I never liked heights. Whenever I have been far off the ground, looking down, I feel dizzy and disoriented. Now, I feel cemented, anxious, and calm simultaneously. The rush of wind sounds like a train speeding past as the air swirls my hair around my head. Arms out, face to the sun, I can hear cars and people and the world passing down, way, way down below me. I hear the words again. The words have enough power to push me off the ledge, into the unknown as I begin to fall. I am free falling. But I don’t know it. I don’t realize my own impending danger because I can only focus on the words I hear over and over. The skin on my face is forced back into a jokers grin, and my hair is whipping my face. It should feel like angry bees stinging my face, my ears and my neck, but I don’t feel it. The words are running a marathon through my mind. No break. No relief.
I don’t notice the perfectly cleaned windows. I pass apartments with people living lives that are uninterrupted by my body sinking past them because they don’t see me. They are eating cereal, watching the news, reading the paper and preparing for their day like any other day. The old woman who lives alone on the top floor is heating up her oatmeal. I can see the steam from the kettle on the stove. She makes it old fashion way, no microwave for her. The young man on the 9th floor is jogging on the treadmill. He reviews his notes, and eyeballs his suit hanging on the closet door. He questions his choice of tie. He wants to look confident, not cocky. He wants to be educated and deliberate, so he is taken seriously. He doesn’t notice my arms flailing, my nightgown slapping my skin and sounding like a loose sail in a bad storm.
The normalcy that continues around me as I see the ground coming up closer and faster is remarkable. The bone crushing blow, the imminent impact is not registering in my mind. The words are clouding my judgment and I can’t see what is happening. I am not thinking about saving myself, or being afraid. I’m thinking about what she said and how it happened? How did I not know? How did I not see it coming? I didn’t see her push me. I didn’t feel the gravity of her admission, only the fingers of her statement as they shoved me into this place. The place that has me free falling from my life into the unknown. I don’t know what happens when I land. Will I bounce? Will I live? Will I die? What will it feel like? Will I feel the snap of my neck as my body bounces off the ground? Will I care?
The family on the fifth floor, with the cat and the bird, are putting on coats, and grabbing bags. The little girl looks out the window, and points to something behind me or above me. She doesn’t see. No one sees me racing to the ground. The mother grabs her hand telling her to come with her. She never looks out the window, she doesn’t see me either. I see their apartment door close behind them leaving for the day. I wonder for a moment if I will land on them when they come out. Suddenly, I feel the jerk of the rip cord, my whole body flops up and my arms, legs and head yank forcefully forward as the rest of my body is pulled back. My head is spinning and confused. My ears are ringing; I can’t put a thought together. I keep hearing her words in my head. I don’t understand them. I don’t understand why she said them to me.
My hair is hanging limply on the sides of my face. I wiggle my fingers and then my toes. Am I dead? I raise my face to the sun, I can feel the heat, and the natural wind and I can smell the world. At times I enjoy being here because it isn’t the end, and it isn’t living in ignorance at the beginning. At times, I laugh at myself and am embarrassed at myself for being so ignorant. Not seeing what was in front of me was ridiculous. Reflecting on the passage of time, I see how the signs were there and I ignored them. I know that on some level I knew something was really wrong but I was prejudice. I was a bias ignorant who thought because we were good people, white, from a suburb that it wouldn’t touch us. I hate that about me. I thought I was open minded and nondiscriminatory. It sickens me that I was so close-minded and blind. I also know, at this stage of the game, that it wouldn’t have mattered if I did know, or did something, or tried to address it. The truth is, if she said those words to me sooner, it would have only meant I fought for her, against her, with her longer but unsuccessfully. It is her fight, not mine. It is her journey, not mine. It is her pain, not mine. No amount of struggling, or pulling, or screaming is going to free me from suspense. I can only dangle here waiting for the outcome. It is my life, because she is my daughter. Even though I can’t do anything to help her. Even though she is in pain and grieving and my normal response as a mother is to try to take her pain away, I can’t. It puts me in a place where I am suspended between too worlds. One world she tells me those words and she fights and struggles and eventually is doing well, and finds a good life, and the cord gently pulls me back into the rest of life at the top of the building. Or she tells me those words and she fights and struggles and eventually loses the battle which makes the cord snap plummeting me to the ground. I will land and live and be broken at the same time. My heart and soul and spirit will be broken and splintered and dead but my mind will be alive replaying the words Mom, I’m a heroin addict over and over for eternity.