I don’t need to see his body to know that Nicholas would never choose to jump off the balcony.
He was probably trying to save our cat, Meander, who had a habit of slipping between the door jam and my open legs, and before I knew it, she’d be up on the railing. I don’t mean to let her out all the time, I just can’t close the heavy sliding door fast enough to block her. If we owned the place, we would have replaced it. I don’t use the balcony often—I’m acrophobics —but I like a smoke now and again, and it’s easier, quicker, than going all the way downstairs.
She just sits at the top of the steps and waits. Waits for me to get close. Looking down on me. Siamese are so judgmental, tyrannical.
Before I would have the door half shut, Mea would dart out, jump up, steady herself, wave her hips, and look back, with dignity and defiance. I’d holler to Nick to get her down. On the other side of the railing is the neighbor’s glasshouse and concrete patio, four stories down. Mea wouldn’t survive the fall, and I read somewhere that cats don’t understand depth, so she might jump, not knowing it was four stories down.
I can’t handle the death of another pet.
So we rescued her. Well, Nick did; I can’t get near the railing, even when Mea isn’t on it. Nick would slowly walk over to her, cooing and using a nice, soft voice (which he only used for Mea), and then grab her hips and hind legs while she melodramatically reached to grab the railing, unsheathing pointless claws, I guess, part of her nature. Quickly, in one motion, he’d swing her up into his arms and hold her tight, her face tucked under his chin, her ears flattened with annoyance. He’d keep talking to her, and I’d close the door after he brought her inside.
Then I’d usually need two smokes.
We got used to this. A nuisance, but whatever. Then all of a sudden, Mea decided our slim balcony wasn’t enough, and she started to jump over to the neighbor’s balcony, which is like two feet away from ours. She didn’t go anywhere; she just jumped over there and sat. Nick was too short to reach over with his feet on the ground, so he used to do a small pushup on the railing, lifting his body up like he was an Olympic gymnast about to go around the uneven bars. When he settled his hips against it, leaning forward, his feet went in the air. He’d grab Mea by her neck or something and pull her into his arms. Then he’d slowly, slowly tip his weight back to our balcony.
One time, he wanted me to hold his legs down, so he could reach farther, but I guess I pushed down too hard, and the railing dug his stomach. He yelled. And didn’t get Mea anyway. After that, he kept a chair out there and slowly climbed up and over into the neighbor’s balcony, got Mea, and climbed back. We never talked about it, never talked about much. He never asked me to help again.
Nick was trying to save Mea when he fell. I know it. Falling for love, he loved that cat.
I know this because the door was open when I got home. Well, I was home the whole time—I work from home—but I put myself in my studio and shut the door, playing something really loud. Nothing good. I know as an artist I’m supposed to play things like Van Morrison or Joni Mitchell, but I can’t stand that stuff. It’s so artificially authentic. I love pop music, I really do. I always paint to pop music. The beat, I feel it so deeply, it comes out in the colors and the shapes. I have enough emotions, I don’t need emotional music. I have depression—hell, if anyone is going to jump over a railing in this house, it wouldn’t be Nick.
But that’s another story. You asked where I was… yes, I was home working, but I was shut up. I haven’t—hadn’t—seen him in a while. Nick knows this, knew this. He knew not to bother me, so he doesn’t. I was working and I needed something. What was it… oh, yes, soda. We didn’t have any. I hollered to Nick, but he didn’t answer, so I left and got some. As you can see, my studio is right next to the front door, so I don’t know if he was around then or not. I didn’t look.
I love Diet Coke. I live on the stuff, and normally we have loads of it. I got a six-pack at the store down the street—they’ll remember—and then came back. 5:10, 5:15 or so.
He wasn’t there. The balcony door was open. Mea was sitting on the balcony, just sitting, near the glass. Like she didn’t want to go over to the railing. She was just sitting there. I picked her up and brought her back inside and shut the door. I didn’t look over the railing—why would I? I never look over the railing. I did once when we first moved in a year ago. That was the last time; I couldn’t stop picturing myself falling off the balcony, breaking through the glasshouse below, in slow-motion, you know?
My therapist says acrophobics aren’t afraid of heights, they are afraid of jumping. I think that’s it. Every time I think about looking down, I think about falling. Perhaps jumping. I’d break out into a sweat, panic. I hate being out there. I hate falling. Hate it hate it hate it. I don’t even like to fall in love. Nick used to tease me about that, ‘You wouldn’t even fall for love,’ he’d say. He was right.
So no, I didn’t look down. I didn’t touch the railing even. I didn’t see Nick. I just saw Mea, right next to the door.
It was a bit weird, her being out there, him nowhere in sight. But things happen, life changes, you know? Routines change and people change, and something you’re completely used to suddenly changes. Static life isn’t enough.
But honestly, I didn’t know anything had happened until you guys got here and told me. I don’t feel anything yet—I’m sure I’m in shock. That happens, right?
So that’s my story. My statement. Sure, I’ll come with you. I have to put my brushes in water, they’ll dry out. I have no idea what to do with the cat. No idea. Shit. She’s not even my cat. I didn’t even like her. She just stares are me from on high. Upset I’m here instead of Nick.
Oh you asked if I heard him scream? I didn’t hear him scream. I didn’t hear him at all. Do you think he screamed? I wonder why I didn’t hear him scream. Why didn’t he scream? Normally people scream when they fall.
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