God, the city’s bright tonight. It’s lit up like an alien space port. All golden and gleaming. The stars are blotted out and from where I stand I can see the city’s gridlines. Everything makes perfect sense from this perspective.
I wish my life made half as much. But it’s like everything else, the closer and deeper you are, the less you actually see.
Take today for example. It started out an ordinary day. I got up and got dressed in my black pinstripe power suit – the one my ex-girlfriend, Renee, picked out for me back when she thought I was something special. I ate breakfast – some godawful organic cereal that my current girlfriend, Stacy, makes me eat because she does the grocery shopping and that’s her passive aggressive method of getting me healthy.
I’m not fat and I’m not sick. I work out on the treadmill 40 minutes a day at the gym, but she shrieks in horror at the idea of eating cereal that tastes like something.
She says she loves me, but this I doubt. I don’t really believe in love. I believe in proximity and convenience. It also probably helps that I make two hundred thousand dollars a year. When she’s not buying me crappy cereal, she’s buying herself designer shoes and purses. How many pairs of shoes does one woman need? And is it really necessary to coordinate every outfit with a different purse?
I’m not a woman so I wouldn’t know the answers to these questions. At least that’s what Stacy always tells me with one of her patented exasperated looks.
It’s probably time for me to break things off with her, but it’s just so damn convenient to have someone at home who makes dinner occasionally and talks to me when she’s not watching America’s Top Model or America’s Idol or America’s Whateverthefuck. The sex isn’t bad either. At least it’s semi-regular.
But I often wonder if there’s more to life than spending two grand on a suit, working sixty hours a week and vacationing in
Aruba. More than semi-regular sex and eating organic cereal because I’m too damn lazy to shop for myself.
I haven’t been up here in years. I’d forgotten how the city looks from this angle. When I was in high school and college, I’d come up here almost every weekend. It made me feel magical, limitless. I was the city in all its lit-up grand glory. Anything was possible.
But every year brought new decisions that narrowed my horizons. Instead of fantasizing about college, I had to choose which one. Then I had to pick a major. Next I had to keep my GPA up so I could retain my scholarship, even if it meant dropping some of my hobbies. It was just art. So what if drawing made my life semi-bearable? I just had to get through the four years and I was golden. Then I could draw again.
Only after graduation came law school and then I had to intern my summers. I had no time for drawing. I haven’t picked up a drawing pencil in years.
After law school, came passing the bar. I did it on the first try, but then I had to compete with hundreds of other lawyers for the best job.
Along the way I found girlfriends and lost them. I nearly got married to Elaine but she backed out of the engagement two days before the wedding and ran off with an artist. Some asshole who painted for a living.
All my friends told me she was an idiot because she’d be supporting him, and working two jobs to do it, while he surfed internet porn and pretended to paint. But I’ve seen her twice since she left me and each time she’s looked happier than ever. The second time I saw her, she’d been pregnant and glowing. Jesus, the baby would be two or maybe even three years old by now. Time fucking flies.
Everyone says I should settle down and marry Stacy, start a family, but all I can think is that someday I might have a son who comes up here to look at the city and thinks he’s the master of the universe only to discover, like his old man, he’s just a cog in the machine. Insignificant. Pointless.
Just like when you get into the streets of the city you can see all the dirt and grime and poverty and graffiti that you just can’t see when you look at it from above. Everything that looks so beautiful and majestic is, in reality, ugly and filthy. Meaningless.
I don’t know what it was today that made me decide to come up here tonight. The back-to-back meetings with the clients from hell was nothing out of the ordinary. Neither was skipping lunch in favor of shoveling a sandwich down my throat with one hand while I recorded billable hours with my other.
Even coming home to find Stacy in bed with her tennis instructor wasn’t really that shocking. Hell, he’s ten years younger than me and handsome. I’m almost forty, for Christ’s sake. I have the kind of looks that peak around senior year in high school and just go downhill after that. I’m nothing special.
Stacy’s called me twelve times in the past hour. I keep letting her calls go to voice mail. She either wants to tell she’s leaving me for Mr. Tight Racket or she wants to beg for forgiveness. Either way it doesn’t much matter to me. I actually hope she does leave me for him. At least she’ll have somebody.
The new paralegal, Kendra, has been hinting she’d like to go out with me. She’s pretty cute. Younger than Stacy by about five years, not that that means anything, but she’d be easier to deal with without all the baggage of prior relationships. She can’t have had that many, so maybe she’s not that fucked up yet. I could be the guy who screws her up for other men. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done that. Just ask Renee.
I guess if I could have anything in the world right now, it would be to go back twenty years, to the night I first discovered this place and not discover it.
It’s not fair to look out at limitless potential and end up with crap. Dreams should not turn to shit the way mine have.
But time won’t turn back for me. It only goes forward. Just like I would if I took one step. I’d go over the edge, of course, and fall two hundred feet, but that option’s looking mighty good to me right now.
I’d ruin the suit, but it’s used anyway.
I don’t know what the hell I thought I’d see if I came up here tonight. The view is the same, but I’m different. I’m broken. I’m not the city anymore, if I ever was.
Why shouldn’t I take the step? What do I have if I don’t? Taking the new paralegal to dinner, having her look at me like I’m something special right up until the time she moves in and starts telling me what to eat, what to wear, where to go on vacation?
It’s all going to be the same thing and I don’t want to repeat the cycle. How do I break out if I don’t step forward?
Maybe I could cut back my hours at work. Why do I need to make partner before forty anyway? Who really cares? Maybe I could take a couple art classes, start drawing again. Have something I do for me that doesn’t break my soul in half. Something just because I like it.
So what’s it going to be? One step forward into oblivion or reaching out for a drawing pencil?
God, the city’s bright tonight.