Posted from The Citrus Report
The inaugural entry to a new weekly series collecting stories, characters, words and letters from the life of Jason Jaworski.
Every text, story and sentence is true and something that happened.
I made sure the rope around my neck was tight. I gathered the small amount of books I had in my bag and a few other loose scraps of wood and tied them together with a string of shoelaces. I looked for a beam on the underside of the roof and tied the rope to it, making a knot and checking its structure to see if it could hold my weight. I waited. I sat down, crossed my legs onto my lap and stared down the pseudo-hallway that was the attic of a department store that I had broken into and found myself living in for the past few days.
It has been a little less than a week now. According to the Gregorian calendar, a new century has just passed and I am going to be a year older in a few months. I think of my family. My parents, the two of them such sweet and nurturing people. I see my sister in laughter, know that she is who she is and that eventually things will be alright for they are alright. I stand up on the makeshift stool and place the rope around my neck again. I make sure it’s tight. I stare forward, seeing everything in that nothing of wood beams and insulation. I see every thing and every moment that I have lived up until now and what I see takes me to a decision that my current self would laugh at.
There are moments when one can feel so low, as if the world itself could be a lighter burden than what one is currently carrying.
I step off the stool. I take my feet off the boxes and books I’ve tied together with the shoelaces from the shoes I have been wearing since winter. I step off the stool and my feet do not reach the ground. I dangle.
For a fraction of a second my entire weight is held by the bit of flesh, sinew, muscle and skin that makes up my neck. For a fraction of a second I see my life before me and I see that the greatest mistakes are not plural, but singular. The greatest mistake was stepping off of that stool. For a fraction of a second I become acquainted with what eventually meets everyone and for a fraction of a second I feel. I get scared. I become tired. And I feel sorry. For a fraction of a second I see their faces, see them looking around, finding me; in that fraction of a second I come to the conclusion of a decision which I made then and that I am still living up to.
My body falls to the ground with the sounds of wood snapping. The rope is still around my neck.
I fall in those few fractions of a second, the rope bending, its knot pulling on the wood and the wood, unable to hold the pressure of a slightly overweight adolescent, snapping and splintering before falling to the floor where I fall as well.
The echo is almost tangible.
I feel the room shaking and with the room shaking I feel myself shake as well. My face faces the floor and by the time I gather the strength to bring myself up, all sound and image is blocked from me and all I can feel is an immeasurable need to cough and purge whatever it is in me that is in me that is now trying to get out.
I cough continuously for nearly half an hour. After that almost thirty minutes, I vomit, staring at the pile of regurgitation and thinking “what the fuck was I thinking?”.
I pull myself out of the attic from where I am staying. I hear sirens which seem to be right around me but I pay no attention to them and instead stare off into the distances where the horizon line is a freeway and the sky meets it at this moment- this moment being night.
I inhale and exhale deeply. Repeat. I walk over to the edge of the roof and study the small constellations of cars parked in the parking lot- dots of metal and plastic several tons in weight but visibly so small from where I am. I inhale again but before I can exhale a gun is pressed to the back of my head and what I thought were the sounds of footsteps behind me are confirmed to be the sounds of footsteps behind me. I can smell metal.
A voice screams for me to put my hands behind my head. I exhale- cops.
I do as the voice says while a set of hands grabs my wrists and another voice tells me to stand up slowly. The whole time my eyes are staring out into the street.
I get up slowly and turn around slowly. The two men stare at me briefly, look me up and down, before asking who else is up here.
I tell them that, to my knowledge, no one else is here besides them and myself. They ask me what I’m doing up here, why was I screaming and why was I making such noise. They tell me that the man below whose job it is to run security at night thought that a group of people were breaking in from the roof. I start laughing and they tell me to shut up. I continue laughing and catch one of them trying to mask a smile.
“If I told you what it was that I was doing up here, you wouldn’t believe me.”
We have small conversation which has me taking them into the cavity of the roof’s attic where I was staying. I show them everything and they tell me how much of an idiot I am. I agree with them and we leave the hole, proceeding to the other side of the roof, its diameter an approximate 40 to 50 feet.
As we reach the edge, a sea of red and blue light starts to flicker and as I bring my eyes and face closer I see how many cops and cars there are below me. I count them like objects in a terrarium- six cop cars and eight cops not including the two that are next to me. The cop to my left, whose name I later learned was “Troy”, unlocks the cuffs which were wrapped round my wrists.
“We’re taking the ladder down now,” he says. The whole time, the other cop has remained silent. I am beginning to wonder whether or not he is a mute.
We reach the bottom of the ladder and immediately the handcuffs are placed back around my wrists. A large man approaches me and the two other cops who act as a bookend to my body. The three of them talk while the rest of the police mill about behind them.
After talking things over, the man looks at me and asks me specifically what it was that I was doing up there. I begin to explain how I was living up there for a few days and then go into more detail as to the events of that night. He looks at me and turns his head in a curious way.
“Son,” he says, bringing his hand up to me, “don’t be fucking stupid, okay?” He sort of verbally slaps sense into me.
My only response is a nod and then I’m escorted into the back seat of one of the whining cars. Troy turns on the engine and turns down the window to the back seat. They all talk for a few minutes before, one by one, getting inside their cars and, like the reverse of rainfall, they leave- droplet by droplet, car by car.
Troy gets in his car and asks me where it is that he should take me. I think for a moment and give him the address to the house where I grew up in. I tell him that my parents are there, that they don’t know that I’ve left, that they think I’ve been gone on an extended school trip. He responds with a smile and soon we’re on the freeway, headed towards the border.
We pull into the small apartment complex and before he lets me out he turns around and gives me a look as if to ask whether or not I’m going to do what I attempted to do again. I smile, feeling every burden and tragedy so meaningless now but so heavy then- lifted. Oftentimes, when in youth, a tragedy, event or emotion can seem somewhat cataclysmic for it is the first time one is experiencing and digesting those thoughts and feelings. I tell him “no,” and I feel it.
He looks back at me and nods, saying that I should, “go in there by yourself, your parents don’t need to know about me- just be honest with them.”
I thank him and walk off, opening and entering the door to the house, turning around before closing it and waving him off.
I walk upstairs, the entire house sleeping, seeming to be in the same state as when I left it. I head into a room on the second floor and sit down at a desk, bringing my arms to its surface and my eyes against a wall. The ceiling fan is spinning above me and off in the distance a distant snoring can be heard- my father.
I think of my father and begin to weep. I think of my mother and do the same. Such beautiful people. I see their faces, take out a slip of paper and begin to write.
And it seemed right then, that everything was about to begin.
– Jason Jaworski
Los Angeles, CA – 2011