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The Bridge This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Some say that great cities never sleep, but continue busily through the night. This might not be true, but at least they slow down a little. A single figure stood alone near the middle of the mist-engulfed Golden Gate Bridge, gazing intently at the shining moonlight reflecting of the water that lay two-hundred feet below. The cold, biting wind blew his unkempt hair back across his face, and bit through his sparse clothing into his fragile skin, but he did not care.

After being dumped by his fianc"e, Jonas Arnez came here, to this bridge. He remembered the entrancing face of his girlfriend the first time he met her, the look of innocence and excitement the day when he proposed to her, and finally, the harsh face at their final parting. He shook his head violently, as if trying to shake the picture out of his memory, but the image was too vivid, and too close. He had driven here after that last meeting, and now as he stepped to the edge, he was given a kind of warmth knowing he would soon be one with the turbulent masses of liquid.

He walked slowly toward the bridge's edge, then started climbing over the low wall protecting careless and weary travelers from falling off its mighty height. The builders had taken no precautions against those who actually wished to feel the exhilaration of falling, falling, falling toward the misty foam. Here he stood for a moment, giving last thoughts about why he was here, but he felt no remorse. Now at the precipitous edge, empty space alone standing in front of him, he closed his eyes, let go of the wall behind him, and let himself fall.

He felt an enormous jerking and stopping sensation, and large pressure on his armpits, not the type present by hitting something, but instead that of being pulled. He opened his eyes, but all he could see was swirling mist. This was not what he imagined death would be like. He looked up, and found that he was suspended in mid-air, his jacket held in a surprisingly strong grip by an old man on the bridge. Anger surged through him. Why, he couldn't even kill himself right! He grasped for the bridge framing and climbed upwards, his groans of exertion the only sounds in the silence. His eyes glinted red with anger, patiently awaiting the confrontation with the man who had dared disturb him in what would have been his greatest moment in this otherwise wretched life. As the young man finally climbed over the edge of the wall, his "savior" finally broke the silence.

"Nice night out. Wouldn't think it would be a fitting setting for what you were planning for. Don't suicidal maniacs usually go for the grimmer settings, maybe a darkened basement somewhere, or killing yourself in a cemetery somewhere? That would be nice, don't even have to pay to have your body moved."

Jonas stared, puzzled at the man in front of him, trying to decide whether he was crazy, stupid, or whether he was really just delusional. He was leaning toward the delusional side. "You're mocking me, aren't you?"

"What do you think?" he replied, grinning.

"You've no right to interfere with what I'm doing, old man! If you had felt the pain I've felt, you would probably be in the same place as I am. Now, buzz off." Stubbornly he straddled the wall, waiting for the source of the interference to leave, so he could be alone with his sadness.

The grin on the old man's face slowly curved into a taut line on his face, a look of sadness crossing his happy eyes. He stared at the angry youth in front of him, wondering if he would live long enough to understand that he was still growing - everyone is always growing, from the newborn babe to the semi-senile old man facing his death - and that it is every person's duty on this Earth to instruct the less knowledgeable. A moment of doubt crossed his face as he remembered that age and growth does not guarantee wisdom, but he was sure that in this instance he was right.

"Who am I to interfere," he says. "He talks about feeling pain." The aged one narrated slowly and sadly to himself, remembering times when he himself had lapsed into depression and the reasons why, the reasons he tried to forget in his old age. He remembered a time when he had been in this young man's place. Then his attention was again brought back to the flesh and blood he was talking to. "I guess only you could have felt sadness, aye? What I've experienced, I guess you say it was something else. Let me guess, when I was thrown from my family and disowned by my parents for marrying someone against my parents' liking, I was just having a ball. When my wife, the reason I had been separated from my family, left me, I was rapturous. When I faced sickness that almost killed me, in some third-world country with barely any medicine and no concept of sanitation, I was having fun. And finally, when I came

alone to this great nation of the USA, with no family, no money, an injured body, and a broken soul, I was having the time of my life." The old man's voice was rising in pitch and emotion. "Now I am here, with no money, no family, and foul memories, plus I fight with the danger of one day being forever consumed by the sickness that still haunts me, or worse, having my life ended by the mists of senility. If you can truthfully say that this is nothing compared to your troubles, feel free, fling yourself from the bridge, waste your life that could have been used to help others. If not, you have no right to do away with yourself, while an old man can face the troubles you cannot. Are you trying to tell me that you are so selfish that while other people suffer, you wish to end your life now?" His voice was frantic now, almost unintelligible. "That, while your life could have been spent helping the less fortunate, for there are indeed many, you instead will waste it? But you alone know what is best, and it is your duty to do as you know best." He turned his back to the young man, and walked into the mist of the night, hoping that his words had helped show this youth the straight and true way.

Jonas stood, stunned, and watched the old man disappear. Never before had he realized the proud way his confronter had held himself, and he could not help but feel respect for this old man. He could not help but feel ashamed that he wished to escape from life when others lived in worse situations than he. The words still echoed, striking truer than Jonas would like to admit. He scoured his mind for ways he could help others, and he found it wasn't hard. Jonas slowly, as if in a daze, started to make his way to his car, and drove home under the newly-rising sun, the sign of the start of a new day, of a new life. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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