By Edward Davis / Contributor
“Before you know it, we’ll both be happy in the afterlife,” Rachel said as she moved
towards the edge of the building and wistfully looked down.
I thought about all the joy and good times we had together. All the dancing. All the
singing. All the laughter. I had just found the one I wanted to be with forever, the love of
my life. And here we are about to die. The irony in that is really disappointing. We
agreed to do it together, but doubts started to flutter my mind. What if there was no
afterlife? What if we just drift off into nothingness? What then..would be of our love? In
my head, I was convinced she was worth any risk, but in my heart, doubt centered.
BOOM BOOM. BOOM. We heard constant beating on the steel door behind us.
Sure that was the police, we grabbed hands, and we started to inch forward.
I could hear them yelling, telling us to stop. But they didn’t know her. She was
determined to die.
The pounding became louder. Pound after pound after pound, my heartbeat became in
sync with the cops’ beating on the steel door.
I found myself frozen. Literally. From fear, or shock, or maybe both.
“We have to go now,” Rachel said with a smile on her face. A smile I knew all too well.
One that glowed with insanity and paired with sincerity.
I replied with a soft nod. I felt helpless and afraid. I figured since we were holding hands
she would just take me with her. I looked up towards the starry night sky.
It was so peaceful.
It reminded me of the calm before the storm.
I began to wonder if I would ever see anything as peaceful and beautiful as the night
She started to count down.
“Three”…I felt trapped in my own body. “Two”..her grip on my hand eased up. Still
frozen, I was certain I had to do everything I could to live. “One”…
I thought —this world is worth living in. I’d spent my entire life running from problems,
and that’s all this was. Me running. Except this time –I had someone to run with. For
once, I knew that I needed to confront myself and make a choice. Life or death. It was
here that I realized what often seems like the simplest choice ever is usually the most
complicated. But who was I kidding? I had already made the choice in my heart, but it
may be too late. I had mistaken my love for blind loyalty, and now I might pay the
I began to wonder how it all came down to this moment –everything changed around a
year ago. I remember it was a Saturday night, and while I was having debatably the
worst time of my life, this was the day that everything changed. I had just sat down at a
bar in the city coming from my mother’s funeral. I had never known my dad but I thought
–he’d be there. Of course, he wasn’t, and that made the day even worse.
There I was. Sitting in a bar, even though I have never drunk before in my life, sulking,
wondering why I can never stay happy for too long. I thought I had finally broken the
cycle of unhappiness while I was dating a girl named Selina out of college until my 25th
birthday –just a week ago –when she broke up with me. No reason. No explanation.
She simply claimed that she “lost feelings” for me. That was the way things tended to
happen to me in life. Bad things especially. No explanation. No reason. They just
happen. It always seemed like I had been denied control of my own life, and at this
point, I was pretty used to it. I was used to disappointment, depression, and — sad to
say — death.
It was while I contemplated these things that I first laid eyes on her —Rachel. She was
easily the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. From the second we met, I knew she
was one of those stunning girls who don’t really care how they look –and yet this only
amplified my attraction. Her hair was clearly not combed and she had on no makeup,
but at first sight of her face, I froze.
“Hey, I’m so sorry for the wait! What would you like?”
Her light brown eyes, caramel skin, and long, black hair were all stunning. Needless to
say, I was entranced. It may have been twenty seconds before I said —
The word came softly out of my mouth, but, with confidence I don’t usually have. I had
never been so bold before.
There was silence for a couple of seconds. I started to figure that nothing good could
possibly come from this. Things would be how they have always been –disappointing.
But so be it. I thought.
Her eyes stared deep into mine. There was a fire in her eyes I had never seen before.
My newfound confidence began to dim, and I began to swiftly leave and act as if nothing
But then she smiled and said, “I get off in ten if you’re serious.”
I found myself uncontrollably smiling and I was also a bit embarrassed, but since
happiness was a rarity to me, the moment was worth it.
She started to walk away, but slowed, and turned around towards me. Her dark black
hair covered up most of her face, besides her eyes, and a smile that almost said you
have no idea what you are getting into.
“My name is Rachel by the way,” she said before walking away.
After ten minutes had gone by, we sat down in a booth and talked until closing time. We
ended up spending the rest of the day together. The days that soon followed went by
extraordinarily fast. Every day with her was a new adventure. With every kiss, we
became closer and closer. Every time we slept together there was more feeling, more
intensity. For once in my life, I felt in control of my happiness. But I knew, deep down,
nothing, especially happiness, lasts forever. That month had gone by fast, but it felt as if
we had been together for years. I had struggled to find passion in life, but, in many
ways, Rachel became my passion. I had given myself to her fully, in such a short
amount of time. I had begun to let go of my doubts that things would go south.
