A Silver Moon in Dragon's Sky
A Silver Moon in Dragon's Sky
By Albert Kivak
I looked down at the waters below me, an emerald, glimmering ripple, and touched the cross necklace around my neck. Crying, I noticed his reflection gazing back at me with lost cerulean eyes, and wondered how I got here. I worked as a waitress on the seedy mainland of San Francisco called the Grove, and since I lived across connecting towers in MarinCounty, I crossed the suspension bridge, daily. People from all over the world came to end their lives here, or start a new one, but I could not view the fogbound inlet and hilly sides with clanging trolleys, and box-shaped houses, glued side by side, to be my hometown, because I was born in the deep suburbs of Louisiana to a respectable middle class family surnamed Sawyer.
Standing at the edge of the vermillion orange painted railings, next to the thirty-fourth lampposts, the past six weeks crashed to the forefront of my mind like the breaking surf, relentless and unbidden. Before the Giants clambered to the top, before the sanction of gay marriages and the barring of oyster hunting due to contaminated waters, I met Brett Hillocks out by the bayside, near the shoreline. Our feet were wet and we heard the noisy, shrill call of the gulls, when a voice caught my attention. I was sunning myself, getting a reasonable tan, when I felt a shadow pass over me and looked up from the trusty mystery novel I was reading, and observed a man, in claret swimming trunks, squat beside me. The hair of his sun kissed chest wagged in the wind, waving, curling back to sleep. He had on sunglasses and a smile that lit up a dark moonless path with pearly white. “How you doing, gorgeous? You got a spare sun block lotion I could use?” he asked.
“Excuse me?” I said.
“I might get skin cancer staying out here too long.”
“What do you need again?” I repeated.
“You mind if it’s a low SPF?” I asked, hoping he would get away.
“Yeah, that’s all right. I don’t mind at all.”
I sat up from the beach towel under me, folded a tiny crease at the edge of my book, and dug into my handbag. When I found the cool plastic bottle, I handed it over, wiping the sand off my knees and elbows.
“Thanks, hot thing,” he said and squirted a copious amount in his palm. He rubbed it on his chin, cheek, and forehead and the back of his neck, smoothing the cream until it disappeared. “Looks like you could use some. You’re turning flushed.”
“Yes,” I said, holding out my upturned hand, where he smacked the bottle into my palm, unabashed. I dropped it in my handbag.
“You work around here?”
I closed the book, saving my place, once again. “Yes, why do you ask?”
“I see… just curious,” the man said, shrugging his broad shoulders. “What do you do? You work or what?”
“Yes, I work.”
“I serve food.”
“Oh, really?” he said, raising an eyebrow. “What kind of food?”
And that’s how it began.
He came every Friday to take out wonton soup, chow mien, and orange chicken, eyeing me every time I handed his order in a brown paper bag, and, sometimes, our fingers would touch. My mind reeled in a whirlwind of thought as I rang up the cash register: $9.60. He’d always dispense the same two quarters and a dime, dropping them in my hand, along with the exact nine dollar, never going over or under, never having me drudge up change. I speculate he had his sights on me, even back then, but at the time, I didn’t think of it.
“What’s your name?” he asked, one day, surprising me because our exchange was always anonymous.
“Melanie,” I said, smiling, concealing my grimace. “And yours?”
“Brett with double Ts,” he said.
“That’s good to know.”
I was growing more and more uncomfortable because he refused to tender the bills that were still possessed in his hand.
“You have a beautiful name, Melanie.” Brett said, corner of his lips slightly upturned. “Can I see your hands?”
Perplexed and intrigued at the same time, I obeyed as he wished, glancing at the crumpled five dollar bill and singles held to his side.
“You don’t have a ring on you,” Brett said, lifting up his free fingers and playing invisible piano. “Any reason why?”
“Why do you ask?” I questioned, on the defensive, thinking he was making fun of my lack of men or dates.
“Sweetie, if I could grant you one wish, not even the genie in a lamp would dare consider giving it to you,” he said.
“Now what wish is that?” I asked, smiling.
“To make you blissfully happy and remain faithful at your side, true to your words.”
“Oh, Mr. Smooth-talker, how are my words?”
