Two strangers

He climbed the last steps that gave access to the terrace of some skyscraper. There was no emotional reason why it was there, just the logic of being one of the tallest buildings in the area. His purpose was clear, Carlos allowed himself to laugh at the irony of ending his life in the most boring and predictable way of all, just as his life had been. Getting rid of the boredom and emptiness that he felt constantly was, in his understanding, the best way to contribute to humanity. Nobody would ever know of his only conscious action towards a more balanced society and this made his last act even more pleasurable. 

It was possible to see the door that gave access to the terrace. He was at the end of the last flight of stairs, just a few more meters to complete the only project in his life that had left him motivated and full of expectations. Not that he expected to meet angels or demons after his death, but that he could finally feel the “adrenaline in his veins” that he had heard so much about. He opened the door and to his surprise and disappointment, he was not alone. 

A man, who looked 40 years old, wearing jeans, a plain green T-shirt, and designer sneakers, was deep in thought and admiring the view. Confused, as if he’d been caught committing a crime, he raised his hands slightly toward Carlos. 

It was apparent that the two had not considered the possibility of having to share that space. Both took a few seconds to get any reaction.

– You smoke? Tony asked quickly, shifting his hands, looking for his cigarette pack and lighter. Hoping that the other had not noticed that he had interrupted the most important plan of his life.

– No. – Carlos replied automatically. He regretted it, it was necessary to find a justification for being there. – I’m waiting for a call. – He felt even worse with his excuse.

Carlos reached for his cell phone in his pants pocket and showed it as an alibi for being there, he wasn’t expecting any calls. Tony had lit his cigarette and was in no hurry to finish it, he was willing to strive for something at least once in his life, he wanted the right to die alone, in peace, and without an audience.

Tony had arrived half an hour before Carlos, he knew what he wanted, he had dreamed so many times of his dive to the end that he imagined that death fell so naturally to him that he would have no problem executing his plan, but he realized how much he had been wrong as soon as he reached the edge and could barely look down, he felt dizzy and nausea. It took a few steps back. He wasn’t sorry, he wanted to go with the plan, but it had to be a conscious action and not fueled by fear and discomfort, after all, he was dying to get rid of the pain.

Carlos headed to the rail. He watched the city for a few moments, it was not possible to hear the noise of cars or any noise that a city usually has, nor could he see birds flying or resting in any of the few trees that existed in that landscape, besides being far below now. He was fascinated to notice that his eyes saw the representation of his life, many buildings, all empty, silent, and neutral. It was like seeing a photograph except for the wind he felt against his face. 

He never understood why people had the need to appreciate certain sightseeings, however, at that moment, looking at the buildings, streets, and cars in a city built without any planning was like looking at yourself. In reality, marveling at such a landscape was just one more proof that he was out of place in the world. Social events, alone, in any trivial activity or even enjoying an inhospitable landscape for many, nothing seemed to make sense and he had already concluded that it never would. He stared down and was sure he was getting closer and closer to his destination.

Tony couldn’t ignore the other and his natural approach to the edge. Was he wrong? Perhaps he had made the wrong decision? 

– Watch out! You don’t want to get down there before me. – Tony said. It was evident that even if they didn’t want to share the same space, they shared the same plan.

Carlos turned to Tony and stared into his eyes as if trying to find the truth behind his comment. He felt a strange sensation take over his body, something he had never felt before, a growing tingle and he couldn’t understand what it meant.

Tony started to laugh but still kept his eyes fixed on Carlos’s. After all, the person in front of him looked as baffled as he did. Is it possible to recognize someone with similar projects just by staring at them? He found the courage to sit and brace his back where he planned to be the last place his feet would have to support his body. He took a long drag on his cigarette, closed his eyes for a moment, looked at Carlos, and said:

– First time?

There was no need to introduce the subject, it was obvious that they were both there for the same purpose.

Carlos felt every muscle in his body tighten and for a few seconds he thought about lying, leaving the terrace, and going in search of another skyscraper, but he couldn’t deny the curiosity to be able to share what he felt without feeling judged or having the need to explain too much, after all, it’s not every day that you find someone who finds death more attractive than life.

– I hope it will be the only one too. – Carlos replied, his lips tried to outline a smile, but he still felt tense.

