l'appel du vide

l'appel du vide

A Story by klsy

a recounting of the times i've almost jumped off buildings


the first time i ever thought about jumping off a high building was when i was twelve years old, and i promise you it had nothing to do with suicide or teenage angst. 

i had just finished pulling myself up a mountain of steps that reached my knees, and had finally lugged myself to the top of a mayan ruin in belize. i had never stood on something that high in the air in my entire life. when i turned my head, i could see the tops of the trees that surrounded the area. the people who had towered over my body on the ground could now fit between the small spaces of my pointer finger and my thumb. when i came back home i would swear to all my friends that i grabbed a piece of a cloud, but my mother wouldn’t let me keep it. i heard a whistle coming from the earth below and could faintly make out that everyone was taking a group picture by the edge. i quickly snuck behind the biggest grown-up i could find so i could make my way to the ledge of the structure without being babied by my mother, who had followed me up here, though she was not a fan of “up high places”. i swung my legs over the edge and kicked them a little, giddy at the idea of going against my mother’s wishes. the photographer counted to three before giving us all a thumbs up, to which everyone answered by sliding away from the edge and nervously laughing about how tall the building was. i, on the other hand, took this chance to look past my dangling feet down to the world below. past my shoe laces was a long, cracked stone floor with stray heaps of rocks. right behind the heel of my shoe i could barely see doors. 

just one small push and you would fall right down there, i thought to myself. my body would become part of that stone floor.

i found myself leaning further forward, the allure of gravity combined with curiosity getting the better of me. 

i would be on the news too, probably. all my friends back home would talk about how there are still bits of me deep in the crevices of that stone floor. 

the neck of my shirt choked my throat as i was tugged back to the roof of the building. a surprised yelp met a pain filled one as my head smacked the hot stone. my mother stood above me, blocking out the sun with the most menacing look i’d ever seen in my life. she yanked me up by the stretched out collar of my shirt and began her two hour long lecture on behaving oneself and being responsible and using common sense.


the second time i thought about jumping off the top of a building i was trespassing. 

i never did things like this, honestly. i’ve never had detention and i always got citizenship awards at school. i’m not a pushover either. i know what’s good for me, my father’s a cop for god’s sake. i’m not sure how i got roped into breaking into the administrative building on a university campus that i am not officially attending. yet, i am sneaking behind pillars to avoid the janitors, while trying to suppress giggles. quietly weaving through hallways i had never seen before we reached a window. 

it was a small square that sat eye level on the wall. the boy my friend and i had met only a few weeks before made a comment about a missing ladder. my friend suggested we just left. i shook my head as i helped the boy take the screen off the window. he pushed it open and humidity began to seep down to greet us. he pulled himself through rather easily and made a comment on how great the view was. i bounced restlessly on my heels as i folded my hands as a makeshift stepping stool for my friend. she hesitantly placed her foot in my hands and reached through he window for the boy. her waist caught at the window pane and she let out a loud laugh. the boy and i quickly hushed her and cautioned her to be quiet as she pushed herself away from the wall with her hand over her mouth. after a few minutes of frantic glances down the hallway and rejections from my friend, i threw my hands up exasperatedly. i braced myself against the window frame taking a deep breath before pushing myself off the ground. my arms screamed as i tried to pull myself onto the roof top and my leg scraped against the window as it tried to keep me from pushing through. the boy grabbed my shoulders and pulled me through the window and onto the ground. i let out a chuckle as i rolled onto my back. the wind whipped at my hair chasing away the humidity. the lack of light allowed a unobstructed view of the stars, i lifted my hands in a credulous effort to grab one. 

like the clouds, i thought. 

i brought myself to my feet and quickly moved to the edge of the building. i could see roof tops and tree tops for miles. the wind was light enough to not be bothersome but enough to alleviate the weight of the summer heat. i sat down, slipping off my sandals, and pushed my legs over the edge. 

if my mother knew she’d throw me off this building.

past my wriggling toes was the fountain. it was turned off but i could see the intricate design of the marble around it. i leaned forward. 

just one small push.

i stretched out my legs, pushing them as far as the could go below me. 

it would be nice to die on top of something so beautiful. 

my arm flew back behind my as the boy grabbed my wrist violently. i jumped to my feet and yanked my arm back to my side. he began spewing streams of words about how close i was to the ledge and how dangerous it was. he suggested we left before i did something stupid.


the third time i thought about jumping off a building i was supposed to be working. 

i gracefully tried to collect all the papers people were handing me into one neat stack to stuff them into a folder. i was surrounded by people a few years older than me who were running different local and national programs. my babyface, on the other hand, just finished my first year of college and had barely had my hand in anything that better the community. i did not belong here, though i was trying my hardest to not look like someone’s daughter. as i somewhat tamed the pile of papers in my arms i looked out into the sea of people gathering at the cafeteria. everyone was smiling and laughing with their intelligent peers on topics they could all speak of that were way above my head. i blew the hair out of my face and opted to roam around the building instead of having an awkward lunch. 

the building was beautiful, and besides the collection of intelligent young people and myself, it was completely empty. i made my way onto the third floor weaving in and out of empty rooms and onto balconies. eventually, i came across a beautiful outdoor garden. beams that connected to balcony to the building jutted out of the ground, with green vines growing around them. flowers of all colors dotted in the floor. just beyond the balcony were massive buildings that casted intimidating shadows. i dropped my bag and the folder and kicked off my shoes. running my hand along one of the beams until it acceded my height, i made my way to the end of the balcony. a large block of cement connected a beam to the floor. steel wires prevented me from reaching the edge. without skipping a beat i pulled myself onto the cement block. i steadied myself and began sliding closer to the edge of the building. when i was completely facing the edge of the balcony i held my hands out in front of me, past the shadows of the skyscrapers. the sun made my hand glow as a clenched my fist, pretending i had caught a piece of it. my eyes drifted down to the city below me. i could see people walking, running, biking. a car sped across the road and a biker pedestrian called after it. 

just one small push and you’d swan dive towards the earth, i thought.

my feet gently drifted closer to the end of the cement block. 

maybe one of these people would try to get in touch with my parents. and tell them that they saw me when i was falling.

i fell back towards the balcony. a man with a badge had me wrapped up in his arms. i wrestled to gain my balance as i also fought for him to let go of me. i rolled my eyes as he threw his arms in the air as he asked me if i had a death wish. he continued his yelling as i made my way back to my shoes. 


the french have a word for this urge to jump off high places. l’appel du vide. the call of the void. i don’t have a death wish. i live a healthy life. yet, when i do venture to the edge, i am immediately pulled back and shamed. a story i’ve become quiet familiar with even when i am safe on the ground. all my life i’ve looked up to shaming fingers pointed in my face. fingers of hands that would try to shape me into an obeying citizen who lives like other obeying citizens. people who live in fear of the void. but i do not think that the void is meant to be feared. l’appel du vide has taught me a great lesson. it has taught me to live my life chasing the void. to jump off great buildings i face in my life, and find way to overcome them. to face my life head on and never to shy away from what i want. though the void will not always support me, and it may be a difficult life it will always be better than one with upturned noses and disapproving gazes. for me, the call of the void is stronger than the call of safety. 

© 2016 klsy

Author's Note

i wrote this in about two hours to meet a competition deadline
please let me know what you think

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Added on June 6, 2016
Last Updated on June 6, 2016
Tags: not in the suicidal way, jump, essay, memoir, new user, new, l'appel du vide, void, jumping, independent



memphis, TN

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