It was a rainy Monday evening, and I had just picked up Rachel from the bar.
“Where are we going today?” She said as she hopped in.
I smiled. “It’s a surprise.”
Today we made one month. This had been the best month of my life, so I figured, why
not make a big deal out of it? I had already planned an entire trip. I would take her to the
airport, and tell her I have two tickets to Italy. Since the day I met her, Rachel had told
me in depth about her dreams to visit Rome and Florence –she had it all thought out.
Just us and Italy.
Everything was handled. Although, as we drove to the airport I started to get a feeling.
The feeling you get when everything is just going so right in your life, you feel it must be
too good to be true. It was a chilly feeling, but I tried my best to dismiss the negative
The drive to the airport is an hour-long with traffic, I thought. Traffic was heavy that day
and I didn’t want to miss the flight, which, since we were running late, was in an hour
and a half –so I decided to take a shortcut. We were about five minutes down the road
when it began to get dark.
The road was narrow and curvy and squeezed by forestry with no ending in sight.
Rachel was asleep in the passenger seat. I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful she
was –her long hair covered half of her face as her head rested on the console. Her
white and brown dress made her skin look radiant, even with no sunlight in sight.
I must be the luckiest guy alive, I thought.
I took my eyes off the road for merely a couple of seconds and in that instance –the
unthinkable occurred. Some men began to gather at the end of the curve. So I stopped
the car halfway there, and woke up Rachel.
“There’s trouble. Look ahead.”
She nodded, and immediately understood what was going on. We locked our doors. But
before I could turn the car around, more men came out of the surrounding woods with
confederate flags. I had never seen anything like it. I figured it must be a white
supremacy group where we were in Louisiana. The men rushed the car and began to
beat on the windows with bats until they were able to reach through the broken glass
and open the doors themselves. They took Rachel first.
“What an abomination,” one of them said, while others laughed.
Most of the men were on her side, but others reached in and dragged me out of the
driver’s seat, and held me down on the pavement.
“Let her go!” I repeatedly taunted and yelled, but the men were ignoring me
“What are you?” A man with dark glasses who seemed to be in charge asked her
After looking around the area for a second, he grinned and said “Take her into the
“No..please..let me go!!” Rachel yelled as two men forced her away.
I tried to plead with them to stop.
“Take my money. Take my car. Take everything! Just not her.”
It started to rain. My face was still pinned on the pavement, in front of the car, and I was
watching everything. The man with the glasses came over to me, and said, “it’s not
about money, we can do what we want to a nigger.”
Even though it was clear Rachel was partially white, the group identified her as black.
She told me that she had trouble identifying herself in the past, but she never talked too
much about it. They called her an abomination just because she was different. I could
start to see that the words affected her just as much as the abuse. She looked as if her
mind was being split into two. I wanted to be there for her so much. I felt so helpless.
They stopped talking to me, and most went into the woods and joined the two men and
Rachel. One of them took her hands behind her back, and forced her onto the wet
ground. As he held her down on the ground, the other began to take off her clothes.
First he lifted up her brown and white dress, and then he slipped off her underwear, and
exposed her to everyone around. As the rain picked up, the men put flashlights on
Rachel and started to laugh even more like it was a spectacle.
I could not even form the words to describe what I felt. In my head I was screaming. But
on the outside, I struggled to even move. I was frozen in awe. The leader walked over
and pulled down his pants. I tried to look away, but the men holding me forced me to
look in Rachel’s direction, and watch as he forced himself inside her. Over and over
again, I could almost feel her screams in my own heart. I cried so much that I began to
mistake the downpour of rain for my own tears.
Eventually it stopped, as did the rain. They let us go, and threatened us after telling us
to never come back. In the car, I didn’t even know what to say. We did not go to Italy. I
turned around and drove back home.
Rachel was never the same after the incident. It was almost as if –to her –it never even
happened. She never mentioned it in the month to come, or in the one after. Every day
she would begin to spend more and more time alone, but when we were together she
would act as if nothing was wrong with us. She seemed to be working out some plan of
some sort, but I figured it had something to do with her work. I remember those months
in a bleak way. Unlike our first month together, they were slow and dull.
Over time, I started to notice a change in how I felt. I didn’t feel connected to her
anymore. While her energy and excitement seemingly remained the same, over time,
the Rachel I knew was gone, left in the woods that day.
The life I once saw in her bright brown eyes seemed to have dimmed as the days went
on. I got the feeling that she was hiding something. But if only I had not given her so
much space in my own shame, I could have stopped what was to come.
