I’ve only been to New York City once.
I drove in with my cousin. He lived in Brooklyn, working as a stunt double and he had the same name as me. It was a lovely day. We got Creole food and took it up to the roof of his apartment complex. Down the street, there was a party going on and people were shouting things like “Hey!” and “How’ve you been?”
It had been a long time since I had seen my cousin.
“How’ve you been?”
He held his Creole food in one hand as he hoisted himself up onto the ledge with the other. I walked up beside him, looked over. His feet dangled over a dizzying abyss filled with all of the faces of all of the people who might be sad if I leaned forward, just a bit more.
“What?” I said.
“I said, I’ve been good.”
“Working as a stuntman just got into the guild.”
I backed away from the ledge.
There was a wall about ten feet back, beside the door, I leaned against it and opened my food. I’d never had Creole food before. It was street food, so it was what it was. My cousin turned back toward the expanse, he swayed back and forth and hummed, a tune I recognized, one our mothers must both have known.
“How can you sit on the edge like that?” I asked him.
He turned, “what?”
I put my food down on the ground beside me; a fear of heights lives in the stomach and it is a bully.
“Like that,” I waved my hand at him dramatically. I lit a cigarette instead of eating, he didn’t smoke. He didn’t say anything, didn’t even look. Instead, he looked down over the abyss. He shrugged.
“Well, don’t you have that voice?” I asked.
He rolled himself back to face me, creole food still in one hand. I wondered how I would tell people if he fell, we didn’t like each other as kids, maybe they’d think it was me.
“The voice, you know that little voice that tells you to jump.”
He frowned. “What?”
“The voice, kind of like — like a voice-feeling, you know?”
He didn’t know, and he told me so.
“When you look down over the edge and that voice says ‘jump, just jump.’ And you get that feeling, in your lower back and then right between your eyes, but up a little and it says ‘jump.’”
He ate his food, slowly, not looking at me. Then, “are you suicidal?”
“Then why do you want to jump?”
“I don’t want to jump,” I said.
He placed his food down on the ledge beside him. He leaned back and looked down. I backed toward the wall some more, he sat back up. He smiled.
“Sure,” he said.
The party was still going on down below, it was still a lovely day. One of the women from the party cried down the road, “you crazy mother fucker!”
My cousin turned and gave her a thumbs-up, but she wasn’t talking to him.