Gawkers look up at me and point, but they are not the worst. That dubious distinction goes to those who take photos. For a second, my life is capture for posterity.
I did not want it to go this way, but it is out of my hands now. What I valued most has gone. The mask has slipped, unveiling my inner core. No longer am I the life and soul. My self-loathing is there for all to see.
The man shouts at me again, but it blends in with the rest of the noise. closing my eyes does not help, either. Instead of relieving me from the torture, it focusses the pain. The mind can do such vile things to itself. The doctor said it could be chemical, what does he know?
Before my life fell apart, I lied to myself.
‘It’s okay’ I used to say.
‘Everyone feels this way from time to time’.
Maybe they did. But for as long as I remember, I’ve always been this way. It’s not sadness, it goes much deeper than that. It seeps into your everyday life, insidious and awful. Whatever it touches, conspires against you.
Words, actions, thoughts are twisted until they no longer represent reality. Over time, you learn to compartmentalise, to shut it away in little boxes. No longer is it the driving force in your life. That’s what you tell yourself, anyway.
This disease of the mind, depression, call it what you will, has a way round all your defences. For the simple reason that it is your defences. It forms a part of it and thus undermines all you have tried to achieve.
Murphy’s Law dictates that if things can go from bad to worse, it will do so at the worst possible moment. Sure enough, it did. First the relationship, already a disaster from the beginning. Soon after, the job went too. The boss said it was the economy, but I knew better.
The bank started asking why I needed an extension on the mortgage. When I told them about my situation, they were sympathetic. That dried up too.
No job, no money, no place to live and no wife, you tell me what was the point in living?
“You’ve got everything to live for.”
The words brought me back to reality. Reminiscing had felt warm, cosy. Sat out on a ledge like this is too much to bear. I shuffle closer, letting my feet dangle over. It reminds me of when I was young, doing the same thing with my dad.
Back then we were fishing at the end of the pier while on holiday. Below me are a different set of fish now. Lights flash as cameras take pictures, helping me to recall the sun dancing on the water.
‘Now Son, I want to tell you something.’
‘What is it Dad?’
He looks around, hesitating.
‘I want you to know-‘
The words catch in his throat. It’s too much for me to bear. I dropped my rod and held him tightly around his neck.
‘You’re the greatest, Dad.’
I felt his tears soaking through my t-shirt. When we part, I can see the red in his eyes.
‘Thank you for taking me fishing, Dad.’
He smiles and ruffles my hair.
‘Where would I be without you, Son?’
‘Where would I be without you, Dad?’
With those words, the dream is gone once more, to be replaced with bitter reality.
“What did you say?”
The man is shouting at me again.
I turn to him and say
“No one understands my pain.”
I see him cup his ear, but the wind snatches my words away.
“Don’t do it, Son.”
I look at him afresh and see that he is much older than me. Maybe he has a son, just like me.
“Do you have a son?” I ask.
He nods, a sober expression on his face.
“My pride and joy. My daughter-”
Did I see a tear in his eye?
“My daughter died five years ago now. A drunk driver mounted the kerb and ran her over.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“He was under the limit but you could tell he wasn’t fit to drive.”
Someone understands my pain after all. I can see the hole it has brought to his life. Written on his face is the same that is on mine. Standing up, I can hear the gasp from below. The noise is meaningless.
The walk is easy now as I have something to live for. Climbing over the parapet, I grasp the man tightly. Tears streaming down our faces help to wash the pain away.
An age passes but soon we part. Looking at me he says
“You’re never too old to ask for help. You can always ask me, for I have been where you are.”
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