A View of the Falls

A View of the Falls

According to my boss, she saw the man sail past her and glide right over the lip of the falls. Because she was standing right there with her son in the half-rain that day, gazing dreamily down into the Niagara River, she was afforded a blink-of-an-eye glimpse of the man’s face before he went over. Calm, resigned, unblinking, he met her eyes briefly, and then he vanished into the abyss.
“David!” she gasped, throwing her hands over her seven-year-old’s eyes, so that he wouldn’t see. Elbowing her, the boy twisted away, and stood scowling. Faintly, over the pounding in her eardrums, she heard the drumming of the cataract, the thunderous crash of the unmeasured volume of water, toppling into the gorge.
“God,” she whispered into her hands, “Oh, my God, David–did you see that?” Her heart was still dropping, as though it had freed itself from her ribs and leapt into the river, found its rightful spot in the man’s chest cavity, and was plunging with him down to the rocks far below.
“I didn’t see anything. Jeez–what’s the matter this time?” David asked, looking down over the guard rail.
Knees buckling, my boss grasped her son by the shoulders and shook them. “Listen,” she said, battling hysteria. “Mommy’s cell is dead, and she has to find a payphone right away!”
“Now?” David demanded, incredulously. Outraged, he added, “You were supposed to take me on the Maid of the Mist, if that rings a bell, Mom.”
“Please, David–we have to go now!” she screamed at him, gripping him by the forearm and yanking.
“Quit it; you’re crazy–you always do this!” David yelled, trying to pull away from her.
Rain dotted his lashes, or was it just mist from the falls, or maybe…was he crying?
“Someone just…I wasn’t going to tell you, but…I just saw this man go over the falls,” she blurted, folding her son into her arms and succumbing to a sudden flood of tears.
Talking in a low voice, relating this story to me over paper cups of water in the copy room, my boss shook her head , briefly meeting my eyes.
“Unbelievably, there was no record of a suicide that day,” she told me.
Vacuous, I thought, Her eyes are empty–as though the last thing she ever really saw were those man’s calm eyes, looking up at her from the river.
“What about David; did David at least believe you?” I asked, finding that this was what I wanted to know, not the sensational details, the macabre facts.
“Xeroxing,” she mumbled. “Yes, that’s why I came in here, to run these reports through the copier…I’m having the hardest time focussing these days…”
Zoetrope flickers rippled across her face, a silent picture show, light and shadow…an illusion of movement.