Walked Off

By Alex Kenzington

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It was almost funny – the way his was flattened across the satin pillow that propped him up like a doll. Everything was so incredibly deflated, as if someone had hooked him up to an air pump, blown him up real big, and then forgot to tie up the holes so that the air leaked out– whistling out through the nose, leaking out between the tiny lines that encompassed the balls of his eyes, heaving out of his mouth to leave him deflated. His cheeks were like a giant whoopee cushion except with his ears jutting out at the sides, and headphones plugged in as if he was listening to a soundtrack we couldn’t hear.

Maybe that’s why I wasn’t sad.

It was all so odd. I was staring at this deflated balloon man lying on satin who was pretending to listen to an Ipod. A fit of giggles rose up in my chest as my hands gripped the edges of the casket and I swallowed a mouthful of air to keep the laughter from rising. My back shook in response and my mother standing beside me reached over and squeezed my shoulder and a choked sob escaping her as she did so. I turned away so she wouldn’t see the twitch at the corner of my lips. She gripped me even tighter and I felt her head bury into my neck as she wept loudly, while I sat there focusing desperately on the ipod. The screen was broken – the point of impact right in the middle with a cracks cobwebbing outwards to the edges. So he had had this with him when he walked. What an odd thing to carry when you decided to walk off of a 14-story building. I mean, what was the best soundtrack to committing suicide? 

He was a family friend. We’ve known… or had known… or whatever verb tense you use for dead people… each other since we were born a couple months apart and then shoved into the same play group because our mothers had been good friends since who-knows-and-cares-how-long. A year later, his younger brother was born the same time my younger brother was and suddenly we were a group of four, causing mischief, building forts, going camping and daring each other to poke snakes with sticks. We went through puberty together, sliding into our respective cliques – I played more sports and he wore more black but we would still nod to the others.

But I had gone to college and he had walked off a 14-story building.

Just like that. Walked off. Not even taken a car or anything. I mean that’s what I’d have done. Taken someone’s car and just drove off that parking garage – you know, leave with a huge bang and clanging smash that shook the windows of the buildings next to me, screaming of my death to the world. 

But no, not him.

According to an eye witness, he took that little ticket that the machine spits out when you pull into a parking garage, pulled up to the very top floor, parked his car, turned on his Ipod, plugged his headphones into his ears and just walked off. The witness said he didn’t even hesitate, just kept walking… like there was a road that we didn’t see that he was sure would be there. Except he was wrong

And he didn’t even do it facing the main street, he fell flat and deflated in the alleyway. If there hadn’t been an eyewitness, who knows how long it would’ve taken to find him. Weeks probably, his parents were supposed to leave the country on a month long vacation the day after he walked off.

I overheard my mom say, in between heavy sighs and sympathetic tongue clicks, that this was all planned. He had done it the day before his parents were going to leave as a cry for help. That seemed a bit dramatic for me. Why not just ask them to stay? How the hell are they going to help you if you’re dead?

And he didn’t even leave a letter.

I knew because I saw his brother collapse in the bathroom a few days after the walk-off. My parents asked if he wanted to stay over since my brother and him were real close. He collapsed in our house in my brother’s bathroom. I awoke seeing my dad’s alcohol cabinet opened and found him screaming on the floor of my brother’s bathroom with his head in my brother’s lap. He kept repeating it over and over like some broken record stuck on the worst part of the song: he didn’t even leave a letter.

A couple of days after the funeral, on the way back to my university, I drove to that parking garage. I took the ticket the machine spit out at me and drove all the way to the top, parking somewhere in the middle. There was no one around, it a late morning on a Monday and I sat in my car for a few minutes staring at the empty rooftops. Finally, I got out, shutting the door and listened as the sound bounced off of brick buildings around me. In my pocket was my Iphone and headphones and I placed the buds in my ear, listening to a muffled nothing as I picked a direction and walked slowly and deliberately across the parking lot.

My feet stood in front of a railing. He couldn’t have walked off. He would’ve had to climb and fall off. He would’ve had to leap off. He would’ve had jump off. He did not walk. That was important. I didn’t know why but that was important. I pulled my feet over the railing and sat on it, staring down at the pavement that could deflate me like a whoopee cushion if I only walked — no, leapt – off. Without looking at the screen, I pressed play on my iPhone.

Alex Kenzington