Last weekend we took a stroll through a seaside community and we stumbled across this little gem in an “out-of-the-way if you blinked you missed it” location. I’ve always been enamored with community gardens and the gardens make my head turn every time I drive by one. Walking past this one during our walk-about gave me the chance to walk through the community paths, allowing me to take my time inhaling the fragrances and enjoying the handy-work of the community. The gardens are a living testament of what humans can create using a blank canvas to produce beautiful brushstrokes with our blood, sweat and tears. When I was a young girl my mother told me a story of my Irish grandfather growing vegetables in a community garden in the inner city of Montreal. She told me that he lived to go to that garden. My grandfather died when I was a young girl, but his presence made an impact in my life. He was a tough,no-nonsense kind of guy who said what was on his mind. I remember his tough presence but that didn’t stop me from looking deep into his eyes to capture a soul who wanted more. Imagining him tending to his crops in his community garden gave me a sense of peace for a man who sailed on a ship from a far-away-land where he was left with nothing to a land that promised him so much more. What he found in this new land was hours of hard labour that did not provide enough for the many mouths he had to feed. Walking through the community garden last weekend brought me serenity and a sense of calm. I hope my tough Irish grandfather found that same sense of serenity in his community garden in a land that promised him so much more.
she felt his presence behind her as she walked through the darkness,
she struggled to keep her composure as she sensed he was near,
she was looking for a place to hide when she saw a group of trick-or-treaters,
and walked amongst their shadows to hide from the presence lurking behind her,
suddenly she found herself alone to face the dark figure,
breathing in his scent she recognized his presence,
causing her confusion as he hadn’t been an earthly being for several years,
suddenly time stood still as she looked into her lover’s eyes,
her body filled with panic as he snuggled into her neck,
she felt his warmth as he moved his lips from her neck to her lips,
passionately kissing her and caressing her body,
flooded with memories of his tenderness as she parted her lips,
feeling the familiar tingling running through her body,
closing her eyes memories of their lovemaking
possessed her mind, body and soul,
as time stood still for two distant lovers,
a mortal creature caught between the realms of earth
and the spiritual world,
suddenly she found herself alone
as if he never existed,
to walk down the street
into the shadows.
She walked into the room and she knew, she had never seen death before but the smell of death permeated the room. As she got to the side of her father’s bed, she noticed that he had been stripped of all his clothing, the middle of his torso was covered with a bed sheet, he was lying vertically across the bed and his legs were dangling over the side. Her step-mother woke her up a few moments ago and said “wake up your father says he’s having a heart-attack but he doesn’t want me to phone the ambulance.” Standing over her father, she knew this was bullshit, his flesh was a shade of grey she had never seen before, his breathing was very shallow and the smell that filled her nostrils clearly told her that the end was near. She knew that even if her father wanted to die, it was more natural to want to live and no human being wanted to be lying in their own filth barely breathing and in pain. Slowly she turned to her step-mother, resisting the urge to scream, and said in a very calm but commanding voice “phone the ambulance now.”
Her mind was racing as she was standing over her father, how come the ambulance wasn’t called, how long had her father been lying like this, questions, questions, questions running through her mind. Her mind was so pre-occupied that she barely heard it but when she focused again on her father, his lips were moving. She bent down as close as she could and he said “where is Theresa?” “I’m right here Dad,” she said. She grabbed his hand and held on and she felt a tiny bit of pressure as her father squeezed her hand and through his shallow breathing she heard what was barely a whisper – “I love you more than you know.” “I love you too Dad” she said staring at him in utter disbelief. She looked up and saw that her father’s wife had entered the room and was watching the scene. Theresa found it strange that her father did not ask about his wife, he asked the whereabouts of his daughter and made sure she knew that he loved her but never did he ask for his wife.
