Over the railing is a body both oblivious and ready. The roiling grey water of the bay, swirling in foamy eddies and little wind-licked waves. 138 feet below.
The railing is thick steel. It is painted burnt red. The 2 inch thick plates held together with portobello sized rivets.
An older man throws his leg up. Attempting to climb onto the railing. His movements are awkward. It has been years since he overcame a physical obstacle. His leather shoes are extremely expensive and useless for clamoring. As he tries to throw his leg over the heel of his shoe catches on the forward edge of the railing causing an additional moment of humiliating struggle. But he is determined.
He gets his soft body up onto and over the rail, hugging it close, and lowers himself clumsily over the other side. Just below the walkway on the other side of the railing is a thick flat beam. It is hidden from the walkway. Mr. Martin stands on that beam. He is grasping the railing with one hand as he begins to turn outward slowly towards the bay. His hands are white. The skin stretched and transparent. As he faces out he reaches over and grabs the railing again on the other side with his free hand. Still keeping as close as he can to the railing.
He struggles to take one arm out of its jacketed sleeve while holding onto the rail this is a struggle obviously and he flaps the arm around childishly trying to free it from the sleeve while he holds onto the rail with the other hand. He manages to free the arm eventually from the sleeve. As it comes free the jacket flaps around in the constant vicious wind and becomes stuck on some of the wiring holding the bridge and the railing together. The man tugs the jacket trying to free it from the wiring but it is truly stuck and it begins to tear. Even then he doesn’t want to ruin it.
He sighs and his face melts from resolve to resignation. The jacket would be staying on the bridge. Because the jacket is now stuck it makes it much easier for him to remove the other arm and then the jacket which he pulls out easily.
Christian is also on the bridge in the very early morning. He was running back towards the city having already run across to the Marin county side and made his turn around. He noticed to himself that running through such a thick fog was disorienting. Pieces of the bridge would appear like steel rising up through the milky fog keeping their edges hidden.
As he came upon the tower on the San Francisco side he began to run along the path which brings you around the tower when the man appears, standing on the wrong side of the railing.
Christian stops running suddenly then slowly pulling his headphones out of his ears one at a time he stood there, frozen. Christian knew that he was alone with the man. He hadn’t passed anyone on his run back towards the city and while someone might be coming up the walkway from the city side it was unlikely. Christian saw the man successfully get his leg up over the railing and then after a bit of a struggle, get his coat off.
The older man threw his head back for a second. His arms straight out. Both hands back on the rail and he breathed. His eyes were closed.
Stephen Martin walked out of his door at dawn that morning. Locking the heavy wooden door one last time. He listened to the satisfying metallic click of the catch as the latch caught. That tiny sound gave him such a deep satisfaction. That expensive door and the cost of having it installed was one of the things that made it worth it to have missed so many holidays. It was the sound of security and it gave him a deep satisfaction that it would still be there when he was gone.
He left the key beneath the brown mat which sat just outside the door. It read, “Bonjour!” which made no sense to him, he didn’t speak french, but one of his handlers had purchased it and it had just appeared one day. There were a number of things which appeared like that. The people he had hired to take care of his life made guesses about what types of things would be good for him the liberties that they took often puzzled him. He almost always left the house from the side door and so he hadn’t seen this mat.
Christian had left the house early that morning as well. A new routine that he was trying to get used to. He had convinced himself that he needed a change. I needed to mix things up. Christian was used to staying up late and he did his best thinking then. His normal idea of bedtime was 2am.
He backed out from the doorway of his studio apartment and closed the door, locking just the deadbolt. He stepped down the stairs of his building and reached down to the arm band of his phone holder to start the training app that he used to track his runs.
The day was socked in. Really overcast. The low moan of the cargo ships rumbled through the fog as he ran first through Presidio Heights and then down into the Presidio. The grey surrounded the eucalyptus trees in the old park and it felt like the entire morning was trying to stay asleep. There were just a few crows gliding silently from branch to branch as he wound around on the trails, the gravel crunching under his feet.
Mr. Martin was already almost on the bridge when Christian shut his door behind him and tucked the single key that he used when he was running into the pocket in his shoe meant to keep the key safe in motion.
Christian looked up and over to the sky above where he knew the bridge stood, he couldn’t see it from his doorway but he see that while the air was clear above where the bridge should be he could also see that there was a wall of clouds which were holding over the coast waiting for the pressure to change so that they could rush in and take the ground currently now held by the clear.