To be honest, there is not much else to say about the next few days. We waited. There was not much else to do.
I told the manager of the office in which we had both worked that I would not be returning to work. She said, “Ever?”
I said, “Yes.”
She said, “I know you were close, you and—but you shouldn’t just waste the rest of your life this way. You have a good job; in five years, you could even have my job, if you keep going the way you have been. I’ve had my eye on you. I’ve got a promotion coming up soon, and this position is yours, if you want it.”
The manager was a nice woman, but she didn’t mean it. I did not know or care what the reason for the lie was, but I was sure that it was one. I thanked her and told her goodbye and ended the call.
“You didn’t have to do that,” she said, back from wherever she went.
“Yes, I did.” She tilted her head, letting me think what I wanted to.
“You’ll need to find another job, and I know how hard that will be for you,” she said. “Especially since you’ll have to wait until after I go.”
I looked at her. She had made me angry, and I did not want to be angry, which made it worse; but I could not shut it off. “You have no idea,” I said. “You don’t know me at all.”
She looked steadily back at me, the shape of her becoming even thinner against the cabinets. “I know enough,” she said.
She faded out again before I could say anything else.
I was—I didn’t know what I was. I was so angry I wanted to exorcise her, banish her forever to the watching-space between life and death and whatever was after that, or take her voice away so she could not be heard, or cut the tie between us so she drifted until there was not enough to keep her together; but I couldn’t do any of those things. I wanted to sleep, and to know what to expect when I woke.
I wanted to sleep and not have to worry about what I would find when I woke. I wanted to lie down and close my eyes and be done. Was that what she had wanted when—when she started this? Had she been that tired, and wanted just to rest? Had she hoped that some new and better thing would find her when she woke?
It hadn’t; there was only me, and I wasn’t good enough. I knew that, but she didn’t.
I knew it didn’t matter. There was the job before me, and I had promised to do it as well as I could. I knew I was going to have to be careful or I would end up worse than her, with no one to look after me and help me go on.
“You really should have known,” the first messenger said. “It was so plain, or that’s what it looks like now.”
“But nothing never was what it seems to have been,” said the second.
“True,” said the first. “Or it seems now that what you said then is true now.”
The third snickered. The first, rolling its eyes, swatted the back of the second’s head for its insolence.
The three of them did not have names that anyone could remember or faces that had ever been seen. They were street people. They had a triple act in which they reenacted old scenes that had not been funny when the three stooges first did them on a corner in a part of town where no one had any money to spare. I looked at them, and I could not remember their faces even when I was looking. That was their power.
“We can’t tell you,” said the first, looking directly into my eyes. I couldn’t see them, but they could see me. I knew I needed to be careful, but I couldn’t find the energy to try.
She was there, suddenly, looming over my shoulder like the bad cop in a terrible routine, though she was more of a danger to me than them. And maybe she knew it; she leaned in just enough to make me shiver uncontrollably and then leaned away.
“What do you mean, you can’t tell?” she said. “It was my death; surely you can tell me who caused it.”
“You caused it,” said the first; it was the second’s turn to snicker and the third one’s turn to smack the head of the first.
“But I jumped for a reason,” she said. She was getting impatient. I wondered if I would be the same way when I died. I knew I would know why, and how, and when, but I did not know what would happen to me, I did not know what I would choose. Maybe I would be like her. I didn’t want to die anymore, I was sure again.
“And you know what that reason was,” said the third, speaking for the first time. It had a kind voice, a baking-cookies kind of voice. “There’s nothing to be done, or not by us. We’re sorry.”
“We’re not that sorry,” the second one said, “we were only five dollars worth of sorry to begin with and that’s almost run out.”
I threw some more money in the battered bowler hat on the sidewalk in front of them.
“We’re a little sorrier now,” said the second one. “But we have nothing to tell you anyway.”
“We’ll light a candle for you in the square,” the third one said. “Look for it just below the arch.”
She didn’t know what it meant. I would take her there, and show her. It was something I could do, something good for her to see when nothing else was good.