It seemed to take forever for the ambulance to arrive but finally they arrived and put an oxygen mask over her father’s face, rolled him onto a stretcher and rushed him into the ambulance. Theresa and her step-mother raced to the car and were about to leave for the hospital when her step-mother suddenly stopped the car and asked Theresa to go inside and get a change of clothes for her father because he would need clothes for when he came home from the hospital. Theresa was a little perplexed because it was very obvious to her that father was not coming home. Rather than waste time arguing, Theresa just did as she was asked – she went back to her father’s bedroom quickly put an outfit together for her father and rushed back to the car.
They arrived at the hospital where Theresa was greeted by one of the ambulance attendants and he came rushing up to her and said “your father looked good as we brought him in, he was talking, he seemed better.” Theresa stood there and stared at the man, what a stupid thing to say to a daughter of a man who is obviously dying. Rather than say what she thought, she kept walking. They were ushered into a private waiting room and Theresa was waiting for the inevitable announcement that her father was dead. It couldn’t have been any more than 30 minutes before the doctor appeared and told her and her step-mother what Theresa already knew – her father was gone. Her step-mother immediately started to yell “what am I going to do” and then sobbed. Theresa was prepared to be told that her father was dead and she calmly asked the doctor if she could see her father. As they walked into the emergency room and she approached the bed where her father now lay, she could see that his skin was now a blue/purple colour and he looked very puffy. Even though the doctor told her he was dead she had to be certain. She no longer felt his presence and from behind her she could hear her father’s wife crying. One of the hospital workers pointed to a ring her father was wearing on his right hand and said that the ring was very tight-fitting but they would try to get the ring off in one piece and if they succeeded who should they give the ring too? Before her step-mother could speak Theresa spoke for her brother. “That ring belongs to my brother.” Her step-mother went to say something but Theresa interrupted her and said ” Dad told me last night that if he should die, he wanted my brother to have this ring.” Dad had been wearing that ring since he was seventeen years old and now his son was about to turn seventeen years old and last night her father mentioned the irony of his son being seventeen, the same age his mother gave him the ring. Now standing at the edge of the hospital bed where her father now laid, she was prepared to lurch anyone who dared to take the ring – it belonged to her brother, her father made that clear.
As her memory raced back to the night before, Theresa was now certain that something was different about her father. He spoke of so many things he had never spoken to her about. He spoke about the reasons and ramifications of his divorce to her mother ten years earlier, he spoke of his recent troubles at work, his time spent in the Navy during the war and he spoke of his love for all of his children. She realized now that this was God’s gift to her – her last moments with her father. She felt closer to her father that night than she ever had and now standing by her father’s body demanding that her father’s wishes be kept regarding his ring she looked down at the bag she was holding and she felt angry.
All the while waiting in the hospital room to hear of her father’s impending death, she was holding that stupid bag and now as she looked down she could see the brown loafer shoes, the brown dress pants and the checkered sweater she quickly grabbed at the insistence of her father’s wife. Theresa knew her father wasn’t coming home and she angrily thought as she listened to the howl of his wife “how could she not get he was a goner.” As they walked out into the hallway of the emergency area of the hospital, her stepsister, Kerry, came rushing in asking the whereabouts of her father. All three woman were pulled into a private room where Kerry, was told that her step-father had died and immediately Kerry started to sob. Through her sobbing Theresa heard her say “I knew when I got up for work at 5:30 am that something was really wrong, he was crying out in pain.”
Moments later in the hallway before the entrance way to the emergency room, Theresa pulled Kerry aside. “Did you say Dad was crying out in pain when you got up for work this morning.” “Yes,” Kerry said, “he was in obvious pain and very uncomfortable.” Theresa’s eyes flashed an anger that she was sure her step-sister recognized. Between the hours of 5:30 am and 8:30 am when her step-mother woke Theresa up to announce that she thought her father was having a heart-attack, her father had been lying in pain. Did he try to get up? Is that why he was lying vertically across the bed with his legs dangling over the side of his bed? Did her step-mother leave and not realize he was in pain? “Impossible” Theresa thought, she must have known he was in pain. By the time Theresa was woken out of her sleep, her step-mother was all ready for work; did she sit in front of her mirror and fix her hair and make-up while her father was yelling out in pain? The thoughts overwhelmed Theresa as she tried to push the horrible scenes out of her mind.
