So Close to Heaven

by Wesley Turner

There were prophets that felt this way, I’m sure. People who watched the sky crack open like an eye-lid and saw everything that ever was, who saw past the blinding sunlight and saw the celestial fire. Who knew beyond doubt, but were saddled with the hard task of getting people to know what they knew. I bet I wouldn’t have believed them if they asked me to follow them through a desert for forty years, or to get on a boat full of dung and fleas. I’m sure I wouldn’t.

I put my foot back down. It’s bare, and its reunion with the cold concrete sends a shiver through my bones. I close my eyes.

I guess that’s why more than anything I want to prove this to myself. I need the peace that comes with knowing. To leap and not feel the tug of the world on my spine, to kick back gravity’s swollen fingers and mingle with the clouds.

I mean, when you’re little you have that urge to stand at the top of the stairs and jump. Everyone must feel that way. I mean, I hope they do. It’s sad to think of spending your whole life standing on your two feet without trying. That’s growing up. You have to explore the limits and everything, find out how far imagination goes before it starts to hurt you. Besides, you don’t want to die and meet God and have him tell you what you missed because of an assumption, because you didn’t dare be curious. That’s ludicrous: you stand atop two or three stairs while the sunlight is coming through the windows, when your parents are in the other room, and you jump. And for the first instant you wonder if it’s working, and if you might just fly away this time.

But it’s different when your wife catches you jumping down the steps in the stairwell of your apartment complex. That’s when everyone starts fussing over you. That’s when you start finding books in your wife’s drawer about psychosis and coping. That’s when your mother-in-law starts saying things like, “I always knew he was off.”

I’ve stopped talking to them about it, because of all the fussing. I figure if it’s something I sincerely believe, I don’t need to explain it. You don’t ask a Christian to take Olanzapine because he believes his dad is a magic, invisible person who lives in the sky. I don’t know. I don’t mean to blaspheme.

I’m shivering, although I’m not sure if it’s the cold or if I’m nervous. The Jansky-Lutz Tower is twenty stories, I think, and the wind won’t stop blowing up here. But it could have been any building, so long as it was tall enough to be fatal.

I should explain that my intention isn’t to kill myself, it’s just it had to be a tall one because I think that’s what it takes. Like, putting myself in that life or death situation might just bring it out of me. Sort of like when I was fifteen and I played my Sonata so beautifully at my recital that my mother cried. I hadn’t practiced enough, but when you are in a moment like that sometimes it’s when you perform the best. I was nervous then, too.

Take Peter. He didn’t start with a puddle. He stepped off the boat right into the sea. Although for him the risk of failure meant only a wet tunic and a briny mouth.

My toes are peeking over the edge, looking down at twenty stories of brick and concrete, all the way down to the street below. I can hear the muffled sounds of living below me. I lift my foot up again. I put it back down. The world seems very distant from up here, so close to heaven.

I keep hearing her voice in the wind, only what she is saying is unintelligible. It giggles here and there, making me want to go home to her.

It’s not the beauty or anything like that. Not like the movies. It’s more, the little things. Like her voice. Even when it’s angry or begging me to listen to the psychiatrists and physicists and our priest it is so heartbreakingly beautiful, like leaves falling off trees in autumn. Or the way she pushes her honey brown hair back when she is laughing, even if it isn’t getting in her face. And the fact that she is always reading, and that when she finds a beautiful passage she doesn’t read it out loud for me to hear, not like everyone else when they want to look smart or sensitive, but how she writes it in a little notebook that she leaves on her nightstand. That’s how you know those stories are important to her. That she lives for them. I can’t count how many times I’ve found her asleep with that book in her arms. Especially lately.

And as much as I want to leap, as much as I want to sprint into the sky, I know it would hurt her. I shouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing that I put her second. Because as confident as I am and as much faith that I have that I can do this, I know that I’ve ignored all the pain and anguish that I might have caused her. All the sorrow that might have resulted had I been wrong about everything. She’s given up so much for me.

I step back onto the building, and look over the edge again.

I’m sure this is some sort of fallacy, but knowing something is impossible and still believing it is some sort of evidence, right? Not something that would hold up in trial, but something that you know is true.

It’s really starting to hurt. I tear myself away from the view of the streets below and sit down on the coarse gravel of the roof. The stars are barely visible in the city light. I slip my socks and shoes on. I’d really ought to stop going out so late at night.

But then I remember that notebook. Those pages and pages of quotes and excerpts all about beauty and incredible things. Things she longs to see in her own life. In real life. Not in the cold, dead pages of a book but dancing just outside her window.

I force myself to stand and walk the length of the roof. My hand wraps around the smooth metal knob to the stairwell.

People are afraid. They worry. They and I live in a world where amazing things rarely occur, where miracles are so fleeting you can spend your whole life with your eyes open and still miss them.

My feet step back from the door. I feel the gravel pressing against my feet through the rubber soles of my shoes. I should go home. I should go home to her honey brown hair.

It would be one of the passages in her notebook come to life.

I can barely breathe as I sprint to the edge of the building because I’m laughing so hard. My eyes are wide open because I don’t want to miss this, not this miracle. The edge of the building is the last hurdle I ever face.

I leap as far and as high as I can.

 

 

Wesley Turner’s first literary work detailed a family of tornadoes struggling with their destructive existence.