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The Gift

People never realize how good it feels to risk your life, while you balance all your weight on the fence of a 100-foot tall bridge above an angry river. The rush consumes you, eats at you, it teases you until you dare to take that step, risk it all.

And then you hit that water, that cold, welcoming water. The immense strength of it will take you by surprise and grasp you, pull you down. Hold you there until you give in to it’s pleading. You stay there, waiting, thinking, until it all disappears.
The bystanders stop to pity, try to “help” the suicidal boy. They stop and stare, as if they care at all. They just want to be a part of this moment for themselves, their own sick satisfaction.
When in my life have I let on that I wanted or needed their pity or their help? And why is it that they assume their own mind is in a state to help others?
Condescending people, each person a sheep in the herd of the world. And they don’t fail to perform. They’re like hamsters running on their wheels, reacting just as they’re expected to, just as all the others do.

I’ve lived on the streets all my life; I can’t recall anything else. My mother left me one day for her drugs, without a warning. She’d decided that I had become too large of an expense for her budget, and so she did what any drug-addicted, young mother with fried brain cells would do. She got rid of the problem.

It never bothered me much, because I remember her, vaguely, and she was one of the most selfish people I’d ever known. She didn’t care about me in the least. In what delusional world is it for a three-year-old’s better nature to throw him in the streets, to fend for himself? I’m surprised I never starved to death, or worse.

Presently I’m seventeen years old, and you may be surprised when I tell you that I’m actually happy with my life. I mean, the nights are hard, I won’t deny that. And I hate the dirty looks people give me, like I’m disgusting. They don’t consider that one day, they could easily be on the streets as well.
But in the long run, I would never want what these sneering people have. They may have all the material things, but they have no dignity, no integrity. Glutton, greed and ignorance are truly the only qualities these materialistic, pathetic excuses for humans possess. All my time spent doing nothing but living gives me a lot of time to think, watch, reflect. And I spend most of my time observing, taking mental notes on the horrifying behavior of the people living the “American dream”.
I’ve been asked by a few audacious strangers why I don’t try to “better my life” or “fix my problem”, and to put it simply, I tell them, “I like the way I live. I want this life. The lives you materialistic, ego-maniacs are leading seem like such a burden to me”.

I guess since I’m standing on the edge of this bridge that I should be dissatisfied with my life or myself, but I’m not. The only reason I’m trying to kill myself is because I’m curious. I want to know what it’s like to die. I’d like to feel that last moment, and embrace it, to know that my life was great, and that I enjoyed it. I have no fear of death, like some others. I want it, for my own knowledge. The final and most thrilling learning experience.

It was about then when I noticed the police car pulling up, News Channel 3 in tow. They wanted to put me on the news. They wanted to film my death for their own benefit. The situation was appalling.

The police officer got out of his car, and brought a man in a black suit with balding, white hair with him. The man carried a megaphone.

I was in the position where they couldn’t grab me, because if they did I would have jumped into the river, to their dismay and News Channel 3’s glory. So all they could do to stop my suicide was shout encouraging things from behind me, hoping that their comments would somehow strike me the right way and lure me off the side of the bridge.

A man came up behind me, whispered into my ear, “What’s your name, son?”

I couldn’t decide whether or not I wanted to give him that information, but I figured he would eventually find out what it was regardless, so I gave it to him.

“Alex. Alex Elswick,” I called back. There was a moment or two of silence, and then he spoke again.

“I’ve seen you around my restaurant. I own the Italian joint downtown, Pepe’s. When I was closing up last week I saw you going in that abandoned club down the street. Now that I’ve been paying attention, I’ve noticed you do that every night. You’re homeless, aren’t you?”

I thought through what this man was getting at. I didn’t have an idea of why he was speaking to me, asking me questions. And to be quite honest, I didn’t like it.

“What do you want?” I snapped back.

“Why are you doing this?” he asked.

“What exactly am I doing?” I started. “I’m not hurting you, I’m not hurting myself. This is my choice, sir, and to be blunt it’s not your place to talk me out of it. What would you know about something like this, anyway? A happy man, clearly well fed. You don’t have to pretend like you give a care about the well being of some bum from the street just to try and make yourself feel like a better person on the inside. Don’t try to kid yourself, you know nothing about this,”

He stopped talking for a while, but I knew he hadn’t left.

“Is it because you’re homeless?” the restaurant owner asked, ignoring my comments. Many annoyingly uplifting words were escaping the man with the suit’s megaphone, fifty feet behind us. “Because I don’t have a family; I’m an old man with lots of space in my house. If it means I can change your mind, you can live with me. You’re a young kid, Alex, and you shouldn’t end your life just yet. You deserve something better. You look so miserable out there on the streets. You shouldn’t be. I’ll give you shelter and food. I could use the company. I saw you on this bridge, and I just wanted to tell you that you have another option. That’s all.”

A random act of kindness shifted my thoughts. I was still curious, but something was different.
I could almost see it now; a home, a place to live. A stand-in for my absent mother. I could see myself living that life in my mind. Suddenly I realized I wasn’t satisfied with my life, not at all. Who was I trying to fool? Years and years of denial and lying to myself and I had actually tricked myself into believing I was happy. But now I wanted this new life, the life that had never been an opportunity for me.
Now the opportunity was screaming at me, making me want it more than anything I had ever wanted. Now there was something to live for, something that would be wasted with my death. Now I would impact somebody in dying, a man who only wanted company, wanted the satisfaction of being a good Samaritan, and impacting people was never what I wanted to do. Now, I thought, I don’t want to die.

The restaurant owner took my silence as a no, and I heard him sigh and start to shuffle away.

“Wait,” I called out, hoping he would hear.

“We all love you, Alex! Don’t do it!” I heard in the distance.

“Have you changed your mind?” the restaurant owner asked hesitantly, hopefully.

“Yeah.” I told him. “I think I have.”

He let out a sigh of relief, and tried to help me as I slowly stepped down from the ledge. The crowd all cheered for the wrong person, giving false recognition to the man with the megaphone, as the cops swiftly moved toward me, their faces holding grim expressions.

But suddenly, the footing that was keeping me balanced was lost, and I slipped. I was falling; moving towards the black, churning water with intense speed.

The water hit like a thousand sharp knives, cutting and stabbing my body in various places. Unbearable, immense pain shocked my body into paralysis.
I searched for the surface of this cool, black pool, and failed. Up was down, right was left, left was up and down was right. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t feel, and I certainly couldn’t see. A black envelope had been sealed over my life, and there was no escape.
I discovered that my curiosity had been handed a gift; I had been given death. Clearly there was no way out of this river, unless somebody wanted to risk their life for the suicidal homeless kid. The chances of that were fairly dismal.
Thoughts and images flashed through my mind as I embraced the darkness. My last wish had been granted at last, so why was I not prepared for it? I didn’t want to die anymore, but death wanted me. Farther and farther down I slid through the slimy, urban water, the distance of my expiration increasingly closer with every passing moment.
I was overcome with the odd sense that somebody was trying to help me, but fatigue proved to be the stronger sentiment, and I gave in to the pounding waves of depth.
The last bit of air departed my lungs as I embraced my final moment with welcoming arms.



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