The Encounter on the Bridge
It is about 9 in the evening in the twilight between summer and fall in a city. The stars are managing to shine a bit though the light pollution, and a cool breeze gently strokes at the grass growing miraculously out of cracks in the sidewalk. It is oddly quiet at the edge of the city.
A once magnificent bridge spans a convoluted river. It won’t last long; a new and improved and slightly ugly companion is being pieced together alongside it, and will replace it in a year or two.
On the old bridge, on the side nearest the city, is a rather baroque bench, placed in someone’s honor after they died. The plaque, however, has been eaten away by moss.
We see movement near the bench, and to our surprise see a young woman (or girl?) walk into the eerie glare of one of the streetlights along the sides of the bridge. Why is she here? This is dangerous. She appears to be well dressed and tidy, she strides purposefully, she seems fearless. She settles regally in the center of the bench.
Ten or maybe fifteen minutes pass with her just sitting there, and then she reaches into a pocket of her long blue trench coat and withdraws a small packet of white tissue paper. Her boldness seems to flee: she fidgets with the hem of her dress, smooths her hair, manically gnaws at her nails; stranger still, her fear isn’t directed towards a potential predator, but at the cell phone sized package.
Then, growing bold, she unwraps it. It’s blurred in the security camera footage, but the delicate scrap contains unidentified pills. Suspicions are confirmed as she takes out an envelope and a thumbtack and attaches her last letter to the bench.
The distraught young woman has yet to take the final step of opening her stainless steel water bottle, tossing a handful of pills in her mouth, and drifting off into a sleep that will never end.
But wait…she isn’t alone. An ominous figure has just entered the glowing circle created by the streetlight. Tall and gangly and wearing a dark blue trench, the person approaches her.
“You probably shouldn’t do that,” he says to her. She starts, leaping from the bench and spilling all the pills in the process.“Why do you care if I’m dead or alive?” Her voice is barely more than a whisper and sounds like a cracked bell.
“I’ve been there, and changing my mind was one of the best decisions I ever made,” the stranger speaks. He moves further into the light, and she gets a better look at him. He’s neither handsome or ugly, and in other circumstances she wouldn’t have noticed him at all. His eyes are kind, despite a somewhat commanding presence. He is also well dressed, in contrast to her first assumption that he was a bum or a criminal.
“Do you want to talk?” He looks her over. She looks emaciated and deathly pale, though he has a feeling that she would be very beautiful under different circumstances. She is wearing jeans and a teal top, both of which seem worn and a little dirty. Then he sees the bruise on her wrist and another on the back of her neck. Anger bubbles up inside him.
She stares, unsure if she can trust him. She’s trusted before and it always seemed to end badly. Probably the smart thing would be to run to the bridge’s edge and get this over with. But those eyes call to her.
Can she? Can she tell him about the abandonment? The abuse? The failures? The depression and loss?
She makes her decision.“Ok, I’ll tell you,” she murmurs. “I promise not to try to do anything.”
He sits next to her, watching to see if he might have to hold her back. He remembers that on a similar night he was on the bridge, pressing a gun to his temple, and that a stranger had guided him out of his death wish and into a wonderful life. But it wasn’t just wanting to pass a good deed on or being a good person that was driving him. He felt drawn to her. In fact, he was struggling with an urge to pull her close and wipe away those tears.
She noticed him move his arm behind her. Foolish man. She wasn’t going to run, not now. It was stupid and probably impossible, but he was her only hope and she would see this through to the end. Besides, it would be poor manners to jump off the bridge in the middle of a conversation, as her aunt might put it.
A mirthless laugh escaped. Why was she thinking of etiquette at a time like this? Then again, she’d lost her sanity awhile ago, so maybe it wasn’t so surprising.
He placed his hand on hers. “Let’s start with your name,” he said, and for the first time she noticed how comfortingly deep his voice was.
“Lily Trenton,” she said. “Yours?”
“Vincent Williams,” he replied.