by Berniya Dudley
[Trigger Warning: Suicide]
As I stand here and think about the events that led me to this bridge, I hear a car door slam close. I instantly freeze. I just wait. Suddenly, I can feel someone’s presence.
“Hey! What are you doing?” a man’s voice yells from behind me, but I don’t turn around. I stay silent. His voice isn’t angry; it is surprisingly calm. In my head, I wonder the same thing. What am I doing up here? How did I get to this point? Where did I go wrong? The night in question is still a blur for me. I remember brief details about the night, but not enough to make sense of what happened. I can’t seem to fix my words, to tell the truth, but I can’t lie either. My silence wasn’t good enough for him, so he begins to climb over the railing. As he climbs over, I can hear a struggle and it takes a minute for him to get completely over.
“Please stop.” I say this as firmly as possible. I try to put bass in my voice, but who am I kidding. I was never a confrontational person. “I’m not worth it. Please leave me alone.” I don’t hear him struggling to get up here. All I hear is the bridge moan with the passing breeze. I hoped he’d climb back over and forget all about me. Go on with his day, after all, it’s beautiful out. It’s sweater weather, which in my opinion is the best weather of all. Not too hot, not too cold. I love this time of the year. The air is nice and crisp, I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just exactly what we need after those summer days.
Back when I was younger, my grandfather used to bring my sister and me to this fall festival held in town, just around this time of the year. It was always beautiful weather. The leaves outside were nice and crunchy; our street was filled with so many wonderful colors. My sister and I never knew when grandfather would come to take us to the festival; it was always spontaneous. He would come to the house and call our names as soon as my mom opened the door. “Olivia! Shawn! Let’s go! It’s festival time.” When we heard his voice we would always race to our rooms to get dressed. “Don’t forget a sweater!” He would always say this when he heard us at the top of the stairs, and of course we would always have to go back up and grab one. I enjoyed the time I spent with our grandfather. I always wanted children, so I could share a beautiful experience like that with them, but I just never got around to having any. Too bad this is something I will never get to experience again. After the accident, my sister decided it was best for no one to know that we were related. She denies all my calls, but I still leave voicemails hoping she’ll listen to at least one.
The man finally appears next to me. I guess I was too deep in my thoughts to notice him get over the second railing that led to the edge of the bridge. Too focused on the things that I should have cherished more to notice a boat had passed by. All I can see are the left-over waves that crash against the bridge and the foam-like residue in the water. So here we are. We both stand on the ledge in silence, avoiding eye contact. I am afraid to even talk. I spot a cloud that looks like a whale if I squint my eyes long enough. The sound of movement causes me to break my train of thought. The man removes his jacket and places it on the side of the rail and sits down on the ledge.
“Please leave. I don’t want you to get hurt. I’ve done enough bad in this community.” I am confused by his actions. He still doesn’t say a word, just goes in his jacket pocket and pulls out two granola bars. He reaches up towards me with his left hand stretched out so I can see what he’s offering me.
“Want?” He holds the granola bar up for a couple of seconds giving me a moment to choose. And for a second, a very brief second, I consider taking it. It’s only 11 o’clock in the morning and that coffee and bagel I got from the diner nearby has been fully digested. I could eat again, but what would be the point of that? It would just go to waste. Shaking my head back and forth, I refuse. My emotions are all over the place; I thought I would be able to do this alone, no witnesses. I must have lost track of the time because now there are more cars passing by and a handful of people starting to gather.
“No, thank you.” It comes out very bland, I was hoping not to come off as rude. My mother didn’t raise me to be disrespectful no matter what situation I am in. As a child, my mom taught us manners, and said that our character will take us a long way in life. I wish I could call her at a time like this. But, what would I say? “Hey Mom, how was your day? Oh, mine is great too, just standing on a ledge because I can’t be a man and face what I did.” I’m sure she’d love that, right? What would I tell her in these last moments? There’s nothing to say. The man talks for me.
