Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Fall

A kid was getting ready to kill himself on Saturday, standing on a ledge outside the barrier, while I drove over the Humber Bridge. Three police cars, blue lights flashing, were parked in the inside lane. I slowed as I passed. He was thin, no more than 20 years old, wearing a dark hoody, facing inwards, clinging to the rail, head bowed, looking away from the drop. It looked so mundane at the time - no sense of being a dramatic scene, as I might have imagined it. Maybe he was waiting while he thought about changing his mind, scared to look weak in front of the coppers. Maybe he was wondering how the 100 yard freefall would feel, whether he'd hurt himself when he hit the water and what drowning would be like. I'm curious to know what happened next but about every 6 weeks or so, somebody jumps from there. It's such a commonplace occurance that there's no report I can find. I suppose I should feel something more compassionate than curiosity; but I've looked into myself and can't find anything else beyond a general disquiet at a life wasted.

Death itself, apart from the tragedy of loss... just the circumstance of death.. does somehow seem fairly matter of fact when it happens. Must be an inate reaction in us, there to help us cope with the inevitable. Some years ago I was fishing with some friends in a small boat about half a mile off Scotland. There was a commotion, and I turned to see everyone jumping over the stern - the towering bow of a trawler was bearing down on us a few feet away. This tale usually bores everybody shitless - no doubt it loses some of the suspense, knowing I'm still here to tell it. But anyway, here goes. It hit and we filled up and started to sink like a bucket. There was no chance of me swimming to safety and no doubt in my mind that I was as good as dead, but I wasn't fazed by it.. no despondency, no fear of life beyond the watery grave, just a sense of mild amazement that I was going to die here and like this, of all things. But it happened that, luckily, a deckhand spotted the tip of the mast just as it was disappearing under the waves, threw down a line, hauled me in. It was a day or two later before it started to seem like a big deal, when I became scared of the dark.

So now, it's just the loss of immortality that bothers me most about dying... that and hoping it's not too near on the horizon. I'd been to see family at Beverley, the day of the jumper, and toured the Minster while there. It's a gem, started in the early C13 and built almost completely without addition so that the original architect's vision exists as a harmonious whole, with little more than the developing window tracery as proof of the 200 years it took to build. Inside, it's a forest of dizzying geometry - which is the epitome of the balance and harmony that symbolises the pathway to God. The lessons are there for us. Whether we choose to believe the Bible or not, the Universal rules still apply and you can't buck them and expect to succeed. I hope the kid did survive, now that I've given him some thought. All of us looking at suicide as outsiders know that whatever drives (well) people to it is only ever temporary, at worst.


Glamourpuss said...

You write so well.

I'm not a religious Puss, but a good cathedral does serve to inspire one and prove that there is more t life than our petty concerns. The tunnel vision that drives us to suicide is best served by that sort of reminder. I speak from experience here.


Selena Dreamy said...

“about every 6 weeks or so, somebody jumps from there”

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, conceivably the world’s most popular suicide spot, has seen 1300 people jump to their death from a height of 220 feet. Roughly 18 per annum since it was finished in 1937.

It is interesting how human behaviour can be predetermined statistically when scrutinized en masse and even be predicted to the extent that insurance companies derive very healthy profits from it. While, on the personal level, everything appears to be a matter of free will and an unimaginable tragedy to boot...

Food for thought... meanwhile one hopes the hoody lived.


All Shook Up said...

Ah Puss, you're too generous. I wish I had your flair and eye for detail.

Yes, the soul needs nourishment. There's more to the design of sacred buildings than meets the eye.

You're right, Dreamy. Seemingly random and individually motivated acts forming a predictable and constant pattern. Sounds familiar.

Do bridges generate extra suicides....?

Can Bass 1 said...

Ah, the Minster. It is indeed, a jewell, and one well-known to me thanks to my time as a chorister there under the direction of Mr Spedding. Is he still around, perchance?

All Shook Up said...

He didn't introduce himself, so can't say. Maybe he's been fired by the canon.