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STATISTIC  (a story of numbers, bridges, and patience.)

Beware the fury of a patient man…

I live in the city.

I live alone.

Any family that I ever had is a long way from here.

It’s Christmas, and it’s cold.

It’s snowing tonight – heavy wet flakes that clump up quickly, burying all hope. Traffic doesn’t have much of a chance tonight, and I haven’t seen a living soul.

I think I’m just going to stand here for a while, alone on this bridge.

I have always enjoyed the sight of this bridge, arcing high across the harbor, like an inverted smile.

Usually, the view from here is breathtaking, but tonight you can’t see much of anything at all.

The night spreads out below me like a snowbound chasm.

I lean against the rail and watch the snowflakes drift into their watery bed. A dark wind whispers about my ears, echoing into the blackness of my brain. A foghorn wails, lonely in the night.

A chain of snowflakes hangs about my neck and shoulders.

My breath is a trailing wisp of smoke, vanishing into the chill night air.

I can’t even guess how far down it is to the ocean’s surface. From this height a person would hit the water like it was a wet brick wall. That’d be that. A quick drop to a quick burial.

Burial at sea.

It was kind of poetic.

The tide would carry me away. It would drag me to a faraway grave, far from this stinking city.

I wonder how far I could get?

Just that quickly the thought was born and the idea jumped out.

I step over the rail, out on to the catwalk.

Just to see, you know?

I’m curious.

Hell.

I am more than curious. It would be so damn easy. All it would take was just another step and then an end to all pain.

I wondered if it would hurt, falling through the air like that? In my imagination I could picture the wind whistling past my ears, flapping my cheeks like sails on a stormy day.

One more step.

That was as far as I’ll go.

I don’t really want to kill myself.

I was too damn curious for suicide. My entire left was spent waiting to see what was coming next.

“It is a hell of a long way down, isn’t it?” a voice broke the night’s still.

The sudden voice in the night is nearly all it takes. I am so startled I almost jump. Instead, I turn slowly to face the voice, keeping a white knuckled grip on the guy line.

There was an old man in a faded blue parka, standing there watching me like I was some kind of unique specimen. A furrow of wrinkles, with a long, scruffy Santa Claus beard.

He was bridge police.

I recognize the uniform.

Is he going to arrest me?

I stared at him.

He doesn’t speak.

He just stared right back at me.

Is he here to watch?

“You figure on jumping?” he asked.

“You startled me,” I replied. “I didn’t see you coming.”

He nodded like he understood.

“A fella gets too busy looking down,” he said. “And he is bound to forget the world around him.”

“I was just looking at the water.”

“I know damn well what you were looking at. Let me guess. Are you all alone for Christmas? Or was it a girl?”

I shrugged.

He was right on both counts, but it’s not his business.

“Whatever the reason it is just not good enough. Believe me, it’s a long cold drop to a hungry old sea. Tomorrow may seem like a long way off, but it always comes around. Why don’t you stick around and see if I’m right?”

I give him another shrug.

It’s a good movement, and I don’t have to let go of the guy line to perform it.

Only he’s not done talking.

“Just take a look at the statistics. Christmas time, folks just seem to want to kill themselves. If you hold on until the new year, things will look a hell of a lot brighter.”

I shake my head.

“You’re wrong about the statistics,” I said. “I have wasted enough years as a psych major to know them. There are more people kill themselves after Christmas then before it. Santa jumps down the chimney, and the Times Square ball drops off a building. You do the math.”

He grinned at that.

“Then forget about statistics,” he said. “They’ll only give you a headache and depress you enough to make you want to kill. Come on. There are a lot of reasons to live for.”

“Look,” I said. “I was just curious was all. It comes from being a psych student. Even if I wanted to do it, I’ve got every right. I’ve been bouncing off the walls of an empty apartment for the last six months. The woman I figured I’d marry ran off with some asshole with a beard and a briefcase full of bad poetry.”

The waves are singing to me now, and I’m thinking about a dance club. A little music, a little mindless shaking, and a little alcohol might be just the ticket.

The night wind howls across the guy wires like a maddened harpist which was probably worse poetry than that bearded asshole could ever dream of. I could feel the wind humming and thrumming through my winter gloves. My feet are getting tired, and it was just too damn cold to stand here forever.

The old man grabs me by the shoulder.

“You think you got it bad? Do you see any crowds hanging around me? I’ve been living alone for a hell of a lot longer than any six months. Try six years, and you’re close. I’ve seen a hell of a lot of people take a flyer off this bridge, and most of them had better reasons than you.”

I pull myself loose of his grip.

“What the hell is this,” I asked. “Tough love?”

The old guy laughed.

“Love hasn’t got nothing to do with it. I’m just being practical, is all. Just give it until the New Year. If by then your mind hasn’t changed, you can come on back. The bridge has been waiting a hell of a long time. The ocean has been waiting even longer. Neither of them is going anywhere.”

I’m getting bored with this any way.

I hadn’t really planned on jumping.

This was just an experiment.

A private joke.

A trick.

The old guy extends his hand. I reach for it, swinging my leg over the railing.

For just a moment I am off balance.

He catches my hand and holds it fast.

A smile slices across his face, and in the dim sodium light I can see his eyes gleaming like a small boy at play.

“Fooled you,“ he said and pushes me backward.

My arms swing wildly, penduluming in a vain search for lost balance. My feet slide away from under me, betrayed by a patch of hidden ice.

All at once, I am airborne and falling fast.

I see the old man laughing, holding his sides in near hysteria. I hear my own scream racing past my chillblained ears.

I smell the sea’s salty dead breath and feel….

*

Back in the toll booth, the old man’s partner hands him a cup of coffee. He does this without looking up from a three-year-old National Geographic.

“Another leaper?” the partner asks.

The old man hides his smile in the coffee cup before answering.

“Yeah, another leaper.”

If you enjoyed this story you might REALLY enjoy my full length novel, TATTERDEMON. 

I’m posting the whole novel here at Simily.

Just click here!

Recommended1 Simily SnapPublished in Contemporary Fiction, Horror

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