Teddy noticed everything.
A young boy across the aisle from him had a Harry Potter novel open on his lap. He was on page two hundred and sixty-six. Four mosquito bites peppered his left forearm, and he had recently gotten braces. Teddy could tell because the kid kept fiddling with them with the tip of his tongue, and they were shiny and brand-new. The boy licked his thumb and turned a page.
The tall, middle-aged woman to the boy’s left was listening to music on her iPod. She wore pink earphones, and her shoe was untied. There was a paint stain on the right kneecap of her jeans, and she was chewing spearmint bubblegum. Teddy could smell it from across the train car.
He leaned forward in the seat of the rattling tram and pulled the hood of his navy blue jacket over his head. He stuck his hands in his pockets and tried to ignore everything he saw. Today his senses had flipped into overdrive, snatching every detail from his surroundings and clutching them tightly.
Like Spider-Man, Teddy thought. He smiled slightly. Yes, the sensation might be compared to that of the extrasensory character. His mind took in these details desperately, spontaneously, as if it knew these memories would be some of its last.
Teddy knew that he was doing what was best. Inwardly, the idea fought with him, tormented him, ripped him apart like a wet piece of cardboard. But this decision needed nothing short of utmost commitment, and Teddy always finished his commitments.
It would not be for long, anyway. Soon, the pain would go, along with everything else.
Including Rosalyn, something inside him whispered.
Rosalyn. The voice of steadiness, reliability, and love. People had often said they could be twins, but Teddy disagreed. They were inseparable, but different in complementing ways. She was his best friend in the wide world, and he loved her with a brotherly love as dearly as a bird loves its wings.
At least, I did, thought Teddy. Rosalyn, his old faithful, had faded and left as quickly as a leaf was whisked away in a storm, gliding blissfully into the horizon. And with her, she took his hopes, his dreams, and his reason for living. She took the one thing he had left to love. One of the most important parts of his life, gone forever.
Teddy stared at the book in the boy’s lap across from him. What success must the author of that book feel, what tranquility, what pride. Teddy would have killed for a fraction of that stability in his writing. A fledgling in his trade, Teddy’s writing saw little of anything except rejection letters. He hated those letters, he saw each one as a reminder of his failure.
His most recent book had gone out to a publisher about a month ago. He would be receiving the payments from the first month any day now, and he knew they wouldn’t be much. But it didn’t matter, that check would never reach his pocket anyway. Today, Teddy was doing the one thing that he knew left to do.
He was going to end it all, forever.
There was a hiss of brakes as the train car stopped. A muffled voice sounded over the intercom. “Stop 13. All passengers are encouraged to leave in an orderly fashion. Please keep your feet away from the tracks as you disembark…” The voice continued blathering about departure, but Teddy did not listen, closing his ears to the sounds of life. It would only be a short while now…
The voice came over the intercom again. “This line is experiencing technical difficulties. Our engineers give all passengers their apologies. We would like to offer all passengers paid tickets to their next train stop, to assure you all get where you are going… we hope we cause minimal inconvenience, and wish everyone a good day.”
Teddy slumped in his seat as everyone in the car began to stand, groaning and complaining. His mind had blanked. Was the world conspiring against him? The train could not have picked a worse time to break down…
He stepped off the train, the cogs of his brain grinding painfully. I’ve still got time, he thought. It’s not far, I’ll take the bus, or Uber there, heck, I might even walk… he could not believe the world had failed him at this crucial juncture.
Trodding down the sidewalk away from the train, he stuck his hands in his pockets again and pulled out his phone. 3 texts buzzed there, one from his mom, reminding him to call his aunt tomorrow for her birthday. The other two were from his boss, reprimanding him for not showing up to work and informing him that the time would be subtracted from his sick leave.
Teddy trudged over to a cobblestone barrier at the edge of a small park near the road, and leaned his elbows on it, considering. He swiped through his texts and called an Uber. Ten minutes away. Great.
Flipping off his hood, Teddy replaced his phone in his pocket and looked out over the bay. Teal Bridge was a shadow on the horizon, blocking out the late morning sun and casting an oblong shadow across the waves. The bridge was his destination, but Teddy wasn’t going there to sightsee.
