“You know, it doesn’t count if you’re already planning your defeat.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. From a stranger, no less.
“What are you talking about?” I asked. “What ‘doesn’t count’?”
A man stood beside me on the bridge. I hadn’t heard him approach; he sort of just appeared. He was handsome, I have to admit that. His three-piece suit looked as though it had been freshly ironed and tailored to perfectly fit his body. He was young and clean-shaven, with dark hair slicked back behind his ears. He looked like some sort of businessman, maybe a banker. He leaned against the guardrail as he spoke, looking out past the churning dark waters to the brilliant city skyline.
“Life doesn’t count,” he said matter-of-factly.
I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. “You’re not exactly being very encouraging.”
I stood on the opposite side of the railing, my arms looped through the steel bars. There was barely enough room for my feet on the narrow concrete ledge; my toes hung suspended in the air above the water below. The warm evening breeze gently worked its way through my hair, pushing stray blonde curls away from my face.
The man stood in silence for a moment, staring down at his clasped hands before turning to look me in the eyes.
“Why are you here?” he asked, a hint of impatience in his voice.
“The same reasons anyone would be here, I guess.” I paused, taking in a breath of the summer night air. “I’ve got nothing left to live for.”
“I didn’t ask if you had anything to live for. I asked why you’re here.”
The comment caught me off guard. I expected him to pity me at best, panic at worst. The man’s mocking tone was beginning to make me angry. My cheeks began to flush in frustration.
“I’m here to kill myself, why the hell else would I be here?!”
“If you’re really here to kill yourself, then nothing I say is going to stop you.”
My grip tightened on the railing. Who does he think he is to say something like that?
“Then why don’t you just keep walking?” I turned away from him, letting out a sigh.
The man paused again, as though he was deep in thought.
“Because you won’t jump while I’m here. So I’m going to stay.”
“What if I decide to stand here forever?”
The man smiled, a sparkle beginning to show in his deep blue eyes. “Then I guess we’re both going to be here forever.”
I rolled my eyes at him, doing my best to show irritation at his nonchalant attitude.
“What do you want from me?”
“What makes you assume I want anything?”
“Why else would you be here? Everyone wants something. So, what do you want?”
We stood in silence once again. It was probably only for a moment, but it felt like an eternity. A single car made its way across the bridge, rushing past us in an instant. Whoever it was didn’t bother to stop. Maybe that’s for the best. I didn’t want anyone to stop in the first place.
“I want to show you something.”
The man stepped back from the railing, reaching into the pocket of his suit jacket and pulling out his wallet. I shifted my feet nervously on the edge. My grip on the railing tightened once again as the man opened his wallet and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. It must have been white at one point, but time had turned it a dull grey color. He returned the wallet back to his suit pocket, clutching the paper in his hands.
The man takes a step closer, leaning over the railing to meet my gaze. His voice took on a softer tone as he spoke.
“It’s a letter.”
He unfolded the paper with gentle yet firm movements, taking care to not let it blow from his hands in the breeze. The creases were worn thin from years of being folded up. The man held the paper in front of him, staring at the lines of cursive letters looping their way across the page. He took in a sharp breath, and I noticed that his eyelashes were damp with tears he was fighting to hold back. Reaching across his body, the man held the paper up so that I could read it.
I’m so sorry you had to find me like this. I never wanted to hurt you.
Please don’t blame yourself. This isn’t your fault. More times than I can count, you were the reason I got out of bed in the mornings. You were the reason I kept going for so long when I had nothing else to live for. So many times you stayed up all night with me, holding me tight and running your fingers through my hair as I lay there sobbing. You were the reason I stayed.
I’m so sorry. I know you said you’d love me no matter what, but I can’t stand the thought of being a burden to you any longer. I’m never going to change. This is only going to get worse, and one day it’ll be too much for you to handle. I can’t put you through that for even one more day.
I know it’ll be hard for you to move on, but this is for the best. Someday you’ll meet someone better for you. Someone who can be everything you deserve. Someone who won’t hold you back.
Goodbye, Brian. I always loved you.
The man’s hand began to shake as he folded the letter and returned it to his wallet.
“She was my girlfriend,” he told me, his voice breaking. “I was going to propose to her that day.”
“I’m so sorry…”
“Don’t be sorry.” The man’s voice had regained its blunt tone. “Don’t be sorry for what happened to me. Be sorry for what you’re about to do to the people you love.”
“No one cares about me. That’s exactly why I’m even considering this! No one’s going to miss me. At least your girlfriend had you in her life. I don’t have anyone.”
“You’re a God-damned fool, aren’t you?” The man’s face showed his anger, yet his eyes showed something else. A bit of compassion, maybe. Fear?
“Shut up! You don’t know me! You don’t know how my family disowned me, my boyfriend left me, all my friends won’t talk to me anymore! I lost my job and I’m probably going to lose my home! I’ve got nothing and no one left, and now you think you can just show up and give me a sob story and make everything better! Well guess what, you can’t!”
I shifted my hands on the railing, leaning my body forward over the water. Taking a deep breath, I began counting to three.
I let go of the railing, closing my eyes and letting my body fall forward off the edge.
I felt a strong arm wrap around my chest, slamming me back against the railing. Squeezing my eyes shut, I began to scream and thrash against the man’s solid grasp.
“Let me go! Let me go! This is my choice, not yours!”
The man held on tightly, not budging even a fraction of an inch. I gave up quickly, my body going limp between the metal bars and his arm.
“Why do you want me to stay?” My voice was barely above a whisper.
Still not releasing his arm, the man leaned over the railing to bring his face in front of mine.
“So that I can give you something to live for.”
Closing his eyes, he leaned in and joined his lips with mine in a passionate kiss. With his free hand, he ran his fingers through my hair. I could feel my body relax. I reached around his shoulders, pulling him closer.
He pulled away, giving me a smile.
“My name’s Brian, by the way.”
I let out a giggle. “I’m Emma.”
“Nice to meet you, Emma!”
We both began to laugh, our voices quickly drowned out by the roar of a passing truck. Carefully, he held onto my arms as I climbed back across the railing. Pushing myself over the top edge, I tumbled into him, sending us both crashing into the pavement.
“Well,” he said. “I suppose we’ve got a commitment now. Would you like to go to dinner sometime?”
“I’d like that.” I answered as he helped me back to my feet. “Is this how you usually meet girls?”
Brian began laughing again, wrapping his arms around me in a caring embrace.
“Not usually. But I’d do it again.”
He then took my hand in his, and we began a slow walk back towards the city.