“Look at me”
“You don’t really want that”
“Yes I do”
“No you don’t”
She allowed some silence to seep in between them. It filled the void she felt with a little bit of trust.
“Why are you here?” she asked, and she detected a hint of his curiosity in a twitch in his left leg.
“Isn’t it obvious?”
Again, she kept her mouth closed for a few seconds. If he would speak now, she practically had him in her pocket. If not, she’d have to do some more work.
“I mean… It seems clear what you are planning to do… the question…”
“Say it” He interrupted her.
“Speak out what I’m planning to do.”
“Would it make you feel better if I did?”
“Of course not.”
This guy was tough. She was not sure what to do, but she could not wait for too long.
“Why are you planning to jump?”
“Exactly! I’m planning to jump. Was that so hard?”
“Not it wasn’t. Why was it so important to you that I said it?”
“I was going to be an actor.” He said. Okay. He began to share his frustrations and by that, would start feeling the relief necessary to persuade him to turn.
“Studied for it, then had my first contract. I was brilliant! I let my voice roll over the audience as a king does with his people. I was a king! I had a car, a nice apartment in town, a very cute cat. I had friends. I even had servants. Everything was sorted out.”
She was quite sure where this was going. Her colleagues were sometimes astonished by her instinct. To her, it was simple deduction. This man was in the force of his life, a great communicator, built attractively and even quite charming in this vulnerability. He had a cat to care for. Clear case of a heartbreak.
“Then I met her.” He said.
“Her…?” acting surprised was always the best way to seem interested.
“Jara.” From the position of the back of his head she judged he must be looking beyond the city lights, towards the pitch black horizon. “Then I met Jara…”. This time it was him who created space through his silence.
“Tell me about her.” She did a small, inaudible step forward.
“Jara’s parents had a small hut in the jungle of Papua New Guinea. But she had adventure in her blood. And she was smart, so she left to study.”
This man clearly was a story-teller. She considered sitting down to listen to him, but knew that would make it impossible to make an emergency move if her estimation turned out wrong.
“In Papua New Guinea?”
“At first, yes, but then she came all the way here to study us.”
“Really?” she said it just a bit louder than she’d planned to. She coughed.
“Does that surprise you?” He asked, still without showing his face.
“Well… yes” she uttered. The timing of his question made her suspect that he probably never wanted to jump off the roof of this skyscraper. If that was true, there was going to be a confession of some sort. An issue he needed a second opinion on, possibly related to guilt, but more likely to his loneliness itself. She needed to be patient.
“Me as well.” Said the man. “That’s what attracted me in her. She always knew how to surprise you with her exceptional curiosity for so many things. One day, she came home with a fox skull she found in the forest. The way she studied it was just fascinating. I can still see her holding it, with her fragile wrists… So smart…”
Why the wrists? She wondered.
“Do you see that bar down there?” He pointed down steeply along the west side of the building. She had to take a few steps forward to follow the direction, but she could not discern a bar.
“It has a very warm ambience. Candles, pillows, jazz on the background. They serve great wines.” He paused again. She was now looking for a reddish light among the brighter ones. “It’s called Sheila’s. Jara loved that place. She would write her thesis there. One day I walked by, and it was as if the bar called out to me… Invited me in. So I went. I still see her sitting there, with her brown laptop. I went to the bar and ordered a ginger beer. Great drink. She came to the bar to pay and I looked at her and she looked at me and that was it. Our spirits merged. From that moment on, we were together.”
She started to doubt again. Perhaps there was more going on than a girl leaving a boy. Or perhaps he thought of her as the one but Jara didn’t, and did he need convincing that there’s no such thing.
“She specialized in western suicide.”
Okay rewind. This man knew more about her job than the usual suicidal. Why did he mention it? She had to be careful.
“Do you know that most people kill themselves because they don’t feel loved? It depresses them, so they take their own life away. Jara didn’t get that at all.”
Perhaps he’d cheated on her?
“She studied, I acted. At night we’d hang out together, alone or with friends, and drink a bit, often in Sheila’s. Or we’d watch TV, or dance and make love in the living room. Life was good and simple. The only thing in between us was that she missed her parents at home.”
She sat down on the floor. It was cold. She felt like standing up again, but didn’t want to draw too much attention to herself. She’d have to go with her choice for now. Expression of the comfortable atmosphere.