“Never heard such smooth honeycomb dripping with life than on any other women.”
Damn, he was good.
“Oh, is that so?” I asked, and then, cut through the bull. “I’d love to continue our sweet affair, but you might be forgetting something.”
“Are you going to pay your dues or not?”
“Sorry… I didn’t even notice the time fly,” he said, glancing at his glittering wristwatch. “I apologize.”
He passed the money to me. I stacked them in the cash drawer and said: “Look, I know you’re trying to get into my pants, but that’s just not going to happen.”
That must’ve caught him off guard because he appeared surprised, floundering.
“You look like a nice guy really, kind and all, but I’m not looking for a relationship at the moment. I hope you don’t take offense, Brett.”
“I don’t know why you’d think that—that wasn’t my intentions.” he said, flushed. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to take up your time.” A Chinese couple stood behind him, wondering what the hold-up was. And I was thinking the same thing.
“None needed.” I responded, and gestured for the couples. “Next!”
“Wait,” he said. “Could we just be friends?—since you’re a Christian and all.”
“And why do you say that? That I’m a Christian.”
“Your necklace,” he said, pointing. “It’s in the shape of a cross.”
Why did stuff like that have to expose itself out in the open? I thought.
I laughed and asked: “Why? Are you?”
“Am I what?”
“Are you a Christian?”
“No,” he said. “But I would appreciate if you could teach me the way of the Bible. Always wondered what the theologians, historians were so against and what polarized the audience. Why the division, you know? Maybe give me private lessons from it, if you want that is.”
“Could you wait a second, Brett?” I asked. I didn’t know what came over me, but I was compelled to give him a try—compelled, without a shadow of a doubt, that I could help him grow in the word. But if I had known, in hindsight, I’d fall in love with a monster, would I have still jotted down my number and handed it to him?
I believe so. That’s the scary part of it. I knew what I was getting myself into after all the scandalous men who had lie to me, cheated behind my back, but I forgave them all, and prayed for solace and respite, letting the burning memories of torment gallop away with the wind on a white horse that promised to take me away in land called love. But he was not white.
He was a black horse painted in white.
And I fell hard.
We made love on our first date. I resisted at first, but his hands were too much, his words like the silk marmalade my parents used to make in Louisiana. I wanted attention; I craved to be loved once again, to feel alive, and he delivered. He satisfied me in all areas. If I could go back to that time I could breathe again, I would, without the penalty of existing in his world.
We lay in bed, his hand cupped around my breast, stroking, moving his delicate, sinuous fingers across the abdomen and up my thighs. I shuddered under his willowy touch, and pulled his fingers in my mouth, sucking covetously, lapping at the taste of myself.
“Christians are always the naughtiest,” he said.
“What was that?” I said, taken aback, and stopped what I was doing.
“Never mind,” Brett pulled off of me, and settled on his back, propping his forearm behind his head. “Was I good in bed, Melanie?”
I wanted more… more…
“Was I good enough for you?”
“You’re the best I’ve ever had,” I admitted, and smiled. I glanced over at him.
He leaned over his side of the bed, rummaged in his rumpled, khaki slacks, and ferreted out a box of cigarettes—a brand I’d never known existed before.
“Since when did you smoke?”
“Why? I can’t smoke?” He questioned, lighting a puff. “You got something against smokers?”
“No, it’s not that, Brett. It’s nothing like that. I just—”
“You just—what? Can’t stand the thought of sleeping with a smoker? Is that it?”
“I just don’t think it’s healthy. Just ‘cause I’m a Christian, doesn’t mean I’m gonna hold a judgment on you or your personal life.” I clarified, trying to vindicate his addiction, somehow.
“Well, it sounded like you are. Your face had a disgusted look on it; you might want to check a mirror for that.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. If that’s what you saw it as, I’m sorry. I was just surprised.” I said, resting a hand on his shoulder, in the dark. He shrugged it off, crushed out the cigarette on the bureau, next to him, on a thin memo pad. I thought it would catch on fire, but, miraculously, it didn’t.
. “Jesus. Next time, Melanie, why don’t you help me quit instead of passing judgment? What do you say?”
“Okay. I’m sorry.”