All three of them walked out of the hospital and as Theresa looked down into the brown bag holding her father’s clothes, she started to feel a numbness go through her whole body. She couldn’t think anymore – her father was gone and it was obvious he had been deprived of a right that Theresa felt that everyone deserved – the right to die with dignity. Theresa knew all too well what was next, she had to contact her siblings, and other family members, a funeral would be planned and she would greet her siblings and family as they arrived from near and far. She tried desperately to push the thoughts of her father’s last moments here on this earth aside as she prepared to spend the next few days honouring her father.
The next few days during the viewings and the funeral were a blur to Theresa, she kept going back over the last conversation she had with her father the night before his death and it was clear to her he knew he was going to die. Thinking about her father’s health, she was sure that if the ambulance had been called earlier he would have been more comfortable but she didn’t think it would have made the difference in the outcome.
Theresa’s life moved on but she found she was haunted by her father’s last moment. Theresa felt if she had woken up earlier, she could have made the difference in her father’s death. The constant flashbacks bothered her so much that Theresa fell into a deep depression a year after her father’s death. Not sure where to turn she started to see a counsellor who told her that something shocking or devastating had to have happened to her. Theresa continued to deny that anything shocking or devastating had happened to her unable to process her father’s death. Several months into the depression, Theresa had a vivid dream. In her dream she was back at the kitchen table with her father having that last conversation before he died. In her dream she told her father that it was late and she was tired that they must really get to bed. He walked her up to her room and gave her a kiss on her forehead and said goodnight – as she walked into the room he said “sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite” as he slowly closed the door. Theresa said “no dad – don’t close the door, you know how I hate to sleep with the door closed.” Her father said “I don’t want you to be disturbed by people getting ready for work in the morning.” “It’s ok dad, I’m so tired a bomb wouldn’t wake me up.” “Ok sweetheart, I’ll leave the door open – goodnight – I love you.” “Love you too dad.” In the dream Theresa watched as her father walked away from the doorway to his bedroom. Theresa woke with a start as the dream was so vivid and the dream revealed the very last moments she spent with her father. Theresa now understood what had been haunting her for the last year or so – when Theresa’s step-mother came in the room to wake her up to declare “your father is having a heart attack, but he doesn’t want me to call the ambulance.” Theresa was already awake, she was stirring from a deep sleep and now Theresa remembered clearly – her step-mother came barging into her bedroom after she opened the bedroom door. Someone had closed that door and she was sure it wasn’t her father. Someone didn’t want her to hear the commotion going on in the house that morning.
Theresa believed the vivid dream was a confirmation of what she felt was true all along. Her father was neglected when he needed his loved ones the most. The dream also served as a message from Theresa’s father – it was time to embrace fully what happened, forgive and move on. As Theresa slowly started letting go of the haunting she read a quote by Gandhi and kept that quote close to her heart – “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it always.”
As Susan sat in the waiting room, she thought of Jamie when he was born. He was her only child and the moment he was born her world was changed forever. He was a difficult baby, they said he was lactose intolerant so she had to give him special formula. Jamie cried morning, noon and night. Susan remembers there were times when she thought she would go out of her mind. As Jamie grew into a toddler he was never quite satisfied. If you gave him the blue toy he wanted the green toy and when you complied and gave him the green toy, he would then scream for the red toy. At that point Susan would stop giving into his insane demands. It didn’t change as he grew into a young boy, teenager and a young man. He never seemed to be happy or satisfied. Susan and John tried hard but nothing ever seemed to make Jamie feel whole. By the time he was fourteen both Susan and John noticed a big change in Jamie. He was extremely moody, depressed and withdrawn. At first they thought they were dealing with a difficult teenager going through a change in hormones and then they got the call. The Principal of Jamie’s high school called to say that Jamie was being sent home on a suspension because he was caught smoking marijuana on school grounds. When Jamie got home John was so mad he could barely stop himself from hitting Jamie. To make matters worse, Jamie figured it was his God-given right to smoke marijuana and there was nothing she or John could do about it.
