It’s amazing the clarity of thought I have. It’s like the world has suddenly slowed down its insane pace. Each second seems like an hour. Time has stopped to watch me fall. The world around me is a kaleidoscope of madly spinning colors. Blue sky blending nauseatingly with gray pavement, and then back again. I’d be panicking, except reality hasn’t sunk in yet, probably a result of the whisky.
I am going to die. It’s funny how I’m not afraid. Somehow I feel like I’m not really here, like I’m watching someone else through a window. Someone else about to die.
They’ll probably write me off as another suicide case. Another rich guy with problems who dove off a skyscraper. They’ll search the penthouse and find the half-empty whisky bottle on the roof. A story will probably be printed in the Times, construing the reasons I jumped.
But that’s where they’ll be wrong. I didn’t jump. I wish I could clear that up somehow. Show them that I was sitting on the railing. Show them how I leaned just a little too far back. Show them that I’m not suicidal. It’s too late for that, though.
What bothers me is that this is how I will be remembered. My children will grow up thinking their dad killed himself. Jamie’s only five. Little Mariangela is barely two years old. How do you explain something like that to a two-year-old?
I should have spent more time with them. My wife Kyla too. She might not have left yesterday if I had been around more. What was it for anyway? The promotion? I put in so many hours of overtime, I probably set a record. Trying to impress the boss. What was that—three years ago? Now here I am, a partner in the largest law firm in the city. Filthy rich. Time‘s “Man of the Year.” I spent so long trying to make it to the top, and when I finally made it, I realized that I left behind everything that really mattered. Hence the whisky.
Humans are so unintelligent. We’re too proud to learn from others’ mistakes—we have to make our own. How many times had I heard somebody’s sob story about how he lost his family because he worked too hard? But no, I was so sure it would never happen to me. It’s amazing Kyla put up with me as long as she did. What was I, nuts? I had a beautiful wife and two beautiful children who I never spent time with. I was at work before they even woke up. The only time they saw me was if they were up when I came home late at night. I wasn’t even there on the weekends. Putting in 16-hour workdays.
How could I have been so stupid? I actually believed that being rich would make us happy. Pathetic. And then I actually ran out of things to buy.
I wonder what I put in my will? I can’t even remember. Probably gave it all to Kyla. What is she going to do with all those millions? Give it away, probably. She never did care about money. She told me almost every week that money couldn’t buy happiness. I didn’t believe her.
I’m getting close to the ground; I can see the cracks in the sidewalk now. I close my eyes and wait. It should be any second now.
A minute goes by, then another. I don’t want to open my eyes, so I wait.
Another minute, and yet another. Finally I open my eyes.
I’m in my bed. In my own house. Not lying splattered on the sidewalk. Kyla is lying beside me. An annoyingly persistent noise grabs my attention—it’s the clock beside my bed, alerting me to the fact that it’s now 5:30. Time to get up and go to the office.
What just happened? Was it a dream? It couldn’t have been a dream. I remember it all too clearly. The divorce papers Kyla had served me with, the whisky I had been drinking on the roof, the fall.
I turn off the alarm.
If it wasn’t a dream, I can only conclude that I have been given a second chance. It felt like something out of a movie. Whatever it is, I’m grateful for it.
I unplug the phone by the bed and turn the alarm clock off. Kyla will be astonished that I’m still here when she gets up later this morning. I haven’t taken a vacation in three years. Tomorrow we’ll go to the beach for a week. If my boss doesn’t like it, he can fire me. I don’t care. I might quit anyway.
I’ll tell him that I realized there’s more to life than money.