I think about you a lot. We never met, but I’ve seen you at your most vulnerable, also at your most determined. We’ve shared an intimate moment but I was too far away for you to notice. You may have seen me in passing, but you had a lot on your mind at the time. If you did, I was like all the shapes of people outside of your inner theatre; no self as vivid as yours, uncaring, unknowable, not in your world. But I do think about you and I wonder where you were coming from as you headed west across the viaduct. I wonder about a lot of things; had the levee just broken? What decibel were the screams behind your eyes? You probably didn’t notice what a beautiful June day it was.
If I were closer I swear I would have tried to help. I probably would have flubbed it, verbally tripped, clumsily trying to say that poetic and profound thing we all wish we are capable of when it really matters, not in the shower two days later. I would try. In half the simulations I run it would be with a rhetorical flourish, my words reframing your inner struggle into a beautiful self-loving narrative. You’d see the world with oceanic love. You know when you hover your hand gently on top of water? It would be like that, that ineffable stirring from ordinary things, and they’d all be beautiful again for the first time in a long time…
That didn’t happen, but I swear I would have tried.
I would have said something. If you had paused I would have come closer. I would have reached out. I would tell you about myself and all the times I thought of doing the same thing. That would have been a lie, but I’m good at that. I’m embarrassed at how well I can lie. The funny thing is I’m so good at lying because I was once so embarrassed by myself. Maybe that would be it? I’d say something naked and disarming in the hope that it would shorten the distance between us, you know, in that ‘I’m fucked up too’ sort of way. Selfishly I would want you to like me in that moment. Not to make it about me, but I’d want you to feel guilty for going through with it; that I would take it personally if you left after I made all the effort, but, like I said, I wasn’t quite there yet, I was just far enough away.
You know, to a guy walking down Bloor on a beautiful June day you did something totally unexpected. As I squinted to make sense of what I was seeing, with no hesitation, no qualm or delay, you just hopped the rail and there you went, out of sight. I couldn’t tell if you even looked down first. I get clammy peering over a balcony, but you? What bravery. What singular, decisive purpose your last spasm of life had. What brought you there? What level five hurricane was taking place in those three pounds of jelly that I would see splattered on the concrete below? I’ll never know.
I’m ok with that, but I can’t help but wonder.
I assume you were a good guy, at minimum a considerate one. It’s a busy street and with Toronto traffic being as nightmarish as it is, even on the weekends, you pulled your Dodge Caravan all the way over, right to the curb. You even closed the door after yourself. Not only that, you put your hazard lights on. When I got to the van I could
hear it clicking through the open window: Tick-tick, Tick-tick, tick-tick…Did you pause when you heard the steady beat of your hazard lights and know it would be one of the last things you’d ever hear? When I go back there I can hear the cacophony of traffic that day…a distant horn, a siren’s Doppler-shift; I can conjure the early summer smell of exhaust, ozone and hot asphalt. Then I imagine the whoosh of air through your ears as you started to plummet, all the while tick-tick, tick-tick, tick-tick….it pierces through everything, that clean, crisp tick.
If I hadn’t stopped for that Portuguese custard tart I probably would have been close enough to say something. I swear I would have tried to help. Seriously, was it just habit? Or were you that considerate to turn on your hazards despite the unusually strenuous circumstances? What you set in motion when you poked that fucking hazard button you’ll never know: tick-tick, tick-tick. That tick haunts me more than you. Perhaps it’s the absurdity of it: life is not worth living, but the Ontario Highway Traffic Act must live on. Or maybe it’s just the embedded geometry of the signal: attention, please, I’m literally stopping here.
Peering over the rail, you looked like you were napping. Lying on your stomach, your right arm up over your head, it looked peaceful. I really hope it wasn’t scary. I do think about you a lot even though we never met. I like to think when I saw you down there you were feeling something beautiful, like a hand on top of water, between two worlds.
Picture source: Stefan Andrej Shambora