It made a clapping noise. I’m on 83rd walking toward Columbus. I understand that what just fell a couple feet in front of me was a body, and clapping is what it sounds like when a body falls and lands on pavement.
It’s early evening on the Upper West Side, a strange time to jump out a window. Why not do it at dawn? It’d be beautiful and there’d be less of an audience.
A few other people on the street are already converging around us and looking up and pulling out phones. The people across the street stay there but point and shout to anyone who will listen.
He’s at my feet. I realize that somehow, I was the first one on the scene, and that’s now who I am. I hear someone ask me what happened and I shake my head. “He must have been depressed,” I say, but of course that’s not what they meant.
I’m still holding my briefcase. I feel the weight of my papers, spare glasses, and the granola bar I forgot to eat, and I feel sweat between my hand and the leather handle. I haven’t moved and still with my eyes down upon him I see his blood traveling from his ears and mouth toward my oxfords. I sense no intention in me to move out of the way.
One of his eyes is open but the other isn’t. I get this odd feeling like even though I didn’t even know him, I’d hoped for his own sake that they’d be either closed or open. But instead he’s winking.
I hear sirens. There are more people around us and I can see their bodies shifting in my periphery. I kneel. I let go of my briefcase and it stands on its own. The blood is here, under my feet. I look closer at this man’s face. He’s young, younger than I am, and his blond hair is blown back and looks damp like he just showered. The color in his cheeks is fading. His mouth is curled up like he just told a joke and is waiting for the laugh.
I reach toward his face. I shut the lid of his open eye with my index and middle fingertips. His eyelid is warm and smooth, the lashes soft.
The sirens are closer. I take my briefcase and stand. I push my way away through the crowd.
Madeleine Dubus earned her MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Equally from Boston and Brooklyn, she currently lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.