The traffic would rush by like this, the sky thick with the typical New York morning air. The hustling, bustling, and living sounds of a very awake city. The familiar sounds of engine work; starting and stopping as the cabs and cars lined up, getting more packed every minute like the pavement paths adjacent as people walk to work, school, or even rush through to the parks for morning jogs; a chore for the privileged. The joggers stood out most in their colored attire of blues and light reds, greys, blacks, and whites; with the seemingly mandatory striping, and vaguely determined smug expressions.
The sounds themselves remind you of routine, doors closing and opening from cars, shops, and small apartment buildings that line up along 43rd street; growing and busying as I approach 7th avenue; The Times Square.
The slight scent of pollution mixed with coffee, and familiarity that filled the air in a city of New. The streets varied in extremes and specialities at every turn, but it was Times Square that was different. It had its own sounds, sights, and no scent, although it too kept the routine. From here, a steady stream of cabs would drop off and pick up passengers; workers in their suits and cases, the typical tourist foolishly taking cabs with their caps and cameras – not knowing their ill-fate as they approach what would seem as hours in their cab as they battle and push through the city's Monday morning gridlock. I smile slightly at the thought, the odd humour I find in the trivial bad luck. I walk ahead anyway.
Today would be the same; I would go into work, yell at George for his incompetence – because really, it is hardly deemed difficult to vacuum carpet and put posters up. I'll put on the smile, and sell the tickets. The theatre does not open till later of course, but there will always be people buying tickets. Tonight was the start of the second week of shows for a revival of some angst old musical, played up by privileged and irate young actors whom really do not have much to worry about. They were lucky, doing what they seem to want to do, dream of now and then a couple of "classic broadway" fanatics would smilingly mill around, take some photos of themselves, the posters, and both simultaneously, and leave. A few would actually buy tickets, but it is the second week now, so the craziness of those fanatics should be a little less severe. I need the peace; its been three years worth of sighing, smiling, and staying up till the unhealthy hours working here. There would be nights where I would sit in the ticket booth with my Advancements in Business of the 20th century text book to study for finals, keeping my mind on what I would rather be doing, rather be working for. It has since become a comfortable job, one I snapped up in desperation of being so new in the city, but now, it is definitely not what I want. Soon I will be graduating from NYU for a business degree, get a proper job at some nice firm as an apprentice, something I actually do want and finally get rid of this poor excuse for a job.
There was crowd gathering a few yards away from the crossing strip, and they were all looking up, even the cabs seem to be at a non-traffic related standstill; maybe today was not going to be so ordinary after all. I check my watch noting the time – thirty minutes before I would be due into work. It was an old watch, still ticking after five years and two battery changes. It was given to me by my father during junior year, I made captain of the cheer leading team and was tabbed to have a chance at Valedictorian. It was so much easier back then, I was doing what I wanted, working towards something that I wanted, and nothing was in the way; I was the big fish in the little pond. Right now, however, I was swimming in an ocean, and when a school of the city's inhabitants would gather, something must be happening. So, with that I decide to go enquire, filled with an idle curiosity because by now the most interesting thing in this city is a mugging. Its not every day the city centre stops to look up, nothing but something extraordinary could halt the slow flow of traffic and slightly faster flow of people enough to cause such a crowd. So, clutching my half-filled paper cup of coffee and taking a tentative sip, I too look up.
At first there was nothing to see really, but past the slight glare passing through my sight, I see it; a thin man, standing atop the Chase building. The mirrored windows the high rise created a strong glare and the man was unrecognisable, and I had to look away. No one questioned why the man was up there, or who he was. Rather, as the crowd around me grew, no one said a word. There was a strangely grim atmosphere in the little crowd, no one had a readable expression, and a particularly tall man that stood to my left was twitching slightly; expecting. But expecting what? There was a young boy, clutching his mother's hand, a look of careful curiosity filling his eyes, while his mother; the thin blonde woman looked a bit more than careful, but there was a hint of something else in the curiosity; fear perhaps? Watching these people, I could see that some of them were not too unreadable. The man stood there, atop the tower, impossibly still, and looking down. The glare made it difficult, but I could imagine it; a young man, in a business shirt, his tie loose and fluttering in the breeze, eyes closed, and unmoving. His pants clutching to his limbs in the cold air, the quiet left in his ears as the winds rush, with nothing but his own – if existing – thoughts for him to hear. Like mine.
What could be going through his mind exactly? What could cause anyone to break the routine, to get up and leave to scale the building and stand there, to do what? Take their life and sleep for good in the city that never sleeps. No one wanted to think about that; it just did not seem right – many people usually work hard to get to this city, to visit even, just to see what it is really like; and here, this man, standing still, threading on the thin line between stunt and insanity, and suicide and death. I felt my features contort to an expression short of anything but incredulous, he would not, he just cannot. No one should be able to. That was a lie of course, this man could easily take a blind step forward, or lose his footing, and that was it. It was actually a surprising sight, there were no authorities around; no whirring of sirens and firemen setting up an inflatable to catch the man, incase of the perhaps inevitable mistake. Was it really a mistake, did I really believe this to be incredibly unexpected. Supposing that after all my life in this city, I have never been a witness to a scene, specially not at the square, it was just too baffling. Surprising, I suppose, but not impossible – maybe not even quite a mistake. Maybe the man had problems, maybe he's grieving, maybe his work was too hard, maybe his mother is sick, maybe if my thoughts were not so specific I could have stopped him, because now that I look up again there were gasps, a woman's high pitched scream could be heard. The man was falling. Falling. Gone.
As the crowd parted, and spread a good couple of yards around the man, long gone now, his face and those unmoving limbs. Those eyes; those grey, glassed over eyes. I thought again, and again it would not help, the young man could be no more than 25, and that was it. He would never again grow from twenty-five. His family; what would they think? Or his wife? or a girlfriend perhaps? A boyfriend even? Need it matter? Now, he was alone.
I took another sip of my coffee, less tentative, but just too look away. I could feel a thin film of sweat forming on my forehead, so I swipe at it, feigning to flip my hair over my eyes. Before I could feel anything more than shock and fear – real fear that I could barely recognise – I'm already walking away, past a few of those in still in the crowd as sirens finally wail from afar, tearing through the traffic to rescue a corpse. I walk faster, the clicking of my heels under the loose black slacks of my plain uniform heard by no one but me, a minute observation trying to drown out thoughts and pictures that were to bight and too new; because those grey eyes, they looked familiar. I stopped and turned to lean slightly onto a glass display of a shop front. I rest my arm on the cold glass, just barely feeling the cool through the thin white fabric of my sleeve. I tore away from the thought and glanced again at my watch – twenty minutes before work – and looking up, I caught a reflection; grey eyes, under a fringe of light hair, and a stray tear.