I’d gone across the bridge countless times. During runs, on bike rides. Each trip across, I had the same thought. What would it feel like to jump? Hell, I think that every time I cross a bridge.
The thing is … this bridge was different. It’s one thing to cross a bridge in a car or a bus, or on the rare train trip. In a cocoon of steel it’s not as easy to stop and go to the railing. But on foot or on a bike? It’s all too easy when the railing is mere feet, only a couple, from my unprotected self.
This bridge spanned a river that rushed along 40 to 50 feet below. Downstream were some mild rapids. Upstream was a lake, dammed decades ago. The water that rippled beneath my feet, continuing its constant course through the cliffs and canyons from the foothills to the sea, seemed deep and dark. There were secrets down there, ones that no human really knew.
Bodies long forgotten, whispering into the watery shrouds. Treasures lost and never found. Boats abandoned and sunk with their own tales to tell.
It wasn’t the secrets that lurked under the river’s surface that intrigued me though.
No, when I thought of stopping and going over the edge, it was something else I envisioned. A dream, if you will. Where I could flee the gravitational bounds of Mother Earth, leaving my worries behind, escaping the chains of despair I felt, salving the pain that wracked my body.
One day I decided I had to give it a try. I got off my bike and leaned it against the railing. I looked left and right. There were no witnesses present. Lifting my leg over the railing and propping myself up for a few seconds, I looked into the dark corners of my mind and gave myself a chance to decide otherwise. There was no light in there. There was no turning back. I lifted my other leg over and rested my ass on the railing and my feet on the edge of the bridge.
Between my toes I could see the murky, dark green water race by below me. A light breeze at my back felt like it was nudging me forward. And so, I followed the wind’s command and pushed off, leaving the railing behind me as I reached my arms out and sought to soar with that breeze.
At first it lifted me and I began to fly, I really began to fly over the river’s surface, between the walls of the cliffs that stood guard. The sun beat down on me, the blue sky offered to open itself for me. Trees along the river whispered in the wind, “Look, he’s flying. A man, not a bird, in flight.” The leaves quaked as though thrilled with my effort.
In my mind I soared along the course of the river, on towards the dam several miles away, where I would be able to fly high and watch the boaters and jet skiers and sunbathers as small as ants on a shiny, glittery, blue ball. And at some point, I would keep going. To the mountains, snowcapped and cold, across the vast plains on the other side, and eventually to the ocean and the world on the other side.
I was free. Unencumbered. Weightless. Giddy.
I crashed into the river below the bridge. I was dead.