Susan went to bed feeling sick to her stomach that night because she knew this was only the beginning. Even though Jamie had a lot of negative qualities, he also possessed many positive attributes as well. He was a talented artist and his work was beautiful. Susan often wondered while she watched him painting beautiful, lush, green forests how Jamie was able to get past some of the darkest depths of his soul to find the beautiful talent that was somewhere hidden so deep within and it was in this talent that Susan was reassured that God was with Jamie. Susan sincerely believed that beautiful art was the work of God through the artist’s eyes and this sentiment was definitely true with Jamie’s work. He brought a vibrance to his landscapes like no other. He would fully immerse himself into his work and Susan remembers thinking that maybe art was Jamie’s pathway to paradise that would eventually lead him astray from the life of drugs. Of course now sitting in the waiting room, she knew she was wrong. We all have destinies and Jamie was destined to face life in the most harsh and cruel way. No amount of love was enough to sustain Jamie, it was like he was sheltered from love. Susan often told Jamie how much God loved him even in the midst of his addiction, but he didn’t believe her. He said “God was wasting his time loving someone like him, God should work his way over to third world countries and take care of his real children.” Jamie’s addictions were incredibly self-centered, yet he didn’t want God to waste his love on him, he wanted God to take care of people and help them out of poverty and starvation. She remembers the moment she realized her son was taking heroin; Jamie was just seventeen years old. Jamie had taken to the streets, he preferred the cold hard pavement to his warm bed in a loving household. He walked in the door that night and told Susan and John that he wanted to get better and was ready to accept their help. Both Susan and John went to bed that night over-joyed, only to wake up in the morning and realize that Jamie had stolen all the cash they had and anything that was small and valuable, that he could hawk, was gone. Vanished like a vanishing ghost in the depth of the night, into the streets of harsh coldness and empty spirits. The people who replaced Jamie’s family were living vampires who suck the life out of their victims and throw them away like a piece of meat that sustains their immediate existence only to be satisfied when their victims become the shell of what they once were. Susan guessed Jamie preferred these people over her and John because they didn’t ask the hard questions or make Jamie deal with the harsh realities of his addictions.
Jamie had one friend and that was Reggie. Jamie met Reggie in grade school and they became fast friends. Reggie was a bright and sensitive young boy and Jamie loved playing with him because Reggie didn’t have a mean thing to say to anyone. Reggie remained Jamie’s friend right up until Jamie left for the streets. It broke Reggie’s heart that he was never able to get through to his best friend and like Susan and John he had to accept that he failed. At John’s funeral Reggie cried for the loss of not only Jamie’s father but the loss of Jamie. Susan tried to reach Jamie to let him know that his father had died and put an ad in every major and local newspaper. She prayed that Jamie would come to the funeral but as the day of the funeral approached she knew in her heart that she would not see Jamie. At that point she had to accept that she had not only lost her husband to death, she had lost her son as well. Jamie’s death had started many years ago and had been a slow and agonizing spiritual death not a physical death as his father’s. She missed both the men in her life now and Reggie had tried to stay connected but as his life moved on he moved away from Jamie’s family and Susan understood. She never held anything against Reggie as he had been the one true friend that she, John and Jamie had ever had. Susan counselled Reggie to move on and not look back as she felt it was wrong for him to be tied down to an addiction that none of them understood, including Jamie.