His hands came sliding over to me, again, and worked their wonders, and I filled with the Holy Spirit once more, my cup overflowing to the brim, and, soon, I was muffling the Lord’s name in vain.
He moved in with me, saying my flat was better, but I didn’t notice any disparity between the two. It was all such a slow process that the portrait of Brett couldn’t be contained in a frame. He used my money to pay off his bills, and that car of his, his pricey cell phone, and the rest of his material good stuff, and I told him manage our money, to live within the means of our income. It was inevitable the wood might crack. Yet he never listened, he refused. He maxed out his credit cards and began using mine to pay for his and maxed out on those, as well. Sometimes, I wonder how I could be such a fool. He’d finagle his way out of the monetary quagmire, speaking reassuring words, and I’d bend over backward, hoping he’d change because he promised me so. But I should’ve known better; I should’ve listened to my gut, instead of my heart. Every time we’d go through the monthly expenses and the little black book, I’d ask him: “Babe, how much did you say you made today?”
“It’s not enough, but I’m getting there.”
“Honey, we still have bills we haven’t paid for yet. And it says here that we’re behind on some payments, but what about these others? Where did all the money go?”
“Listen, Melanie. You know I love you right? You know you are the most precious thing God could ever grant me and bestowed your heavenly smile on me to make me a better man, right? Please, believe me, baby girl, I’m trying, as hard as I can, but it seems like the pocket in my pants has a big ass hole in the middle, as they come, okay? I’m trying, babe. How can you fault me for trying?”
“Baby, you’ve been going through my credit card to purchase things we don’t need!”
“Don’t you fucking talk to me in that tone, okay? What right do you have to talk to your future husband like that? I bought you that ring, didn’t I?” Brett shouted, standing up from the dining table, and shaking a finger in my face. Oh, those fingers I had once loved would now be a reminder of the pain I would endure the coming months, years of eons and peons of infinity. “That ring, my own mother gave to me before she died. It cost her fortunes. You know how much something like that cost now?”
“How much?” I asked, getting terrified of his recent tantrums.
“A lot—that’s how much. A lot! Fucking a lot!!”
“Maybe we could sell it,” and I just knew I should’ve thought of that before I spoke up.
“I’m sorry, baby.”
Then he said something that skewered my soul, and plunged the dagger in my heart, twisting no ends.
“Didn’t your own parents die?” He said lips peeled back in a skull-like grimace. “Didn’t both you parents get wiped off the face of this planet in Hurricane Katrina?! Didn’t your only brother die too? They’re dead just like my own mother, so you don’t say shit like that. You got that? Don’t make me teach you a lesson you deserve.”
I burst out crying, letting the tears fall, unable to control them anymore. It came and came. And came. Like the love I used to feel for Brett Hillocks. It never stopped coming.
“Oh fuck, honey, I’m so sorry,” Brett said, pulling up a chair beside me, and sat next to me, holding my trembling hands. “Babe, I didn’t mean that. I don’t know what came over me; I just flew into a fit of temper that was in no way justifiable. I’m sorry, all right? Stop crying. Okay?”
I quieted down, hitching raspy hiccups.
“Babe, I want to know how your parents passed away. You never did tell me, when you promised you would.”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said, the sudden flood of memories breaking through the levees I had built for the past five years.
“You said they were swept away by the flood.”
“Were you with them when you saw them perish?”
I nodded, yes.
“What happened?” he asked. I remembered my brother on the roof of our house, and him telling me he’d be back to search for his parents, but he never returned. He had lied.
“I don’t remember.”
“Okay, babe, fine. We’ll get this all resolved. All right? Don’t worry. You and me together, forever. Remember that. Till death do us part…”
“Till death do us part,” I whispered.
“That’s a good girl,” he said, and left it at that.
Did he truly love me? That’s what I asked myself on those quiet nights. Or was it the money?
Of course, he did, Melanie Sawyer. Didn’t you hear what he just said? He’s going to change—with the help of God—he was going to get better, just give him time, that’s all… some time.
Things were going to get better, weren’t they? God didn’t torture his elects, did he?
In the end Brett Hillocks ran with the entire inheritance sum my father had saved up for me, sparing not a penny.
