I didn’t see her up there. It would be a better story if I climbed up there because I saw her but I didn’t. I just wanted to a place to smoke in peace, away from the crowds, and I’ve dined and dashed at pretty much every café around so there aren’t a lot of choices left. I never really climbed before, why would I? But I figured since I’m super strong now climbing up a building would be easy. And it was. Mostly.
When I first saw her, Madripoor being Madripoor, I figured she was a sniper about to blow some guy’s face out the back of his skull. Suddenly climbing up the side of a building seemed like a really bad idea. You find yourself in somebody’s crosshairs and you’re on the side of a building what are you going to do? Hope there’s a window nearby you can duck though I suppose.
But it was just a girl. My second thought was she was an NBH, Madripoor has way more than their fair share of those – must be a Little Italy kind of thing. One NBH comes to Madripoor and then that makes a couple more come and so on and so on until there’s a whole community of them. Plus no extradition, which is nice when you’re a would-be world conqueror or world ender or a guy that shrinks down to climb into women’s underwear drawers or whatever.
But I don’t think she was. I didn’t see her do anything “super” anyway. She was just sitting on the ledge with her knees up and her head down. I climbed up to the same ledge but I kept my distance. It was a very pretty view of a very ugly city. I took out a pack of these weird really long cigarettes from Manila that are so cheap even I can afford them. They’re not bad actually. I’ve smoked worse for sure. I mean they’re not good, but what am I going to do? Not smoke? Hilarious.
After a few minutes she looked over at me. She wasn’t crying then but I could tell that she had been.
She looked at me for a long time before answering, I’m not sure she thought I was real. “Un peu.”
“Thinking about getting off this ride huh? I get that. It’s tough out there. I mean you probably came up here specifically so no one would talk to you right? And yet here I am. Life is a real honking bitch sometimes. I mean what are the odds you pick the very building a super person is going to be climbing up. It’s the kind of coincidence that really makes you wonder isn’t it? You don’t mind if I smoke do you?”
She shook her head.
“Thanks.” I looked at the cigarette in my hand “I guess I’m killing myself too, just much more slowly. I’m not from here, just in case you thought I was a very pale woman from East Timor, and one of the first days I was here I saw a woman drown herself. It was pretty shocking. I’m not sure I could have done anything about it, but I didn’t try to do anything about it. I was in low place at the time – I figured she knew what she was doing. I mean Madripoor, no offense intended, it’s pretty awful. I imagine you’re up here because you know that all too well.
But I regret not trying to help her now. And that’s probably going to stick with me. Maybe I couldn’t have done anything, but I should have tried. That’s all we can do is try. Sometimes it seems like I can’t even save myself, that I can’t do anything, but if we don’t push back whenever we can that’s when things get really bad. It may not seem like we can do much because maybe we can’t, put every little bit counts. It’s like voting, I voted for the president of my home country, but so did twenty million other people. And he didn’t win by one vote, so my vote didn’t matter right? But if everyone thought that way then he would have lost. It’s tricky, because it does matter even when it doesn’t.
Do you guys vote here? Maybe that story is culturally biased. I’m rambling here but I guess the point is that I’m not going to tell you not to jump because I don’t know what your life is like. It could be a nightmare all day every day. But I am going to say this, you’re very young, which means if you want you could have a lot of years ahead of you. I can’t promise that those will be better years, I can’t even promise you they won’t get worse, but they could get better. There’s a chance.
I had this friend named Elvis, not the singer a different guy, and his grandma as far as I can tell is like a million years old. She’s had more hard years than I’ve been alive. But she’s had good times too. She has stories that put my floor on the jaw. She’s old as dirt and she gets up every day and takes on the world all over again because there are good things out there. She knows she’s going to take some hits but she’s going to stand in there and take it on the chin anyway because it’s worth it.
I don’t know if I’m making much sense here, but I guess what I’m trying to say is this. If you know, and I mean really know inside where it counts, not in your head but in your soul, that you’re never going to have another good day – never ever – then you should do what you have to do. But if there’s a chance, any chance at all, that you could have a happy day isn’t it worth it to find out? See if you can string a couple of those days together. One thing leads to another and you have a life going that’s worth fighting for.
You take one step and that’s it. Everything you have and everything you’re ever going to have is gone. It’s the kind of thing you need to be really God damn sure about because there’s for sure no backsies. I imagine that you’re out here because you feel like you don’t have any love in your life. But I’m here talking to you now, which may not be much, but it’s something. The rose that grew from concrete you know?”
I don’t know how long we sat up there, several hours at least. I offered her a cigarette but she declined. I wasn’t sure she even understood most of what I had said. It was kind of nice watching the city from above. When you don’t think about what goes on down there it almost looks beautiful from this far up. It was helpful for me just to take some time and sit with my thoughts, and a lot of the time not to think at all – just be. It was like meditation, with smoking. I say this about Madripoor – they have some glorious sunsets out here. Because of all the pollution you see.
She finally spoke as it was growing dark “You said you had a friend named Elvis. What happened to him?”
I lit up another cigarette “He was murdered because he helped me. He was a good person, he was always trying to help everyone.”
“That’s very sad.”
A sudden wave of sorrow snuck up on me and a few tears sneaked out before I could clamp it down “Yes, it is very sad. I try not to think about it too much.”
“Do you want to kill my pimp?”
I shook my head “No. I’m not a killer. I may have killed two people by accident but I don’t do that generally.” I look a long drag off my smoke “But I do have friends that are killers. I think the same speech applies though, you need to be sure before you do something like that.”
“I missed a lot of you what you said, it’s windy up here and my French isn’t strong.”
“Too bad, I think it was a pretty good one. For my first try anyway.”