“What about this snake was surprising? Was it the legs?
“What about this bird terrified you? The fangs and the fur?
“What about this human was astonishing? The way that it blew in the wind, leaves rustling?”
He looked puzzled. But he couldn’t hurt me.
“Things are not always what they seem. Sometimes they are, but not always. Sometimes there are layers that cannot be seen until the layers above them are peeled away. Sometimes the layers are infinite. Sometimes they are stripped to the core, leaving darkness and emptiness and nothing, or light and awakening and everything.
“You won’t know until you get started. You won’t know until you look deep within. You won’t know until you see.”
He stopped pointing the gun at me directly. A good start.
“How do you know any of this is true?”
“I know what this is like. It’s a spectrum. Here’s a line where most people are. A range. They’re not great, not terrible, but okay. Most people are right in this area.”
I drew a line, marking one end of it with my foot. I made another small mark a little further to the right.
“Here’s where you are. I’m not going to lie. You’re kind of fucked. You will probably go to jail, or to a mental institution, for a bit. But you’ll be out, and healthy. You’re still close to the rest. Not that far. You’re still within reach of normal. You can see it. A little outside, but you can see it. If you give yourself up. It’s not giving up. It’s asking for and accepting help. It’s a 200 pound outlook you’ve got there. You can’t carry it alone until you’re stronger. You need help for a while.”
I drew two more marks with my foot.
“If you don’t give up now, you will be here. Prison for years. You may live to be in your 80s. You’re in your what, 20s now? You’ve got a long time. This help, it’s not that long compared to the 60 years you have left. Nothing. You can do that. But if you don’t, you’re in prison for that 60 years. That is a waste of life.
“If you go all the way to here, people will hate you. You get no life, no chance, no redemption. You get no sympathy. Your family gets it. Your friends get it. But even they won’t if you do what you intended to do here. These are innocent people. They did nothing to you. The people who did don’t deserve death. They deserve to be confronted by you when you’re stronger. And they deserve to watch you become everything you were supposed to be.”
He forgot about the gun for just a moment. It was windy up here. No windbreak on the fortieth floor. Just the ground. The ground his eyes had been flicking towards since I walked through the stairwell door.
Of course, he hadn’t seen or heard me walk in through it. I can be silent when I want to be.
“Why should I believe you? I can’t believe anyone. Why should I trust you or listen to you or count on you? I can’t trust anyone.”
“You should listen to me because you know I speak the truth. It will be harder. You’ll be taken in, booked, dragged through the press and social media, and a certain percent of the population will hate you. But that would have happened anyway. It’s human nature. A certain percentage of people will always hate you no matter what they do. But a certain percentage of people will always love you no matter what you do, too.
“You might want to look for them.”
The wind could have been strong, or he could have been distracted, or tired from holding the gun out so long, but off it went over the ledge. It dawned on him that he could have been next. He chose to live.
“What do I do?”
“Take off your jacket. I put these on your wrists and put the jacket back on. No one knows what’s going on but the two of us until you get into a black unmarked van. It’s the police. You’re still going in. But with my help, you’re going to be okay. It won’t be that bad, and it won’t be that long. Are you ready?”
He took off his jacket. I put on the cuffs, replaced the jacket, and we headed for the stairwell.
Of course I had lied. The cops were just on the other side of the door. I could hear them, smell them, feel their presence. I would help him, though, and he would be okay. I motioned with my hand.
The door came unstuck. The cops rushed through it and onto the top of the building, guns drawn and flight responses activated. They calmed down when they saw him, unarmed and handcuffed. He didn’t resist, and they didn’t abuse him. I made sure of that.
They didn’t see me, though. I couldn’t let that happen. I had, once before. Only once. Only one person. One woman. And that ended badly.
Because angels and humans were never meant to be together.