How many steps do we take in a lifetime? They all take us somewhere. But how many take us to where we want to go. Where we want to be? My steps took me to the top of a building, staring down at the rainbow of cars streaming past on the abyss of black tarmac. Looking down on them I was alone in the world. All there was, was white noise. But good things don’t last forever
“Johnny don’t do it!”
I could tell without looking around that it was my brother, Zipper. Well that’s not his “real” name but that’s what he’s been to me since the day he was born so I reckon that’s who he’ll stay.
He’s pretty much all I’d had growing up. My little brother. He always seemed older though. He was focused on the future. Not the past. Not like me. All I’ve ever thought about was mom and dad. They died when I was 6. 13 years ago at this stage I think. I found them drugged up and dead on the floor. At least in death they were better parents. They left us a bad name and some bad memories. Which is more than they gave us in life. I’m glad Zipper can’t remember. I still cry myself to sleep. Don’t know why anymore though I think its more habit at this stage.
“Don’t do what Zipper?”
“Don’t jump Johnny! What else would I be talking about!”
He was screaming by then. He never screams. He can be loud but he doesn’t scream. He’s much too controlled
“Wow Zippy not so docile today are we? Wrong side of bed this morning?”
“Stop with the jokes Johnny. Just shut it. I lost mom and dad. I ain’t losing you too. So just come down from that nice ledge of yours and don’t jump! “
I paused for a moment. Was that why I was up here? To jump? That didn’t seem like me at all. Falling is much more my thing. No responsibility that way
I slowly raised my head. The sky was, as always, gray and overcast.
“Zipper I ain’t gonna jump. Not today”
I looked back down at the street below
“Today’s a day for falling.”
“Falling. What the hell does that mean?”
I spoke slowly. More to myself then him.
“It means I’m just gonna…….. fall.”
I wasn’t sure what I meant. Just falling. I don’t think there’s just anything. Everything’s connected to something. Every action has consequence. Falling wouldn’t be a “just”. Not for me
“Stop talking outta your ass Johnny. Just come off your ledge and come home. Just come home. I’ll make you dinner and we’ll talk some stuff out if want.. I need you. I NEED you. Come down Johnny. Please”
I could hear the tears in his voice as it cracked and faltered. But all I could think about was that little word just. What would happen if I just go home ? I’ll have to get another job. Cause ones not enough, Ones never enough of anything. There are always more people at your door. With that knock that somehow makes you feel lesser cause you owe them money. As if that gives them the right to lord it over you. To look down on you. No, home’s not a just either.
“Need me Zipper? You’re going further then I ever could” my voice faltered. “You don’t need me you never have”
He was quiet. Sometimes silence is an answer sometimes it answers all of life questions. Not now. Now it was awkward and uneasy and full of doubt. Doubt in the question, doubt in my self, doubt in my brother and doubt in the answer I hadn’t yet heard
“Johnny” he was whispering now, “Johnny I need you. I’ve needed you every day of my life. Without you I’d never have made it to here and now. I’d have given up that day at school. Remember that ? That’s why I need you. I need you to stop turning into Mum cause I’m everything dad was already.”
I remembered that day. It was burned into my memory. Last day of year 9, I found him 2 hours after school was over on the floor of the bathroom. Drugged up on coke and god knows what else. Just like dad. Mum was more of a one drug kinda woman. Heroin was her death of choice. I got him to hospital. He swore to me he would never take again. So far i think he hasn’t but he feels like he needs me there to stop him relapsing. Maybe he does. I don’t know anymore.
“And Johnny don’t pretend for a second that you don’t need me. You do. I help you take one step at a time. We need each other”.
He was right the steps get harder every day. He helps me put one foot in front of the othe……..but it was those steps that brought me here that made this happen. Though walking up them stairs to get here seems like a memory of someone else’s dream. I wish it was.
“Zipper. You’re not dad. He wouldn’t be here right now” it was all I could think to say. I couldn’t murmur reassuring words cause I still wasn’t sure what I was doing. I couldn’t tell him I was gonna step down off the ledge and go home. ‘Cause I didn’t know if I would. I wanted to but I couldn’t tell him anything.
