The Jumper

Eddie pointed her finger at the windscreen of the car.

“What do you suppose he’s doing?” she asked.

Damian glanced at her.

“Who are you talking about?”

“That man over there. He’s standing on the parapet. He looks like he’s about to jump.”

Damian looked at where she was pointing. They had just started to cross the bridge.

“You don’t know that. He might just be wanting to look at the view.”

Impulsively she said, “I think we should stop.”

“You’re kidding, right? We’re late as it is. If you’re so worried, ring triple zero and report it.”

“I will, but I still think you should stop. You can park just up ahead.”

Eddie pulled out her phone and rang. Soon, she was reporting what she had seen, and the location.

Damian kept driving.

“Damian, I want you to stop,” she repeated.

“You’ve reported it, there’s nothing more you can do,” he said.

“Damian, stop the car!” she ordered firmly.

He gave an exaggerated sigh and pulled the car to the side of the road. She was out and running back on to the bridge before he had even stopped.

“Eddie, don’t do anything stupid!” he called out, but he knew she hadn’t heard him.

He got out and watched as she slowed and walked towards the man standing on the parapet looking down at the fast-flowing river. He hadn’t seen her, but now, as she neared him, she saw he was an elderly man, grey-haired, with a small goatee, dressed in jeans and a blue long-sleeved shirt. She stopped, unsure of what to do next. He glanced around at her but didn’t move.

“Hello,” she said, “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, young lady, but I wouldn’t come any closer. It’s not safe up here.”

“But you’re up there,” she pointed out.

He smiled sadly.

“Yes, but I’m up here for a reason,”

“Do you mind if I ask what that is?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I said it was for the view would you?”

She shook her head.

“Would you like to tell me about it?”

He smiled wryly.

“Do you think you can talk me out of doing what you think I’m contemplating?”

“I don’t know,” she said honestly, “but we can just talk.”

“I think talking is very overrated. It doesn’t take away the problem, it doesn’t take away the pain…”

His voice trailed away.

She was quiet for a moment. In the distance, she saw Damian standing next to his car, arms folded, definitely disapproving. A few other cars had stopped, people watching on. No official vehicles had arrived as yet. She edged closer.

“I’d still like to hear if you’re willing to talk. It may not help, but at least, someone’s heard your story before you do whatever it is you’re planning to do.”

“Very wise for someone so young,” he responded.

“Alright, I will tell you. My wife, the only person I ever loved, just died a long lingering painful death. I nursed her and watched her suffer and there was nothing I could do. She was terminal and she begged me to help her die. I couldn’t do it, and I should have. I was with her till the end, and I’ve lived with the reproach in her eyes every single moment since then, and I see it every night when I close my eyes. And I can’t live with it any longer.”

“Don’t you have any other family?” Eddie asked.

“Yes. Two daughters and three grandchildren.”

Eddie took a deep breath, then said gently, “Do you really want them to continue living with the knowledge that their father and grandfather took his own life, and didn’t want to be part of theirs anymore? But more importantly, do you think your wife would have wanted you to do this, to abandon them because you feel guilty about letting her die when you know that helping her would have made you a murderer? And don’t you think it was only the pain that made her ask you? Was that the kind of person she was?”

He was silent. She reached out her hand.

“For their sakes, please don’t do this. You can get help. They’ve lost their mother and grandmother. Don’t let them lose you as well.”

After a moment, he moved across to her and took her hand.

“You’re a remarkable young woman,” he said as she helped him down.

Applause rang out. She looked around. To her surprise, a number of cars were drawn up, people standing nearby, all applauding, among the cars, several police vehicles, whose personnel had discreetly stayed a distance away, Now, they hurried forward and surrounded them.

“You did a great job,” a policewoman told her quietly.

“Thank you. We’ll take him and make sure he’s looked after. You have any training?”

Eddie shrugged.

“I’m a counsellor at a high school,” she said diffidently.

The policewoman nodded understandingly. As they moved away, the man looked at Eddie and said a quiet “Thank you.”

As she walked slowly back to the car where Damian was waiting, people called out congratulations, some took pictures of her on their smartphones, and some gave her thumbs-ups as she went by, and called out, “Well done!”

Embarrassed, she kept walking until she reached the car, and got in.

Damian said, “Well, another life saved, Eddie. Well done.”

She wasn’t at all sure she liked the tone in his voice, but suddenly drained, decided that was an issue for another day.

“Let’s go home, Damian.”

He looked at her in surprise.

“I thought we were going to Neil’s for a barbecue?”

“I’m not really in the mood. Just take me home please.”

He was not pleased. After a moment, he did a screeching u turn, and sped back across the bridge. They didn’t speak the entire journey, Damian’s body language saying it all. When they reached her house, Eddie got out and said, “Go home, Damian, I need some time out.”

He didn’t reply, just turned the car around, and headed back the way they’d come. Eddie entered the house, kicked off her shoes and poured herself a glass of wine. She sank into a chair, sipped her wine, and thought about the man. She didn’t even know his name. Negotiating 101. Weren’t you supposed to establish a rapport by exchanging names? Or was that for hostages.

‘Too late now,’ she reflected. But she felt good about the outcome. As for Damian, he was a problem that was going to be a lot easier to solve than a jumper.


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