By Chef Circus_Fighter
I sat on the ledge of the stone bridge, my legs dangling over the river below and my back resting against the wide stem of a lamppost. The silence and cold that night wrapped around me and numbed my fingers. I tried to breathe through my tears, my breath turning to clouds beneath the light of the lamppost. The familiar, inexplicable pain in my chest twisted and turned, and filled my head with emptiness and despair.
I’ve been depressed for as long as I can remember. I recall as a small child, in perhaps my first year of school, I said to my mother, “I feel sick.”
And she asked me, “Where do you feel sick?”
Being unable to articulate what I felt, I pointed at my chest and said, “In here.”
Back then I still had the capability to feel happiness. But it left me. Little by little. Then came the anxiety. The panic attacks, insomnia, nightmares, that constant, irrational fear. Now here I am, still young, but feeling more tired than ever. When asked, “What do you plan on doing with your life?” I held my tongue on the bitter answer in my head: “I’m not sure I even want to keep it.”
So it was the bridge that night. A few days ago it was the train station. Sometimes just my apartment balcony. I sat in places where with just a few steps and a leap, I could die instantaneously, and without a sound, fade from my misery. I stayed in these places for long, silent periods of time. It reminded me that as long as I was sitting still, I was resisting that ever-present temptation, and that gave me hope. That the pain would pass and I might feel something again.
It was well past midnight when I met him. He walked down the ledge towards me, arms out on both sides to balance himself. He sat down beside me. “It’s kinda cold to be out, isn’t it?”
I half-turned my face away and shrugged, hiding behind my hair. “I don’t feel that cold.”
He leaned forward, into my personal space. I shifted uncomfortably.
“You look tired,” he said. “Have you been crying?”
“You have no idea,” I muttered, gazing down at the black, glinting waters below.
“Don’t tell me you’re thinking about jumping,” he said, crossing his legs.
“Maybe,” I murmured. “Doesn’t matter.”
“You a student?” he asked.
“Art and linguistics,” I replied.
“Literature and history,” he said, pointing to himself.
I sighed. “I don’t care. Go away.”
“La tristesse durera toujours,” he said, looking into the starry sky.
I didn’t know French, but the phrase tickled my memory. “Van Gogh?”
“Yeah,” he said. “You know what it means, right?”
I tried to remember. “Sadness… Um, the sadness.” Tears suddenly fell from my eyes. I wiped them away. “I don’t remember.”
“In saecula saeculorum,” he murmured quietly, probably to himself. That one I remembered. I’d read it in one of Orwell’s essays.
“Forever and ever…” my mouth formed the translation without thinking. I remembered then. “La tristesse durera toujours: The sadness will last forever.”
He nodded. “Do you believe that?”
I was silent for a moment. “I fear it.”
“So did I,” he whispered, those words taking the form of mist. “So do many people. But it will end. It has to end. One way or another.”
“One way or another,” I repeated, my eyes growing wet again.
“I hope you find an end better than the one you stare at,” he said.
I was confused at the statement, but the sickness in my heart blotted out the pale emotion. “If there is an end at all.”
He stood up. “Whatever you do, stand your ground. An end will come, and let it come naturally.” He left, walking down the ledge the same way he came.
Van Gogh, I thought, looking up at the sky. What a sad, sad man he was.
I must have fallen asleep there, for in the morning, I woke up freezing and damp, and sore in many places. Someone was shaking me, and then stuck their fingers against my neck. I rose, shoving the stranger away, rubbing my eyes. I didn’t even feel alarmed. I still felt nothing. I looked up to see a man in blue uniform. I squinted against the grey dawn, swaying slightly on my feet. “What is it?”
“Miss, could you come with me?” he said. I looked around. A couple vehicles. Some police tape.
“What for?” I asked, longing for a hot bath.
The officer looked uncomfortable, but maintained his stern posture. “Were you here all night, Miss?”
I grew wary. “Maybe. Why does it matter?”
He held up a photo. “Do you recognize this young man?”
It was the guy from last night. “Yeah. I don’t know who he is though. We only spoke for a couple minutes, then he left.”
“And what time was that?”
I wondered if this was the right place for a questioning. I wondered what happened. I wondered when I could go home. “Somewhere between 2 or 3 am, I don’t know, I think I remember my watch clicking for two. I don’t remember it clicking for three.”
The officer frowned. “Are you sure?”
I gave him my tired, bitter gaze, hoping he would see the exhausted honesty in my eyes. “Yes. We talked briefly of studies and Van Gogh. I was upset, he tried to comfort me.”
“Miss, it couldn’t have been that late, was it perhaps around 9 or 10?”
I couldn’t hide my look of disgust. “No. People are still around at that time. Tell me what you’re after, and whether I need to call my doctor or a lawyer.”
“Miss, this man fell from this bridge last night at 11:43pm,” the officer seemed to turn intimidating before my eyes. “He drowned. Please be truthful, Miss, or I will take you in for further questioning.”
I sighed, rubbing my puffy, reddened eyes. “Let me go home,” I mumbled weakly.
“I want my doctor,” I whimpered, childlike, and beginning to cry. Was I mourning the death of someone I met for only a few minutes? Or was it something else? The tears flowed continuously, and I held my aching head with frozen fingers.
“Miss, are you alright?”
I closed my eyes, trying to speak clearly. “I remember wrong. Maybe it was a dream. We had met, maybe sometime before that… an old friend, maybe? Why… when did he…” A stream of jumbled words came from my lips as I tried to rationalize. “But I don’t even know his name. Do I not remember?”
“What do you remember?” the officer asked seriously.
“La tristess durera toujours,” I said, a cold chill running down my spine. The world turned blurry before my eyes. “I don’t believe it. Yes, I remember what he told me; he said: It has to end, one way or another.”
The officer said something, but it was distant to me, I was once again in the confines of my sickened mind. I felt a deep sadness, like waking up from a dream where you had spent a lifetime with someone. A mourning for something that never was. But I also felt hope. If I were religious, I might have considered it a vision or a message from above. I simply held a new belief: It will end.
One way or another.