He was going there to end his miserable life.
The bridge spanned hundreds of meters across the water, and was at least two hundred feet above the tips of the waves. If he jumped off one of the entrances to the bridge, an army of sharp, hard rocks would meet him at the edges of the water. There would be no time for anyone to stop him. The rocks were cold, unforgiving, and merciless. They would grant him his solace without hesitation, without pause…
Teddy’s eyes were drawn to a group of children frolicking on the opposite beachhead. They were only pinpricks on the distant sand, but he found himself unconsciously giving them personalities. The lone blue-bottom figure was surely the oldest child, sent to watch over his younger counterparts. The pink one-piece girl bouncing through the waves was the diva of the group, ever the drama queen. Teddy watched two green-clad figures collide. Twins, surely, inseparable, the troublemakers...
Rosalyn had had a future here, on this very bay. Her dream had always been to pursue marine biology, and they had been in the groundworkings of a campaign to save the local marine life. Unfortunately a marine support group had called her away on a business opportunity down in the south, and after a semi-tearful goodbye which was hazy in Teddy’s mind, left for good. Sometimes they texted, but the gaps between the conversations seemed to be wider nowadays. He hadn’t spoken to her in over a week, but to him it seemed months.
Teddy buried his face in his hands. He could not afford to think, it could only deter him from his plan. Thinking was what had caused him to back out the last time, when he had lacked the conviction to carry out the deed. And now his whole plan was in shambles again…
He felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned, blinking.
It was Rosalyn. Rosalyn, her hair caught up in a wool beanie, laughing at the incredulous look on his face. She was saying something, but he could not hear it somehow. Contrary to the sensations of the morning, his senses had dulled and blurred over, clouding his vision as he struggled with reality. The girl before him grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the sidewalk, gesturing.
He came back down to earth. “Rosalyn?”
She turned towards him again. “Teddy,” she said. “We need to catch up. I’ll take you for ice cream.”
“But the company… your internship...”
“Oh, those higher-ups thought they knew everything,” she said, blowing a strand of hair out of her eye. “They were keeping me on too tight a leash, I had to get away. So I quit. I’m gonna do my project here instead, on the bay. I’ll tell you about it over lunch, come on!” She pulled on his hand again, and he didn’t find himself resisting.
His phone buzzed again. He opened it to find a text from his publisher. The royalties. Great, this would spoil the day.
He opened up the app and the number flashed up on the screen. The amount… the amount was tremendous, over three times the amount that his client had projected for him! He blinked and scrolled through the messages. The rates were skyrocketing, his book was blowing up! The first payment from the royalties was more than he had made at his day job in the last month!
A car honked on the street. The car described in his Uber app was sitting on the curb. He dashed over to the sidewalk and the driver rolled down the window.
“You getting in, sonny?”
“No, I’ll have to cancel,” Teddy said, ecstatic. “Something’s come up. I’m sorry.”
The driver started to roll the window back up, his face cloudy. He had driven all this way for nothing. Millennials, they were all the same…
“Here, take this for your time,” said Teddy, yanking out his wallet and pulling out a wad of cash. The driver blinked. “Take it!” He felt ten feet tall, he was successful, he had a career...
“Well thank you, son. You got a date with big-eyes over there?”
Teddy looked back over his shoulder at Rosalyn, who was waiting on the curb a few yards away, her eyes sparkling. “No, not a date, we’re just meeting up. Thank you, sir!” He ran back over to his friend, his sneakers slapping on the pavement with his huge strides.
“You ready?” said Rosalyn.
Teddy looked back across the park, over the water over which he had moments previously contemplated his demise. “Yeah,” he replied.
First, he would have lunch with Rosalyn. And then? Maybe go home, work on his next story. He might call her again later. And after that? Yes, there would be something else after that. And then something else, too. It had to be good, everything was turned around now. He didn’t know what the future would bring, but he did know that he could make his own. He grabbed Rosalyn by the arm and started to run, laughing into the crisp morning air.
For the first time in what seemed like ages, Teddy had something to do.