It’s Friday!! It’s the best day of the week, so here’s a kinda depressing story to make sure you stay sobered until five o clock, courtesy of Ray Morrison and his debut collection, In a World of Small Truths.
A sharp wind cuts across the rooftop, pressing my father’s cape flat against his back. He is standing on top of the short, narrow wall that rings our apartment building’s roof. He teeters in the gust and I take a quick step toward him, but he holds out his hand to stop me. For twenty minutes, I have been trying to get him to climb down from the ledge, to give up his suicide plan. Another blast of wind raises goosebumps on my bare arms.
When my father turns from me to look down, I use the moment to steal another step closer to him. I have managed to close the gap to no more than fifteen feet. My best hope is to keep my father talking.
“Any people down there?” I ask.
My father lifts his head but doesn’t turn toward me. He stares straight ahead, at a thick, pear-shaped cloud moving steadily across the sky. “No, thank God,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone else.”
It takes me a minute to realize he’s not referring to himself, but to my mother. He does turn then, and I can see how ridiculous he looks in that Superman getup of his. A flash of anger races through me at how embarrassing this will be for me if he goes through with the jump. But this is quickly replaced by the shame of having such a thought. Mostly, though, my eyes fix on that giant S stretched tight across his chest, the color of fresh blood, and it mutely screams the recent, drug-hazed words from my father’s hospital bed that he says he never really meant and which I mostly believe. “See? See what you’ve done? If only you had come with us like we’d asked.”
I sneak another step. “Shit, Dad, it was just an accident. Tragic, yes, but together we can get past it. Now please come down. You’ve got to stop trying to assign blame.”
“Why not? There is always blame,” my father says. “I was the one driving. I was the one looking down. I was the one who didn’t steer away from the truck in time. Goddammit, I was the one who should’ve died! We’ve been through this a million times, Garrett. How many doctors have said I shouldn’t be alive? That I must be superhuman to have survived?” He swivels to face me, extending his arms so I can see fully the Superman costume. Superman, gray-haired with a beer belly. “Well, here I am. And if I am a Superman, then I can’t get hurt, right?”
He moves so fast I cannot react. In one motion he turns and steps off the roof. I run to the edge and lean over. I catch sight just as my father hits the sidewalk. He lands on his back. Our apartment building is ten stories high and he seems so small, yet I make out the widening halo of blood around his head, which is bent away so that I can’t see his face. The only thing I do see clearly is that large red S on his chest. I am unable to move, to remove my eyes from it and I don’t know how long I stay there, leaning over the roof, staring at that S, screaming, before unknown hands pull me away.