The Ship Canal. The Fremont. And the Ballard. The Montlake,
closed over the cut. There’s the Southwest Spokane Street
Swing bridge. And the University over Portage Bay. Linking
the U-District with the north. This is a city of bridges. One
hundred and forty nine at last count. Steel and concrete
skyways hanging in space. Stopped. On the Aurora. Eight
AM. Grinding a commute towards my grave. Life empty
like the passenger and back seats of my car. And there he
sits on the railing. Legs counterweighted above a concrete
walkway. Back to the sky. The rest of us cantilevered over
a gray expanse. Looks to be a hundred and fifty vehicles.
I figure a passenger in every other one. Two hundred or so
people. Which is how many have chosen, as Sartre put it,
to embrace the abyss. We name this bridge with relish.
Suicide Span. Fremont Falls. Tourist rightly call it the
George Washington. But Jumper’s Bridge rises as the
favorite. For the self-extinctively inclined, its thousand-yard
length, and two hundred foot drop into eternity, serve as a
stage to irresistible drama. This guy’s got to be surprised by
his reception. Half the drivers lean on their horns. The rest,
out of their cars gawk or yell. Jump. Jump. Egg the guy on.
He reels some as he pulls a pack of cigarettes from a
pocket. Lights one and inhales. Exhales. Wind yanks the
smoke overhis shoulder. It’s cold. One hand draws a nylon
jacket closed. Eyes wary, the other reaches down, unlaces
his shoes. Kicks them off. I half expect a priest to show,
bible in hand. Whisper a prayer maybe. Walk him down a
long corridor. Hand on his shoulder. Bare lights overhead. A
cop and two paramedics thread their way fast through a
crush of cars. Toward mid-span where the guy waits. More
police whoop-whoop their way to the outer fringe of the
crowd. A couple of women are closest. Try to talk him
down. He smiles his thanks. But no thanks. He lifts his
arms over his head. Leans into the emptiness. Pauses to
look at us a final time. Back flips into the end of his life.
The mob goes quiet. They climb back into their cars. Key
their ignitions. Crawl away north or south. Disappointed it’s
over. I stand there. Against the fender of my car. Hazard
lights still flashing. The cop who almost reached him walks
over. Looks at me. Why do you think he did it? I don’t know.
I’m just wondering what it felt like to finally stop falling.