Kevin Sampsell’s “Skyscraper”

“How long do you think it would take to fall from the top of that skyscraper?” you asked me.

We looked up.

It was almost sunset in New York. We were in Times Square. Do they still call it sunset in New York? I wondered. I was from the west coast. I honestly didn’t know.

I counted the floors by twos, hand over my eyebrows, sun gleaming down.

“Five seconds,” you said.

“Probably twenty seconds,” I said.

“Okay, hold on,” you said.

You held up your hand like a starter flag until we fixed our eyes steady on the tippy top.

When you said “Go” we both imagined the same thing. A body free falling. The seconds ticking away from life. A person’s last breaths crushed by gravity.

Ten, we agreed. Maybe ten to twelve.

We started walking again, breathing heavier. We had just met a few hours before at a convention. We were bored, so we left together to explore the city. “What’s cool to see?” you had asked me. I wasn’t sure. 

“Tourist stuff,” I said. You seemed unexcited. “Tourist stuff is guaranteed good,” I said.  

The sky got darker as we reached Central Park. We climbed up on top of one of the rocks and looked up into the sky. I put my right leg on top of your left leg. 

“What are you doing?” You said.

“Holding you down,” I said. 

You didn’t say anything for a long time and then you said, “That’s good.”

We got up and decided to head back toward the subway. We got an ice cream sundae from a truck outside of the park and shared it on a bench like we were old friends. We saw a rat scamper out of a bush and run by us but we didn’t move or scream.

We watched it run into another bush and then come out again. It seemed to be observing us as we finished our ice cream and then it slowly moved back into a shadow. We changed the subject.


Kevin Sampsell is the author of This Is Between Us, a novel. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he runs the micro-press, Future Tense Books. He’s also a collage artist and columnist for The Rumpus. 

Photo courtesy of Philippe Put via Creative Commons / Flickr

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