Now sitting in that waiting room as she was deep in thought, she heard the woman at the desk say to another employee “number 12 is ready to be identified, his next of kin is the blonde woman in the beige suit sitting right over there.” Susan immediately jumped out of her seat and within seconds found herself at the front of the woman’s desk with her wallet in her hands. She opened up her wallet in a frenzied state and dumped all the pictures of Jamie she had on the woman’s desk. The picture of Jamie as a baby, the picture of Jamie holding his first teddy bear, the picture of Jamie kissing his first dog and the picture of Jamie posing with his first piece of art. Susan could hear a woman’s high hysterical voice from somewhere far away and then realized with a start that she was hearing her own. “My son has a name” she said, “his name was Jamie.” “Why are you turning away” she screamed, “look at those goddamn pictures and tell me again that my boy is number 12, I said look at them, look at these pictures and tell me my boy is a number.” It was then she felt the familiar hand on her shoulder and she realized without even looking that she was connected to this person. As she slowly looked up she was staring into the kindest and most saddest eyes she had ever seen. The tears were streaming down Reggie’s face when he engulfed her into one big bear hug and sobbed with her. Susan thought her heart would break into pieces and she was sure her world would never be one again, she had lost everyone she had ever loved and here in that cold waiting room with a woman who had no heart, God had sent her the one man, the only man, who could show such love and compassion toward her and Jamie. Reggie held Susan’s face in his hands and said “when Jamie and I were six years old he told me that his favourite time with you was when you use to tuck him into bed at night and read to him before he fell asleep. Jamie told me that his favourite story was love you forever.” Reggie then did something so incredible that Susan all at once felt as if Jamie was standing there with them, Reggie softly sang in the most sweetest voice, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” As she and Reggie walked hand in hand toward the cool, steel double doors, it was then she felt Jamie’s presence and she knew he was finally free.
Sitting below the stairs in that grey, cold, inhabitable space, Charlotte recalled the sense of peace and calmness the cramped and lifeless space brought to her so many years ago. It all started when Charlotte was seven years old and out of nowhere the eruption would happen. Her parents would be screaming at each other at the top of their lungs and Charlotte couldn’t decide which behavioural method of her parents she preferred; the yelling and screaming or the quiet as a mouse nonsense that seemed to go on for days disrupting the whole house and always left Charlotte feeling bad about herself.
On this day, her parents were yelling and screaming and Charlotte found herself at the back door. She opened the door and slipped out into the beautiful sunlight as if she was entering another dimension. Slowly she walked down the pathway, paying attention to every stepping stone she stepped on, careful to make sure her whole foot fit into each stone and every step was taken with a painstaking effort to ensure that she never stepped on the cracks, surely this would “break her mother’s back.” She found herself around the side of the house staring at her feet as she stepped on each stepping stone when suddenly she heard “are you alright sweetie?” Charlotte looked up to see her sweet neighbour, Mr. Brown, looking over the fence at her with such concern in his face.
Charlotte instantly felt grateful as she was sure he could hear the yelling and screaming coming out of the open windows of the house. Thankfully she was standing at the garage side of the house where there were no windows and the yelling and screaming sounded as if the fight was coming from a far off location. She gave Mr. Brown the biggest smile she could, looked at him straight in the eyes and as confident as a seven-year old could be, she said; “thank you for asking Mr. Brown, everything is good and will get better soon.” “If you ever want to talk sweetie you just say so.” Off she skipped away like she hadn’t a care in the world, all the while feeling the stare of Mr. Brown on her back and even though she was not looking at him, she knew he was shaking his head in disgust. Her parents were always fighting and it was obvious he knew all about it and he was concerned for his little neighbour. Charlotte would never in a million years betray her parents but she appreciated Mr. Brown’s concern and his gesture gave the situation some lightness. At least he cared, her parents had no idea where she was and at this moment they didn’t care; they were consumed by anger and jealousy.
