It’s falling. It’s still falling. I can’t see now, but it probably landed. It should’ve hit the flower bed of red roses and white lilies, but you can’t always be too sure. In a similar way, Marco slipped from his seat last week. Just like that. He swirled his arms around several times but that was all. The world pulled him down, and as he plummeted there seemed more than just gravity hastening his fall; it was Marco himself plunging to the ground, an eagle spreading his wings and soaring for freedom. It was silly to drop my key, an imprudent act. Unfortunately for Marco, his flight was the only sensible escape and though others tried not to understand, I couldn’t help but realize his true relief.
I live above the smog. I live above the cacophonous sounds of cities. I live above the average Indian dream. Nothing surrounds me: no cars honking at you, no red lights stopping your way or the typical unfriendly stench that greets you to its dwelling. Peace. But this peace can be deceptive sometimes. When you spend eight hours alone swinging in the sky, even serenity becomes bored and starts whispering into your ears, insidiously injecting concern and apprehension. You start with the gas bill that’s been unpaid since last September and then the meeting with Mrs. Palm, your divorce accountant, for the final review before your appearance in court next week. But before you know it, you’re reminiscing about Marco and his fall. To be honest, I’ve never been afraid of heights; when I spotted the red flyer looking for window cleaners of the India Tower explicitly stating, Pay negotiable, Can’t have acrophobia, I exulted that I had found an occupation I had an aptitude for. At the end of the day, it’s the flawless, sparkling windows reflecting the soft evening glow that relax my footsteps and distinguish me from the otherwise hurried society. So it’s neither the intimidating 126 story elevation nor the simple yet arduous labor that water the seeds of fright in my mind. Instead it’s the silence that takes my naked body to the arctic where the bitter cold subtly yet treacherously devours my sanity.
Yesterday, a sobbing woman came to visit me on the rooftop. She was young, twenty five at most. However, her short-cut black hair and brown eyes invigorated with life were overwhelmed by the aura of gloom that surrounded her; the dark circles told she hadn’t slept for days and her strikingly red pimples showed appearance was the last thing on her mind. The faded, scratched ornament on her ring finger, now more bronze than silver, gave me the utmost confidence that she was Marco’s wife. Though Marco and I sat together on the sky for more than four years, we never met outside work; we found pleasure in talking above the cities, not in them.
“Mr. Harijan?” the woman asked in a trembling voice, her eyes begging that it be me. Feeling that a verbal response would cause her to burst into tears, I gave a simple nod.
“Marco always talked about you when he came back home. He was so enthralled by you and his job that at times I thought he valued them more than our family. But…But why didn’t you come to his burial?” Again in a quivering but this time more assured tone, she posed the question. But before words whirling in my head formulated a comprehensive excuse, the woman thrust at me a javelin which since then has been piercing my beliefs.
“Has anything other than yourselves ever mattered to you and Marco?” As she pulled up all her strength to utter this question which she already seemed to know the answer to, she turned around and headed slowly to the exit where sadness made her shoulders dance and caused her body to move aimlessly.
I couldn’t tell her anything. I lacked the courage to tell her I supported Marco’s decision. That I didn’t go to the burial because I wouldn’t have endured other people lamenting his death. That though others may call him a coward, I remember him a valiant being fighting alone against the callous world. That as I saw him fall, I prayed he live an exceptional afterlife, enjoying the mellifluous harmonies of sound and relishing life the way it should be. But I did not mutter a single word. Yet the woman knew what I had to offer as her poignant eyes told she didn’t visit to ask questions about Marco and his fall. She already knew. And it was then I first saw that it wasn’t her misery causing a depressing tone but instead Marco’s absence and his prison that he left behind which aroused despair.
After Marco’s wife had left, I still remained on the rooftop; one hand on the squeegee and the other holding a bucket containing a frugal mixture of water, vinegar, and a hint of dishwashing liquid. And for the entire day, I didn’t clean the windows. I didn’t even intend on climbing on my swing and starting the grueling journey from window number 2310 to 1870. My passion had left my body and it was meaningless to do any work. That day as I sluggishly pushed myself home, immersed in my reflections on what Marco’s wife left behind, I saw the blemishes in the windows that called my name and pleaded to be cleansed. I pushed on, however, for the unrest in my mind was greater than the discord in the mask of the building.
It was when I came back home that I realized the foolishness in my actions and thoughts. Marco and I were there playing in the sky, neglecting reality, adapted to negligence. Addicted to this freedom never experienced before, we were convicts of temptation, engulfed by the silence that spuriously handed us fruits of delusion. Meanwhile, I had also overlooked everything else in my life. What I called home reeked of unbearable foul odor and whom I identified daughter avoided even my slightest gaze. I had dreamt and for years brought up melancholic ambience to those around me. Here I was, 38 years old and father of one, eluding from society and its heavy burdens. It took one of our lives to realize this inconvenient truth.
Marco did not die in vain. Through it I realized the well we were drowning in, where the only way out seemed to be up. I will live to show Marco that we were wrong and that others were right about life. I will humbly succumb to reality to smell and acquire what had been forgotten: the scent of home, the fragrance of family, and the aroma of love. Life is important, Marco, not only to you, but also to those around you.
Today’s my last day at work.