The Writer And The Suicidal

A short story.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

With around 30 floors, that tower was the tallest building in its neighborhood. At the edge of that building, a man was ready to jump into his own death. It was night already, so nobody could see him up there.

The caretaker of the building opened the door for his regular nightly smoke. He immediately saw the man in front of him ready to jump. The men looked at each other surprised since none was not expecting anybody else there.

— Don’t get any closer! — yells the suicidal man.

— I won’t! I won’t! — responded the scared caretaker.

What happened next was a very stressful dialog. The caretaker tried his best to convince the suicidal man to give up his deadly plan. He did not feel safe leaving the scene for help, since the suicidal man seemed very decided to jump.

At one point, the caretaker tried to pick up his phone and seek help. The suicidal man threatened to jump and then told him to throw the phone away, to which he complied.

The only resource for the caretaker to keep the suicidal man from jumping was his words. He was trying hard to find the arguments to buy more time.

The caretaker told the suicidal man that his life was real shit. He also thought about killing himself in the past. It was after he got fired, divorced, and failed to pursue his dream of becoming a successful writer. All that in the same year, but he didn’t have the gut to end his own life. So he drank and sunk in life. He lived on the streets for a while.

One day he was sleeping under this very building’s marquee. The manager of the building woke him up and offered him a job as a caretaker of the building. He only accepted because he was starving, but months have passed since then.

The suicidal man seemed curious to listen to everything that the caretaker had to say. But he wasn’t quite open to sharing his own life and would respond vaguely to all caretaker’s questions.

Then the caretaker ran out of arguments. Exhausted, he could not think of anything else to tell the other man.

After a minute of silence, the suicidal man turned again to the edge of the building. He prepared to jump, for the despair of the caretaker, who could not come up with any other idea.

At the very last second the caretaker finally yelled:

— Let me write your story!

The other man stopped. Another few seconds of weird silence seemed like an eternity for the caretaker. Intrigued, the suicidal man finally answered:

— Why would you write my story? Nobody would like to read it. I had a useless life with nothing interesting that would be worth writing about.

— Let me try it. Tell me your story. I’ll take the notes. And then you can go. — said the caretaker.

Skeptical, the suicidal man thought for a moment. He accepted, with the condition that they would keep their distance. He would stay sitting at the edge of the building. The caretaker would stay a few steps away while taking notes in a paper notepad. Since he left the streets, he started to keep a paper notepad at hand to register any idea for his writings.

What followed next was a long conversation between the two men. The writer asked questions and took notes, while the suicidal man now answered them all. A couple of hours has passed. And then there was nothing else the suicidal man could tell about his useless life. There was another moment of silence.

— Are you done with your writing? Can I go now? — asked the suicidal man while standing up again and getting ready for his final leap.

— Wait! One more thing. — said the writer. — How should I finish the story?

— Isn’t it obvious? — asked the suicidal man.

— No. This can be a sad and frustrating story that indeed nobody would like to read. — and then the writer continued: — Or this could be the first chapter of a remarkable story. A story of a courageous man who didn’t fear death and used it to go on a quest for the most exciting adventures in the world!

A few years later, the writer came back to that same building. He entered the convention hall and walked through the crowd to the stage. At his side, there was a desk full of books. He said to the audience:

— Let me tell you a remarkable story about starting over in life.

The end.

Note from the author: Thanks for reading this short story. I don’t usually write short stories, but this plot came to me out of the blue and I felt I had to write it down. What are your thoughts about it? Did it arouse any feelings in you? What are the open questions? Please feel invited to comment.

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