I didn’t go to work for days. A rollercoaster of emotions clattered and hammered in my head, as I tried to grasp the gravity of my situation. How could he? After all I’ve done for him? How could he steal the money and run? I tried to justify his behavior, and then, I’d see the evil for which he was, and then, I’d pray for his return, and then…
For three days straight, I didn’t call in; I didn’t get up from bed, just laid in sick and wept until my eyes were throbbing behind their sockets. When I finally couldn’t handle the continuous badgering from my manager on the answering machine, I picked up the phone.
“Melanie… you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
Glut of Chinese in the background, talking to his wife.
“Why did you not come to work and not tell us?”
I had no answer. I kept quiet, formulating a response, but none came.
“Hello? Anyone there?”
“Yes, I’m here,” I said finally, and sat up from my bed.
“You going to come in for work or you quit?” he asked. There was concern in his voice because I had built a solid foundation of repertoire between many costumers and I, and he knew that. The customers weren’t just coming in for the food, but for me as well.
“I’ll come in. I’m so sorry, something bad had happened. Thank you so much for calling me.”
“Can you come in now? We very busy.”
“Yes, I can do that. What time is it, right now?” I asked, rubbing my eyes.
“It’s…” a flurry of Mandarin, again, and a woman’s voice, distinct, relaying the information back to him. “It’s 2:50 pm, almost three.”
“Okay, I’m on my way. Thanks, again.”
I left as fast as I could, taking my nearly out of gas two-door coupe, and drove across the Golden GateBridge. Strangely there weren’t many pedestrians walking on the side footpath. As I drove, I watched the suicide hotline staffs patrolling the vicinity in their white hospital van that looked eerily like an ambulance, and a gathering of people near one side of the lamppost. A jumper had already jumped, I presumed, or was currently being coaxed off the scaffolds by vigilant onlookers. Halfway down the midway point, my heart stopped. A woman was slowly straddling herself over the bridge’s railing, and kept looking behind traffic, at us, up at the sky, back toward the horizon where the land and the sea met, shoulders slumped, scratching her ash blonde hair as if she had fleas roosting at the base of her neck. Her hair flew wild all around her in the gusts of wind.
My hand automatically rummaged in my purse, resting in the passenger seat, and scoured for the cell-phone, only to realize I had left it back in my apartment complex, still hooked to its charger, and I cursed out loud.
Someone help her, I moaned silently, watching vacationers and tourists stroll down the walkway, some taking pictures, others sight-seeing, gazing out into the rolling Pacific, even others tossing what looked like flowers over the side, and everyone of them, cyclists including, were oblivious to this lady about to take her own life.
As my car crept nearer, I lowered the window, and screamed: “Lady, don’t do that!”
She must’ve heard something because she glanced in my direction, and then, proceed to look back out into the body of water, saddling the other leg over the railing, and sat as if she was enjoying the sunset. Except the sun was setting on the other side, behind her, and she was about to jump, any second now.
Not on my watch, I thought. I wasn’t going to live the rest of my life with the one question haunting me, what if—what if I hadleft my vehicle to help her?—could I have saved her?
I parked my car in the middle of the road, on the lane farthest to my right, and leapt out, emergency signals blinking. I walked onto the paved cement of the pathway, hopped the balustrade separating the commuters and pedestrians, and reached the woman, before she sidled closer to the edge.
I rushed to the railing and looked down; choking on a scream that rose and seeped out like a perforated condom, I realized the woman (who looked to be about in her thirties) was still alive! She had landed on a narrow ledge, a second outcropping of red beam attached to the main bridge, and felt my heart wallop back down to my chest cavity, pounding frantically, and said: “Hey lady! Hey, what’s your name, hon?”
She looked up at me with brimming tears and back down the two hundred feet drop.
“What’s wrong?” I asked over and over. “What’s wrong?”
She shifted on her feet and wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her black hooded sweater, and faced the swirling pacific. My mind clamored to find a loophole for this stranger to step into, so I could lasso her off the ledge, and back on the safety of the surface street. Seeing the backside of her hood and the leg of her denim jeans swaying on the girder was more frightening than the broken levees in Louisiana, because she was inches from meeting her maker.
“Whatever it is, we can talk about it. You don’t have to do this.”
