. I never remember. Huh, I was always a different person when I walked into that office. D-I-D!
No, no Joy didn’t know what she was talking about. She had never been through what I have been through. So how could she know how to help me? Breanna was right. The weight was going to crush me if I continued to live the way I was. I had to let go; free myself.
“No child. That is not the way to do things.”
Farrah. My conscious. Always there to help me through the bad times, like this one. She had lived through everything I had, lived to tell the tale and give me advice. I wasn't strong and brave like her. No amount of good advice could work. I knew what I had to do.
The taxi pulled up outside of my building. The doorman, wearing a red uniform, held the door open for me as I walked into the building. I went straight to the elevator.
“It will get better, child. But until then you will learn how to deal,” Farrah said. I pushed the button for the fourteenth floor. It flashed red.
“Look at her. She is a mess. We are a mess and getting worse every day we decide to continue to—to breathe. That's what we're doing. Breathing, because we're not alive,” Breanna shouted. I looked down.
The elevator was bugging me. It was lined with mirrors. I kept my head down so as not to see what I had become. It was never like this. Things were always bad, but at least I had my mother there with me. I pulled my red scarf tighter around my neck, she loved this scarf.
Farrah snapped her head up.
“I am looking, child”, she said. “Do you know what I see? A woman who gives up too easily, who's trapped inside herself and ruled by the minds of others. I agree! You cannot go on living the way you do. You have to leave the past where it is child…in the past. “
I glared at myself. At my reflection. There was a sound. Ding! The doors opened. I quickly stepped through them.
“Don’t act like you know, like you understand,” Breanna shouted.
“I know you. Child, I am you,” Farrah replied, directly to me.
“No, no you are alive”, I waved my hand in front of me, as if gesturing to someone. “You aren’t just breathing—you’re living! If someone pinched you, you would feel it. You are nothing like me.”
“I am you child; I am what you can be.”
Carly began to cry. It was all too much, why couldn't Farrah just go away.
“No! I must end it now.” I mumbled.
“Just think of how your life could be, if you just let go.”
“If this is the way life is supposed to be than I don’t want to live”, I bowed my head and slumped to the floor.
“I can’t. I can’t go on like this. It’s too much. It’s much too much for me to handle. Every day I wait. I wait for things to get better. To see my mom's face again. To have a life of my own.
The crying got louder.
“There is another way—.”
Breanna stood up and guided me to my balcony door. I moved to slide the glass door open. But I paused, there it was, my freedom. It was dark, and all I can see was red, like my mother's scarf. Red like the color my mom turned when she laughed. Red like the memories. I didn't want this life. I wanted to be with my mom.
“No! No, no, no, no,” I threw the glass door open. “There is no other way.”
Slowly, I walked towards the balcony.
“Ok, ok let’s go talk to Joy.” Farrah began to panic.
“Ha! Joy Shmoy! This is true liberation. Something Joy won't understand.” Breanna laughed.
“She always knows how to help,” Farrah said holding herself—holding me—back.
The crying turned hysterical, as I fought my way towards the end of my balcony.
“No, just leave me alone!” I said quietly. “Just leave me alone.”
I pushed all other thoughts and voices from my mind. I felt like this was working, I was becoming a child again. A little baby, the weight was lifting. I was limping my way to the end of the highest room of one of the tallest buildings. My cheeks were red, my eyes rejoiced. With a smile on my face I made my way to the edge of the balcony, looked up, grabbed at the edge awkwardly and threw myself over.
At that moment something clicked and I knew I was making a mistake. I should flap my wings I thought.
But not a muscle was moved. With my head to the sky and my feet stretching out behind me, I fell awkwardly into the night sky.
Caitlyn looked up at her grandmother. Tears in her eyes.
“What happened? How did you survive?”
“There is no ending child, just a beginning,” the grandmother said looking down at Caitlyn and the picture she held.
“I certainly didn't go unharmed”, she continued, looking down at the wheels on her chair. “I suffered: a broken ankle and hip bone in the same leg, with a broken wrist. It was a long healing process but as each injury healed, I let a personality go realizing that I no longer needed them. I was no longer Samantha Farrah Tuckett. I killed her and left her behind on the cold pavement. I'm hoping you can learn to do the same.”
Caitlin stared at her grandmother for a moment, then looked down. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!“
The grandmother took the picture from her granddaughter. Looking at the photo brought tears to her eyes. It was an old photo of herself. Her hair pointed in every direction. Her gown wrinkled and her mouth turned down into a frown. What brought her tears though were the eyes within the picture. Her eyes from long ago. They were eyes she knew and remembered well. They were dark, and round with swollen bags underneath them.
The eyes were speaking and reminding her of that rough time in her life where there was no meaning. But she wasn’t crying because of the painful memory, she was not sad at all. She was crying joyful tears. Inside her heart, she felt warm, and in her mind, free. But before her stood her only grandchild. Troubled with dreary eyes.
“Promise me, child, that you will leave this reckless life of yours behind and you'll always come and talk to me if you have any problems. I've lived a long and fulfilling life where I've seen all and lived through both the good and the bad. Yet, here I am, I have lived to tell the tale. So that you may learn from my mistakes. Promise me!”
Caitlyn looked down at the picture her grandmother now held. She looked and she saw a reflection of herself. Head spinning and eyes watering she looked up and said:
“Grandma Farrah, I, I need your help.”
Jasmine Maree Johnson
Written in 2010
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON PHORBE BLOG ON SEPTEMBER 19, 2018