I had just been hoping for a chance to rekindle –to get our connection back after such a
horrific incident. But I didn’t know how to. I saw therapists, but nothing changed for me. I
couldn’t even bring myself to talk about it. I felt like I deserved to die for letting it happen
Everything came to a head on a Thursday night when she called from her work and said
she had a surprise for me. It was on a skyscraper we often visited that overlooked the
entire French Quarter. I thought –this was it, this was my opportunity to make things
right with her.
So I got there early. I waited in the lobby with flowers until Rachel arrived at ten on the
dot –the time she set for us to meet.
“Follow me, love.” She said, without making eye contact with me and ignoring the
bouquet in my hand.
I didn’t even know what to say, but I knew something wasn’t right. It was silent,
completely, and she grinned the entire way up the elevator. Once we finally got to the
roof Rachel paced towards the edge of the building, and then turned completely around
and said, “let’s jump.” Out of the blue, without hesitation.
I started to laugh.
“Is this your idea of a joke?”
“No, you know I would never joke about this. I know we have been distant lately and I
know how to fix it. In death, we can have anything we want –together. I’ve been
planning this for weeks. If we die together we can truly be together forever. We don’t
have to worry about the problems of this world, when there are none in the next. It has
been distant because I had to think of the perfect way to tell you this, to show you that
death can be a good thing for us.”
Deep down, I knew it had to be the accident. She was insane. But insane or not, she
had become my reason to live, and so I thought, what am I without a reason to live? I
had already convinced myself I couldn’t live without her. Instinctively, I felt that I owed
her this. I moved behind her, closer to the ledge. I put my arms around her.
“Together,” I said halfheartedly. I had given up, concluding that I had nothing else to live
That was how I ended up on a roof, possibly at the place of my death.
I didn’t really get to think, but as people noticed us on the edge, they began to gather
below on the street. The police had finally broken through the door. Frozen, I began to
truly think. What would happen if we really did die? The unknown troubled me, and I
began to lose faith. I knew what the possibilities were if we could live. I thought, while
we might be arrested or worse..at least, if we didn’t jump, we could possibly have a
But instead of relief, Rachel was filled with motivation.
“They don’t want us in this world,” she said surveying the city.
She stood up on her toes. Everything else around us seemed to be frozen in time. At
that moment, it was just us and inevitability I thought. I called on all my strength to get
my body to move, to stop Rachel, to just do something..but nothing happened. I
thought, maybe I really do have no control. That feeling was strikingly familiar. I felt just
like I felt that day in the woods. Helpless and shameful. It began to rain once again.
She began to lean. Slowly. And I, a little behind, alongside her. As we leaned out further,
I noticed more gathering on the ground below the building. I could now sense the police
scattered behind us, in awe at what was about to occur, right in front of their eyes.
“Please, don’t do this,” an officer said calmly. But now I feared that if they were too
hesitant, we had no chance. I had no chance.
I thought —everyone dies…
What a plain reassurance I had given myself in the sight of death.
I had given up all hope. As I was frozen and helpless still, I could not shake the cold
feeling of unfulfillment.
I was falling for sure now. I closed my eyes. I could feel the force of the cold wind much
more. But as we started to fall, Rachel’s hand let go of mine, and just as it did, I could
move. Part of me wanted to give in, to let –what seemed to be inevitable –happen. But
it was there that I had a realization. I am the author of this story –my story. I have
control. I have always had control. In that instance, I summoned all of my will and made
a desperate move. I threw my arm behind my back, hoping that someone, something
maybe, was there. I knew it was a long shot.
But I felt a hand.
I grabbed it with strength I never knew I had, and for a moment, I was hopeful. But in my
selfishness, and in that split second, I had forgotten about Rachel. Before my head
turned completely around, I watched as Rachel dropped faster and faster. Farther and
farther away. For a moment, she turned to face me, mid-air. Our eyes met, and I saw
the fire she had embodied herself with –absent –and replaced by nothingness. She was
far away now. But even from that distance, I could feel a sense of satisfaction. I had
always thought that no one actually wants to die. But in this case, I got the chilly feeling
that Rachel was already dead. It was all in her eyes. I turned and closed mine once
more –knowing that I could not handle what would come next. For her or for me. Maybe
I should have let myself go, I thought.
A policeman pulled me up, there were about five others, rushing towards me to help. I
knew I would never forget those brown eyes, or the fire that was once in them. I looked
back towards the ledge and then up to the night sky. The rain had stopped. Two words
came to mind. The only two words suitable to justify what I had just