Another punch of disappointment hit Tony. That was already his third attempt, the first at a building, but before that, he had the hanging, which when he believed he was in his last moments of agony, the roof gave way and he has left with a bruise on his neck, and the attempt with the drugs, interrupted by his wife.

The two were silent for a moment, it seemed that one was waiting for the other, both eager for the conversation, but not knowing where to start.

– Do you think we are selfish? asked Tony.

– Being selfish is thinking about yourself, it’s enjoying having something for yourself. I don’t feel anything, as a child I tried to be the best student at school to feel the affection of my parents, I was also the worst to prove their hatred and all I could feel was indifference. My parents were great, they supported me, they scolded me, they took me to therapy, but I was still empty. Have you ever heard that after death there is nothing? Imagine that nothing could be a planet, I’ve spent my whole life living on the wrong planet and all I want is to go home.

Tony was perplexed, no one had ever been so sincere and at the same time so confusing.

– Planet nothing! Sounds like a good destination.

Carlos didn’t know if he was being ironic or if he really understood his thought.

– I never had ambitions, goals, projects, until I understood that death was not only my destiny but also my state in life.

– Pain has always been a constant in my life. I’ve tried everything to try to feel better, got married, worked, been happy, or maybe I believed I lived in a moment of happiness, but the pain was always there, taking away every second of peace I could have. Maybe the emptiness could bring me some of that.

– To feel the pain you must know happiness, to feel hate you must have experienced love one day. I’ve never felt any of them, but if you’re capable of suffering I’m sure you’ll be able to be happy. For me, it’s a little different, as if they’ve forgotten to connect the wires responsible for my emotions.

There was no doubt that the boy sitting next to him was more mature than he appeared, and he was awakening in him something he had long since considered lost, hope.

– Maybe I’m selfish – said Toni – my wife came home earlier the day I took more pills than recommended and called 911. And since then my life has been a living hell, no one knows what to do or how to talk to me, everyone has premeditated moves in front of me, my house doesn’t even have knives to cut steak during dinner, it feels like I was rescued to live in purgatory in life. 

Carlos hadn’t considered the possibility of consequences if everything went wrong, because it wasn’t going to go wrong. He also didn’t know how to respond to Tony, just as he didn’t want to be judged or contradicted for his decision he wouldn’t do the same. 

The words started to come out of his mouth without even realizing it.

– I haven’t written any last words to explain my decision, I have no debts, friends, wife, kids, boss, or anyone else who will miss me, not even a pet. A life without marks, without feelings, and without need, there is nothing fairer than ending it to make room for someone who loves to live.

– But I don’t love my life.

Carlos noticed that he had said too much and he didn’t intend to.

– I didn’t mean you, but anybody, maybe this is the easiest way out for many, maybe there are times in life when you don’t see yourself beyond this intense pain that so many people talk about it. I’ve revisited my decision many times, what people see as an end for me is the only way to start, as an opportunity for something to stop being indifferent.

The tingling in his body returned as if for the first time he was able to feel something, empathy. He knew his destiny and he was determined, however, he had the impression that the person next to him needed more time, not that he also didn’t have the right to decide his own destiny, but absolute certainty was important in cases like this.

– Look, it’s starting to get dark, and as poetic as it sounds, disappearing into the dark isn’t part of my plan. I’m going down the stairs, the same ones I used to get here. 

Carlos was annoyed, he had been honest until this last bit, but that weird feeling wouldn’t let him complete his plan successfully, and he knew that. He didn’t want to be remembered by anyone and he never imagined that someone with suicidal convictions could convince a stranger to give up killing himself, but he knew that was what he should do.

They went down the building through the normal access. They didn’t exchange information, or words of gratitude, there was nothing to be thankful for and they never met again.

Tony never had the courage to climb to the top of a building or any other act that threatened his own life, he never knew how to explain what made him change his mind, but he knew he had won a unique opportunity. He didn’t love his life when he left that terrace, but he was hopeful that in the future that would change. 

The end.

Disclaimer: If you got here, first of all, Thank you! Second, I am okay, I know this is the second short story that includes suicide, I really believe it is an important matter that needs to be discussed more often, it is also a little bit of sweet vengeance for begging my high school students for years to not kill their characters in every story they have written.

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