“Then one day I found her at home in a state of panic. She said something was wrong back home. She had to go there. We booked a ticket. She would fly in three days. I called in sick for work and cancelled all appointments. They were the most intense days of my life. We made love and declared our love for each other, and spent time in the parks around and cooked some of our favourite dishes. Then she’d tell me about her tribe and her family, as if they were there with us. I could see how much she loved her grandma, and how much she’d learned from her. And from her dad, who had motivated her to learn the letters of the alphabet and to get out of her little jungle world. I saw how much she missed her people, but in the mean time felt more connected to her than ever. I could feel her pain, and at the same time her joy over our coming together. These three days were probably the most complete experience of the whole emotional spectrum I ever had. But then I had to put her on the plane. She explained on the way that we could not stay in touch because of the lack of internet or phones in the village, but that she would try to contact me instead. I drove back home on my own, thinking only about our last kiss. I could feel it in my mouth. Moving delicately. It slowly dissolved over the hours, then it was gone. I sat on my couch for the rest of the day, caressing the cat. The next day I couldn’t act, only cry. I went home. That lasted for a week at least. The director started to worry about me and told me to pull myself together. Then I did. I could suddenly work again. Strange how you can just ignore your feelings like that, right? As if I’d run out of sadness. But I knew that wasn’t the case.”
He turned his face. Looking into his eyes shook her heart. There was suffering there. She saw him look from inside his pain. It infected her. Nested inside her. He looked away, and stared over the lit towers again. The pain was out of her reach, but she longed for it. She was suddenly convinced that this man knew exactly what he was doing, but kept her in the dark. Even so, all she wanted him to do was to keep talking. “Yes…” she answered softly.
“It took a few months before I started worrying.” He continued. “I was so occupied with my work again, that I decided to trust her in her choices, and also that I would hear from her as soon as she’d be able to contact me. Meanwhile, I was loved for what I did and that was great. My cat enjoyed the attention. But something was gnawing away inside. The discomfort grew until I could no longer hold it. My director did not allow my leave, so I quit, rented out my apartment, housed poor Lixy at my moms place and took the plane. In her address book, I had found only one Papua New Guinean address, so I thought that must be it.”
“It took me three days to find the place after I’d arrived. It was somewhere on one of the bigger islands in the east. An old woman opened the door. She had messy greyish hair and a very wrinkled face, but she stood straight and her movements were agile. Very agile, actually. She seemed strong. She didn’t know Jara’s name. She also had a hard time finding out what I meant when I explained about the girl who left to the west. I don’t think she knew where the west was. But her English wasn’t too bad, and she got it eventually.”
From his description, she liked the woman.
“She called me inside, and showed a map of a different island, where I’d find a man called Makali. I was outside before I realised it. She didn’t even offer me a drink. And I couldn’t keep the map either! I think she was related to Jara, but she clearly didn’t treat me that way. I don’t blame her. But at that moment I felt very abandoned.”
“And now?” she felt as if she had to take control somehow. Over him or over herself? She could not say.”
“I don’t feel abandoned now…”
“What are you? My therapist?”
“No, no, no! I’m just interested!”
“In many ways, the search for Jara was the biggest adventure of my life. I realised that there was so much more to it than the acting and the love. We live in a human industry. There are jungles, and people who are entirely different. Their lives take place in nature. Always. They have no need for the devices we so heavily depend on. Of course I knew those people existed, but to see it for yourself is a different thing. Some offered me to stay at their huts They were beautifully helpful people. Gave me food and everything. Some didn’t even speak English. There turned out to be lots of Makalis, and I wouldn’t have found the right one without them.”
“Who was he?” she asked
“A local man of knowledge. I’m still not sure how it all works there, but he knew that Jaras tribe had disappeared, together with their land.”
“Trees were sawed and removed by machines that had docked near their village. None of the villagers were found. I told Makali I wanted to look for them, he answered that the mere sight of their old home would hurt me more than I could imagine. I told him that it didn’t matter, then he told me that he could not take me there because it would hurt him too much. I told him I’d find it on my own if he just pointed me the way, then he walked out of his hut and convinced another tribe member to accompany me there. We had a long walk through the jungle. Even slept there one night. He cooked for me, just from the roots, fruits and herbs he found around. The next morning we walked on, but at some point he stopped. He waved his hand in the direction he wanted me to go in. I went there by myself. The beautiful coloured plants and butterflies and birds and frogs and insects we saw on the way, were suddenly gone. There were just enormous stumps. I fell down and cried. Don’t know for how long. Then, when I stood up, I could only think about Jara. I panicked. Started to run in a random direction, looking for her. But the vastness of the empty land was overwhelming, as if the disowned spirits of the forest told me to give up. I went numb. Went back to Makali. He took me into his place and offered me to wait for them here, but I couldn’t: sitting still drove me insane. I just had to go find her, but I had no idea where to start. Makali didn’t know either. They’d just disappeared. The other tribes had been looking for them for some months, but found no trace. It was as if they’d been taken together with the plants around. I left Makali’s house in three days afterwards, on an impossible quest. I wandered through the country like a ghost. All that I could tell people was that I was looking for a tribe that disappeared, one of whose members was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. They all knew where to find great girls, but no-one had seen a homeless tribe. I managed to find the docks where the company’s trees were shipped to. All I found was a lot of resistance. I went to the company that bought the trees. Equally resistant. I even consulted witches in the area. They told me not to mingle with such dark forces. None of them wanted to say more. I would usually try to convince them that it was love I was dealing with, but could convince only one.
