The Jump

by Andrew Pidoux 

I decided to jump out the window today. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t mean commit suicide. I just mean that I made the decision to jump from the first floor window of my house onto the grass below, just as a personal test. I had often looked at the distance with an eye to jumping it in the past. It seemed to me both doable and dangerous, which is why I was unable to dismiss it. If the distance had been too easy, I would have stopped thinking about it immediately. Likewise, if it had been too difficult, and would most certainly result in broken bones or worse, I would never have given it another thought. But it was just in between, and that was the problem. So today, partly out of boredom and partly out of a sense of nihilism that had been with me ever since I had awoken from some awful nightmare about which I remembered nothing, I decided to do it. I got up on the windowsill and looked down. Bizarrely, there were some pigeons walking about on the neighbor’s flat garage roof, and when they saw me they went into a strange little dance that I swear had a formal pattern. If you’ve ever watched pigeons for more than a second, you will know that they never really stop moving, never stop jostling about, displacing each other from their perches, running at each other with outstretched necks and generally making life difficult for each other, but there is a never any rhyme or rhythm to such shenanigans—it’s just the random play of dumb creatures who have no idea what they are doing. And yet here they were, those roof-bound pigeons this morning, doing a little dance that had more in common with a line dance than random play. In and out of each other they wove, ducking their heads down like normal, but in a patterned way that seemed inherently ridiculous but somehow enchanting. There were eight of them involved in it. When they finished the dance, they did so with a flourish, all coming together in the middle—four on either side of the line—and butting chests in the manner of victorious basketball players. I was all but rubbing my eyes in disbelief. Could they have been putting this all on for my benefit, somehow spurring me on in my attempt to—as they perhaps saw it—fly? Or could it be that they were even mocking me, these pesky, no-good “vermin of the skies” as everyone’s grandfather used to refer to them? What place had they to do so, if mocking me they were? Compared to them, in evolutionary terms, I was as good as godlike. What’s more, I was so far above them on the food chain that I wouldn’t even spit on a baked and basted example of their species were it served to me in a restaurant (though I do hear that posh people sometimes indulge in eating roasted pigeons, no doubt inspired by the perverse spirit that sometimes seizes them). Anyway, I decided to put the pigeons out of my mind, and, like Evel Knievel contemplating a canyon, focus my mind on the jump. It didn’t look too bad at all from up there. From downstairs in the garden, it had always seemed more daunting, partly because of the shrubs you had to clear in order not to land in the flowerbed. But from up there, you realized that arcing over the flowerbed would be part of your natural trajectory and you wouldn’t have to compensate for it at all. You would naturally clear it and land perfectly securely on the springy grass of the lawn. That is, if the height hadn’t posed any threat to your ankles, which were surely the body part most at risk in the maneuver. But again, from up here, even the height seemed inconsequential, collapsed as it was by merciful foreshortening, which, while it may be an inaccurate template of reality, is nonetheless more meaningful than reality itself in situations like mine, for in diminishing reality, it helped me to relax, and in relaxing, it followed, I would be better equipped to deal with the impact of the landing; tense ankles, in other words, can easily become broken ankles. Foreshortening is almost as good as alcohol in this regard, and since I had made the conscious decision not to drink before attempting the jump, it was all I had to cling on to. Before leaping, I had one long look around me at the countryside and urban bits and pieces I could see from up there. It was a look that even I felt was a little melodramatic, a look more suitable to a kamikaze pilot about to embark on his one and only mission than a guy about to voluntarily jump out of his own window for “existential reasons,” but I nonetheless savored it. I could see the little church spire, and the top of the building in which I had been schooled so many years before. I could even see the gables of my aunt and uncle’s house, which were frighteningly near to the school building—something that would have mortified me had I realized it as a kid. I could even see the water shimmering on a corner of the pond in the morning sun. It was quite a view, all in all, and I wondered why I had never seen so many of the features of it when I was just sitting normally at the window looking out. Had the perspective changed that much? I wondered. Sure, I was able to see a few inches higher, and those few inches likely accounted for the corner of the pond, but everything else was too prominent to be accounted for by the increased height. I concluded that I had simply never taken the time to observe the view in much detail from the comfort of my bedroom, preoccupied as I likely was by this or that project or distraction. Either that, or I just didn’t realize the personal significance of the things I was now seeing. Whatever it was, the revelation as it now came to me took my breath away. I felt like a king on the very verge of his kingdom, swept by the wind that the world he owned had generated, his own personal wind. Only the presence of the pigeons to my left, who had now joined up together in a neat line on the edge of the garage roof, like judges getting ready to observe an athlete of some sort, niggled at my mind. I decided it best to pay them no further attention, and just get on with the jump. I looked down at the flowerbed one last time, saw the roses swaying slightly, almost drunkenly, in the wind that had even managed to infiltrate the normally sheltered little world of the garden, and felt, if anything, even braver. What were dumb, swaying roses to me, brave adventurer of the air that I was about to become? What was grass to me, even? I knew that I would have to encounter it at some point in the (near) future, but why would I worry about something that existed beyond the here and now, how proximate, however inevitable? It was like worrying about death, and that was something one should never do. Without further hesitation, then, I drew a final heroic breath out of the endless sky surrounding me, and jumped.

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