Surface Of The Ledge

The weight of reality standing on my fingers, while I tried not to squirm for fear of slipping off, was needled at unbearable. I originally thought that if the ladder began to veer off balance, I would be stealth enough to lunge for the fire escape railing, which was a challenging five foot distance away. Minus a few cuts and bruises from my rough landing, I’d be fine. However, as reality’s raw awakening showed me, I was instead hanging from sweaty palms seventy feet above the sidewalk, with nothing keeping me alive but a weakening grip on a window ledge. Looking down at my circumstances, I exclaimed a fantastic, “Oh, shit!”

My legs performed a rare dance number called, “Nothing Else To Hold On To”. Realizing I had only seconds to make a decision, I did what any other man dangling from a third story window ledge would do…I screamed my head off.  Screamed so hard that I felt blood vessels pop out from my face.  Screamed with such venom that my voice echoed and bounced off the tan brick building I clung to, ringing my eardrums silent and scraping the back of my throat with a numbing sizzle. Hot flashes engulfed my neck as I turned my head back and forth from left to right, repeatedly in search of anyone coming to help me. (beat) No one.  (beat) Not a single person.

My elbows were locked from the force of my own weight. I struggled to raise myself barely high enough to slam my right elbow onto the surface of the ledge. My forearm and hand instantly followed suit and clamped down. The weight shift eased up slightly off my left hand, as my right arm and chin now held most of my body’s weight. I breathed a few heavy breathes, enjoying the few seconds I knew I had before quickly contemplating the next death defying move.

I pressed a combination of my cheek, jaw and chin onto the ledge. Tiny bits of dust and rock particles embedded themselves into my face and were biting me like little bug creatures after my blood. I inhaled cement powder and pigeon shit stuck on my lips, when I suddenly began to feel nausea from my growing weakness. Warm wave like motions of blood pulsated my temples, crashing negative vibrations against my brain so mercilessly that I barely kept focus. My breathing became short, heavy, my mouth became dry. I pressed my entire body against the building and made my best attempt at swinging my right leg over the ledge, to no avail. I became my own spectator, imagining what I looked like from a distance while my chin seesawed its tug and rip effect, cracking itself open like the shell of a hard boiled egg violently smacked. My chin punched along the bumpy, moldy cement below it, each time I attempted to swing and miss the ledge with my foot.  On my last attempt, I almost completely wiped out but my anguished yell kept me above the surface of the ledge.

I wasn’t sure if I had any more physical strength in me to get my foot onto the top of the surface of the ledge. I began to think about my loved ones. Even the ones I couldn’t stand. I didn’t want to die this way, in such a stupid, stupid way. No one was ever going to be able to figure out why I had to get back in the apartment through the kitchen window, I thought.

I was numb. Physically exhausted but still had some fight left in me yet. I bared my teeth and growled. Swinging my weight on an incline, trying to get my waist to throw my leg up to to the ledge.  Finally, I succeeded. I succeeded in getting the heel of my boot onto the ledge with my foot sticking straight up, toes at attention aimed diligently to the sky above. I was excited, so excited that I chuckled to myself but when I did, the slightest movements of laughter caused my boot to slide right back off the ledge and nearly wipe me clear off with it.

My eyes winced in emotional pain and the weight of my body crashed down hard on my soul. I had nothing left. No amount of inner power was going to save me now. I was no longer capable of feeling at this point. It was over. The building began to push me off gently. I let out my final whimper for help and placed my teeth onto the ledge in utter desperation, trying to hold on to whatever additional precious seconds I could gain. I now had no choice but to accept my fate and make peace with this life. My teeth dug in to the cement crunching down hard and the nerve-shock zapped through my whole body.  My tongue suddenly squirted shots of blood out from my mouth in rhythmic motion, hitting the glass of the window dead on. My front teeth continued to grind along the edge of the ledge, leaving a final mark of my presence on Earth.  As I watched my own blood slowly drip down the window pane, I became relaxed and I too slowly dripped off the ledge.

I released at my own will. Falling back now, air rushing through me, the blue sky chasing after me, getting cooled off and put to rest by Mother Nature…Gods loving whisper through my ears.  Calm.  Quiet.  I closed my eyes.  Lights out…

(pause.)  It was physical exhaustion. That is what the doctor said to my loved ones. That was the reason why I woke up twenty-four hours later. It wasn’t a coma. Just physical exhaustion.

After the two janitors heard my screams, they ran off and found a thick quilt blanket, just in time to come back and catch me from my fall. Various sections of my body were damaged but I was alive.

Joseph Arnone


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