20 August 2005

The View

The climb had been daunting, a modern building has such smooth sides. As he cleared each storey office workers had given rapturous silent applause behind toughened glass. Crouched now on a narrow ledge high above the traffic he thought, perhaps my angle of approach is wrong?
‘What do you mean, should you have taken the elevator?’ sneered the sarcastic inner voice which had dogged him all these years.
As usual his reply was earnest, no not the elevator, I was thinking more about why I’m here than how I got here.‘Well fuck you, you’ll just analyse until it’s all too late pal!’
His inner voice always had the last word. Most people seemed to have the last word with him these days. Conversations buzzed around him every day, in the office, at the grocery store and in the street. Individuals with fully formed opinions on trivia, idiots with detailed knowledge of jack shit, chatty, happy and ignorant. That clatter had a way of worming its way into his skull and settling in. It irritated him beyond belief that banality should overwhelm intellectual intensity. Today he had needed to find a place where he could be serious without interruption.

Carefully he rose to his feet, a couple minutes more effort would take him to the flat roof. He pressed his bleeding fingers into joints between the concrete and pulled the weight of his body up. His toes found the same cracks. He hooked an arm over the parapet wall, hung briefly before hoisting himself on his palms then collapsed onto the roof. Crushing winds howled from a terrifyingly high sky and threatened to topple him. He was so nearly part of that clear blue void.

The gale blew him to the services cabin from which an iron ladder, which was bolted to the side, rose vertically to a gantry stacked with satellite dishes. The ladder was cheating really. Above the communications hardware a caged spiral stairway led to a radio mast. Gasping for breath now he clung to the swaying antenna, wrapped his legs around the pole, reached up and pulled. With each pull he drew his legs up and re-established his grip.
So I analyse too much do I? he thought. Well I’m done with thinking now. He looked up and closed his fingers over the tip of the antenna, his muscles burning. The flat roof seemed small one hundred and fifty feet below.

He felt the mast sway heavily and closed his eyes against the biting wind. Each swing carried him way over the edge of the building to present a brief view of his sickening height. He readjusted his precarious grip and clenched tighter with his knees as the mast bent wildly under storm force gusts. This is the place they mean when they say remote. Why had he come to find himself in this lofty and lonely position? He allowed himself to look down at the street and saw miniature cars hurrying to and fro, people with purpose and energy. What happened to my purpose and my energy?
Suddenly a small voice rose from directly beneath him.

“Can I come up and just talk to you? Please?” She asked.


Trudging said...

Great post and awesome picture.

Perfect Virgo said...

Trudging - thanks! I have to confess to feeling lost and distant in recent times. Walking past that building one day I saw a guy high up on a cradle cleaning top floor windows. His position looked very precarious, rather like I felt, so that gave me the inspiration. And I took my camera to work the next day.

gulnaz said...

i was very moved reading this! honest and intelligent.


Rather weird for me. I just finished reading an article in the paper about a woman who jumped to her death down the street from where I live. Didn't know her or anything like that...just weirded me out. Nice writing.

Perfect Virgo said...

Gulnaz - not too depressing I hope! Sometimes you have to find a very remote place indeed in order to really get away from things.

JJ - I don't think our friend in the story ever planned to jump, he just wanted to get as far away from his troubles as possible. That meant going to a place where he thought no one would follow him - but his friend did. Glad you liked it and I hope I didn't weird you out too much! I love that expression!!

Patry Francis said...

Very intriguing and vivid. But who is "she"? And what did she want to say to him?

Is there a sequel forthcoming?

finnegan said...

Leaving the identity of "she" opens the cork on a bottle of questions, making the reader go back in case there is a missing clue. Of course the only clues are nested in the mind of our "hero".

The climber is a terrifically ironic metaphor here, since we normally use images of cloistered seclusion as a means of "getting away from it all". Here, he hoists himself to both physical and emotional extremes---finding that "remote" is synonymous with "real".

The radio tower is the perfect symbol for his signalling.

Pat said...

Very nice- reads like Ann Rice or early Stephen King (except with your own flavor). Thanks for the open mind for Grace and the kindness. I'm a Virgo too but hardly perfect...9/21 is the cusp I think?

Perfect Virgo said...

Patry - I often find myself delivering just the point of a story without clues to its beginning and no ending. This is partly because I want to keep the narrative short to maintain interest. I think it also has to do with self analysis. I selesct a particular trait and explore it in isolation because the bigger picture is too much to consider.

