Sometimes, when I pass a bridge, I slow down. I ease back on the throttle. I turn down the music, straining to hear the haunting melody of the river below, as it lulls me into both a complacency and an urgency in the same moment. I imagine what it would be like if I jumped, if I tumbled head over feet into the abyss, if I would survive. If I would even want to, at least in that moment anyway.
Then the moment passes.
But I’m somehow changed by it, transformed in that instant when anything was possible, when I was capable of doing that thing. I tell myself it was never real, though, that I never slowed down, that I never imagined myself, arms raised out wide, staring off into the never ending blue, or brown, or gray water below before letting go. It’s so real, though, this feeling when it comes, so overwhelming at times that I have to remember to breathe, to drag one breath at a time through my lungs.
Sometimes, it scares me.
Who am I kidding? It always scares me, when it happens, when I think for a second that I could be able to do something so drastic, so permanent, so astoundingly perfect in that instant. I always snap out of it, though, the road dragging me back, the gas pedal calling me back home, or to work, or to get pizza on a Thursday night. There are too many bridges around here. I’ve never really consciously noticed before, but they’re everywhere.
Sometimes, I imagine what it would be like if I could find a path where there are no bridges, where life doesn’t hang by a thread, even if it’s just in my momentary daydreams. I think of all the people I pass every day who might have similar issues, or just thoughts, or just imaginings like mine, and I would never know it. I wonder if they see it in me. I turn away when I glimpse the whites of their eyes, hoping my secret holds, hoping I don’t see their pain.
I have enough pain of my own. I feel selfish in those moments, when I’m pulling my eyes away from the railing, from the raging waters, from everything I want in those impressive instants, at those irrational times. I wonder if the urge will ever pass, if I will ever be able to pass a bridge without slowing down, without dreaming of what would happen if I gave in.
Sometimes, I feel the hot tears burn the insides of my eyes. I feel a slipping, a letting go, that I corral, that I wipe away, that I drag back in like lassoing cattle. I turn up my music — my Nina Simone, my Jane’s Addiction, my Harry Connick, Jr. — and I scream as loudly as I can, exorcising the demons as I’ve always done before. And I wonder if they hear me, if they’re laughing behind my back.
Then I keep on driving, to the next bridge, and to what comes after that.