Down to the end of the house, across the driveway and up the walkway she found herself at the front door of the house. What she was doing there she had no idea, the last place she wanted to be was inside that house. In the moment she was standing there she saw her father near the front window and in a panic she ran up the steps and under the stairway where she sat amongst stones, spiders, ants and dust. Charlotte closed her eyes and tried to remember when her parents weren’t fighting. If they weren’t fighting then they weren’t talking to each other, she couldn’t remember if they were ever happy, did they ever smile? Not really, they never smiled, both of them seemed miserable. Sitting underneath the stairs Charlotte tried to think of happy thoughts and smile. It was tough to do because in order for her to have happy thoughts she had to block out all the yelling and screaming.
Charlotte’s desire to be happy was far stronger than her desire to listen to her parents stupid fights. She would close her eyes and think about the time her daddy took her to a farm in the country and let her ride a horse. That day her dad had the biggest smile she had ever seen. She grabbed hold of those reigns and kicked that horse to get him going like she was an old pro, problem was she had no idea what she was doing and that old horse took off with her on it. She fell off that horse and Charlotte’s anger gave away to all caution when she walked straight up to that old horse grabbed those reigns and got right back on as if nothing happened. When she glanced over at her father he was smiling from ear to ear. In the car on the way home, her father told her he was so proud of her for being so strong and confident.
She never forgot that moment and now siting under the stairs she tried to be so strong and confident. Charlotte imagined herself riding a beautiful black horse, with a white diamond fluff of fur on the top of his head, up and down the beach staring at the ocean and feeling like she could hear God talking to her in the roar of the waves. She imagined God was telling her “Charlotte, everything is going to be alright, just keep listening to the universe.” Charlotte opened her eyes and there in front of her by her feet was a stick of pink chalk. She must have missed it when she first crawled underneath the stairs. Charlotte picked up the pink chalk and drew a giant heart in the slanted concrete where on the other side the staircase came down to the walkway that opened up to the driveway. In the middle of the heart she wrote “Charlotte and love”, she then went over the top of those two words with the pink chalk over and over again.
Thirty years later Charlotte was driving down that old street with her husband and children. Charlotte asked Steve to stop the car and she found herself standing at the front door in front of that staircase. In the background she could hear Steve and the children yelling out the car window; “Charlotte, mom, what are you doing?” Charlotte had learned many moons ago to block out noise she did not want to hear.
As if in a trance, she walked toward the side of that staircase and pushed her way past the overgrown bushes, that were just little twigs thirty years earlier, ducked her head underneath that staircase and sat with her legs crossed as if she was seven years old again. Staring at the slanted piece of concrete she could see the faint pink chalk writing shaped like a heart and in the centre she could make out “Charlotte and Love.” Closing her eyes she pictured herself on that beautiful black horse with the white diamond fluff of fur on the top of his head riding down the beach and she took a deep breath to smell the salted air feeling the mist of the sea dripping down her forehead, arms and legs. Charlotte’s Mother and father were long dead and sitting under that staircase looking at her chalked heart, “Charlotte and love” she had written so many years ago, she realized the survivor tactics she taught herself so long ago had many times saved her from herself over the years.
Opening her eyes she could hear Steve’s footsteps, sensing the motion of Steve pushing away the overgrown shrubs, she waited for him to look in and find her in that grey, cold inhabitable space. “Should I ask what it is that you are doing and why you are sitting under this staircase with your legs crossed as if you are practicing Yoga moves?” Charlotte made a move toward Steve and gave him a big kiss on the lips and said “no honey, just know that I love you and the children more than anything on this earth and that love sprouted from this grey, cold inhabitable space many years ago.”
