I stand on the edge of the bridge, ready to jump into a fast-moving river that flows off a tall cliff. Life is awful. I take one last look at the beautiful night sky.
But before I can jump, I see somebody else approach the edge of the bridge.
“What are you doing here?” I ask.
“Same reason as you. You want to go first?” He replies. “I can turn around.”
“You’re here to jump too?” I ask.
“Why?” I ask.
“Why do you care?”
“Just curious. There’s no way you’ve messed up as bad as I have.”
He laughs, “That’s because you don’t know what I’ve done.”
“It’s not a competition but I’m pretty sure I’ve done worse.” I reply. “I stole money from a charity to pay my wife’s medical bills. I made sure she got the best treatment and the best surgeons. But she died anyway. I feel guilty about ripping off a charity. I’m lonely without my wife. That’s why I want to jump.”
“Well, here’s my story.” He nods. “Last year I had a big fight with my father. We were both yelling, we said some horrible things, and the stress was so much for him that he got a heart attack and died. A few months later my mother took her own life. The guilt of killing my parents is too much for me. I even lost my job. So here I am.”
Instead of jumping, the two of us start talking. An hour passes. Two hours pass.
Eventually we agree that had we met somebody with the exact same problems as ours, we would give them this piece of advice: Don’t give up. There’s always hope.
“I’m going to pay back every dime I stole from that charity.” I tell my new friend. “Actually, I’ll give back double. I don’t care if I never go on vacation again.”
I look at my old car parked on the side of the road near the bridge. It’s almost 2 am and the nearby clubs are about to close. I met my wife at one of these clubs a long time ago.
“What can I do to make it up?” He asks. “My parents are gone.”
“There are plenty of lonely old folks out there.” I reply. “Why not volunteer at a retirement home?”
“I should’ve been there for my mom. I didn’t make time for her.”
“It’s not your fault. Fights happen.” I put my hand on his shoulder. “Plus, your mom would be proud to see you help the elderly.”
We watch the night sky for a little while longer before heading back to our cars. We exchange numbers and promise to keep in touch.
While we’re walking back to our cars, we hear another car racing down the road. Before we can react, that other car hits both of us.
Our spines shatter. Our legs get crushed. The other car was going way past the speed limit.
I can see my friend’s brains. His face is unrecognizable and there is so much blood in my left eye that I can’t see out of it. It feels like there is a massive hole in my stomach.
The other car crashes and explodes. What an idiot – probably a drunk driver that had too many drinks at one of the nearby clubs.
My friend is dead and I’m dying too. My last thought is that jumping off a bridge would’ve been a lot less painful.