What had he seen? The infinity pool, the tops of palm trees at eye level, a distant filament of sand? The green swimmer-flecked ocean, the burning blue morning sky, a vast black sadness closing like a curtain?
Nothing, he might have said. Or everything. The unbearable face of God and I was the last so privileged.
The luckiest captured it on video. A swoon three stories to motionlessness, a sudden silence that swept the courtyard and kiddie pool, the swim-up bar, the perimeter of cabanas. Others caught only a blur against the terracotta of the resort, while those without their phones had to settle for imagination and were later the ones most troubled.
He had not hesitated but seemed to. This was time stopping but the witnesses did not know it. They saw only the miracle of him: thirtyish, eyes clear, mouth untroubled, blue shorts and pink shirt creased as if freshly ironed, bare feet curled over the iron railing of his balcony, hands out as if against an invisible cross.
“Never left my chair,” a man told his friends later, “he hit ten feet away. His insides stayed in but I knew he was dead. I could smell him—clean, as if he’d just showered.”
Others did not see but heard it long after, the memory fixed in sound and forever on repeat: a bag of earth thrown down, a bag of cement or maybe of marbles, anyway a container of some kind because what fills humans is never really known until you hear it break.
And yet no one knew what filled the jumper, because he had already broken beforehand.
“Which room?” the hotel manager asked the bartender, but her back had been turned while she made a new margarita for an irate guest who had not wanted salt. She forgot about the guest and his drink and imagined an open sliding door, curtains drifting, a suitcase half-packed, a shredded picture, a computer in pieces. And everywhere a lingering invisible sense of exhaustion that if inhaled might be contagious. The cleanup crew better wear masks, she thought.
“Why did he jump?” a six-year-old asked her mother, who had started to weep and was groping in her bag for a Xanax. “I don’t know,” said the mother, who when the girl’s father left had come very close herself and so in her way did know, but then this child had been born. “I love you,” she said.
A security guard drove the people back and made a barrier of chairs, then looked at the quiet face pressed to the flagstones and all his life would wish he hadn’t. A guest on his first-floor balcony leaned over, thankful he hadn’t been upgraded because the angle was better, but when he dropped his phone and it smashed on the patio he feared God had spoken. He went inside and prayed for mercy and divine forgiveness and as long as he was at it prosperity.
Now a woman appeared, about the same age as the jumper and wearing a blue tank top with “I heart Florida” on it. She came at a run, pushed aside the security guard, kneeled by the dead man and began to weep and stroke his hair. The hotel manager said, “I am so sorry, ma’am, what was his name?” and she said “I don’t know, I’ve never seen him before.”