“Out of all the healthy things my wife forces on me, these will always be my favorite,” he says as he opens the pack and takes a bite. Crumbs break off and fall on his lap. When he notices, he rolls his eyes and lets out a slight sigh. As he swipes the crumbs off his lap and into the water, he asks me “You live in the area?” I think about how I’ll respond. “I used to. Now I am no longer welcomed here.” My voice is almost a whisper because I know that any moment now, he’s going to recognize who I am. I’ve been avoiding eye contact for so long.
Why don’t I just jump now? He doesn’t seem like he’s leaving anyway. I don’t want to do this in front of him though. Something deep inside of me doesn’t want to do it at all. “When will you leave?” I ask him boldly as if I am truly ready to jump. He looks me straight in the eyes and says, “I’ll leave when you climb back over the rail. Or when you answer my first question.” After talking he just waits for an answer or some type of movement. “Don’t you know who I am?” I look at his puzzled face. His eyebrows were lowered, and he stared at me long and hard trying to piece something sensible together. He shakes his head and shrugs his shoulders. I’ll never be ready. The body never is, so I’ll have to force myself to do it.
“I am the reason why an innocent mother lays in a hospital bed fighting for her life. I decided to get drunk one evening with my friends and blacked out. I’m out on bond. I don’t deserve to survive and breathe after something like that.” I turn to look at him and maybe he’s too shocked to say anything because he’s quiet. He hasn’t said much this entire time.
“That night, I had a fight with my wife and she kicked me out. Our marriage was already struggling, to be honest. I was working odd hours and staying at work later than usual. We were both hoping that I got the promotion coming up. I worked overtime and put in more work than anyone else in that company and yet I was passed over!” I pause to get myself together.
“I don’t know. I just didn’t expect things to unfold the way they did.” He’s looking at me now. In the beginning, he was listening but now he’s truly hearing me. I can see in his eyes that he wants to say something instead he remains silent. “We’ve been together since freshman year of college and now she has another man in the house that we made a home. She claims that I didn’t have enough time for her, the overtime and all the work was for us!” The man places both hands on the ledge of the bridge and pushes himself up making sure to put all his weight on the railing. “I was working to secure a better future for both of us and when I didn’t get the promotion, she started sleeping with another man and looking at me as though I was less of a man. So I went out drinking with the boys that night.”
“Is that scar from the accident?” he asks and points to my arm. I lift my arm and just stare at the scar. It was from the accident. During the impact, my head hit the steering wheel, and when I opened my eyes blood was leaking down my face. I tried to wipe my face with my shirt but I couldn’t tell where the blood was coming from, my body felt numb. The scar isn’t from the impact though, after I woke up I went to the woman’s vehicle to see if she was okay. Her door was locked so I used my elbow to break the glass and as I reached into the car the glass cut my arm. In total, I received 23 stitches in both my arm and my head.
“Yes, it is.” I sigh and shake my head disappointed by my actions. “I should’ve listened to my friends when they said I shouldn’t drive, I just wanted to talk to my wife. I was willing to beg for her to take me back. I wanted to prove to her that I could be a man, a provider, and even a father. I just lost control of the car. I felt like I was going in and out of consciousness. Even after the crash, I hadn’t realized what I had done. It took me a while to sober up.” The man stares at me intensely, and then reaches for my hand. I pull away.
“No! Just leave me alone!” I yell.
“You don’t have to do this, things will get better.” He looks at me as if he actually believes going to jail for life is better than taking my own. I can hear the sirens of a police car approaching the bridge. One of the bystanders must have called the police. That’s when I realize that either way, I’ll be dead inside. I don’t have my wife, my sister won’t talk to me or return my calls, and if I don’t jump now I’ll end up being arrested before the actual trial.
It’s time to go.
Berniya Dudley is a Liberal Arts: Social Science and Humanities major at LaGuardia Community College in New York City. She was born and raised in Manhattan. The Lit is her first publication. Berniya also works as a Veterinary Assistant in an Animal Clinic located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.