He understood now why people waited.
As Tony’s toes sat a little over the void, he felt his body rock back and forth with the wind. He wanted to reach out and grab hold of something, but there was nothing but air to support him. He looked straight ahead, not daring to glimpse the road below, and thought of why he was doing this. Taking such a permanent step. He thought…
“Excuse me,” said a voice from behind him. It almost made Tony lose his footing right away. “Oh, I’m sorry,” the voice said again. “I didn’t mean to make you jump.” A beat. “Probably a poor choice of words…” Tony looked over his shoulder and saw the embodiment of the voice. It was a man, young, dressed in a sharp suit.
“A…are you the police?” said Tony.
“Oh my, no. Just someone who wants to help you. You certainly appear to be in dire need of some assistance.”
“I don’t need anyone’s help,” said Tony. He was much more confident now that the initial shock of no longer being alone had faded. “Just let me die in peace.”
“Peace? You think jumping from a 30-storey building would be a peaceful death?” The man started walking towards the edge.
“Don’t come any further!”
“Why not? You’re not going to jump anyway.”
“I will if you come closer!”
“Nah,” said the man. He carried on walking, and sat down on the ledge next to Tony. “See? You’re still here, and I’m just sat here next to you. Lovely day, isn’t it? Would you like a jam sandwich?”
“I…what?” The man produced a small plastic bag from his pocket. Two triangular jam sandwiches were inside.
“I made them myself this morning. It’s so hard to find cafés that sell them. I’m not really keen on sandwich fillings that aren’t jam. I’m sure Pret or Subway would get a lot more business if they just made a few every day.”
“Who the hell are you?” said Tony.
“I’m Hank, and you didn’t answer my question.”
“What…no, I don’t want a bloody jam sandwich, OK?! Just leave me alone!”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that. You’re not meant to die, you see. Not today, anyway. I mean, it seems pretty clear to me that you’re not going to anyway, so I probably don’t need to be here, but, y’know, it’s good etiquette.” He took one of the triangles out of the bag and had a huge bite. “Mmm,” he said, with his mouth full. “That’s a good sandwich. Are you sure I can’t tempt you?”
Tony didn’t answer. The pair were silent for a moment. “So what brings you here?” said Hank.
“None of your business.”
“I know it isn’t. But I’m curious. I mean, a man doesn’t just wake up one morning and say to himself, ‘Y’know, I think I’m going to throw myself off a building today. That seems like a fun way to get my morning going.’”
“Do you think this is some sort of joke?!” said Tony.
“Not at all. I’m sure you’re deadly serious. I just…”
“No, I know what you’re doing. You’re stalling. Yeah. You saw me up here and phoned the police and you’re trying to stop me from jumping for just long enough until they arrive.”
Hank smiled. “This isn’t Lethal Weapon, my friend. Have you looked down? I wouldn’t recommend it, but I can assure you that there aren’t hundreds of rubberneckers staring into the sky while the assembled police force rapidly inflate a gigantic air cushion. Besides, I look nothing like Mel Gibson.”
Tony had had enough. He lifted his right foot and held it over the edge. There was a light breeze which made him wobble like a dashboard toy. “Ah-ah,” said Hank. “Don’t be silly.”
“Let me ask you one last question before you make your decision. If you still believe that an early death is your best option then I shall not stand in your way.” He took another bite of his sandwich as Tony put his foot back on the ledge. He was mildly pleased to do so.
“Good choice,” said Hank. “So. My question to you is: what do you think will happen when your head splatters against the tarmac?”
“Bravo, Captain Obvious. Beyond that.”
“I…I don’t know. Heaven, I suppose. I think I’ve been a good person.”
“Catholics believe suicide is a sin, you know.”
“But what if the Catholics are right?”
“Then…I’ll go to Hell.”
“Uh-huh. And your family. What will happen to them?”
“They…you…what the hell are you doing?” Tears started to stream down Tony’s face.
“I’m trying to save your life. What will your family do?”
“They’ll…be better. Better off without me.”
“And I’m sure you’ve convinced yourself of that. But it seems to me that you’re making a lot of leaps of faith before you take your very literal leap of faith.
“I…stop screwing with me!”
“I’m not screwing with you. I’m just telling you the truth. This is what’ll happen to your family. They’ll be devastated. Your wife will be sucked so hard into the black hole of depression that she may never be able to crawl her way out of it. Your children will be taken into care, forced to grow up with people who will never understand their suffering. They’ll forever resent their father for being a selfish son of a bitch who’d rather take his own life than clean up his act and sort his life out. Your son will grow up to be a carbon copy of you. In the space of thirty storeys, you can corrupt him. And you? Well, you’ll just be lying in a hole in the ground with your face rotting off and being eaten from the inside out by bugs smaller than a pinhead, never able to accomplish any of the great things that a man can do with his short time on Earth.
“But if that all sounds better to you, then feel free to jump.”
Tony didn’t say anything, but whimpered softly. He lifted his left foot, but brought it behind his body, not in front. He stepped onto the roof and fell to his backside, crying so hard Hank thought his eyes might fall out. Hank swung his legs back from the ledge and went over to Tony. He crouched down to his level.
“It’ll be alright, I promise. You’re a good man with a great family. Like jam, you’re good alone. But you’re much better when you’re surrounded by the bread of love. Oh my, I’m so sorry for that truly dreadful metaphor. Flowery language has never been my strongest suit. But you get the gist.”
“You don’t need the answer to that question. Here,” Hank put the bag containing the sandwiches on the ground. He’d eaten one of the triangles, but the other was still there. “Goodbye.”
Hank left Tony’s life forever.