by Roger Young
We conceived our son in a stranger’s bedroom that was being used as a coat check during a penthouse party high above the city. As we furiously coupled we could hear the party on the roof above us. Genteel chatter and laughter, the clink of glasses, a general refinement with the light beat of a generic sort of music behind it; in front of us a sea of black glass and reflected light. I was lost in the manic thrusting that comes from the fear of being discovered when we heard the scream. Something flashed past the window. Later, my wife was to tell me that she had been distracted by the sudden silence and then shouting from above that I, myself, hadn’t noticed. When she saw the body drop past, she started in fright and realisation; it was this jerk that induced my ejaculation.
There were security cameras in the square below and the man’s landing was well recorded and repeatedly watched. The newspapers carried several graphic pictures of his body, a bleeding sack of meat strangely intact, except for his head, which had split clean into four pieces; the brain tumbled out and mockingly rolled off some distance. There was also a stain on the building about fifteen stories up where he must have collided on the way down. That stain remained for many years. The man, a semi-famous chef, it seemed had discovered that his lover had been sleeping behind his back with a casual acquaintance. He had jumped willingly, willfully as a giant drunken act of spite. I detail this act because of the significance it had on my son’s life. How it had this significance is beyond me; I have had many theories, and you can quite easily come up with your own, but none ever seem to make empirical sense.
A the age of two and a half we found our son standing on the windowsill of our fifth floor apartment trying to open the window and looking longingly downwards. The event chilled me for some reason. After that we moved to a single story house. Under the higher windows and on the sides of the stoep we planted deep lush cushioning flowerbeds.
School was a problem; he leapt constantly from the jungle-gyms. At the age of five he had taken to jumping off the high wall that surrounded the after-care centre, already by this time there had been broken bones and scarring. We had to watch him constantly; even in the flat suburbs there were many edifices for him to fling himself off. He could never explain the urge; he just knew it was something he had to do, something that he could not fight. Is it odd that he never once was fascinated with the Wright Brothers or any of the flying superheroes? We bought him an outfit with a cape for his eighth birthday, hoping to inspire upward flight, but it remained wrapped in plastic.
When we tried to conceive a second child, my wife insisted that I lie beneath her and ejaculate upwards into her. She became obsessed, oppressive. We moved to the Karoo, to a flat farm, far from any mountains. I developed a mania for leveling; walls, trees, even the windmill, came down. I built a sort of safety net around the one story house; my son flung himself off that. Luckily nothing was high enough for him to really hurt himself. So he threw himself with more force. It was at this point that my wife came to the realization that it was not falling that possessed him but the desire to land hard; to smash himself on the ground.
He wanted to learn to drive the tractor but we were afraid of the freedom that would engender and stopped it. In short we made him prisoner. We resorted to home schooling. He had friends but they had to visit him at the farm, under our watchful eyes. He was not popular; visits were infrequent, mostly around his birthday. He was of course moody and bitter. He did not understand, at the tender age of twelve, these restrictions, but he also did not understand his urges.
At the age of fourteen I took him for his first parachute lesson. It disappointed him. There was no climax. Bungee jumping was the same: to be plucked from the experience by the restraints did nothing but make it ever more frustrating for him. We consulted psychiatrists, psychologists and other charlatans in the city, the journeys in and the stays over fretful among those tall buildings. An incident in a seventh floor therapist’s office ended my wife’s desire to continue with these attempts at understanding.
We had left him alone with the therapist, who had needed to ask his secretary for some such thing. In the split second he was distracted, our boy had a window open and was wriggling out; the shout came in just enough time for me to rush in and grab him by his legs. For my son, the visits to the city ended. I still came in to try and find someone with a key to this seemingly insurmountable problem. I found myself visiting the highest buildings in the city, standing on ledges, opening large windows, looking down, leaning forward, trying to access the urge. I could not. I wandered the square where the chef had fallen; I could still make out the stain on the side of the building.
Seventeen years had passed, the desire to fall had essentially prevented us from allowing our son a normal life, he had no real friends, he was socially awkward, spoke little and constantly, almost autistically, scanned the horizon for tall structures.
Early one morning I woke him before my wife had risen and bundled him sleepy into the truck. I drove him toward a small town. On one of my trips back from the city I had discovered a diving pool with a very high board; here at least there would be impact. I knew my wife would never approve because of the proximity of the city. But this had to find solution, he had to find an outlet or he would never live.
We never made the pool. We stopped at one of those small filling stations on the way to the city. He claimed he needed the toilet but driving in I saw a cell phone tower with a ladder running up its side. I parked and went to stand at the tower, guarding it. He slipped out the bathroom and drove off in my truck.
The truck was found abandoned near the city centre. Since then we have moved back into a downtown apartment block. We continue our search. As yet, no broken body has been found. We scan the news daily, knowing that one day we will see him as we saw that jealous man’s body so long before. There is simply nothing else we can do.