I don’t remember how exactly I said said hello to you, in retrospect I think the girl I was wandering with might have said hello first. She was good at hello. I do remember that you were shaking, and that your response to ‘are you all right‘ was ‘I don’t know, I just jumped off my balcony, but it wasn’t high enough.’ And the girl I was with (we shall call her Krystal) laughed that edgy laugh and was already making plans for her retreat. She took a step back as I took a step closer, and before we had said more than three or four awkward sentences she’d expanded her plan to include me and off we went down the shadowy boardwalk, me trying to figure out how to go back and Krystal trying to explain to me you were probably a serial killer with her hand around my arm. ‘What kind of person,’ she asked me, ‘tells you they just jumped off a balcony?‘
Her indifference and my inability to make my tongue move like I wanted led to my being dragged away from a few things I should have stayed for. Cute but damaged seemed to be the point at which she cut and ran. Cute but clearly a serial killer. Cute but you might have a concussion, not worth my time. Cute but I might have to do something to help you or admit I just don’t care. You were probably more interested in me than she was, and you didn’t even know me.
‘I didn’t like the way he was looking at you.‘ Oh, that at least, she would have meant, but not as I understood it then as a precaution. ‘I don’t like that he wasn’t looking at me.‘ You had been looking at me like no one else ever had, and I didn’t understand then what it was like to have someone walk out of the dark and tell you that you mattered to them. It didn’t occur to me then that the person you look at when two people appear while you’re trying to decide what to do isn’t the person who says ‘Suicide isn’t the answer, it’s a cheap way out. It’s not worth it.‘ but the person who says ‘why?‘ That when someone comes along in those shuddering infinite moments and offers to save you, or at least care about you, you don’t actually question their motives – you breathe them in like oxygen. You let them be the part of the world you can believe in. You ask them why later.
I should have stayed. You tried to ask me to, but I was already being physically propelled away but someone with far more immediate force of will than I had. I’ve learned to stay now. I would stay now. I would look into Krystal’s empty but pretty viper eyes and tell her that shallow people can’t afford to be so judgmental – that no one can, really, but most certainly she can’t.
I went back. I made her understand it was what I was going to do with or without her, but I never found you again. She followed me about, and tried over and over to get me to go back to the hotel. To spend some time with my fiancee. To remind me that we had a hot tub and a video camera. I think of everyone I saw that night you were the only one who might have understood me, and I don’t know for sure that you were alive in the morning.
I still want to know what happened to you. More than I think about anyone else on that trip I think about your eyes, the rock wall behind you, the taste of the air, and the way you seemed to have to struggle to breathe.
The more I write this letter, the more I realize I have no idea what I am trying to say. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t know that humanity isn’t something most humans do.‘ ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t know how to believe in anything.‘ ‘I’m sorry, but I want you to know it would be different now.‘ None of it is enough and none of it seems right.
The kind of person that jumps off of balconies is the kind of person that is comprehensible by the kind of person that knows the sight of blood seeping between a series of slashes over their wrist is calming. That just enough blood isn’t dangerous, it’s a survival technique. That past a certain point most people don’t want honesty, they want to hear ‘I don’t know what I was thinking, but it’s okay now, let’s go get a movie‘ and never ‘it was a tactical decision. I added my failures to how much it hurt to breathe to your inability to understand and what came after the equal sign was death before another night alone. I weighed my options, and life lost.‘ The kind of person that stands trembling beside the sea in the dark is the kind of people like me. The kind of person that stays on this side of the waves if someone looks into their eyes and wants them to live. I should have done that for you.