I slowly lifted my leg up. Testing the waters. Could I fall all by myself ? All the way down there ?
I took a deep breath. For some reason I started to notice the sweat on my brow and I started counting my breaths.
The wind was calling to me
Fall.Fall.Fall. A rhythm in time with my heartbeat.
I could make my own “just” My own stand alone moment. Not connected to anything else.
“JOHNNY DON’T YOU DARE” I flinched at his voice “you’re gonna turn around and come home. Please Johnny do it for me”
I heard him as his steps came closer. The slow tap on the ground as he came towards me. Tap, tap, tap. I felt him raise his hand to touch me. I could hear him breathing, heavily and unevenly. I always told him he should give up smoking. And then I felt his hand on my shoulder
My pulse slowed and the chanting died
I lowered my foot and slowly turned around. I closed my eyes so I could put off looking at him. I knew one look at him would dispel any notion I had of falling. Zipper could make me do anything he wanted. I think he knew that.
I took a deep breath. I didn’t want to look at him. I didn’t want him to take away a choice that should have been mine.
I slowly began to turn around. I would put it off as long as I could.
“Zipper I ain’t gonna jump or fall give me room to get down mate”
I hoped he didn’t realize I couldn’t make myself look at him. Even though it was over. I still wanted to disillusion myself with the thought that I had a choice.
I opened my eyes and looked down at the concrete. No more rainbow of cars on the stream of tarmac and for some reason that cleared my head.
“Zip, how did you know I was here, I didn’t even know I was coming here”
“Johnny there’s news helicopters all around you. I can’t believe you didn’t hear them your face has been on the news for nearly two hours now”
“you sure you’re okay ? “
I looked up and I heard and saw everything, the helicopters in the sky and the noises from the people on the street. I missed my white noise.
“Yeah I’m fine Zip, just…..”
I stopped myself I was looking at him now. Something wasn’t right. He wasn’t good old Zip. It wasn’t my little brother. It was mom and dad. I saw the same pasty skin, shifty and tired eyes, the nervousness and, out of the corner of his pocket, I could see the tell tale little brown bag.
“Just what Johnny ? “
“Zip what’s that ?”
“What’s what Johnny? I think you should go to a doctor or something you don’t look right”
I was shaking with anger now.
How could he relapse? After all I did for him . After what happened to mom and dad. After he future I had worked so hard to give him. How the hell could he ?
“The bag the goddamn bag Zip. Whats the bag for ? “
“Its just some…………….shopping Johnny”
I looked into his big blue eyes. His bloodshot blue eyes. Moms eyes. The eyes that were staring at me from her cold lifeless body and I saw it. I saw it all. I saw my life mapped out because of this one moment. If I took that last step to him I would spend the rest of my life, or his, which ever ended first, helping him get clean and watching him relapse. I looked at him. He couldn’t look back at me.
I turned around and looked at the skyline. The beautifully imperfect skyline. I could see night encroaching on the day. The background noise slowly began to fade away. I was gonna get back my white noise. I suddenly felt a drop of rain fall softly on my forehead
“Zipper, they say the eye of the storm is the most dangerous, lures you into a false sense of security. I think the past 12 years have been the eye of my storm.”
I paused. Words are hard sometimes.
“I was wrong Zipper, you are dad, and I’m not waiting around to see you turn into mum. Zipper, today’s not for falling. Its for jumping.”
I ran. I ran as hard as I could for my ledge, my jump, my fall. The ground was gone. All there was, was the wind whispering in my ears
I was flying though the air. I knew it would have to end and I would have to feel the confines of ground again and its confines of steps but this was my moment.
I knew that when it ended so would I . But I savored every fragment of the seconds I had. I didn’t see a white light or memories flashing before my eyes. I saw the rainbow of cars and the stream of tarmac and the people all blur together. I saw the world right now. My city as it was in that moment. It was horrific and beautiful all at once. Because that’s what the world is.
Then there was nothing. Just nothing. Sweet beautiful “just nothing”