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I

This man, Bill Lexx, as I was about to find out, was standing in front of the third story men's bathroom window when I went to use it this morning. Outside the window, not inside the bathroom, but on the outside, in a suit, which I might add was not a three-piece, and he had taken his tie off; his socks didn't match the color of his suit. I only noticed that because I sit down when I pee. I know a lot of men don't do that, or would never admit it, but I do. My grandmother taught me it was impolite to be heard using the bathroom, period.

     So, I'm sitting on the toilet, and this man, Bill, I guess he heard me, because I had to put the toilet seat down, you know, so I could sit on it, and it clanged against the porcelain base of the toilet. And he turns around and stares at me. Thank God I hadn't taken my pants off yet. I'd sat down on the toilet to retie my shoes.

     I forgot to mention that.

     See, Margie, the secretary in my office, made me untie my shoes when she was getting off the elevator. I mean, accidentally, made me untie them. She goes down to the basement to smoke instead of outside, says she can't completely appreciate a cigarette outside. I had walked a little past the elevator, not meaning to not speak, and then felt guilty and didn't want to be rude so I turned around to speak, and in the process of turning around, I stepped on my left shoestring.

     She couldn't have cared less.

     The elevator doors shut. So, I took the stairs up to the next floor to go to the bathroom. The bathrooms weren't designed with common sense in mind, just the safety of each gender. The building itself has only had one renovation, and that was out of necessity due to Camille, back in 1969. Nothing else has ever been done to alter its appearance, not even for convenience. It found its way onto the National Registry, about a hundred years after it housed Confederate soldiers; now, it exists to depreciate history.

<  2  >

     The men's bathrooms are on every other floor.

     And right as I got to the third floor, I saw Mr. Yola and got nervous.

     That's how my other shoe got untied because I stepped on my right shoestring when I saw him, but I couldn't stop right then to tie either of them back because I thought Yola had seen me, and even though I was just going to the bathroom, he'd find some way to make me feel guilty for it. He's now the number one man at the Shipping office, and has been since Mr. Leman was found dead floating around Lake Tia O'Khata, last July. Yola's a true Mississippi gentleman; he doesn't have any children. He was mumbling to himself and had a rather glossed look to his face; I just went on to the bathroom, and sat down on the toilet to tie my shoes.

     And I don't know what I was thinking. But after I tied my shoes, and this man, Bill, you know, is still staring at me — I told him his socks didn't match his suit.

     "What?" Bill mouthed.

     He couldn't hear me; the window was closed. I got up and opened the window…however, it's that old kind of window that opens out instead of raises up, so I had to ask him, I had to raise my voice, to scoot over to the left a little bit so I could push the window out.

     "What!?"

     I tried not to raise my voice, first, and mouthed back at him, instead. You know like you do when you're in a car and you're talking to someone else in another car, like at a stoplight, and maybe you know them.

     "Scoot over to the left. I cannot open the window. It opens out, not up."

     I motioned with my arms to indicate what I was asking him to do. After a second or two, he caught on.

<  3  >

     I pushed the window out, and then we had another problem. The window got stuck. See, the windows are tall, and they're plain glass, by the way, not frosted like in the ladies' which all bathroom windows should be, and when I pushed them open, they split, you know, one went out to the right and the other to the left. And the left one, on Bill's side, got stuck. I did try to close it back when I realized he couldn't then step around it, but it wouldn't budge. If the left window had gone all the way back to the wall of the building, he could have gotten around the window and crawled back into the bathroom. But, as it was, he couldn't move, and the men's bathroom on the third floor is the last room on that floor, on the east side of the building.

     Basically, he was trapped. There wasn't any other window for him to go to.

     I forgot all about peeing.

     I leaned out the window, and looked through the glass at him.

     "Hey! I was just trying to tell you your socks…didn't match…your… suit."

     I don't know what the hell I was thinking.

     Then, you know what he did; he started to cry. And I don't mean simple crying, I mean deep crying — drool was stringing down from the sides of his lips, cutting off into drops — falling the length of three floors.

     I can't believe I told him his socks didn't match.

     I don't know what the hell I was thinking.

 

II

Eight minutes ago, Mr. Yola fired Bill, without remorse, without regret. I'd passed him, Yola, on his way back from Bill's office, apparently. The things I wouldn't have known if I hadn't gone to the bathroom, huh?

     Bill Lexx (and he was very exact with this, methodical) said it took him six and a half minutes to climb out of the break-room window and around to this side of the building. He took two steps a minute, precisely, except at the corner. Bill Lexx was very thorough about this process; I imagine he's rather good at his job: an accountant. Or, you know, used to be. He was also very anxious to explain himself.

<  4  >

     Of course, this side of the building faced the executive parking lot.

     I didn't know why that was important, at first.

     Bill Lexx's wife is pregnant with twins. She doesn't have a job. Bill had a wonderful health plan through the company. Two months away from five years in the same position. Raises usually start around then. It was the perfect job for a man of exactitude, as he seemed to be.

     Bill says he has no idea what happened to the money. I believe him.