“Yes, she was a very nice lady in fact. Gentle. She wore very colourful feathers, of birds of paradise, she said. And she served delicious tea. She tried to persuade me to go home, and that Jara would contact me there, but I kept going for a few more weeks. Looking back, it was she who planted the idea in my head that Jara would keep following our love.”
The gentleness of his voice confused her. It seemed as if indeed, Jara contacted him. If that was true, why was he on this roof?
“For those final weeks I was lost in the jungle. Maybe I was afraid to go back. As that was admitting my defeat. As if I had put my life at stake for nothing. After all she promised to contact me. By coming here I broke her trust in a way. Nevertheless, my presence there felt more and more futile. One day I gave in and left. The plane trip was horrible. The nerves were pumping through my veins like a rhythmical demonic rage. At some point I almost fainted, when I stood up to go the airplane toilet. Once I got there at looked into the mirror, I felt an incredible sting in my heart, as if I’d die.”
“And here you are, on the point of throwing yourself of a building. ” His whole way of being now told her he wouldn’t.
“Don’t joke about it… When I got home, my tenant gave me a letter that had arrived for me just after I left. Do you want to read it?”
His right hand slowly entered the left inner pocket of his long black coat. It took out an envelope, light brown coloured. It had an odd glow about it which accentuated the wrinkles on the hand that held it. He seemed much older than she’d estimated him. She stood up, stepped up the ridge where he stood and received it in her hand. Warmth entered her body in waves. She and the man were now hovering in a never-ending space with an envelope in it. She opened it carefully, then took out a letter. A breeze gently folded it somewhat, then let it rest upon her hand. It looked as if she was the first to read it.
My Dearest Love,
I know you came to look for me, but I was already dead. Please don’t take our act as a message to you personally, or as a decision that had anything to do with our relationship. It doesn’t.
While she read the message, an image appeared in her mind. It was beautiful Indonesian lady with long straight black hair and light brown eyes. She threw both arms around her neck in a delightful embrace. She loved this woman instantly.
Isn’t it interesting that I, who left my home to study suicidal behaviour in the Western world, now ended up killing myself? Don’t worry, I wasn’t alone. My tribe joined. We had a final party, actually. It was sad, I have to say, but it was one of the deepest and most beautiful experiences we had together. It’s sad that you never got to meet my friends. I hope you liked Makali though.
The embrace of the woman became tighter, as if she was afraid to let go. It was delightful. She saw green and blue hues around her. All she wanted was to protect this fragile soul.
You’ve seen what they did to our home. You cannot imagine the terror among us when they hunted us away. Or when they started cutting. If you could, perhaps you’d join our decision. If you cut a tree from its roots, it will not survive. That’s us. We’ve been cut, and have been slowly dying since.
Do you know what? I suddenly understood why Western people kill themselves. Many have never been able to make roots. Your system gnaws them off as soon as you try to grow them. They do whatever they can to avoid you from growing towards the light. They want you to bow for them. Poor souls! After returning from such an intense meeting with your world, I get why some want to leave it.
A tremendous sadness captured her heart when the truth in these words hit her. She fetlt that her life had caused the mess in Jara’s. Meanwhile, Jara’s embrace tightened further, like a snake’s, when creeping around her prey. She started to have trouble breathing, but felt compelled to keep reading.
Nature always strikes back, my love. And that’s what you and I are going to do. I know you’re with me on this. I knew from the instant that I saw you at Sheila’s that we would follow each other anywhere. Please don’t join me among the dead, I’ll come to you instead. We need allies on both sides to make our vengeance felt. Together, we will free the poor beings from their suffocating illusions.
She felt the grip tighten until she could no longer concentrate. Her life was now in Jara’s hands. Her diaphragm made rapid contractions. She felt intense fear rise up her chest. Then, suddenly, peace, deeper then she’d ever felt before. She must be turning blue by now.
I’ll always be with you, love. Warm embrace,
When she finished reading, she gave the letter back to the man at her side. He put it back in the envelope. The grip loosened, and she felt the blood come back to her head. The sensation was euphoric. She felt tremendously grateful.
“Well?” asked the man.
“You were right” she answered, and she took her final step. The man turned around, and stepped of the ridge.
While falling, she wondered if she’d done it out of pain or out of joy. A combination of factors perhaps. Anyhow, she’d never before been as convinced of a decision. In her last meters above the ground, she caught a glimpse of Sheila’s. It looked cosy indeed.