The Terminal Velocity of Jerry

Photo by Robert S. Donovan

Jerry had left the building, left the edge of the hotel’s roof. Looking at windows as they slowly past, he noticed that they were very clean. He could see his own reflection in them with the setting sun in the background. It fell along with him, creating a bright halo around his body, like angelic wings. A sense of warmth flooded into his cold limbs from the center of his chest. A knot came to his throat. Tears flowed from his eyes to his temples. He did not have to think about jumping anymore, that decision had been made. There was no return to the roof above.

He passed a living room. Drawn curtains revealed a deep wine colored area-rug smothered by a beech-wood grain sofa. The sofa was covered with samir bronze fabric and a young woman wrapped in a long dressing gown. She tapped the cherry wood trim of the sofa with polished nails. She smiled at something glowing in the opposite corner. She has nice teeth, Jerry thought, wrapped in beautiful lips, like his wife’s. She had always said the best color fixative was a thin layer of ChapStick. It always holds lip color like crazy as it heals and protects.

He wondered if the young woman with the lips lived alone. Would she have ever gone with a guy like him? Who her lips reminded him of, he’d never tell. There was a cat living with her. The litter box on the balcony beneath the post-modern railing gave that away.

Cats, Jerry thought, what is it with cats? The psychology of pet ownership had always eluded him. No doubt it had something to do with nurturing self-esteem and self-confidence. Something his arrogance sabotaged in the most cunning ways. Until now he had believed that he respected himself as a human being. It was everyone else who didn’t find him satisfying. He didn’t wake up this morning thinking, today on my way home, I’ll jump off a building. No, today he woke up just as he did on any other day, full of the same sardonic self-satisfaction that told him that a cat was just a parasite. A cat is not a true friend, it is an obsequious self-seeking sponge that clings to us, Phylum Porifera Felis Catus.

Nevertheless, if life and consciousness are interconnected like the woman with the pretty lips and her cat, he wasn’t. That was the irony. He was a character in a play and the audience alone understood the drama. They could clearly see the incongruity between the real result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result. They considered something, made a determination, and arrived at a conclusion. The cat on the other hand doesn’t have to distinguish its feelings from perception and thought. The cat just is; lucky bastard.

As Jerry continued his fall past her balcony, the cordless phone on her coffee table trunk began to ring. She lifted a hand, moved towards it. He noted the patina on the table trunk seemed very authentic. Then she was gone. He hoped the pretty-lipped woman had not seen him in the corner of her eye. She’d be overwhelmed with emotions. I’d be, Jerry thought, seeing someone fall past my window at 120 miles per hour.

He passed another floor, then another. Curtains closed lights off. He couldn’t look in. The reflected sun flashed in the passing windows. He was drifting like the crew of Odysseus’s lost ship, high on the jujube berries of the Zizyphus Lotus, Lotophagian dreams washing away all aims and intentions.

Jerry descended towards the Earth resting within the corolla of a flower of light. Closing his eyes, he allowed his free-falling body to lose all sense of direction. He could have been falling sideways for all he knew, but the left side of his brain knew better. It told him in that calm rational voice he hated, that his body mass had probably reached terminal velocity by now. It said, Jerry, you have been falling faster and faster with each passing second. The amount of air resistance has been increasing more and more and has now approached the magnitude of the force of gravity. Now that the force of air resistance is as large as the force of gravity, a balance has been attained, and you are no longer accelerating.

Why should he care about Newton’s Laws now? Once again, through inference and demonstration, the left side of his brain was able to make him feel like a loser. It always made him do things he had no real interest in doing. It always had him arrive to work on time. It made him shut up when he wanted to call his boss an asshole. Worst of all, it made all the propaganda it fed him, taste good. Made it taste like a cold guilty stare at a row of cheerleaders’ panties, through a fourth of July beer.

Soon he’d be crashing through the seamless white awning substrate, now only a few feet below him. The smooth semi-gloss polyester scrim combined with high output fluorescent lamp brackets might even do the trick before he could reach the cement sidewalk.

The sun had passed away behind a building. The air felt a little warmer here near the bottom of the canyon.

So, he just, relaxed.

Mrs. Choi finished positioning the bucket holding the long-stemmed Tea Roses toward the back of her sidewalk flower stand. She heard the fabric tearing before seeing the bending metal and popping lights. Then two sounds at once, a muffled thud, and what sounded like the crunch of a snail accidentally stepped on in the morning. Then the sprinkling of shattered fluorescent light tubes on the sidewalk beneath the hotel awning.

Her body knew it was too late to recoil. Her peripheral vision wobbled from adrenaline. Her ears were burning. She noticed a strange silencing of the traffic. Only the pinging of a bouncing wedding ring in the key of F, echoed back and forth between the cliff sides of the surrounding buildings.