No, I don't think it is his wife because she has stopped following him on his wild excursions - he always comes home. Could it be his best friend who he can't live with and can't live without? She may want to tell him she understands him. (Sounds like I know him...)

I am experimenting with styles and genres and find the shorter the story, the stiffer the test. Sequels are a way of revisiting a subject for more practice and if you would like to revisit then I'm honoured.

Finn - our hero might be asking to be noticed in the only way he knows how, extravagantly and intensely. This is more than just burying his head ostritch-fashion I think.

Yes, I deliberately chose a perillous yet highly visible location for his display to root it in reality. He needed to be seen or it was a pointless exercise, "look at me, look at what you have all driven me to!" Funny how we seem to choose symbolic references sometimes without even realising it, the radio antenna was nearly a lightening rod in the first draft!

Pat - welcome! A friend of Grace is a friend of mine. I have read King's entire output so your comparison is very meaningful to me, not to say flattering.

I quit nearly 12 years ago without AA or any kind of external help. We each manage this our own way and Grace's way is spot on for her. I have huge respect for that!

Have a read of my virgo listand see what you make of it - recognise any of the traits? I am Sep 19.

sirreene said...

I was going to use that exact title for my next post ;)

Perfect Virgo said...

Sirreene - well how spooky! You can still use it you know, I won't be upset... (Even though my virgo tendency would be to sulk and pout!)

sirreene said...

I wouldn't have you sulk and pout. Not after that thought provoking post.

Perfect Virgo said...

Sirreene - yep, hard to see a way back from there isn't it? Could it be autobiographical - you guess...

sirreene said...

I posted. Not called "The View"

doughgirl said...


You know I love it when you write things like this. It makes me think not only where I am in my life, but I know these writings come from within and reflect wehre you are at as well.

I love that climbing up tyhe side of the building, white knuckling, holding on for dear life to the point we get raw inside and out which takes us to isolation.

But that voice in our head follows wherever we go, we can't turn it off. It haunts us morning, noon and night. Every resting second is one filled with that inner voice taking us space in our heads and so we stay busy, we work, we ride, we run, or we climb to the highest point of seclusion that we can find, just to be alone thinking that it will help us.

And yet it follows and it's louder than before and its only when we surrender that we can turn it off, but it lies in wait until we least expect it as you so well put.

She I think is just whwat you call that voice. No not the wife for sure, and maybe hoping that it's thebest friend...inner turmoil. Argh, I hate it too Perfect.

Thanks for your help the other day and for allowing me to share my feeling. Starting to climp down from my seclusion as well. Surrounding myself with only the closest of friends.

Great piece...thanks so much

Patry Francis said...

Actually, I love the mystery of the unnamed she. It DOES pique interest, and allows the reader to bring his or her own perspective to it.

The Flea said...

Funnily enough, the view in this story is almost irrelevant. Maybe it could have been called: "The Precipice" or "The Peak"

Or maybe I should shut up? LOL

Nice piece of work PV. The sentence: "It irritated him beyond belief that banality should overwhelm intellectual intensity." is superb. Almost sums up my life right now.

Perfect Virgo said...

Sirreene - I just read it too, very funny indeed and thanks for the e-mail address.

Doughgirl - you read me like a book don't you! Hanging on for dear life is exactly what I imagined as I wrote. White knuckling is such a good description.

That inner voice is one many of us are familiar with. Sometimes I want to tear it out of my head. I find myself having unrealistic conversations with people entirely in my mind and I know it's the inner voice masquerading as someone I know.

You guessed the identity right away DG, I thought you would. Maybe I'm trying to escape maybe I'm calling out for help but either way I am glad when she wants to talk to me.

I am also glad to talk to you, and if it helped in a small way to help you start the climb down, then great. I hope you spotted the Yahoo privacy settings DG, let in your friends only!

Patry - yes piqued indeed by the perennial unnamed "she." I agree that she will mean different things to different people.

Flea - I agonised over that sentence more than any other. I was afraid it sounded pompous but then I realised I wanted it to sound slightly aloof, so I left it untouched.

The Flea said...

Well, I'm glad you left it untouched. It's a gem. I'm almost jealous you could sum up so much in so few words.

If I tried to write something like that, I'd take half a page.