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Purgatory


Fahim Imtiaz


The last thing I remembered was falling — the sensation of my heart leaping to my throat, and the awful regret. It was a windy night, and the city was asleep. I was standing on the edge of my roof — on the ledge beyond the railing. Looking down, it was quite a steep drop to the bottom; certain death. My head felt hazy, my vision was unclear. I couldn’t master my body, let alone my thoughts. I wondered how I got here. I stood there for a long time — clutching the railing, looking down, and hardly registering what I was watching.

Holding onto the railing behind me, I leaned down to look at the empty, lifeless streets beneath. Not a single person walked on the footpaths; no vehicles roamed the roads that were illuminated by street lamps. Everything was deathly silent. An immense sadness engulfed me, manifesting itself in the form of physical pain in my chest. I felt so alone. I wanted an escape from this terrible, ever-present weight of existence. Just one step, and it would be over. All this responsibility would finally be off my shoulders.

Before I could think to change my mind, my hands let go of the railing. My body tilted beyond the ledge, seemingly taking forever to topple over. I thought about turning and trying to grab the railing again, but it was too late. I closed my eyes, I didn’t want to flinch. My heart leaped to my throat as I was falling. I was falling, and there was nothing I could do to stop then.

I was sprawled on the ground, flattened by the impact. My body was in unimaginable pain. A pool of blood was spreading under me, soaking through my clothes. I couldn’t move without excruciating effort; not like I was going anywhere. It’s true what they say about your life  flashing before your eyes when you’re near death. They say your brain is active for at least 10 minutes after your heart has stopped; it is probably desperately trying to stay alive, to survive. Those 10 minutes must feel like an eternity when your brain is on overdrive. The faster you think, the slower the time passes.

Memories flooded the back of my head. It felt as if I were going through an old reel of my most powerful memories. The details were lost, and the picture was blurry. I remembered things that I thought I had forgotten.

I had said some terrible things to my best friend, and her eyes welled up with tears as she turned to walk away. I screamed for her to stop, but it came out muffled, and she could no longer hear me…

My father’s lifeless body was being lowered into the grave when I dropped the first handful of dirt over him. I never really got to know him…

My mother was sitting on her rocking chair at the elderly home. There were so many things I should have said to her; she hasn’t spoken a word for a really long time…

There were many things I wished I had done differently, but in the end, they were all too much. It was too difficult to find the will to keep on living, and to put up with the mundane responsibilities of everyday life, with only brief intermissions of happiness. Everything was weighing me down, and I was exhausted.

It’s funny how things matter in the end. It’s ironic that you have to be in the state of dying, or nearly dying, to see through life clearly. I wish I had done all the things I wanted to do without caring so much about what other people thought. I thought I wanted to be remembered by everyone, but to be honest, I only wanted the closest ones of mine to remember me as I was. What I couldn’t do was see them one last time, talk to them, ask them how they were doing, listen to them speak, tell them that “I’m sorry”, and say goodbye.

I wondered if I would be missed, or if I would only be a trending piece of evening news, highly talked about one day, and almost completely forgotten the next. I wondered if all my accomplishments in life outweighed what I amounted to in death. Laying there, unable to move, my body was no longer in pain. The shock had taken over. As soon as I began to wish I hadn’t jumped, everything went dark.

Suddenly, I felt nothing. I couldn’t feel my limbs, or my body. Only darkness surrounded me. For all I knew, I was blind, even though I had eyes. The last thing I remembered was falling. A view of the city emerged as I opened my eyes, as if it had always been there. I was on the roof of my house but I couldn’t remember how I got there. Suddenly, I became aware of my hand gripping onto the railing. Looking down from the ledge, it was a steep drop to the bottom. There wasn’t a single soul in the streets.

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