“Suicide bridge” is a short overpass which runs nearby my house. It has laughably short concrete barriers which do nothing to dissuade people from clambering over if they want to. Below, there’s a treacherous drop at least 200 feet to tumble along the sheer cliff and plummet into the canyon below.
I’ve counted seven jumpers in the last year, but that doesn’t really bother me too much. Even if there was a higher fence, they’d just walk around. Block off the whole area? Well maybe they’ll take some pills instead. I figure if someone is that determined to off themselves, they’re going to find a way.
What bothers me more is that I can see it from bedroom window. I’m on the opposite side of the canyon, but still close enough for a clear view. The jumpers are even facing me when they cling to the concrete, muttering and sobbing as they work up the courage to perform the most cowardly act in the world. The first time I saw it happen freaked me out pretty bad. I called the police and everything, begging them to hurry. I waved and shouted at the guy as he staggered drunkenly up and down on the wrong side of the barrier. Just when I was about to get in my car and drive around the canyon to him, there he went. I can swear he was even smiling as he soared through the air, arms spread wide to surrender himself to the welcoming dark.
Last month there was another one. I just flipped out my phone and recorded the whole thing. I justified that raising awareness about the suicides might encourage social activists or something step up and get involved. If I’m being honest though, my night was pretty dull and I just thought it was cool. I posted the video on YouTube, but it was flagged and removed within 24 hours. I guess some people must have seen it during that time though, because I received this message shortly after:
“Send me the video file of the jumper and delete your own copy. My friends will give you 500$ for it.”
I couldn’t believe it. At first I thought it was a scam, but then I figured some TV reporter wanted exclusive coverage for the story. He asked how I got the footage, and I told him I could see it from my window. Then sure enough, as soon as I sent him the video file, I received 500$ straight to my Paypal. I didn’t want to press my luck, so I didn’t send any follow up messages after that. Two weeks later though, he contacted me again.
“Next time someone jumps, I want you to call this number,” he said.
I figured it was a suicide hotline or something and didn’t think anything more about it. Last night though, I spotted another jumper clinging to the concrete barrier. A girl this time, still wearing her party dress, no doubt drunk or stupidly emotional over some breakup or drama. I called the number to let them handle it.
“My friends want to watch,” the voice on the other line replied. “A thousand bucks a ticket.”
There was only one alarm going off in my head, and it was sounding because of the free money. He actually sent the 500 he promised before, so I figured he was good for it. Sure it was weird as Hell, but it’s not like anyone was going to suffer from it. The girl would be jumping with or without an audience, so what was the harm? I gave the guy my address, and he said he would be there as fast as he can.
And he wasn’t joking. Two minutes later, a white van was screeching down my neighborhood like a torpedo. I met them outside – six of them. Yes she’s still there, but I don’t know how long. Yes you can see her face from here. No, I don’t know who she is. It was dark in the parking lot and I couldn’t get a good look at them, but soon they were hurtling past me up the stairs toward my apartment. Left in my hands were six neat stacks of 20’s, all tied together with little rubber bands. I don’t know how they got here so fast, but it was clear that they were ready.
I followed the group up into my apartment where I found them all huddled around my bedroom window. All men, middle aged, impeccably dressed in suits or high-end collared shirts and slacks. I discretely stowed the cash in my nightstand and sat awkwardly on my bed. They were all talking fast to each other in another language (something Eastern European), and I didn’t want to interrupt. There was some paper exchanging hands too, and if I had a guess I’d say they were placing bets. It was getting pretty uncomfortable, and I just wanted them to get their kicks and get out as soon as possible.
“Is no good,” one of them said through a heavy accent. “Is not what I pay for.”
“What’s the matter?” I asked. “You can see her, can’t you?”
“Yeah I see her. I see her changing mind.”
I joined them at the window in time to see the girl clambering back onto the other side of the barrier. I could feel the eyes of all six men on me while I watched.
“We had a deal.” It was the voice from the phone. “We came to watch someone jump tonight.”
“Well that’s up to her, not me,” I replied casually, although it was impossible to ignore the inherent threat in the tone.
“You are hosting party, no?” asked the thick accent. “Don’t let us down. Go talk to her.”
“You want me to tell her to jump?” It was getting harder to breathe. The weight of all those eyes was getting heavier. Damn it, why’d they all have to be so old and professional? It felt like I’d just walked into a board of directors and shit myself while they watched. I couldn’t meet anyone’s eye.
“It’s either her, or you,” said the first speaker. “Better hurry before she leaves. We’ll be waiting for you.”
I never drove so fast in my life. Should I call the police? And tell them what, that I was hosting a suicide watch party? I don’t know if that’s illegal, but it certainly wasn’t going to get me any sympathy. Do I just keep driving and not look back? And never return home? I had a lease, and a job, and… but even if I did run, these seem like the kind of men who know how to find someone. As much as I hated myself, I was taking the switchbacks which led around the canyon. Within a few minutes, my car slammed to a stop just outside the bridge.
The girl. Where was the girl? I didn’t see her anywhere, and my heart felt like it was going to bruise itself against my rib-cage it was beating so hard. I ran up and down the concrete barrier, conscious that the men in my apartment could see me the whole time.
I almost tripped over the girl in the dark. She was leaning against the concrete on the side facing the road, almost invisible from the overhead street lamps. Half-asleep, she still quietly blubbered the dark corruption of mascara down her face. I looked back to my apartment and could see light which shone like a hungry eye peering out of the night.
“Get up. Come on, easy now.” I put my hands under her arms and helped her to her feet. The girl – early 20s, could have been pretty under different circumstances – hid her face in her hands and started sobbing louder. Glance back across the canyon. I took a deep breath.
“Stand up. There you go. I don’t want you to be afraid, okay?” My tongue felt huge and alien in my mouth. The words in my ears sounded like they were coming from someone else. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I couldn’t believe I was letting this happen.
The girl sniffled and pressed herself against me as she struggled to stand. The warmth of her body was intoxicating. I pushed her back to arms length, pulling her hands away from her face so she would look at me.
“Everything that you’re feeling, everything that you’re going through, I understand,” I said. “But there’s something I need you to understand too.”
She gave me a half-smile, and I took a long, slow breath, letting the air whistle out through a small hole in my mouth.
“I need you to understand that everything is only going to get worse from here,” I told her. “If you can’t hold it together now, how are you going to do it when your body gets old and no-one wants to even look at you anymore? You think it’s hard letting go of people? How about when you’ve been with them for five, or ten, or twenty years, and they still betray you? I don’t know your story, but I know the stories of people like you, and I know this is the best your life is ever going to get. If it’s not good enough, then it never will be. You might as well jump.”
She was still smiling. Even with the makeup running down her face, it was beautiful to see. She thanked me and told me that I was right, although the words didn’t quite feel real. All I could think about was that beady eye of light on the other side of the canyon. I felt her arms wrap around me, but the warmth wasn’t there anymore. Then she was clambering back over the concrete over to the side overlooking the terrible drop. I know I usually watch when they go, but not this time. I rushed to my car, trying to turn the music on before –
But just as I was about to start the ignition, I heard the scream tear from her body like it carried her soul with it. I turned on the music as loud as it would go and drove back to my apartment.
It was empty when I got back, but the money was still there in my nightstand. Left on my bed was a note that read:
“Great party my friend. We enjoyed the show. Next week we come to watch again, so have another one ready for us.”