Story begins Here.
The two men sat in silence, poised above the city that embodied their fears, a man-made mass of darkness and unnatural light, concrete and plaster, carefully divided by boulevards and parkways, back alleys and thoroughfares.
Bayonne said, “I don’t know if I have a calling, but I know I like to help people. I want to help people, but I don’t always believe that I can.”
The man lifted the bottle off the ledge and took a sip. “Is that why you’re out on this ledge with me?”
“To be honest, coming out here didn’t seem like much of a stretch at the time. I’m not sure how my partner feels about that.”
The man glanced over the crimson shoulder of his suit. “Is that square man your partner.”
Bayonne raised a hand in a mock salute toward the group of men clustered near the glass to cast a shadow over the glare. The security guard and two patrolmen wore uniforms, and Simon wore his rumpled suit.
“The square one without a uniform.”
“He doesn’t look happy.”
“He seldom does.”
The man wiped at his eyes with the back of his wrist. “I hope I haven’t gotten you into trouble.”
“If we climb off this ledge together, I’ll be a hero. If either or both of us fall to the street below, I might lose my job.”
“If I’m dead, it won’t matter to me what happens to you.”
“When I came out here, I told my partner something similar.”
The two men stared into the night, the lines of light making order out of the darkness.
“I didn’t come up here to kill myself.”
“That’s a relief.”
“I’m serious. I just wanted a fresh perspective.”
“Did you get your perspective?”
“I might’ve brought it with me. By the time I took the step onto this ledge, I think I already had a new perspective, the perspective that brought me to this brink.”
“You’re pretty smart for a guy wearing a Santa suit in the middle of February.”
“For what it’s worth, I’m not wearing any underwear.”
Bayonne shoved a cigarette into his mouth and spoke around the filter. “You going to move to Florida?”
“I don’t want to leave the city. I don’t want to lose my roots.”
“What does your wife want?”
“I’m not sure she wants me. I think I’m a reminder of all she lost in this city.”
Bayonne took the bottle from the man, took a sip, and handed the bottle back. He sucked on the nail in his left hand and stared out at the great lake that stretched eastward beyond the city. He said, “The city is bigger than any one of us, but it has the benefit of being the culmination of all of us. If this is where you need to be, then I suggest you learn to live with yourself.”
“Have you lost like I’ve lost.”
Bayonne nodded. “I lost my wife in a fire several years ago.”
“Then you understand how hard it is to move on.”
“I understand that the degree of difficulty doesn’t change the necessity.”
“How did you learn to live with things.”
Bayonne reached over and tapped the fingernail of his index finger on the glass neck of the bottle where it protruded beyond the brown paper bag.
The man chuckled. “You do seem to drink a fair amount.”
Bayonne stuck his cigarette in his mouth, sucked and shrugged.
The man said, “I’m a lawyer, a divorce attorney.”
“That might prove useful.”
“You know, I never thought I’d end up like my clients.”
Bayonne thought of all the people he’d arrested over the years and how little difference there seemed to be between himself and the people he met on their worst days, people like the man next to him on the ledge. “I know how you feel. Do you live up here or in the old neighborhoods?”
“I live on eighteenth in Commerce City.”
“What brought you up here?”
“I was drinking at the Cat’s Paw.”
Bayonne smiled. “They have a nice selection of Doo Wop on the juke box.”
“The Ink Spots to The Drifters.”
“I live in Woodland. What do you say I buy you a drink? We can listen to The Platters, and I’ll give you a ride home.”
“If you’re going that way, I won’t say no to a drink.”
The two men pulled themselves to their feet and both teetered a moment, their backs to the open air and the street below. A gust of wind shook them, and they clung to the railing meant to keep them on the other side, the rational side of the abyss.
The security guard, two patrolmen, and George Simon watched Bayonne and a disheveled St. Nicholas step over the guard rail and regain solid footing. One of the patrolmen said, “These two are quite a pair.”
Simon said, “This isn’t the strangest thing Bayonne’s done today.”
Bayonne introduced his partner and realized he didn’t know the man’s name.
“Glen,” the man said, “My name’s Glen Wachtel.”
Bayonne turned to the patrolmen. “Why don’t you take down Glen’s information. He wasn’t looking to harm himself. He just wanted a bit of fresh air.”
One of the patrolmen raised an eyebrow. “Did you see any reindeer out there?”
Glen stared blankly at the officer. “It’s late in the season for reindeer.”
Image by Tanya Dusett of Unsplash.