A Moment of Regret

My daughter gave me a book of writing prompts for Christmas. The story below is the result of one of those prompts.

Before including my story, though, I want to make sure people understand that it is not autobiographical. While I have suffered from depression at various times in my life, it has never been as serious as what I’m writing about below. If you suffer from depression or are thinking of hurting yourself, please get help. Tell a friend or loved one, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or you can even chat with them online. You can also text the Crisis Text Line by sending texting HOME to 741741 in the United States, and text with someone who will help you. If you’re thinking about taking your own life or even just experiencing a crisis, please reach out to someone, because you matter!

His view from the 40th story was beautiful and breathtaking, although none of that mattered anymore. It didn’t matter because a little over three seconds ago he’d placed a step stool up against the railing, slowly stepped up it, hesitantly leaned forward, and paused before remembering he was doing this to calm the incessant, discordant feelings that beset him on a daily basis. Those feelings made his days a constant up and down affair, almost as if he were riding on a merry-go-round, except each dip down went further down than the previous dip and never quite got back as high as it had the previous time. After that brief pause, he redoubled his resolve and leaned forward until gravity took over.

Knowing that the merry-go-round would soon stop, the peacefulness overcame him instantly. He heard nothing but the rushing wind as he continued his freefall; not the sound of the daily rush hour traffic below, not the sound of the construction of the skyscraper across the street. Even the tortured music accompanying his ever lower-dipping, merry-go-round faded into the background.

After a few seconds of falling, while freefalling past the 28th floor, a noise broke through his reverie of nothingness. Was that a phone ringing? It was a phone, and it jarred him back into reality. It resurrected the memory of the phone call – just yesterday – from his parents and the conversation about his upcoming visit, his father telling him how proud he was about the success of his business, and how well he balanced that with being a good husband and father. Pangs of guilt ripped through his mind as he realized he never had a chance to thank his parents for all they had done to shape him into the successful man he had become.

That memory quickly morphed into the ringtone on his phone for when his wife called, followed by the memory of the call yesterday and the sound of her naturally ebullient voice telling him how much she loved him, missed him, couldn’t wait to get home from her trip and feel his arms around her. He suddenly longed for the feeling of her body pressed against him in a warm, enveloping hug, while staring into eyes that radiated nothing but love back at him. He felt horrible guilt for leaving this amazing woman alone, a woman always filled with joy, who had done all she could to help him escape the spinning of his personal, hellish merry-go-round.

The ringing transformed into the sound of a bell on a bike ringing, and his memory quickly shifted to just a few days ago at the park when he glimpsed the beautiful, azure sky when he looked up to catch the pop fly his son had hit. A feeling of loss seared into his soul as he realized that he would never again have a chance to spend a fun afternoon at the park with his son, playing ball and helping to guide him into becoming a better man than he was.

Again, the ringing transformed. This time, though, the ringing was the sound of FaceTime. He remembered the thought of his beautiful, sweet, innocent, daughter looking at him with her brown hair and brown eyes saying “I love you, Daddy, and can’t wait until you come home!” after reading her a bedtime story via FaceTime, and telling her goodnight when he was on his last trip. To never see those wondrous, curious, brown eyes again tore him apart.

Another ringing sound played through his mind as he recalled a morning over ten years ago, his phone ringing, over and over again, finally realizing what the noise was, and then fumbling to answer it. The ringing was a reminder of that night of insanity as a younger man, a paragon of a single man’s night out with his best friend. He thought of his friend who had stood firm through the good and bad times, a friend who would help you bury a body at 2 a.m., no questions asked, if that’s what you needed. He was overcome at the thought of no more nights out with his best friend, and it filled him with a sense of loss and regret.

All these thoughts melded themselves into a sense of regret, rage, and a realization of the selfishness of his action. The regret was for what he’d done; that the death that was quickly approaching would strip him of the opportunity to ever again remember all the wonderful moments and people in his life. His action had revoked the chance to experience more moments like those that had flashed through his mind as he plummeted to his death.

The rage was directed at himself, for his inability to see everything that was good in front of him; rage at not doing more to get help when he knew he needed help. His realization of selfishness prompted rage and guilt at himself for leaving his wife to deal with the aftermath of his death, for leaving his children fatherless, and for leaving everyone with their guilt as they wondered “Should I have seen this coming? Could I have stopped this?”

He wished he could go back in time, just several seconds, and never stepped up on that stool. He wished he could have gotten off the descending merry-go-round, broken through the darkness, and found joy through the everyday moments of life, both the good and bad, because he realized the darkness wasn’t as painful as the regret he was feeling.

None of that mattered now, though. The words “I’m sorry” left his lips as the merry-go-round lurched as if the gear keeping it spinning and going up and down had broken. It began to slow over the next few seconds, finally stopping, all while its dark soundtrack slowly faded away into silence.