The Bridge

 

I couldn’t remember how I had arrived on the high balcony. There was a crisp night sky above and no railing between me and the glittering valley below. Either Vegas or Hollywood. It is an ambiguous part of the story. My feet tucked over the edge of the sky scraper. I could feel the weight and slight shift in momentum in my feet, the cold of the concrete, the brush of mist in the air. I realized I was moving into the air. Not jumping, exactly, but stepping forward into a void. My heart raced. Time stopped and advanced a single frame at a time as my velocity increased out over the edge. “That was it,” my brain spoke. “We’re done.” Black.

I had heard about dying in your dreams, but never experienced it. My heart was racing. I woke. The digital alarm on her bedside table said it was 3:33 in the morning. A grey light was coming in from the drawn blinds and a thick fog clouding the outside orangish vapor street lights. She was snoring.

I could feel it. I was dying. The dream wasn’t an omen as much as a wakeup call. This toxic soup of a relationship, shrouded under ambien and stress, was terminal for me. I would jump given a repeat.

That morning I attended a doctor visit with my daughter and ex-wife about my daughter’s ongoing migraines. They were causing her to miss school now. The young PA said, “We’re going to give you these very mild antidepressants, they can help with the constrictive nature that could be causing your headaches.

I fell through the floor at the moment, staring out the window of the small outpatient clinic. “One in the morning, and one at bedtime,” the pretty nurse, doctor, practitioner said.

My soul howled. This. Was. Not. Supposed to be happening. Not to my baby girl. Not my daughter. I could feel myself starting to bargain for her suffering. “If you could just give it to me lord,” I whispered.

“Dad?” My daughter was looking down at me. The world was tilted. I was lying on the floor of the exam room staring up into my daughter’s frightened face.

“I’m okay,” I said. Everyone stopped. It was too loud. “I’m fine.”

My ex-wife observed from a plastic purple chair near the exit.

I was given some orange juice. We signed some papers and got my daughter’s prescriptions and left as a family. I hugged both of them before they go in the Prius and left me in the underground parking garage looking for my car. Looking for a meaning in all that had been going wrong in my life. And now, an alcoholic? Was I seeking damaged women? Or merely unavailable ones?

Days later, a moment arrived that I’m scared to tell you about. I told my therapist at the time, but I’m a good storyteller. I left out the urgency. The panic. The dispair. I’ll try not to leave it out of this telling.

The idea occurred to me about ending my life at 10 am on a Tuesday. I was living in a fine townhome with a woman who demanded that she loved me as she drank herself silly every night. I knew a little about this movie. This kind of relationship. I counted up the ambien on hand and the xanax. Hmm. Probably not enough to do it.

I hear that OD’ing by ambien sounds like a good method, until you learn you don’t just drift off into eternal sleep. You suffer. And it is painful when vomiting and organs shutting down and shitting your pants all happen at the same time. No. That is a hard pass.

A week before the daughter doctor visit I had pretended to be scoping out the suicidal options for jumping off a nearby bridge. I was successfully high, I hear, and within walking distance, and held some odd allure as a friend’s father had jumped and died from the same spot. “I was just going to look.” I told myself. Later telling my therapist about the journey, I qualified the statement. “I had no intention of actually jumping off the bridge.”

In the moment, walking down the miles-long hill, I had no such self-soothing talk. I wasn’t for sure going to jump. I was just going to get a look, assess the height, and assess the actual jumping-off point.

Today, I was going to set a lifechanging act in motion to punish this woman by killing myself in her house, right at the doorway she enters each night when she arrives, “Time for a cocktail.”

I had a leather belt wrapped around my neck. I took three xanax and a hit of tequila and climbed up the stepladder, hooking the belt around the upstairs railing. I was certain it would hold. I looped the belt, pulled the buckle a bit tighter around my neck and turned to step off, like a replay of the dream.

And my daughter appeared in my mind. She was learning that a twice-daily med was the new regimen for what she had. A crushing sadness countered by numb sadness. A sadness beyond Earthly sadness, a sadness to infinity.

“You know how your sister’s suicide still affects you,” my therapist argued. “You could never do that to your kids. Your mom.”

My daughter needed me around. My crushing sadness around my failing engagement wasn’t related to her pain. But a single action could rip both my kids’ lives apart forever. Not only would they not get me and my loving influence. They would have my suicide splattered across their emotional lives forever. My sister’s death never leaves. I don’t think about it all the time, but that black moment rides shotgun in my soul along with some other little black bastards.

As sad as my life and this moment felt, it was infinitesimal to the idea of obliterating myself from their lives. How would my son ever forgive me. It’s hard enough when I am still here and he’s 23. I could never annihilate their hopes and dreams.

A moment of fear shocked through me as I looked down and fell the pull of the jump. I turned around and unhooked the belt. The xanax awas taking hold, I was dizzy and beginning to fall. Oh what irony if I had died trying to get out of my own suicidal motion. Ideation, they called it. This wasn’t an “attempt” exactly. It was a scream. A deep bloody scream that helped me redirect my life and my actions back toward the love and care of my children. Had I not had children, like my sister at 31, perhaps the call of the chasm would’ve won.

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