Rose walked alone on the Golden Gate Bridge. She knew its dirty little secret, the same way she knew so many, too many, dirty little secrets. It was beautiful, and the view was amazing, and the wind coming in from the ocean played in her long red hair. Hundreds of feet below, the green-gray waters of the Pacific churned and sprayed.
This was the place. This was the place where they came. And she could feel them, hear them, even now, walking the bridge along with her. Trying to get up the nerve.
On any given day, the tourists pointed their cameras at the gleaming city by the bay and the Marin headlands and each other and laughed, overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and momentous scale of their surroundings. On any given day, kids ran back and forth yelling with delight, and the ferryboats with their gaggles of sightseers passed below and nearby. On any given day the sail-boarders played with the surf and the wind under the bridge, in one of the most gorgeous tide-runs in the world, and the sun and the fog took turns making everything first clear and brilliant and then soft-edged and mysterious, as though they couldn’t decide which was more beautiful. The air blew in off the ocean clear and crisp and clean, smelling of thousands of miles of open water and exotic islands and faraway places …. And on any given day, they walked, each one alone, oblivious to all their splendorous surroundings, resenting the good spirits of the other people, each trying to get up the nerve.
Like that one there. His wife had left him when she found out he’d been fired from his job, and he was being sued by three different ex-employees, and damnit they were right about him and he was somebody the world would be better off without…
Rose snapped out of his head with a start, back to herself, and left him to his private misery. Nearby, a trio of delighted children were throwing french fries to some seagulls that had balanced themselves, nearly motionless, on a curl of the incoming wind as it came under the bridge. Beyond the children, a woman stood staring silently at the city, and thinking…
…So easy, it would be so easy. Just set a hand on the railing, and take a little vault, and it’s all over and nobody’d ever hit her again. But she was afraid. What if she changed her mind? What if she made the leap, and then decided as the bridge receded above her that she wanted to live? She’d never been able to make up her mind about anything, she thought ruefully. It was one of the reasons why her life had become so worthless, one of the reasons why they always hit her…
Rose snapped back to herself again, almost stumbling. She had been hoping, against hope, that she’d manage to trip on one of them just as he or she worked up the nerve and actually did it. It happened, what, once a week or so? That would save her the trouble, the pain, of working up the nerve herself, deciding for herself.
But now another thought hit her. What if she did? What if she tripped on someone who was just on the brink, and went over with her as she did it? And what if they wouldn’t have done it except for Rose? Because once she was tripping on them, once she was there inside their heads, it couldn’t be a decision that belonged to just one or just the other anymore. It would be so easy… too easy … to become a murderer. And that, after all, was what she was trying to prevent.
Damnit. Damnit all. If she was going to do it she had to do it alone. No hitching a ride with anyone, no taking anyone else with her. She put both hands on the bridge railing and stared at the rolling gray-green eternity below. And as Nietzsche had warned, she found it staring back. Twenty feet down the railing, her peripheral vision informed her, the woman whose body was covered with secret bruises had done the same thing. Grabbed the same rail, stared down into the same rolling gray-green eternity, and thought the same thought about going alone.
No. Rose exhaled, took her hands off the railing and looked up, meeting the woman’s startled gaze, brown eyes locked to her green ones in a moment that both of them had somehow fully expected but never imagined.
“Hi,” Rose said. “Quite a view, isn’t it?”
The other woman stared out at the water, at the city, at Angel Island and the sailboats and the morning sun sparkling off the bay. “Yes,” she choked out. “It is, isn’t it?”
Rose shrugged. “I’ve seen it before though. Wanna go get some coffee?”
“Er, I … um … okay.” her voice was small, like a little girl’s voice.
Hand in hand, the two women left the bridge.
This is one chapter of The Hook, a novel which is being published serially on this site. This page links to all chapters so far serialized.
The complete novel is available from Amazon.