Girl on the Rooftop

Bill Johnson


I don’t know how long she had been standing on the edge of the building; she wasn’t there the last time I looked up from my work. That could have been hours ago though. I stopped what I was doing, and well, I looked out as a voyeur. A tourist into someone else’s pain, her face was like a white sheet. I wasn’t sure how to react.

I slowly edged toward the window of my office, a little afraid with each step I made to the edge of the building. It slips your mind how high up you are sometimes, that if it wasn’t for the floor, you would be gone.

I looked down, it was far down. It would have been enough.

The roof she was nervously standing on was just about level with my floor.

I saw the little cop cars down at the bottom of her building, as well as a crowd of people craning there necks to see what might be happening.

I went back to my desk, and I wasn’t sure what to do.

I thought about going back to work, but that seemed insensitive, but I felt like an intruder to this women’s pain and suffering.

An Email popped up on my screen:


Wow, look out the east side windows every body! At the roof of the building across the street!

I glanced at it. Production was going to stop today no matter what now, they were going to be talking about this all day.

The woman herself was very normal looking, at least at this distance. She was pretty and wholesome looking. Her hair was a dirty blonde color, and she was wearing a yellow sun dress. Not the outfit you’d expect when contemplating something like this.

Although I guess, if you had to put enough thought into it, you’d want to be wearing your favorite dress or whatever. Maybe for comfort, but I don’t even want to think about it.

I don’t want to see this.

A knock at my door, and Jim from accounting, asked me if I wanted to be a part of the bet on whether or not she would jump.


I gripped my coffee mug tighter.


I told him no thanks.


He shrugged his shoulders and said he’s seen her before at Dominick’s. “In the produce aisle”, he said.
She took off her high heels; she was holding them close to her chest. I guess it was for balance, she didn’t want to be forced into something she might regret. She wanted to be sure.


I took a sip of coffee.


I felt like I should be doing something.


I took another sip of lukewarm coffee under bright fluorescent lights.


I wondered what they were saying down there to her. Something cliched like, “Don’t do it, you have so much to live for.” I thought of what I would say, “Please don’t do it. Because if you do I’ll have a nightmare, I need you to be fine, so I can know that there is hope. Don’t serve as a grim thought, be a reminder that maybe things will be alright.”


I took another sip of coffee disgusted with myself.


I don’t want her to die though, she shouldn’t have to.


Why does she want to? Is she doing this because someone hurt her, directly or indirectly. Maybe her husband had an affair, maybe her son died in some freak accident.


Maybe she just wakes up feeling the same.


I have a sudden urge to draw a poster, a big one, to cover the whole window. I want to know what to write, I want my words to be the words to make her smile a hopeless smile. I want to make her realize how much she has affected me today, for the rest of my life.


I wonder how many of the other people in the office bet she would jump, and how many bet she wouldn’t.


I want to run down the stairs, across the street, into her building, to the roof. So I can talk to her, I want to let her know that I won’t forget this. I want to tell her not to jump.


She shouldn’t have to die.


No one should.


I want to make a paper airplane, and place a note inside of it, I would expertly fly it to her and she would open it. I don’t know what the note would say, but it would be the right thing to say, and she would smile and wave, and step back. And everything would be okay.


Or I could take a hold of the officer’s or husband’s or therapist’s or specialist’s megaphone and shout,


“Don’t do it, I’ve never met you but you mean the world to me.”


How many times have I woken up afraid of the never ending amount of mornings that are coming.


How many times have I looked back at a past of regrets and missed experiences.


How many times until


I take a sip of morbid coffee.


I feel like I should do something, that I have to do something.


And then suddenly, it’s over.


She steps back, and she collapses on the roof. She slowly gets up and walks to the officers on the roof with her, and they hold her, and they guide her to the door.


A few minutes later she made it back to the ground safely, where people are cheering.


I sit in my office chair, drinking coffee, watching the ambulance slowly take her away. I step to the edge of my building again, safely touching the window. Looking down, looking up.


I didn’t do anything to save her, but I still feel guilty for watching, and for doing nothing.


I still see myself on that roof with her. I hold her, and tell her that everything will be alright.

Euphemism Campus Box 5555 Illinois State University Normal, IL 61790