The Bridge

Lawrence stared at the divorce papers in front of him in bewilderment.
“You knew that this was coming,” said his wife, Mary. “You had to have known.”
Lawrence didn’t look up.
“You knew it, I know you did,” Mary repeated. “I left you so many signs. I would barely even talk to you. We haven’t had sex in three months.”
She waited for a response, fidgeting. The silence stretched on.
“I was cheating on you,” Mary finally blurted out. She paused for a second before continuing. “I don’t know how it happened, I was, we were so unhappy for such a long time, I just wanted someone to listen to me and when Jack—”
Lawrence signed the papers.

—————————————————————————————————

It was a slow day at the bank. Lawrence sat at his desk, playing Tetris on his computer. L block. T block. Z block. Z block. I block. Score.
There aren’t many words that are used to describe Lawrence. Most people who have met him describe him as “nice” but are unable to come up with anything more specific. Some would mention that he’s slightly awkward and others would claim that he is simply uninteresting. The one word that comes up quite often in the rare conversations about Lawrence is “average.” Lawrence was an average middle-aged man with an average-looking face and an average body that wasn’t too skinny nor too plump. He had paler-than-average skin from too many hours in front of a computer screen and made an above-average income, although he rarely did anything with it. Lawrence wasn’t one to have indulgences. He hardly had interests. Except for one.
O block. Another O block. T block. Another T block. I block. Score.
He met Mary in college. Lawrence had fulfilled most of his required classes already and his advisor told him he should take an elective, something creative where he would have to take initiative for once. His advisor recommended taking a ceramics class. And so, Lawrence took a ceramics class. On the first day at the art studio, he sat down next to a girl. That girl was Mary.
If “average” was used to describe Lawrence, it was clear that Mary was anything but. She was small and lean, built like a gymnast and just as explosive. She had fiery red hair that reached past her shoulders and freckles that spread from her face, down to her neck and arms. She often joked that she was the human incarnation of a Jackson Pollock painting. Lawrence laughed and went home to look up who Jackson Pollock was.
Mary drew people to her like a candle to a swarm of moths. She loved to be in the center of attention and thrived in social settings. Lawrence marveled as she laughed and joked with everybody that crossed her path. She had the uncanny ability to make the other person feel special and interesting. Wanted, even. It was a feeling that Lawrence had never felt before.
S block. Z block. S block. I block. T block. Game over.
Lawrence sighed as the computer made a little jingle to signal that he had failed. A box of text flashed on the screen.
Try again? Press Y or N.
Lawrence glanced at the clock on the wall to his right. It was almost closing time.
Press Y or N.
Lawrence reached over and pressed the power button on his computer screen. He gathered up his briefcase and left.

Lawrence started walking across the bridge with his chin tucked to his chest, a hand in his pocket, the other tightly gripping his briefcase. The bridge was the only part of his walk home that he hated. The wind blew fiercer and the open air made Lawrence feel naked. The roaring of the river below seemed to dull everything else until there was nothing left but the pounding of his heart. It was a place that made Lawrence feel truly and utterly alone.
“Ahem.”
Startled, Lawrence froze. He lifted his head and looked around. To his surprise, there was a man standing on the opposite side of the railing, where there was a fifty foot drop into the water.  He was staring at Lawrence.
“I’ll do it, I swear I will!” the man said.
Lawrence was still trying to comprehend what was happening.
“Don’t try to stop me! I’m warning you!” the man shouted.
Lawrence stared at the man.
“I’ll do it, I swear!”
Lawrence cleared his throat and opened his mouth and closed it again.
“No, don’t try to convince me! You can’t help me, nobody can!”
After a moment of silence, Lawrence decided he should speak. He opened his mouth.
“All right, all right, I won’t. Here, give me a hand.”
Lawrence blinked. The man waved impatiently.
“C’mon, what’s your problem? Help me for Christ’s sake.”
Lawrence stared at the man for a few more seconds, then walked over. He put his briefcase on the ground and grasped the man’s hand.
“Shit, do you know how long I had to wait there, hanging on to this railing, in this lousy weather? Good thing it’s spring, I would have been freezing like when I did this last month. Almost caught hypothermia.”
Lawrence thought it best if he didn’t talk. He nodded his head gave a vague grunt. The man grasped Lawrence’s shoulder and hopped nimbly over the railing.
“Anyways, thanks for walking this way. I thought nobody was going to come by to save me. Gotta pick a better spot next time,” the man said, grinning widely at Lawrence.
Lawrence decided to stay silent. He stared at the man and the man stared back. The man’s grin faltered for a second.
“Oh! I guess I should’ve introduced myself,” the man said, “My name is John.”
John held out a hand to shake. Lawrence automatically took it, but still didn’t say anything.
“You’re a businessman, I take it?” John asked, glancing at Lawrence’s briefcase.
Lawrence nodded an affirmative.
“Well, that certainly sounds like fun!” John exclaimed.
Lawrence tried to force a smile on his face, but failed. As Lawrence refused to say anything, John seemed to become more agitated.
“You’re not much of a talker, I see. I bet you’re a great listener though,” John said. “I know I talk too much, but maybe you want to listen?After all, you just saved my life! I have some great stories that I could tell you about my life, if it’s not too much trouble to you of course. I know a nice coffee shop down the road, it’s always nice to meet new friends—”
“No,” Lawrence said.
John looked surprised and then crestfallen.
“No? But I just thought—”
“No,” Lawrence repeated. He then picked up his briefcase, turned, tucked his chin into his chest and walked away.

 

When Lawrence reached the end of the bridge, he glanced back to see if John was still there. The bridge was empty. Lawrence stood there for a moment. He sighed and walked back to where he found John. The dirt on the part of the railing where John was hanging from was smudged from the man’s hands. Lawrence brushed the handprint with his own soft fingers. The sky rumbled and Lawrence looked up to see dark clouds forming several miles away, moving swiftly his way. He looked out into river for the first time and noticed a small rocky island in the middle of it. The river below seemed to flow thicker and wilder, the island seeming like it was about to become swallowed up by the waves. Lawrence watched as the island grew smaller and smaller, the gray waters eating away chunks of it until only the tiniest bit remained. To Lawrence, it seemed as though it would only be a matter of time before even that little bit would disappear.
Lawrence looked again at the smudged railing. Hardly knowing what he was doing, he grabbed his briefcase and threw it over the side. He watched as it vanished under the surface, only to reappear further down the river. Lawrence hoisted himself up and over the railing and assumed the position he had found the man in. And he waited.

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