“Park Avenue Paradise” by Ivan Jenson
The suicide’s body landed only a foot away from where Jake and his old friend Eton stood. They had just stepped away from that very spot after lighting up their cigarettes. Neither of them really smoked back then in the summer of 1998. They were just messing around. When they heard the thud, at first they didn’t know what it was until they saw him–a pale geeky-looking man in his thirties dressed in black slacks and a white button-down shirt, just laying there with his legs and arms splayed in a zig zag position. He had the bemused yet hopeless expression of a man who had truly run out of options. He lay half on the grass, half on the city sidewalk. Jake looked up to the roof from where the man had jumped to his death. It was approximately twelve-stories high. Jake had a friend who lived in the building. She was a Ford model who he had spent two years hanging out with until he broke it off because he wanted to be more than just platonic friends. It was a building that represented heartbreak to Jake.
A few people gathered on the sidewalk. Somebody must have called the police because two cops arrived on the scene within minutes.
Jake and Eton kept walking because they were headed for a party at a loft on 14th Street and Avenue A. They were speechless about what they had just witnessed. And the only way they expressed their shock was with nervous laughter.
The vast loft was owned by a famous artist who was in his 70s and his raw, expressionist paintings were hanging in museums and worth tens of thousands of dollars. Yet the artist did not seem to mind that a bunch of strangers were getting trashed in his living space and art studio.
Jake ended up in a conversation with the artist’s alluring daughter. She lived with her father. She was not an artist; rather, she worked on Wall Street in a sensible job and she had plans to leave the city as soon as she saved up enough money.
“Where do you want to go?” Jake asked, already feeling abandoned.
“I want to live in Alaska near my brother who’s a fisherman.”
“Isn’t it really cold there?”
“Not as cold as this city. And I’m not talking about temperature.”
Jake knew then she was a New York City hater. You either loved or hated it–there was very little middle ground.
The artist’s daughter soon lost interest in Jake. Before she wandered off she said, “Sorry, I feel like a social butterfly tonight.”
Eton had copped some cocaine and was busy talking with a small group who looked equally hyped-up and wide-eyed.
“I’m going to get going,” Jake said to Eton. Once his friend started doing blow, he was beyond reason, and Jake was not in the mood for chemical stimulants.
“Are you sure? Think of the connections you could make here. Shit, man. Stick around.”
“Naw, I gotta go.”