Note to self
He was sitting on the blue stone sea wall below the Point Ormond navigation marker, looking out over the bay. At that moment in time I could have paid him more attention. He might just have been waiting for someone, or perhaps he was having a rest after a walk, even thinking out his plans for the evening to come. Instead I let it be.
I walk past here most every day. It is my routine, even if the timing is irregular. Morning, afternoon or night, it makes little difference, as long as I walk by the open water. It frees my mind to wander and my senses to observe.
I sometimes stand up here and just stare at the shipping. Point Ormond is a trig point atop a man made, three story high hill, overlooking Port Phillip Bay. It is the only vantage point amid miles of flat parklands and mature suburban homes that enclose the eastern edge of the broad, tame, baby sea that is the southern entrance to Melbourne. I particularly love to watch the sun set from the concrete ledge that circles the white wooden structure sitting like a crown on a balding head.
He is no longer there. What had he been contemplating? The beach is quite empty in the chill, post sunset glow. It gets dark quite early in June, though it had been one of those beautiful clear winter’s day.
A small lump has taken his place in the sepia, twilight landscape. I walk down to examine it. A pair of shoes. A mobile phone. A wallet containing a couple of ten dollar notes and a white, square envelope, tucked in but unsealed. It must have been that which he had been absently twirling in his hands before.
On the front of the envelope was the salutation; “To whom it may concern” printed in black Helvetia, crossed through with a single line of blue felt pen. Under which, written in the same pen, the words: “note to self”.
What to do? Do I read it, or not? I suppose I could be considered concerned. Ah, but it had been readdressed. Still, he took the time to write it. He obviously left it here to be read…
To whom it may concern. (crossed out)
Note to self
I write this to clearly state my position.
I am not ill. I am not depressed.
I have lived a good life.
I have achieved less than some, but more than others.
My memories contain few regrets.
But rationally, the decade or possibly three ahead do not hold equal proportions of win and loss.
The negative column cannot but grow.
I have know loss and do not seek more of that experience.
I have know success and I am satisfied with my share.
I am not a coward, though you are free to think so, if that is your bent.
I have just decided that this story, my story, will read better if ended here.
My affairs are no longer my concern.
It was fun.
He must have swum out into the bay. He is going to kill himself.
I have read this is considered a gentle method of suicide. How on earth does any writer know that?
You swim out, fully dressed to increase the fatigue, all the while telling yourself that you can always turn back. You are just challenging yourself, testing your resolve. You never actually commit to the act. Eventually, at some moment that is beyond any actual knowing, you cross a point of no return. At some distance far enough out, even if you do turn back, you will not have the energy to reach the shore. All the while you fool yourself; “I can still turn back, I can still change my mind.”
And with each stroke you get colder, and further, and more fatigued. Your capacity to feel concern lessens and fades.
How far out is he? He could not have begun more than ten minutes ago. Could I have stopped him? Persuaded him? Should I have? Can I still? Surely a friendly voice, concern from a fellow human might change his mind even now?
But how could I ever reach him, let alone find him? Out there, in the dark and the cold? He could be anywhere.
No, he would have swum towards something, a target, a direction. That shipping lane marker is the most visible thing, and it would be beyond his reach, a perfect goal. A purpose and a distraction to keep the doubt and fear at bay.
He would be just swimming, killing time, killing distance, killing his will to live. I have an urgent purpose. A deadline. Surely I could catch up with him. Solidarity, responsibility for my predicament, would sway him. I could save him.
The water is so cold it bites. The night is black as a shroud. I was right, the lane marker light is the only thing I can see ahead of me, I dare not look behind, I would lose my nerve, my resolve. Swim! Stroke out towards the light.
The pain has faded now, how long has it been? The cold has numbed my hands, my whole body. Still I swim, I am closer now, I can feel it. I will reach him soon, then we can turn back. We will encourage each other. Just a little further. I am sure I am stronger than he is. There is still time to change his mind, still time to turn back.
The numbness has passed from my body into my mind now, if we don’t connect soon I will have to turn back, or we won’t be able to reach the shore.
It is surprisingly peaceful. Everything is so gentle, almost comfortable, and numb. We are together at last. Finally I reach him. There is no argument. No urging. We are finally of one mind. There is only understanding. There is no turning back now. There is no fear, no pain. I remember why I wrote that note, why I changed the salutation. There is no one else to be concerned. There is only the self. I needed to understand myself. I just needed to convince myself that this was right.
I will just float a little, I am so tired, so so numb. The light is still ahead of me. Strong and stable, the one fixed point in this black coldness. I will reach it soon. Perhaps I might close my eyes just a moment. The light will still be there when I open them.
I was not a coward. I did not look back, not once.