Exercising the craft—June 2, 2014

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: You’re walking to grab lunch when you see a crowd gathered around a building. You look up and see that someone is standing on the ledge, looking to jump. You hear a police officer close to you mention that the person is about to commit suicide. He also mentions the person’s name: and it’s someone you know! Write a scene where you attempt to stop the jumper from jumping.

http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts/saving-a-life

 

I heaved and puffed as I waited for the elevator to open on the top floor. The cop who saw me dart into the building had chased me, and I didn’t know if he had given up or had taken the stairs. I didn’t want to find out. My first priority was Charlie.

Finally, finally, the elevator opened and I ran. I found the set of stairs that went to the roof and kept running. My lungs started to burn, and my side started to feel like a lobster had pinched it. But I couldn’t stop. Not until I found out why Charlie wanted to jump. If he hadn’t already, that is.

The thought spurred me on, and I made it onto the roof. My sigh of relief got lost in deep gasps for air. He still stood there staring at the ground 15 stories below.

“Charlie!” I called, the sound coming out in a wheeze more than anything else. “Charlie…don’t…jump…things…can’t be…that…bad…yet.”

He shook his head. “Jamie, I can’t. I can’t do this anymore. Leslie hates me. I know you and I fell in love, but I can’t stand her hating me. She was my best friend before we got married, and now…”

I took a step or two forward and then stopped again to take some deep breaths. I guess I should have made more of an effort to get to the gym. But then who knew I would have to race to talk my boyfriend off the ledge—literally?

“How about if I talk to Leslie?” I said finally after a few more gulps of air. “I’ll explain everything. She’s my friend too, Charlie. I don’t want to hurt her either.”

He shook his head and leaned forward a little bit. My heart started racing again. Could I actually convince him not to jump?

I walked forward again, this time moving slow and easy. You see them do it in the movies, and I always thought the scriptwriters did it for dramatic effect. But standing there on the roof and watching Charlie debate life or death, I got it. I suddenly understood that if I made any sudden movements, Charlie just might make his decision in a snap.

As I walked I pulled out my cell phone. Trying to look at the screen and at Charlie at the same time, I scrolled as fast as I could through the names and found Leslie’s number. I hit Dial and then put it on speaker.

“I’m calling her, Charlie, and putting an end to this. I’m going to tell her that I’m really sorry, and then we’re going to get off the roof and all get together and talk about what we should do next.”

Despite the sound of traffic from the street and the general murmur of city life, when Leslie answered I felt like the world shut down around me. I only heard her voice and my heart, thudding once again. She had to say hello twice before I could work the spit back in my mouth.

“Leslie, it’s Jamie,” I said. “We need to talk.”

“I don’t think I have anything to say to you, Jamie. Maybe it might be best if we don’t ever talk again, in fact.”

“Charlie wants to kill himself.”

“And?”

I frowned. “And…I’m trying to talk him out of it. Kind of hard to do when he’s standing at the edge of the roof, and I don’t know if he’s going to come back down to the ground or jump.”

She laughed, but I heard the bitterness at its edges.

“Oh, Jamie, you still haven’t figured it out yet, have you?”

“What?”

“He’s not going to jump!” she said. “He’s showboating you, Jamie. That’s what this whole affair is about, and you’re too blind to see it.”

“Now, come on, Leslie,” I said, trying to sound reasonable, “I realize you’re hurt and all, and that’s totally understandable. But we never meant to hurt you. It just…we just…I mean, we never wanted to do anything to make anyone feel bad. We never even realized when we started feeling this way.”

“Is he still standing there?”

I turned to Charlie. He hadn’t looked back at me since I dialed Leslie’s number. But something in the way he held his head made me think he really wanted to hear our conversation.

“Yes, but I don’t know what’s going to happen. Can’t you please just come down here and help me? Even if you hate him, Leslie, you don’t want him to die, do you?”

She chuckled again. “You still don’t get it, do you? This has nothing to do with you or even me.”

“Leslie, how can you—”

“Has he taken you to the theater yet?”

“What?”

“The theater. Has he taken you?”

I felt weird discussing my relationship with Leslie. I mean, I was having an affair with her husband, after all. Did she really want to hear this?

But something compelled me to answer.

“Yes,” I admitted.

“Limousine? Roses? A bucket of champagne waiting for you at intermission?”

“Yeah.”

“And when you went to dinner after the show, you went to Chez Henrique, and the maître d made a fuss about how Charlie should have called ahead of time because they would have prepared his favorite table, and Charlie said it didn’t matter as long as they could find a little corner in the restaurant somewhere?”

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. How did she know all this?

“Do you think you’re the first, Jamie? Don’t flatter yourself. He did the whole routine with me when we first started dating, and he’s been using it ever since. You just happen to be the flavor of this year.”

I turned toward Charlie who had stopped pretending. He watched me and listened to Leslie, but he didn’t seem like he cared much. And something in his face ticked me off all of a sudden.

“Um, Leslie? Are you at home? I think I want to come over and have a cup of coffee.”

“What about Charlie?”

I shrugged, even though she couldn’t see me.

“We’ll let the cops figure it out.”

She didn’t say anything for a few moments. Clearly she hadn’t expected my request. For once, probably, her husband’s mistress had surprised her.

“Ah, what have I got to lose?” she said finally. “Come on over.”

“I’ll be there in 20 minutes.”

I snapped the phone shut and took a long hard look at Charlie, waiting for him to say something. I almost hoped he would try to justify himself or explain the stuff what Leslie had said. Instead, he seemed to watch me to see if I really had the guts to get off the roof.

I didn’t disappoint him.

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