An early fall Sunday, two men walk onto the Lions’ Gate Bridge on the west walk way from opposite sides.
Will, forty-five, looks sixty, gray haired, tall, limping due to a bad back, dressed in a thin, dirty suit jacket, no tie and his dirty shirt open, his suit pants ripped at the bottom, his once fine leather shoes worn and scuffed. He saunters onto the bridge deck from the Stanly Park side.
Brian, also forty-five, tall, fitter than a twenty-year-old, covered in lycra, only a peppering of gray betrays his age. He strides onto the bridge deck from the North Vancouver side. An old song he can’t remember the name of repeats in his head.
Will, who had been walking all night, is too exhausted to lift his head, until he reaches a yellow box on a pole. He just stares at the sign that states: “There is Help.” Nothing comes to him, his mind, a void.
Brian strides past the yellow box and wonders how many have used it. ‘Can’t be that many jumpers, they spent a lot of money on it I’d imagine. I high ratio likely.’
Will continues on, only the wind, bridge traffic in his ears, long ago numbed to the cold, stale coffee and aged donut haunts his breath. He has a sense he is floating upward.
Brian reaches the first pier and looks at his watch. Heart rate: 132. Good, right in the range. Around the park should do today. I have three hours, should be enough.
At the first pier from his side Will turns into the enclave wrapped around the pier and leans against the railing. The water below is fast with the out-going tide. He wonders if it’ll hurt. Suddenly he is hit by a wave of bleak emotion and tears streak his face and he doesn’t hear the lycraed cyclists streak past the pile.
The cyclists now fly towards Brian and as he steps out of the their way he says, “slow down a bit boys.” After they are gone he thinks, ‘maybe I should get a bike. Be a whole lot quicker to get around the park.’ He then reaches mid-point and looks at his watch, ‘if it weren’t for those bikers I’d beat my record.’
All Will sees is the water and all he feels is a dark pit. He forces his mind backward, to Tammy, he tries to see her smile, feel her kiss, smell her body, but it all returns to the arguments, fights, the last moment he saw her: closing the door to the house they bought together. Her words still in his ears: “Don’t come back. Ever!”
Brian carries on and in reaching the second bridge pile he ground around it to the right as several cyclists are heading his way. He looks over and sees a man staring down at the water. On the way down the final section of the bridge he realizes the man’s shoulders where shaking. The man was crying. Brian takes a look back. The man is still staring down at the water. He takes three more steps and stops, turns to look again at the man. He is too far away to really see anything so he takes hesitant steps forward. One thought stops him, ‘I shouldn’t get involved, what if he is violent? Has a gun?’
A chilled gust of wind brings Will out of his dark thoughts and he realizes his hands are gripping the icy railing. He can’t feel them, he can’t feel anything. It’s time. He prepares to climb over the railing but is startled by a voice behind him.
Will turns around to see a man, head to toe in lycra standing by the pier.
“Are you okay? Need me to get someone to help you?”
Will shakes his head. Brian takes a step forward and Will’s hand instinctively goes up, then down when he realizes he did this. Brian holds his place, trying to find words to say.
“There is help if you need it, those boxes…”
“No, just leave me alone, I’m fine here.”
“So, you weren’t going to jump?”
Will turns sideway to keep an eye on the man. He didn’t know whether to shake or nod his head. He honestly didn’t know.
Brian looks into Wills face and it strikes him he’d never seen anyone so sad before. Not even on his dad’s face when his mom died. He knew this man is ready to end his life. Brian looks around for the call box, but both are too far away. He made a movement to reach for his cell phone.
“Don’t call. Please. I’m not worth it. Please.”
Brian realized, for the first time in years he’d forgotten his cell. Then he felt puzzled, remembered his own thoughts on suicide. A flashback to when a classmate took her life and how his feels where mixed, how he called her selfish, stupid, too scared to face life. Later a casual hypothetical conversation on suicide with the same thoughts, feelings of how a person could through away their life, how it’s more a betrayal to themselves, leaving their family grieving. Selfish. The word repeated in his mind as he watched the man turn around. Brian took a step forward.
Will immediately spun around, a wild look on his face. Shouting: “Just leave me be! I’m not bothering anyone! Please go!”
Brian realized he will have to talk this man down. He thought, ‘negotiation is negotiation, whether for a car or a life? It’s the same basically.’
“What’s your name?”
Will seemed to have forgotten. His mind was blank.
“My name if Brian.” Instinctively his hand went for a handshake, but he lowered it quickly. “I live just over the bridge there in West Van. How about you?”
Will could only stare at the bridge deck.
“Well, it’s a beautiful day. Uh, not much traffic.” He cringed feeling he was going in the wrong direction. “Well, I’ll be honest with you, I’m not good at this, please let me call someone who…”
“My name is Will.”
“Well that is good Will. Thank you for, uh, thank you. Well, now we are on first name basis. Maybe if I can ask why you’re here?”
Will shook his head and looked away.
“Lost your job? Your home? Maybe love?”
Will looked down and shook his head.
“Who was she?” Brain waited but knew an answer wasn’t coming. “I can relate. My first wife jumped ship. Left me with a two-year-old. Oh those were longs days.”
“She kicked me out.”
“Something you did? Sorry, she have a reason?”
“I lost my job about a year before, couldn’t find one.”
“Did you try…”
“Became depressed to the point I couldn’t leave the bed for a month. She got tired of doing everything. She was six month’s pregnant with our first. Three months ago she said to go, come back when I got a job. I tried, everything, everywhere, any job. Nothing was happening. I showed up at the house two weeks ago and found her mother there. My boy was born a week ago. I said the child needs a father. Her mother said not a father who can’t put bread on the table. Slammed the door in my face and locked it. I banged and kicked the door, I just wanted to see my boy. They called the cops and I was in jail for a night. They didn’t charge me.”
Brian watched as Will broke down and cried. He stepped closer. Will didn’t flinch this time, Brian took another step closer and Will suddenly jumped onto the railing. Brian lunged at him and grabbed his jacket. It tore as he pulled on it. He lunged again, caught Will’s leg and using a foot on the railing as leverage, pulled until Will and himself came flying backward. Brian struggled to hold tight to Will. Will started beating on Brian to get him off when suddenly several hands and arms came in and separated them. It was two police officers.
“What’s going on here?”
Brian, trying to catch is breath, “he tried to jump.”
Six months later, a bright spring day, Brian is striding over the bridge deck. As he reaches the second piling he sees a man standing at the railing. Something in him is tipped off that this is familiar. He stops, not wanting to be a bother, being however unlikely the same would happen to him again. But he went up to the man.
The man turned around and it was Will. “Well hello Brian.”
“Will!” They hesitated, not knowing whether to shake or hug.
“Good to see you’re still keeping up your bridge walking, saving people.” Will got a little misy-eyed. “I can’t say anything but thank you. Just, thank you.”
“You are most welcome. You are doing better?”
“Yes, great! Had a setting of thing with the ex, visitations every other week. I’m okay with that. Went back to university, social work.”
“Oh good for you. It’s fantastic…”
Will suddenly embraced Brian and whispered in his ear: “thank you for bringing me back to life.”
Photo and story (c) 2015 by DC Lessoway