03 September 2016

A Life on the Verge



I was standing in my bathroom having just peed. I splashed my face with cold water because I was feeling hot. I let the water drip off. I looked into the living room. Strange. The house was so still and quiet, even considering the fact that I was the only one at home. It was still outside, not a sound. The house felt like a movie set, unnatural. Fear tingled up my spine.

I blinked hoping that all would seem right now. No, the air was like death. No movement anywhere. No ants in the kitchen. No fly buzzing around. I looked out the window and didn’t see a soul. Nor did I see a cat, a dog, or even any of the crows that often congregate on the telephone wires. I closed my eyes for a good 30 seconds. No thoughts or feelings entered. It was blank.

Still no sound anywhere. Judging by the light it was mid afternoon. But why didn’t I know what time it was? And that light seemed odd. Not natural. Kind of dull and soft. I picked up the remote and turned the power on for the TV.  Nothing happened. Cable out? I had an urge to sit but the ability to do so seemed to have vanished. I couldn’t even imagine how it was done. I looked at a picture of myself in a frame on the mantle. In it I was seven years old, grinning, without a care. I had liked being seven. But why were there no other pictures on the mantle? Photos of my wife and children and dad and mom and siblings and nieces and nephews? What had happened to them? Where had they gone?

I remembered very clearly my life as a child. The joys of playing with friends. The difficulty fighting boredom in school. I recalled when my grandfather died and when my uncle was injured in a car accident and when we went to Disneyland and the time my older brother came home to announce he’d made all conference in football. But I could barely visualize my own high school years and had no memories from after that. I knew I’d gone to college but couldn't think of where and what I’d studied. I knew I was married and had children but I couldn’t recall meeting my wife or our wedding or the birth of the children or even their names. I couldn’t remember my children’s names.

What had happened? Did I have some weird form of amnesia? I tried to remember what I’d done earlier today. It was like staring at a blank white wall. The farthest I could could think back was to when I just finished peeing and splashed my face. What the hell had happened? What was going on? I wasn’t dead, was I? Maybe I’d gone insane. Perhaps this was a dream. Surely that must be it, I must be in some sort of weird dream that I’d be waking up from soon. In fact I’ll will myself to wake up right now.

Nothing happened. I was still there and felt certain that this was no dream. Something was telling me that whatever was going on wasn’t part of a dream. I thought I might cry. But no. I thought I might scream. But no. I thought I might collapse to the floor. But no.

Maybe I could call someone. My wife. My cell phone wasn’t in my front pocket. I must have put it on the coffee table like I always did when I got home. But no, it wasn't there. Maybe it was charging  on my nightstand. But no, it wasn’t there. Was it in the bathroom? Now I forgot where the bathroom was. I’d only just been there.

There were still no sounds. The light hadn’t changed. I wondered if I had the power of speech. But I couldn’t remember how to use it. Then an image. Finally something in my brain. It was the water, the water of the bay. I was looking at it from a great height. Why? What did I do? Where was I. Probably on a bridge. The waters were choppy as if on a windy day. They were beautiful. So beautiful. I’d felt like a swim but of course it was much too cold for that. No. There was no desire to swim, at least when I was looking at the water in this image which I was beginning to think was a memory, one that was becoming clearer. Yes, I was definitely on a bridge. Looking at the water far below. It was the Golden Gate Bridge.

The image was becoming so powerful now that I entered it. I left my house and I was in the image. I was on the bridge. It was cold. I was scared. The wind was blowing. It was dusk. Depression enveloped me. The mental anguish was excruciating and it was accompanied by a deep, deep desire to end everything. Psychosis. That’s what I had. That’s why the vision of being in the house, which really had lasted a second in real time.

Now I knew exactly who I was and remembered all my personal history and clarity joined the depression. My life was good. My brain was bad. Earlier in the day I’d found myself talking aloud in a crowded elevator. It was so embarrassing, people looking away, pretending not to notice. But I’d been talking in normal volume. I remember a woman looked back at me as she got off the elevator. There was pity in her expression. That’s when I decided that these struggles for sanity were too much, that I was losing and I was tired of all the pills and the doctor visits and the fears. I still had my job, my marriage, my family and money in the bank. Why not quit while I’m ahead, I’d thought. This’ll probably just keep getting worse. Why not end it all before I cause my family pain, suffering and humiliation. So here I was on the bridge. Ready to jump.

What was taking me so long? Had I lost my nerve? Was there some doubt that this was the right course? Maybe if there was the slightest doubt I shouldn’t go through with it. If things didn’t improve it was always an option for later when I was 100% sure. No. I was sure now. I had to do it.

My cell phone rang. Reflexively I pulled it out of my pocket. It was my wife. I answered.

“Honey, when will you be home? I’m trying to plan dinner.”

“Half an hour,” I said. Then I got off the damn bridge.

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