6.25 Morse Code
My place is down by the exhibition and surrounded by condo buildings. The night sky is lit up by one small cubic space at a time. Last week, it was late, I was sitting outside on my balcony. It was so late, there weren’t many lights coming from the adjacent buildings. Something caught my eye. Three stories from the roof, I noticed a light blinking on and off. I shrugged it off as a lamp in need of changing or something like that, but it was intermittent, almost like it was establishing a pattern. I took out my computer and looked up Morse Code. Sure enough, I found the code for SOS, the international distress signal. The internet also told me SOS was first adopted by the German government on April 1st, 1905 and became the worldwide standard distress signal during the second International Radiotelegraphic Convention on November 3, 1906. SOS remained the maritime radio distress signal until 1999, when it was replaced by the Global Maritime Distress Safety system. However, SOS is still widely known as the most recognizable visual distress signal.
I digress. In Morse Code language, SOS is a continuous sequence of three dits, three dahs and three more dits. You’d know what I meant if you saw it.
I went back out on to my balcony and the light in the building across the street was still going on and off. I watched it for a bit and became convinced that this was Morse Code for SOS. Someone was in distress. Someone needed help.
I walked across the street to the building, loitered outside for a bit. I couldn’t tell the security guard that I thought someone was spelling out SOS in an apartment. The police would definitely be called - on me. This led me to thinking I should call the police, but again, what was I supposed to tell them? I waited until someone was entering the building and followed them in, walked past the security guard with confidence, like I lived there. He couldn’t know everyone in the building, right? I could feel him eyeing me, but I just kept going.
The building had twenty-five floors and the light was three floors from the top. I got into the elevator with the other resident and he hit the button for floor twenty-two. Great, that’s where I was going. We rode the elevator up in silence. When the doors opened on our floor, I let him get out first. I walked down the hallway - I wasn’t even entirely sure I’d get the right door. The other resident his place and I was alone in the hallway. I retraced my steps from outside and determined which way north and south. I came to room 2205. I went to knock on the door, but stopped. What was I going to say? I figured I’d work that out. No answer. Put my ear to the door, but couldn’t hear anything.
An idea. Not an exceptionally great idea, not something I would consider intelligent, but an idea. A few weeks ago, I binge-watched all three Jason Bourne movies. Usually, at some point in each movie, Jason Bourne was caught inside a building and people or SWAT teams or whomever would be racing up the stairs to capture him. His only logical choice was to jump out the window and climb down the side of the building with no ropes or anything. Ever since watching those movies, whenever I found myself on a balcony, I’d check out the side of the building and picture how I would climb down. Now was my chance to actually try this.
On the roof, I looked over the edge. Like I said, this was not a good idea, but we were only talking three floors down. There were many places to latch on to and lower myself down. So, I climbed over the ledge, dropped myself down. Found the top of the highest balcony, let go and landed. Shimmied down onto the balcony of the twenty-fifth floor. I did it. I’m Jason Bourne. I just had to repeat this two more times. The next one wasn’t difficult, I just climbed over the side of the balcony and lowered myself down. Repeat. On the last one, my arms were getting a little tired. I should have taken a break. As soon as all my weight was over the railing, my left hand slipped and I was sure this was the end. My right arm locked and I dangled twenty-three stories in the air. I swung my feet out, then towards the balcony and let go, falling on to the twenty-second floor. I rested there for a moment to catch my breath and my bearings.
The condo was dark outside except for the light that was still blinking its message. I tried the sliding glass door but it was locked. Cupped my hands against the window, looked inside. The light was coming from a lamp. Besides this, the room looked empty. At that moment, the front door swung open and I jumped to the side out of sight. Noises as two people entered the condo. The sliding door swung open, but no one came out. “It’s stuffy in here,” said a woman. “Yeah, that’s why I opened the door,” said a man. “What’s wrong with the lamp?” She said. A pause. “I dunno,” he said. “Looks like the light bulb just needs changed.”
Shit. I came all the way over here and climbed down the side of the building for a light bulb that needed changing. I waited for the noises to die down from inside. When I heard them go into the bedroom, I snuck inside, crept through the condo and let myself out. I walked past the security guard with no confidence, just moved fast before he stopped me. Jason Bourne, I am not.