“Being a Hero”
One thing I have to admit – I’m a coward. So what the heck was I doing with my fingernails digging into the tiny crevices of the slate roof? What the devil was I doing crawling along the peak of a roof five stories above a parking lot that was rapidly filling with police, fire fighters, and gawkers?
No, I wasn’t drunk or high. And I certainly wasn’t suicidal. I wasn’t, but the young woman teetering on the far edge of the roof was. She had somehow made it out of the psych ward, slipped through a window onto the roof of the chapel – that huge vaulted wing of the hospital — and had walked the crown of that building to the far edge, where she now stood screaming at the world that she was going to jump.
Even as I edged towards her, part of me was hoping she’d go off. Then I could wait patiently until I could be rescued by those experts who now impotently stared up at her. There was no way I wanted to keep moving forward – no way this story could end well. Still I moved ahead, inches by inches, slate capping stone by slate capping stone.
What propelled me. Not a personal concern. I didn’t know her name. I didn’t want to know her name. I didn’t work in the psych ward, not really. I was just a summer intern in the community mental health unit. My job description – do little, stay out of the way, and on occasion make a fool of myself. I also carried papers around. That was why I had been at the same floor as the psych ward, why I had been passing that window as she tightrope walked her way along that roofline.
For her it must have seemed so simple. Bare feet on either side of the peek, walking as easily as if she were in a meadow; perhaps in her head she was. Her robe was flying about in the breeze. She paused for a moment, took it off, and dropped it on the slates. It slid down the roof, gathering speed as it went.
I watched her move gracefully towards the end of that roof, and I slipped out the window after her, dropped to my knees, and then to my belly. I’m not particularly good with heights. I get vertigo when I look down any distance. I’m fine when I look out, but looking straight down – perhaps it’s my astigmatism. I clung to the roof and inched forward.
In my head there was a constant refrain: Talk her off the roof. Get her back to safety.
She reached the end of her journey and looked over the edge. It had seemed only seconds, but the watchers and rescuers had already starting assembling. She began a colloquy with them. She wanted to die. She had nothing to live for. Nobody cared.
That, finally, was my opening. “I care,” I yelled. “If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be out on this damn roof trying to get to you.”
Another inch forward.
She looked back, saw me, and asked who I was.
“Your friend,” I answered hoping that she would accept my word at face value. A summer psychology intern would hardly instill trust and acceptance; a friend might.
“You could get hurt,” she called to me.
“So could you.” There was a pause. “Let’s get the hell off this roof.”
“I want to die.”
“Because nobody cares.”
“I care,” I tried again, “or I wouldn’t be out here.”
“Oh.” She came towards me.
“I lost my robe,” she said as she came closer.
“We’ll get you a new one.”
I inched backward. Suddenly there were strong hands grabbing my ankles and pulling me back through the window. The young woman was right behind me. They helped her through the window, gently oh so gently. Then, once she was through, they wrestled her to the ground, stuck a needle into her, strapped her into a straightjacket, and hauled he back to the ward.
“What the hell were you thinking of?” my supervisor asked.
“It just seemed that I had to do—“
“Don’t ever do it again. Do you realize how lucky you are?”
“Believe me I do. I was terrified I’d fall the whole time.”
“Who’s talking about falling? If she had jumped while you were out there talking to her, we could have been sued. In which case, young man, you would have been better off if you had fallen.”
The next day in the cafeteria one of the aides came over to me. “That was great what you did yesterday.”
Maybe, maybe not.
Kenneth Weene Bio
Life itches and torments Kenneth Weene like pesky flies. Annoyed, he picks up a pile of paper to slap at the buzzing and often whacks himself on the head. Each whack is another story. At least having half-blinded himself, he has learned to not wave the pencil
A New Englander by upbringing and inclination, Kenneth Weene is a teacher, psychologist and pastoral counselor by education. He is a writer by passion.
Ken’s short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications including Sol Spirits, Palo Verde Pages, Vox Poetica Clutching at Straws, The Word Place, Legendary, Sex and Murder Magazine, The New Flesh Magazine, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Daily Flashes of Erotica Quarterly, Bewildering Stories, A Word With You Press, Mirror Dance, The Aurorean, and Empirical.
Ken’s novels, Widow’s Walk and Memoirs From the Asylum, and Ken’s newest novel, Tales From the Dew Drop Inne, which should be out January, 2012, are published by All Things That Matter Press.
To learn more about Ken’s writing visit: http://www.authorkenweene.com
Thanks Kenneth for being a hero and for saving this woman’s life. I know readers will praise you for what you did. I am curious if this woman ever spoke to you about your heroic deed later on. Please check out Kenneth’s new book and book trailer on his website.
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