     Then, again, the tears.

     "I signed the papers, I signed off on them, the papers…I know that it it it it it came to the office. Alicia knows…. She can…she she…she'll tell you that!!" Margie may smoke, but at least she's efficient. But, then, I didn't really know Alicia, other than she'd worn a cotton antler headband with bells on them, at the last three Christmas parties.

     It must have been a large amount of money.

     I looked down below us. You know, three stories is not all that high. I mean it's not so high that people can't notice you, especially when you're standing on the ledge outside of the building. But nobody even looked at us; none of the people walking by paid any attention.

     He quit crying.

     And, then, Bill Lexx asked me to forgive him.

     "Tell me you forgive me!" He was becoming irrational.

     So, I told him.

     "I forgive you."

     What harm could it do? If it helped him to realize what he was doing, if it helped him think rationally, you know, why not, I'd do it. I mean, I did it. Maybe in a bizarre way I was speaking for the company, you know, to him. I don't know. At the same time, and it hit me all of a sudden, it…it seemed an enormous responsibility for me to forgive this man.

<  5  >

     You know, when I first came to work here, the Crisis Management Team, from Community Counseling — their offices are across the street in the Bancorp South building — was hired by this company to conduct a seminar on "Suicidal Tendencies in the Workforce."

     I didn't go.

     I didn't have suicidal tendencies.

     I don't think outside the box very well, I guess.

     "Bill, I know you haven't mentioned jumping off, from, from here, and I am hoping it's because you are changing your mind if that was your original intention."

     "I, I….I just, I…" He stuttered. I waited for more.

     There was no more. He just stood still.

     I couldn't help but feel frustrated. Then, he started sobbing again.

     "Your wife is pregnant, Bill! You can't forget about that! She needs you; those babies will need you! So you lost your job. You'll get another one!"

     I didn't believe that myself. It's hard to come back from being fired.

     He got so mad he hit the window.

     Glass splintered everywhere, down to the ground and all over the ledge.

     Then, I peed my pants. I have a fear of ingesting glass; my father was an alcoholic.

     Thank God none of the glass hit me.

     This would have been a lot worse if we'd been in a kitchen, I thought, Be glad we're not in a kitchen.

     His hand was bleeding, naturally. I ran to the sink, to the towel dispenser and ripped out one of those big rolls of brown paper towels that seem to thrive in industrial buildings. God, I bet that company makes some money.

<  6  >

     Maybe they were hiring.

     I tried to tear off a large sheet of it, but Bill Lexx reached through the broken window, grabbed that whole roll and threw it straight to the ground. He didn't seem to care that he had glass stuck in his hand, a few brittle shards embedded around his knuckles.

     "Bill. Come inside. Please. Don't jump. I mean, look, look! You popped out the glass, you can crawl through, at least…I can get an ambulance…the hospital's only a block or…"

     "Shut the hell up. Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Shut up."

     And I'm thinking it's amazing that not one single man has walked into this bathroom yet. We must have some powerful bladders in this building. I was actually starting to get pissed off, you know? Why did I have to deal with this? I wasn't all that close to Bill Lexx; we don't even work in the same department. God, why did I even look at his damn socks.

     Still, I was in the middle of it now.

     Here I was petitioning for an arbitrary man's life, rallying for his unborn twins and pitiful wife, for his seemingly indiscriminate purpose for living.

     Bill stopped crying and stood up. He had alternated half-stand to crouch for most of his confessional. He was bleeding all over his suit, it was navy, a polyester blend, and the empty window frame. He put his hand on the brick wall of the building, preparing to fully stand, I thought.

     His hand had such a large spread.

     His shoulders relaxed, and he leaned against the wall, standing straight up. He must have been over six feet tall. I guess that's how I saw his socks to begin with; his pants didn't quite fit the length of his legs. He grabbed onto the window frame.

     My left hand had been holding, white-knuckled, to the glassless frame stuck on the ledge; my arm shot out to grab it when he first started to stand up, for support. I guess I was so nervous, I'd forgotten — as I backed away, you know, to give Bill Lexx room, I backed away holding to the window frame. That with the pressure of Bill's weight must have been exactly the force needed because we dislodged the window. And while I was standing there, my crotch wet from urine, unable to let go of the window frame, Bill Lexx sucked in a quick breath, his hand slipped from the brick, and over the side he went, without exhaling.

<  7  >

     I want to say he fell at the same speed as the brown paper towel roll, according to physics, but he didn't. He fell in slow motion, he did.

     I watched him all the way down to the pavement; he landed a few feet from an illegally parked dark blue Lexus. Not too many shades different in color from his suit. A passer-by might have assumed he came with the car, or had tripped out of it, consumed by an aneurysm that had caused a terrible nosebleed. For the fall to be such a significant one, the result was relatively neat and contained.

     I guess I killed him. Not that I like admitting that to myself.

     It certainly hadn't been my intention. And, I suppose it doesn't even matter now what color his socks were. But, so you know, they were a light green, like a pistachio.

     Argyle, even. Never seen a pair like them since.

     I hope I never do.

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