She shuffled towards the side, her back on me.
“In every negative situation, there’s always a positive.” I said, restraining my voice from screaming at her, at the pedestrians, at anyone to help us—I couldn’t do this alone. I contemplated the idea of just canting over the rails and picking her up by the hair, but what if she sprang, and I fell over the side with her?
“What’s bothering you, honey?” I asked, pathetically.
When she didn’t respond, I told her about the hope of believing good things will happen, and the faith that arises from it. I told her she didn’t need to do this; there were always positive aspects of life to look forward to. I asked her if she had any children or loved ones. She said yes.
“What’s his name?” I asked, unable to believe my luck.
“How old is he?”
“Five, only five.” She said in a strange whisper as though she was scolded in a library.
“See? You’re not alone.” I said, leaning against the rails. “How would he feel if he discovered his own mother didn’t come home one afternoon? He had nothing to eat? No one to care for him and love him like you do, Camilli?”
“Call me, Ann.”
“Okay, Ann—I’ll call you Ann. So how do you feel, Ann?”
“Don’t talk about my son like that.”
“Why, Ann? Why?”
“Because he’s dead,” Camilli said, angrily, eyes scorching mine. I saw her tongue slip over her toothless gum as she leered, cracking a smile. She laughed, sobbing and weeping. “So what are you going to do about it—huh? Lady? What the fuck are you going to do about it?”
I showed no emotions as I held out my hand in empathy. “I’m sorry to hear that, Ann. Please, if you can cross to the other side, we can talk about it, just you and me.”
“Why are you saying you’re sorry? I’m the one who should be sorry. I’m the one who caused his death.” Fresh stream of tears poured down her face, spoiling her mascara. A sliver of snot trailed from her nostrils, as Ann gazed back at the sea, hair blowing. Sailboats and yachts cut through the water like weaving plastic cap, and a lone ferry chugged underneath the bridge. Somewhere off in the distance, seagulls cried.
“Ann,” I said, holding back my own leakage. “Ann, listen. You might or might not have had a hand in your son’s death; I don’t know that—that’s for God to decide—but, listen, honey. Your son is in a better place. He is looking down on us, right now—”
“He’s paralyzed from the neck down. And, it’s because of me, he can’t feel!”
“I thought you said he was dead.”
“He can’t feed himself, clothe himself, he can’t do anything a normal kid can do,” Ann said, crying river rapids, and gasped. “If it weren’t for me, he’d still be okay—he’d still be okay…”
Did you kill him? I thought of saying, but bit my tongue.
“Do you know what it feels like to have a hand in your own child’s death?” she blubbered.
“He’s not dead; he’s alive.”
“He’s dead to me.” she wailed, and I felt the tightening coils, unloosen, and sighed.
“Ann, your son is alive. He feels, he breathes, he loves you for all that you’ve done for him, even though he can’t do the things he once did, there is nothing that can stop him from doing whatever he loves to do, such as loving you. Even though, things are rough for you, when you’re there for him, he is thankful have a mother like you. He needs you at the time of crisis, and to abandon him like this now is sacrilegious, Ann.” I said. “You hear? So don’t—don’t, for your child’s sake.”
“Ann, let it go. It’s all in the past now. You have to move forward and look to the future, now, and you gotta stop blaming yourself for things that were beyond your control. You gotta stop moping and whining. That’s not right.”
“But I was coming here to jump,” Ann said, staring at me with enormous, sodden eyes.
“I understand. And my parents were begging to live in Katrina, but the God took them away, including my brother.”
It was her turn to look shocked.
“I know, honey. You’re asking how I was able to cope. What’s impossible with man is possible with God. And He’s here for you too now. It takes no courage to jump. It takes bravery to come back to the other side. Come on, honey. Let’s talk about this. Think it through. Think of your friends.”
“I’ve got no friends. They’ve all turned on me, kicked me out.”
“Don’t worry about that; I’m here. I’ll be your friend. Come with me, Ann.”
“Because it’s necessary. Because God works in mysterious ways, and even though it feels like the world is against you, there are people that care for you like me. I love you, Ann. Don’t you believe that?”
