This story will begin itself as I am about to fall into the East River.
As I begin mumbling the chorus of some long forgotten song to myself, the only word I can conjure up for what I am about to do is inexplicable. I am about to kill myself inexplicably, which is tragic and stupid at the same time. It’s kind of fitting, I guess, that even my death is stupid. Heh. Some life I live. Or lived.
The cold, harsh water looms below me; my feet dangling into what can surely be my demise if I choose to make it that. I almost do it. The wind whirls around my face, penetrating my jacket, and I figure the water won’t have much trouble doing me in. So I spontaneously nearly gather the courage to push myself off the faded metal bridge and into the darkness below. My arms are set at my side, ready to do it, and then I hesitate. I hesitate because I cannot even choose to kill myself without deliberation.
I do not have cancer or a fatal sickness, and yet I want to commit suicide, which is why I call myself a worthless, selfish, good-for-nothing nothing. I still call myself that. Some people have legitimate reasons for wanting to kill themselves, but I don’t think I have any. I don’t think so, but I still want to do it. I want to do it, but my limbs refuse to cooperate.
On a lesser note, I suppose my brain refuses to cooperate too. Beneath me, the cars blow past, apparently unnoticing of the freshman about to jump into the river. No one cares. No one cares, and so I should do it. I brace myself again. The wind pounds furiously at my flesh, the sea churns beneath me, and the Manhattan skyline glows agonizingly. I count to three, scream GO! in my head, but my fingers remain locked to the metal bars. I won’t kill myself. This is quite the dilemma. I smile, which sort of makes me not want to kill myself, but then I remember why I’m here, and I change my mind again. I stay deadlocked. I would curse, but I can’t.
There are the reasons why I should do it. The general feeling of inadequacy, that everyone is better than me. They are. Some people will actually amount to something in life; they can speak in public, they can cry when they feel emotion, they can be spontaneous or endearing or hilarious or amazing when they need to, and they can get people to like them. And what have I ever done? Sat in the back during class? Never shared how I felt with anyone? Made two friends? Yeah, some person I am. Was. I can’t whether I want to talk about my life in the present or past tense. I want to kill myself and live at the same time. Even in killing myself I have to be generic. I’d curse here too, but I can’t.
My hands begin to turn a pale white from gripping the bridge so furiously. I cannot possibly justify living any longer. I will live out a miserable, drawn-out life, anyway, and I’ll die anyway, so here I go. I’m going to jump. I am. Seriously, I am. I am. Really. I am.
I don’t. I try to lift my arms, to free myself from any matter between myself and the water, but they keep themselves stiff. They are cold, and their skin rises and falls with the wind. My head pounds at a ridiculous rate. I cannot begin to think of anything. The water boils. The bridge stands. The buildings rise, and the people exist. Huh. The people exist. The wind bites at me, unrelenting, but I figure something out. The people exist.
I am the people. I exist. Maybe, if I choose to. I cannot bear my head any longer, but instead of jumping, I lean back. I lean back so I can see the night sky. I see the night sky so I can think about life. I think about life because a part of me likes life. And a part of me likes life because I exist.
I used to say, “People change.” I think it’s true. People change, and I changed. I didn’t think I would ever try to kill myself. Years ago, I promised myself that by the time I was the age I am now, I would be someone, someone who I could be proud of. I am not that someone. But maybe I can be. Huh. My flip-flopping brain refuses to come to a conclusion about what I should do. My arms grow weary from clinging on, but they stay. They stay, and I guess I have no choice in the mater.
An unknown part of me wants to live more than it wants to die. Why? Maybe it wants another day of life. Maybe it’s afraid of death. Maybe it’s just stupid and making the wrong decision. I manage to free my arms from the metal bars at last. My palms open up, greet the freezing winter air that meets them, and lift me up. I am standing. I am standing and find myself precariously situated between the river far beneath me and the walkway standing behind me. To put it more poetically, I find myself precariously situated between life and death. So, I guess now that I am free from myself, I have a decision to make.
If I misjudge my weight I am dead (what a terrible pun), but I take the liberty of stretching my anatomy so that I can get a clear look at the murky sea below me. The East River is kind to no one, and this becomes apparent as the roaring waves slam into one another, throwing foam in all directions. I then take the liberty of looking behind me, at the livid, bright lights of the cars. And then I stare out at the Manhattan skyline, which is no longer agonizing. It is almost calming. In a matter of minutes I have managed to turn my life into one big cliché, and, you know what? I am okay with that. I suppose this is what I needed, and still need to learn. My life may suck. I may have no social skills. I may be terrible at public speaking, and I may never be able to evoke tears from people or be anything near where I want to be. But I need to know that this is okay. People change, and that change may sometimes feel like the worst thing in the world, but things get better. People change for the better.
The wind greets me as an old friend as I walk step down from the fatal heights I am at, and I finish whispering the last lines of the song I began so long ago. For a final time, I turn and look out at the huge, grand, magnificent, glowing, burning, explosion of lights in Manhattan. I lock onto one, and it winks at me. I wink back.
“Thanks,” I murmur.
Age 13, Grade 8
Mark Twain I.S. 239 for the Gifted and Talented