If you have a fear of heights, then I can tell you that it doesn’t quite recede even if you’re standing over your own physical departure. The river was beautiful though, and I had never really given it appreciation, but how many people would stop and stare at it from a bridge that was usually congested with the most patient of drivers? At night, however, the overpass is left alone by cars and only caters to fallen coffee cups.
The river and I met eyes on the night that I had enough of everything. I remember besmearing my hands in coarse damped dirt that rested on top of the cement railing. Leaning forward on the outside of it, I couldn’t hear much. I even thought that under some strange but heartwarming circumstance, some fishermen would be out sailing and try to convince me that there was more to live for, but of course nothing like that happened. As I stood slanted further, I stared down at the water and could tell it held others that had jumped in their most prominent moment of ignominy, but they all felt it had to happen. There is a beautiful intimacy with that, if it’s to any solace.
All I could feel at that time was an engulfing heat that overpowered any reason. My life had been so destitute and lonely at my standards that I couldn’t handle it anymore. So I drove down to the bridge after working another day of drudgery, parked far from where I planned to die, and shamefully walked down the narrow sidewalk. I guess I shouldn’t have cared, considering I was going to irrationally leap off, but there was an awful pang of discomfort that warmed the back of my head. It wasn’t nervousness mind you.
As I engrossed myself with deep thought and reflection, a young man walked across with his dog. He was chubby and short, with glasses that had thick rims. His hair was unkempt in apathy and it looked as if his west highland terrier carried the same attitude. It was a small, white, and ragged looking thing that seemed like he was once the boy’s mothers, but months of disobedience made just them the perfect friends.
I stopped sulking for a quick second and slightly embraced the hilarity of the situation. There I was, a middle aged man with nothing left and hanging off of a railing, with an older “Chunks” passing by in the background with some stereotypical scrappy dog that would be in any children’s detective show. The boy looked rather winded and held a generic brand of root beer. He was in no hurry though, for I’m sure that his mother was fast asleep already.
He heaved his way through the dry, brisk air until he saw me and stopped.
“Oh God…” I thought with exhaustion, “Is he, of all people, going to persuade my decision?” I thought he was going to serenade me with overused philosophy and banal inspirational statements, and shuddered as he sauntered over. I can tell you though, that it unfolded in the most unusual of ways.
He stood behind me to my left and looked out at the river. There was an overcast that shielded the earth from stars and the moon, so there was no reflection off of the water. He kept standing as I held on even longer, and we were both staring out.
“You know,” he reached his arm out with the soda, “I could easily just dump this into the river cause’ I don’t really feel like finishing it anyway.” He kept his other hand holding the dog leash tightly in his pocket, but continued to hold out the can.
“It’s not like it would matter, I mean it’s pretty polluted down there. If you look at the sides you can see streaks of oil and all sorts of different kinds of trash, so who would care.” He paused for a few seconds as I continued to hold on. I was so baffled by what was going on that I had nothing to say to him.
“Although I would feel guilty, I mean, littering is such a huge problem as it is and throwing the can over would just be adding to that issue. So,” he sighed deeply “if I was to just drop it now, what would that make me?” I was so indifferent at that point that I responded with sheer sarcasm and derision.
“Lazy.” I said with a smile as I craned my head back and squeezed my eyes shut like a drunkard. I might as well make the best of this right?
“Exactly,” he said with predictability, who couldn’t have seen that coming?
“Or,” he breathed in with detestation, as if he was forcing himself to say what he was about to, “Or I could hold onto it. I could just carry it around with me until I find a better way to dispose of it, such as, recycling it. I could go out and find one and just throw it in, or just wait a bit and throw it into my own and not a friends or neighbors. People shouldn’t have to rely on the recycle bins of others to properly get rid of their cans. I mean sure, it’s more work, but it’s worth it and in the end I would know that I did the right thing. Well, even if it was a pain in the ass and I had to take another road just to detour and get back to my house, and you know what? That’s what I’m gonna’ do. I’m actually already on the right road to my house anyway but that’s also speaking for other people that often find themselves split between the option of letting their cans go, or holding onto them.”
I still had no idea what he was talking about. All that did at the time just made me think he was insane and was using me as a vector to release his crazed spiels. It’s not like I was in a position to retort with judgment. At that very moment I would have believed he escaped his mother’s dungeon to get fresh air from the black mold that grew in the cracks covering the only areas where light was allowed in. So, I made it my last good deed to listen to the rest of what he had to say. Come on, he was obviously lonely.
He stood there with his dog and turned his head in thought. I could see him from the corner of my eye and he actually seemed rather sorrowful. He looked down to his feet like a juvenile that had done something wrong and held the can closely to his chest at this point. His dog just panted next to him.
“But, what if there is no recycle bin…” he said desolately. At that point, I actually felt sadness that was outside of me. I was beginning to understand his seemingly pointless prattle. This was coming from someone who was not insane, but someone who was clinically, legitimately depressed and who has been there before. It made me reevaluate myself as I painfully held onto that uncomfortable cement. Was I at the point where I really had enough? I honestly hated my life, but did I live in a way that couldn’t be changed?
I think he realized that what he had just said was overtly morbid, so he took his dog and his can, and simply left. I thought about what his life must be like and how many friends he has, and if he has a job, or a plan. He just looked like a useless sack. However, that useless sack spoke from experience, and he made sense in the end.
I remember looking at the greasy and oily sections of the water that tenderly caressed trash bags and plastic bottles alike, and you know what? I was going to find my recycle bin. After he left I pulled myself up onto the sidewalk. My arms, hands and upper thighs hurt more than anything, but I can easily say it didn’t matter.
I got back in my car and drove home to my apartment. My girlfriend had left me a few months ago and had taken everything she could with her, including money and my damned cockatoo. I had been living without a toaster oven and television for quite some time, and it didn’t take long for feelings of absolute lonesomeness and pain to arise, so I stopped performing well at work. I got fired the day I made the decision to throw everything I had left away, but what can I say? I loved my girlfriend and my bird.
I quickly got in touch with my sister and did a bit of painful groveling to have her allow me to live with her out in Salt Lake City. Eventually she caved in but she was very reluctant. It was this reluctance though, that had her introduce me to certain people she was in positive contact with. So the next thing I knew, I was a sales representative making some respectable money. I was actually able to move out within a month and a half out of my sisters all because we were never really able to stand each other.
Then I met another woman, as men will do, but she had a bit of baggage that included a son and the ever so trite fuming ex-husband. As cliché as that situation was, it was the kind of ordinary I needed. I love my wife and stepson, and when I think about it, my life was never so bad to be considered suicide worthy in the first place, and I think that the nameless person who came about years ago thought the same thing about himself, and that’s why I had the opportunity to meet him. He was just still in the process of finding his recycle bin.