This morning I’m standing on a bridge. An old railroad trestle, actually. A cold wind blows up from the river valley below. The roar of the water is muffled to a faint trickling from all the way up here. Even at this time of year, the coniferous trees all around me are a verdant green, and smell like Christmas. That was a month ago. I can’t remember anything about what I did, just waking up with the stale taste of alcohol in my mouth.
I’m going to die today. This is going to be the last time I have to feel the pain of living. I’ve only come up with two ways to make it go away. The most obvious solution is suicide, but I keep screwing that up, waking up in intensive care feeling angry, alone, and ashamed. The other way is the oblivion of drugs. I’ve tried them all, but my favourites have always been vodka and cocaine. I haven’t been without at least one of those every day for a very long time.
Cupping my hands around the cigarette that I realize I have just put in my mouth, my lighter clicks and I inhale a sickly yet familiar lungful of caustic chemicals. There is enough cocaine in my pocket for one last hit. Powder. Power. Release. I’ve been using the same needle for a long time. The graduated lines on the side of the plastic syringe are worn. I pull it out of my pocket, removing the plunger, along with enough coke to kill a normal person, and a bottle of vodka. The small plastic bag containing the drugs rustles as I unwrap it, and then gently pour the contents into the syringe. Replacing the plunger, I push it down, compressing the off-white contents. People say vodka doesn’t smell, but as soon as I unscrew the top from the ice cold bottle, its acerbic stench is carried to my nostrils by the wind. I stopped using water to prepare a hit long ago. Why carry an extra bottle around? I have to angle the already half empty bottle to get the alcohol close enough to the bottle’s mouth to insert the needle and suck up enough liquid for my shot.
It’s gotten really hard to find a vein on my scarred arms. I can’t see their light green; I can only feel for them. I have to poke around a few times before pulling back the plunger results in a beautiful cloud of crimson in the chamber. With deliberate speed, I depress the plunger, and almost instantly taste cocaine, vodka, and baking soda. These are heavily cut street drugs. It takes a few seconds for the poison to work its way through my veins to my brain, during which time the anticipation is almost unbearable. Blood trickles down my arm, warm and almost viscous. Then the rush hits me. I can only describe it as an exquisite, peaceful euphoria. My vision blurs, my ears ring, and I sit down on the edge of one of the railroad ties, legs dangling over the edge. For a few minutes, I am okay. Nothing matters.
The effects wear off quickly. My mind and body scream for more. I start to panic, and drink most of the remaining vodka. For the first time, I actually look around, seeing rolling hills in the distance, and feeling the rough, sticky wood of the trestle. As I remove my jacket containing the suicide note, which I only wrote because that’s what people do in the movies, something farther down the bridge catches my eye. Walking towards it, I recognize bouquets of flowers, fresh ones, smelling of vibrant life, of spring, the appearance of which is all the more jarring given the freezing weather. They are piled beneath the framed photograph of a man, about my age. It looks like a professional picture, because the man in it is wearing a suit and tie, just like I used to when I still went to church.
Now standing before this makeshift memorial, I can make out the words on many handwritten notes taped nearby. The man in the picture did the same thing I was about to do. One note spoke of his funeral, and how cheated a member of his family felt because they didn’t get to see him for one last time. Jumping from that height would definitely result in a closed casket. The others talked about how much they loved him, missed him, wished he’d just come out and talked to them about whatever he was going through that made him do what he did. For the first time in my pathetic, nihilistic life I really understood why people call suicide the most selfish act. I had been thinking about destroying my life, but what about everyone else? Why do I want to die? Do I?