As she stood on the edge of the bridge staring into the depth of her soul watching the swirls of waves crashing against the rocks hundreds of feet below her, all she could feel was empty. She felt numb from the horror of watching her whole life walk out the door on her two weeks ago. A couple of weeks of hell she thought, two weeks of questioning everything, did she know? How could she not know? All those nights Steve said he was working, going out with a few of the guys from work for a drink. “We will make up for it baby, I promise.” She believed him and now felt extremely naive and stupid for trusting him. She was actually happy for him as he seemed happier than he’d been in a few years. The last few years Steve and Nora’s marriage had lost its spark as Steve suffered from depression. It can be exhausting living with someone who is mentally ill and she had been so strong for him, constantly trying to lift him up, making him feel good about himself, believing in him, helping him believe in himself. Now Nora was starting to wonder if maybe she did too good of a job. Lifted his ego right up, he started dressing better, taking care of himself, gaining confidence. Shit, he was even singing and here she was thanking the good Lord for his intervention and helping Steve out of his dark days. Little did she know that the devil was helping Steve out and sent a messenger by the name of Clarissa. Clarissa worked for Steve, she was his assistant and took care of his every needs. His every needs she thought, not just drafting his letters, answering his phone, getting his coffee but Clarissa took care of Steve’s needs in the bedroom as well. The woman looked like she belonged in a brothel rather than an office. Why couldn’t Steve see through her manipulative ways, the phony laugh and flash of her eyes at every man she encountered? Nora saw through her immediately, but Steve thought she was wonderful, making his days brighter at work he’d say; apparently making his nights brighter as well.
Staring at those rocks so far below all Nora could think of was how much work she had done over the years, work in the house while Steve sat in a chair staring at the floor, waitressing to make ends meet when Steve couldn’t work, keeping everyone happy, the children, Steve, the dog and the bloody cat. She hated cats but Steve wanted the cat and Nora did her best to ignore the hideous creature. All she’s ever done is give, give, give and give some more, not asking for anything back. Nora never complained, she prided herself on being a good wife and a good mom. So how is it possible that she is standing on this lonely bridge staring down at cold, dark, slimy rocks? Nora felt completely defeated and she knew if she jumped not one person would care. Steve can move ahead and spend his life with that bitch Clarissa. Only two things pulled at her heart and those tugs were her children. They could take care of themselves now as they were 18 and 25. Sarah had always been a sensitive little girl and she had grown into a highly intelligent sensitive young woman. Keegan just wanted to be a little boy, always wanted to play and he’s still like that, with that charming boyish grin and the little mischievous look in his eyes. Sarah had a year left to finish up her schooling and she was looking forward to living her dream as a veterinarian. Keegan just finished high school and was finding his way into the work world. Nora figured she’d be a burden to the children; worrying about her being lonely and if she had a enough money. This was not what she signed up for when she married Steve, so she was going to end it right now while she still had the chance. Any more numbness setting in and she wouldn’t be able to move.
“Hey lady, are you ok?” Who the hell asks a lady about to jump off a bridge if she was ok? She turned and saw a rather portly man with glasses, that were too round, dressed in overalls that were covered in paint. Lady what the hell are you doing up there? Nora just turned and totally ignored him. Lady you’re going to fall and if you don’t fall you’re going to catch yourself some pneumonia. Wow, bright this one is Nora thought. Look mister, I just want to be left alone if you don’t mind, just go along your merry way and pretend you never saw me. I don’t think so lady, you look like you’re having a real bad day and maybe you need a shoulder to cry on. No thanks mister, I’ve done enough crying in these last two weeks for the both of us, I’m all dried out, got no more tears left. Lady whatever this is about, it’s not worth jumping off this bridge for, what if you don’t die lady, you would be one mess, with a lot of broken bones, internal bleeding, shoot you’d be in rehab forever and if you were ever able to walk again you would probably have steel bars in your body everywhere. Talk about being in pain for the rest of your life; is that what you want to be a burden to everyone? Not to mention the people that gotta come rescue you, the firemen are probably enjoying themselves with a nice dinner right now and then you come and long and do this? Gonna piss them off some lady, you ever think about that.
