The Ledge

By Anjali Mohapatra • January 10, 2024

The buzzing sound of the alarm clock broke my sleep. I felt a little drowsy and didn't want to get up. I tossed myself on the bed and put the pillow over my face, but nah- nothing worked. The gleaming ray of the sun crossed through my window slit and directly fell upon my pillow. I blinked! Leisurely I got up from the bed and strolled in my bedroom balcony.

The view of the busy road from the tenth floor! It was hardly 9 a.m. but the road already became crowded. I loved to enjoy the view! It looked awesome!! I still felt dozy. A few minutes later, I turned my face to the right side.

Suddenly my posture stiffened seeing an atypical scene that knocked my socks off! My neighbor’s daughter was standing on the ledge of their window. I didn't know her. Sometimes, I saw her while she was strolling on their balcony. That's it.

The instant thought gripped me, ‘Is she trying sui- no, no. Why should she? For fun shake? This can't be fun? T- hen- then what?’ For a few seconds, I went on assuming so many ifs and buts. But, thank God, my brain acted smartly! I whistled in a low pitch to draw her attention towards me.

I was right. She gazed at me keeping her eyebrows little pulled up.

‘Hi!’ I grinned at her waving my hand, she was unfamiliar to me though.

‘H-hi!’ she responded to me in a shaking voice.

‘Watching views? Like it?’ I spoke to her as if we were good old friends.

‘Um, no- no,’ she continued in the same pitch.z

‘Th- then, enjoying the open fresh air?’

‘No- no, don't poke your nose in my business,’ she said frowning at me. She slouched against the window wall spreading her hands. She was trembling with fear. The tears burst forth like water from a spring spilling down her face. She was scared.

From her attitude, I could guess her mentality.

‘Hey, listen to me. You know what? You are a fantastic artist,’ I tried to divert her mind.

‘W-what? Artist- how do you know?’ she charged me sharply still spreading her claws gripping the uneven chips of the wall.

‘Your brother Nilesh showed me. You know he is my close friend.’

‘W- w- ho? You are lying. My brother is Akhilesh not Nilesh,’ she spoke harshly.

‘Ok, ok, Akhilesh. Anyways, I saw your painting- that water pouring…’I tried to buy the time.

‘W-what water pouring? I never drew any such painting.’

‘No- no, you might have forgotten. OK, ok, don't move too much. There is very little space. You are standing in a very, very dangerous place,’ I reminded her gently.

‘So? Why are you on the earth talking to me?! I want to die. Go now. At least let me die peacefully,’ she turned her anguished face.

‘Ok, ok- I got it. But you know what? Even if you’ll jump, you may not die. Then you’ll be injured severely and you may become impaired for the rest of your life. What’s the point?’

‘Are you kidding me? Not die- jumping from the tenth floor?! You liar. Don't tell me anything. I am done- good for nothing,’ at a stretch she expressed all her frustrations.

‘Hey, listen to me. Fair enough! I am not bothered if you die or not, but at least before taking the final step, listen to me carefully. I heard from one of my friends that once he did the same thing out of anger. He was sure that he would die. But, when he came to his senses, he found himself in the hospital and top to bottom white bandages wrapped around his body. He lost both of his legs and had an injury on his head. He is now in a wheelchair. Please, try to understand. By the way, why don't you think positively?’

‘What- what positive? That…I- I am not good at anything. My future is blank,’ saying this she sobbed again.

I laughed loudly as if whistling in the dark. A few seconds later I said, ‘You know what- I failed twice in my eleventh grade. My parents thought that I was useless, good for nothing. But now! Hah-I am earning a six-figure salary! You can also do the same. Who knows!’

I was waiting for her reaction. I was afraid that if I attempted to pass the information to her family or try to help, she might take a drastic step. It would be much better if I could change her mind from doing this heinous attempt. At that moment, I had no other option. Again I started gossiping with her, ‘Please, talk to me. I love to talk to you.’ Gently I requested her to trust me.

Suddenly she screamed aloud. Her toes slipped a little and she grabbed the edge of the balcony.

My eyeballs bulged out with fear. Instantly I shouted, ‘Hey- hey, be careful! Are you ok?’

She shook her head and stammered in a shaking voice- yes. Her painful eyes were expressing a thousand words in one look!

‘Now please stay still. I can help you, please!’ Perhaps my earnest request pierced her brain. She stood still, lips trembled, eyes filled with nonstop tears.

‘Just listen to me. You know what? Sometimes we feel exhausted, depressed, emptiness- that kills our reasoning at that very time. It would be over after a certain period. You can express all your anguish in front of me. I promise I can help you. Right now, the way you stepped on that ledge, very cautiously you move back to your balcony. Once you come out from that deadly ledge, I can suggest some really good stuff that would change your life! Trust me.’

She stared at me, although her look was not fully convinced by my flattering words, yet inspired to some extent. Both her hands wide spread applying full force on the wall, she moved dead slow. At last, she grabbed the boundary edge of the balcony, propped her chin on it, and inserted one leg in then slowly put the other. ‘Ooh!!’ she took a deep long breath crouching on the balcony floor.

‘Thanks for saving my life,’ she pleaded looking at me. She dredged up a waned smile a few seconds later and went inside.

I was so excited! I didn't know why! Maybe for the first time in my life, I did a great job. Somehow, I impressed her! I showed my gratitude silently ‘Thank God!’. However, three or four days later, I came to know that- that girl was a mental patient. I felt pity for her, she was so young! The way she responded to me in our conversation, I assumed that she could be healed with proper treatment or intense care. But that terrible scary posture of the teenager on that ledge floated in my mind. And I deeply thought many a time about how to help that girl overcome that trauma forever! At least as a neighbor I should inform her family members about her terrible attempt and ask them to take some special care. But I was not sure about their opinion and her future. I could only pray to God to help that innocent girl!

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