There’s a saying, I truly believe, and it goes something like this: the past is in your head, but the future is in your hand. And when Ann Camilli reached for my hand, and our fingers enfolded on top of each other, I felt a surge of self-worth floating across the firmament like twin dragons mating in the heavens, and I pulled her daintily over the railings with a holy tug.
“Up you go,” I said, and saw her heavily discolored marks underneath the sweater’s sleeve on her forearms; and I towed her like a netted sardine, helping her on her feet. We hugged. It was impossible to know at what point in time she would’ve jumped, but I knew she would’ve if I hadn’t intervened, and the world would’ve gone unaware of what had just occurred.
God is on our side, yes.
Traffic snarled around the car I had illegal parked, creating a massive jam, horns honking. For the life of this one woman, it was all worth it.
No one could deny that.
And, if I could do it all over again, I would.
We kept in touch now and then, over on the phone. Later, she helped me with the bills with the government aid she received. In return, I took care of her son for the short while she checked herself in rehab. Many times I feared I’d be cast in jail for the neglect of a minor, during the nights I worked, so I finally got a nanny to care for him. My savings I’d squirreled away dwindled and slowly drained, becoming less and less. I sold off my car and began commuting to work on a bicycle, conversing back and forth on the bridge. One night on a lowly block, going home, I watched two hookers hop into the vehicle of an unknown man. I thought of the money they made, how easily I could sell my body, and make twice more than what I made now, but I could never do something like that. I respected myself and the welfare of my well-being just as they respected their professional well.
As I was riding down the thirty fourth lamppost of the golden gate bridge, I saw a shrouded figure holding the railing and staring out into the foggy bay. The lights from the cable suspensions cast an orange hue and the oncoming cones of headlights melted from my vision to dim molecules. I recognized that shape, that stocky body leaning over the rails as if he couldn’t handle his lunch on choppy waters. I screamed in my head.
“Brett, Brett? Is that you?” I asked, climbing off my bicycle, and laying it on the side bars, and slowly wended my way towards him in the misty gloom. “Brett?”
How could he have gotten past the security checkpoint? Pedestrians were not allowed to walk the bridge during this time of night. The man’s head lifted up from his slouching posture and peered at me.
“How are you doing, Melanie?”
“Brett, what the hell are you doing here?” It was him. “You left me without even saying a word. How could you do that to me?”
“I’m sorry, babe. I never meant to hurt you. I’m truly sorry for doing that.”
“Do you still have the money?”
“Nope, it’s gone.”
“But that was my parent’s inheritance!”
“I know. How can you stand there and look at the sight of me? How do you do it?” He asked, glancing at me with red-rimmed eyes, and then, down at the crashing ocean. He looked up, again. “Don’t you hate me?”
“Stop baby. I don’t hate you. You did what you had to do.” I said, and reexamined myself and my lunacy reasoning. “But I could never look at you the same, again. You promised to love me, and only me. You promised. Where’s the money? What’d you do with it?”
“Nothing is what it seems. Even if I told you, you wouldn’t understand. It’s all my fault, I’m sorry. If I could turn back the time and change the past, I’d do it in a heartbeat, Melanie. You know that, right?”
“No more apologies. I forgive you,” I said, blinking my watery eyes, threatening to spill. “I hate you yet I forgive you. You were the one I was supposed to spend my life with…”
“Yeah, well, look at how that turned out,” Brett said, and slung his leg over the railing. “Where’d you put my ring? You gave it away, didn’t you?”
“Baby? What are you doing? You’re scaring me.”
“Mel,” he said, and measured his drop. “I’m saying our last goodbyes.”
“Don’t do this, please. We can start a new life together. Please, Brett, I forgive you. Don’t jump—I’m begging you, don’t jump! We can do this together!”
“Don’t you come any nearer, Melanie.” He spoke in a deaden tone, but I was already on him, pulling the hem of his slacks. “Let go, Let go, let go of me. If you don’t let go I swear to God I’ll kick you in the face. Let go of me, Mel.”
Crying, my vision blurry, sobbing frantically, unable to catch my breath, I moaned: “Why are you doing this… why are you doing this to meeee?!!”
His boot punted me in the jaw, and I went sprawling on the concrete floor. I crawled on all fours and got back on my knees as if in prayer. Brett stood up on the rails and spread his hands out like Christ.