Nora couldn’t believe this idiot. Mister do I look like someone who really gives a rat’s ass about some fireman sitting down to eat his dinner? Well maybe that’s your problem mam, you gotta start caring and stop being so self-centred. Mister what are you doing here? This bridge is closed, that’s why I’m standing here so I can be left alone from idiots like you. Well mam, I was driving around the bend in that lower road over there and looked up and saw you, now that’s not a sight you see every day now is it, a woman standing on the edge of a bridge? Figured I better be driving over here to see if I could just help out in some way lady. Whatever is going on with your life is not that bad. This time Nora snapped at the man, “what the hell would you know, you married mister?” Yes mam I’m married and I’ll be happily married for the rest of my life because nobody can replace my Lilly. She was the most beautiful person ever to be put on this earth. Was, did you say was mister? Yes mam, four years ago Lilly and I got to take the vacation we long dreamed about, down to the Caribbean, took one of those fancy cruises where everything is done for ya; my poor Lilly was sick the whole time. When we got home from that trip it turned out that my Lilly had ovarian cancer; stage 4 and the doctors told us there was nothing they could do. My poor little Lilly died a month later, just like that she did. Did you have any children? No mam we could never have children, it was the one thing Lilly and I wanted, never could, so we just got busy being happy and grateful for the wonderful blessings we had in our life from our family and friends. We never had a sad day and my Lilly used to say “every day that we’re not six feet under is a good day.” Little did we know that we were not that far from one of us being six feet under. So lady let me say this again, no matter what you got going on, it ain’t that bad. Just come down from that bridge lady. What do you say we go for a drink to discuss our problems. I really don’t want to talk to you mister, it’s none of your business, you sound like a nice guy and all but just go back to your life and leave me alone. Can’t do that lady, can’t walk away from here and leave you like this, even if you decide to jump, then know you have a friend here with you.
Hearing this man offer himself as a friend when she didn’t feel like she had a friend in the world and Steve was with Clarissa in some cheap hotel not caring one ounce how Nora was doing. Something in this man’s gesture broke her and she blurted out; “he left me, he’s screwing around with his assistant and now he says he loves her and wants to marry her;” Nora blurted out between sobs. “I’ve worked so hard at our marriage for the last 28 years, pulled him out of depression, worked two jobs to help us get by and now he slaps me in the face by running off with that woman!” Well mam if you ask me your husband is stupid, aint no where is he gonna find your kinda woman. You’re a pretty lady, a dedicated wife and mother, he’s gonna find out the hard way that the woman he’s with ain’t got your class. Lady he should be standing on this bridge regrettin what he’s done not you; you’ve done nothing wrong. Come on lady, you get down from here, let me buy you a drink and then I’ll drive you home. You seem like a nice guy and all, but how do I know you’re not some kind of psycho killer? At this the portly man with the too round glasses started laughing uncontrollably. Nora thought maybe he was little off his rocker. “What is so funny mister?” Well lady you just said the funniest thing, if I was a psycho killer and you want to kill yourself, we’d be the perfect match don’t ya think! Nora thought about everything she’d been going through the last few years, the pain of the last two weeks and she realized how deranged she had become to be standing on this bridge contemplating jumping to her death. The appearance of this stranger and her ridiculous statement of him being a possible psycho killer made her laugh and once she started she couldn’t stop, all the last two weeks of pain and hurt turned into hysterics. The portly man came running over to her because he was afraid she was going to fall from the laughing. Give me your hand and let me help you off the bridge. Nora complied without incident, she was ready to get off of that cold and lonely bridge. There they stood laughing and when the laughing subsided they stared at one another and Nora thought; two souls in the depth of such great pain came together to help each other out. God was listening and this man was right; tragic things could happen and this wasn’t tragic. Sad ending it was but not tragic. Mam I would like to drive you home. No mister, if you don’t mind walking me to my car, I’ll be alright.
An ironic thought occurred to Nora as they walked toward her car; Steve would have snubbed this man, his appearance, his job. Steve was always a snob that way; thought he was above the average worker and his attitude use to make Nora cringe because she was a big believer of people. She really doubted Steve would have gone out of his way if he saw someone standing on a closed bridge and she doubted he would have offered his friendship to someone about to kill themselves. Small miracles she thought, God sent her a small miracle in this portly man with too round glasses dressed in dirty overalls.