Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Sergeant Gains got the call at four am; lone white male out on the Golden Gate Bridge about mid-span. He spent the twenty minutes on the Harley with the throttle pinned, the lights up and the siren silent wondering what he’d find when he got there and hoping he wouldn’t be too late.
The man was still pacing when Gains rolled up, but as Gains powered down the bike, killed the lights and slung his helmet on the handlebars, the man climbed out onto the cord. They regarded each other with mutual apparent uncertainty as the officer closed the gap between them on foot.
Gains stopped a few metres away and hitched his thumbs into his belt.
“Be careful, it gets slick out there this time of night.”
The man, still wearing the previous day’s office attire, collar undone, tie pulled aside, squatted and looked around before speaking.
“Doesn’t matter. Don’t waste your time. I’ll be gone in a minute.”
The Sergeant scrambled to remember his training, to remember the dozen or more men and women he’d been called down here before to talk out of ending their life. He always felt unprepared, like each was the first time.
“If you wanted to jump, you would be gone already, I think you really just want someone to listen to what you’re feeling.” Gains moved slowly to the edge and looked over the side into the darkness below. “What’s your name son?”
“David,” their eyes met for a minute before the young man looked away, “David Parker.”
“Well David, what brings you down here tonight?”
David sat for a minute before looking up, catching and holding Gains’ gaze.
“You have no idea what it’s like to never fit in. To be smart, but treated like a freak, to be funny but treated like a joke. To only be able to make friends with the other freakish jokes that are just like you, and to know everyone is talking about you behind your back all the time.” He spoke in a steady tone, barely pausing for breath. “I meet girls who like me until someone tells them about me, and then they stop returning my calls. Do you know what it’s like to know you’re always going to be alone? Truly, completely alone? Even in a world packed so tight with people that you can’t even breathe, to know you’ll always be alone?”
Gains started to move forward but paused as David tensed up.
“I know what it’s like being on the outside looking in. You don’t do what I do as long as I’ve done it without becoming a little detached from everyone around you,” he read David’s expression and changed his tone, “but no, I don’t know what you’re feeling exactly. But there are people that are going to miss you if you go.”
David looked at the dim steel of the chord for a while before answering.
“No. Nobody will. Sorry you wasted a trip.”
With that he leaned sideways and was gone.
The second David did, he knew he’d made a mistake. He thought of Becky Six in statistics, of her sad eyes each time he declined her invitation to join their group for lunch. He thought of the last glimpse of resigned horror on the policeman’s face, a horror he knew would wake the man up for countless nights in a cold sweat.
By the time his back and shoulders impacted the water a few seconds later, his body was travelling at nearly one hundred kilometers an hour. The water brought him to a very sudden, very painful stop, shattering his spine and ribs, puncturing organs and caving in the back of his skull. His arms and legs cut a graceful arc away from his body, snapping as they too impacted the water’s surface.
He realized he could no longer blink or close his eyes.
Secondary systems powered up to try and maintain his consciousness and preserve his memory for a rescue he knew would never come. Pain recepters amped up and closed down spasmodically, sending shockwaves of pain through him. Sea water slowly seeped into his control systems, shorting out and shutting down his fine motor controls so even the feeble twitching of his shattered limbs stopped. He slipped beneath the surface and the lighting bolts of pain dulled into a steady ache.
He watched the moon until the depth took even that ray of hope away.
It would be hours before his batteries would flood out completely and grant him final peace, his pain transferred to those who loved him.