“Melanie, did you know I jumped off this bridge before?” I could only moan in pain, clutching my bruised face. “I survived the first fall. Isn’t that funny?”
“Then why are you doing this?” I babbled, showering blotchy clouds. “God spared your life!”
“If there is a God,” he said, “He will spare me a second time,” and leapt. He fell backwards, revolving in the gloaming air, and vanished behind the ledge. I closed my eyes and shrieked and shrieked, envisioning him plunging the two hundred and forty feet drop into cold waters, and then… I heard nothing, and then I heard a splash of him falling, and I screamed a little louder, but it wasn’t the sound of water being hit at over a hundred miles-per-hour on impact, but rather the look on his face that chilled my soul and raised the strands of hair on the nape of my neck.
He had smiled as he fell, the way people at the end of their life claim to see the light and be at peace.
I shrieked some more, but, this time, nothing came out.
Now here I stand, staring down at the emerald bay, wondering who’d take care of little Dustin, who’d help give him a bath and read him bed-time stories, who’d spoon feed him the puree scraps of apple mantle. Who?—his own mother? Didn’t she say she’d be out in a month or two? But where was she now? Was it entirely possible she had ditched her own son?
I climb over onto the narrow ledge, smelling the scent of salt-water wind tousling my hair. I look down at the open waters calling for me, begging to touch me and cover me with its undercurrent and surging water lapping against the pillar of the main tower, and recall the memories of our hands touching, Ann’s and mine, as we hug, and the eyes of my fiancé in those cold, gray bay, splitting open fresh wounds, pierced by the bayonet of betrayal, impaling my heart in stabs grief, anger, and guilt. I struggle to see through the cloudy vision of endless, incessant tears that never quits flowing.
He had lied. He was lying; he had not survived the fall for the first time—in fact, he had never even jumped until the night I saw him jump. Jerk! Asshole! Wretch! How could he? Even if he did live after the first plunge, why would he go around and do it again, a second time, in front of me?! He knew—the bastard, my lover, my love—he knew I’d be there. But how? Why? Was he trying to prove he was a man by killing himself? Coward!
And why did he do it then? Why, oh why? Why did it have to be me? Why does it have to be me? What did I do to deserve this? Why, Lord, why do this to me? Why give me this pain? What’d you hope to accomplish? No, he was lying. Even in my dreams, I see him falling. The coast guard never found his body, but I know it was real and it happened.
So why? Why do this to me, my God why hast thou forsaken me??!!!
Then she came by again. A voice coaxed me off the edge, a voice that said: “Melanie, what are you doing?”
I looked up startled, brushing my tears aside, and smiled wanly.
“How are you, Ann? Can’t believe you’re here…”
“I’m fine. What are you doing down there?” she said.
“How’d you find me?”
“My son, he told me where you were going. I knew you didn’t have work today. I read the note you left. Oh, honey, you don’t have to do this. I was going to let you know I’ve recently found a job and—and… thank you, dear, for helping me out in a time of need.”
“Did you finish rehab?” I managed, exhausted from standing out on the ledge, legs sore.
“Yep, clean for couple of months now, and still going strong. Just came out now. I guess it’s my turn to return the favor.”
“Return the favor? What do you mean?”
Ann extended her hand, over the railing, and smiled her new crowned teeth. “Why, it takes no courage to jump. It takes bravery to come over to the other side.”
Weeping, I held her hand, and she hoisted me over the barrier, as I crouched on the curb and began to bawl. I sat down on the sidewalk, finally resting forty winks, and massaged my thighs.
“You ready to go?” Ann Camilli asked, hunkering next to me.
“Yes,” I said. “But hold on.” I rummaged in my pocket, and retrieved my fiancé’s ring, and stood at the bridge’s boundary, kissed it, and let it tumble in the air. It vanished into the emerald depth of the roiling sea, and was gone.
Yes, the coming remainder days, weeks, months, I’d do the very thing that had helped me overcome the trials and tribulations and the burden of this world: prayer. I would pray as I’ve always done.
And, when I returned home, I would wear the cross once again, and put Brett Hillocks over my shoulders, once and for all.