Cars zipped by down the lengthy three lane highway. In the distance, the honking of annoyed drivers in the city could be heard. Sea spray from the bay and the fumes from tractor-trailers combined to make a repulsive salty taste. The sun was still out in brutal force, but one could get a sense it wouldn’t stay that way much longer. Strong winds blew the hair of a young man standing on the edge of the bridge. He looked out at the bay and held onto the international orange railing. “Um,” a young woman said to him, “may I ask you something?”
“Uh,” he continued to stare out at the bay, “yeah, I guess.” He never removed his gaze.
“What do you find so interesting about this view?”
“Oh, well nothing in particular…I don’t know.”
“Then, why not look from an observation deck, or up at Battery Spencer? Why look from here?” she asked, but he just looked out at a sailboat without answering. “The abrasive sounds and smells just take away from the sight, so why not find somewhere else? Or maybe, just head into the city and get a nice dinner or something. Wouldn’t that be better than this?”
“Why are you asking me all these questions? Why do you care?”
“I mean; it doesn’t make a difference to me. The bay is beautiful from anywhere. It’s just that there are places with much less traffic and people running around. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
“Maybe, I don’t really pay much attention to their noise,” he paused slightly. “They never pay any to mine.” He broke his gaze from the water and lowered his head.
“Why don’t you and I go head into the city and get a bite to eat? Or, we could head to Ghirardelli’s and get a sundae.” She looked almost excited at the prospect, but he didn’t notice.
“I’d just like to be alone for a while.” He looked at her for the first time as he talked. “If that’s alright with you.” She seemed almost shocked that he was so dismissive.
After a moment of silence, she continued, “sometimes I come out here to stare out at the water like you.” She looked out at the bay. “The water always looks so calm on the surface, but we know in reality it’s freezing cold and deadly on the inside.” She looked back at him and stared into his eyes. “Looks can often be deceiving.”
“But sometimes things that look cold on the outside are cold on the inside too. It always seems like the bad stuff is bad and the good stuff is bad too. People always work that way–” He stopped and looked out at the water again.
“I know how you feel,” the woman said.
“No, you don’t.”
“Please, just stop! You’re not helping! Just leave me alone to think, please,” he snapped.
“No.” He kept staring out at the water.
“You can’t just think,” she said. “I’ve been here before, and looking back I think it’s a miracle I walked away. I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes the reason you haven’t found anything good on the inside is because you’re too busy fixating on the water.”
“What are you really doing here?” he asked again.
“I’m here to help.” She took his hand. “Let’s go for a walk.” She started to guide him gently away from the city. “So, what where you doing here?”
“I think you know what.”
“It’ll help to say it.”
“I came to meet the cruel waters.”
“Do you want a cup of coffee or some tea?” the girl asked.
“No, but I’ll take a glass of water if you don’t mind. You’ve a lovely apartment by the way.” She nodded and walked out of the room. The room was set with a couch facing a window wall that showed a view of the bridge and the bay. Next to that were a few seats facing the adjacent wall and television. The man, who had until now been siting, got up and approached the window. The view was framed by the craggy rock of the cliff face below, the wispy cumulous clouds above, and a dense fog coming in off the ocean to the right. From here the pillars of the bridge cut through the skyline like a pick cuts through a thick sandwich. Most importantly, the apartment was far enough away that the pitch and roll of the bay was indistinguishable.
“It’s quite a different view isn’t it,” she said while handing him a glass.
“Let’s sit.” She gestured toward what appeared to her to be an incredibly comfortable couch after the long day she had, but he didn’t move.
“What time of day did you go out?”
“It was close to now; the sun was still up, but it showed the right colors of the coming sunset. Do you want to sit?” Nothing. “It was much more menacing than what it looks like now. There was a half-fog lying underneath the bridge. It was thin enough to still see the waves, but thick enough to catch some of the malevolent red glow of the sun. It was a slow night, the weekend, I think. Nobody was walking and only the occasional car went into the city. When no one was looking I –” She paused. “Please, come sit down with me.” He sat on the right and she sat close to him in the middle.
“When no one was looking I stepped up on the railing. A car or two passed before I could muster up the strength to move, but they either didn’t notice me or didn’t care. I stepped forward, like I was expecting there to be some sort of hidden glass to protect me or something. Then, I fell. I panicked at first, but quickly after it felt almost natural. I don’t know if it was just a reflex or something, but I ended up in a sort of pencil dive position, just with bad form. When I hit the water, it was like a shockwave of crippling pain shattered every bone in my body. The sudden pain and freezing temperature of the water gave me shock, and I fell unconscious. When I woke up, I was told by my saviors that they had been riding in their boat when they watched me plummet into the water. They said ‘they couldn’t just drive by and leave me there,’ so they took us to shore.”
“So, you survived!?”
“No, I’ve clearly been dead for years!” she said sarcastically. “Yes, but barely. I was in so much pain that I could hardly stand without screaming.”
“Did you resent them for helping you?” the man asked.
“At the time yes, but that’s changed. I thought I might have broken both my legs and that thought alone made me want to go back up and jump again. Luckily they had docked close to my house at the time, which was a much shorter walk than back up to the bridge. So, I went home and moved on.”
“Do you regret it?”
“Of course, not only did my medical expenses and lack of work almost bankrupt me, but I didn’t even get anything out of it. I still felt exactly the same.” She rested her head on his shoulder and he grabbed onto her bicep.
“Do you still feel the same way?”
“Up until recently, yeah,” she answered.
“I saw someone who was going to make the exact same mistake that I did.”
John Fleming is a sophomore majoring in computer science and minoring in writing. In his spare time, he acts in community theater productions and runs his YouTube channel, Jokingfire.