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       The Bridge, p.1

           Ali Mehdi
 
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The Bridge


  The Bridge

  Ali Mehdi

  Dedication

  Dedicated to everyone that has helped me through rough times, and to all the friends along the way. I will always be there for you.

  “But in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.”

  ― Albert Camus

  Chapter 1

  Robert

  The car sped through the puddle of muddy water, splashing Robert’s lower body as he drifted across the pavement, deep in thought, gazing towards the gray sky. He had more important things to think about other than the fact that he was now drenched in water. His teeth chattered and his bones rattled from the cold, but his body was completely numb. His train of thought, interrupted briefly by the car, now resumed itself: he was just diagnosed with a terminal condition his doctor called Huntington’s disease, a mix of Alzheimers and Parkinson's. Sweet. He didn't understand what the word meant, having only a college degree in accounting. Doctors always seemed to use all these complicated terms to describe simple issues that can be resolved with a simple “ you have X months more to live” instead of rambling on about how sorry they are because Robert just so happened to be an alcoholic and heavy smoker, who had the unfortunate luck of contracting this terminal disease. And his family wouldn't take it well. What he considered as family anyways: the only person who hadn't left him yet was his sickly old mother, who just hit ninety last month. And he was just as sure that she would leave him given the chance. Nobody could tolerate him: his wife left him after he threw his empty beer bottle out the window after one of his rage fits, because he didn’t like the way the food tasted, which resulted in the cops being called and him having to explain himself to them. That was the final line he crossed, his wife grabbed their one year old infant and ran out the door, still in her night robe. She didn’t leave any note or address behind. She had enough with his problems and couldn’t take it anymore. This is what happened to everyone that entered his life.

  And now here he is, a random senior from the Bronx, diagnosed with a fancy disease, walking towards the bridge. It stood beautifully in the horizon. A beacon of hope for people to cross rivers, valleys and rigorous terrain, but yet it also held another function, not for people trying to reach their destination, but for people trying to end their journey. It probably wasn't the original intention of the first bridge builders, but surely the purpose of ending one’s life must have revealed itself soon afterwards. Humans are a peculiar specie. They have a complicated emotional spectrum that can push them to do unthinkable things. The capability to try to morally justify the action of harming other members of their specie, without gaining anything. Then there’s the act of self-destruction: a human deems his life to be unlivable, therefore commits the “atrocious” act of taking one’s life. But Robert sees it as a gift, one of the most precious and selfless offerings he can give the world. He sees it as a present, because his entire life represents the leeching off another persons happiness. When he walks into a room, he has the special ability of sucking the room dry, like a vampire preying on his meal, but in his case it was involuntary. He didn’t do it on purpose, it was just the way he was. So in his case, taking away his life was actually giving life to others, he was an Angel of life. He was the bringer of gifts.

  He was now approaching the last intersection before the start of the bridge, everything and everyone was moving in each and every direction. The cars that passed by were mostly luxury cars, Bently, Rolls Royce and Jaguar were all makes that you could find in this part of town. Unfortunately he didn't belong to the same class as these people, but passing downtown was the shortest approach to his destination. There still were some lower class cars that passed by every once in a while such as an old rusty Volkswagen, that stood out like a sore thumb, while the infamous yellow cabs populated the side-roads, hounding people down like wolves. This was a typical day in New York City, but it would be a life changer for Robert, in the literal sense of the word, and not one soul would give a damn. The crowds started to become denser, every man wearing an expensive suit, and every woman carrying a Louis Vuitton bag. A mindless crowd, on the pursuit of happiness, following the stereotypical “American Dream”. Neon light panels covered the facets of buildings, advertising Marie France perfumes, the latest iPhone model and designer clothing. But the lights only covered the skyscrapers to the center of each building, the rest were like arms, trying to reach the sky in desperation, ever trying to escape the corruption grasping at its roots, under the form of corporate marketing. He read that the average human sees over two thousand advertisements every day. The fact that he lived on the outskirts of the Large Apple made that statistic look puny in his eyes, he was pretty sure the average New Yorker saw over ten thousand. The world he lived in was an artificial place, everyone was consumed by their looks, and none was ever concerned with the puppeteer behind the screen. Humans now worshipped their neon gods, sitting behind the screens of their televisions.

  But now he was philosophizing about matters that were much larger than him, he had his own problems. If only he could go back and bring back the “good old days”, the days before his hair was streaked with gray, skin sagged, and the brown marks that increased exponential each year after he marked his fiftieth birthday appeared. His beard was now a week old since he hasn’t had the time or will to shave and burned the daylight away with sleep now that he was unemployed. But that’s another aspect of Robert’s miserable life. A few weeks ago he was fired from his job as an accountant. He was making good money, and had many friends, but his problem with alcohol was invading every part of his life. He carried a small flask of hard liquor in his pocket, sipping it throughout the day, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to make it through his shift. His peers couldn’t care less, they had more important things to concern themselves with, looking forward to their weekends, making plans with each other to watch the big game (as the Yankees were playing against the Cubs), an event that was on the mind of each and every new Yorker with even a mild interest in sporting events. The watered down beer, tasteless hotdogs and fat supporters, spilling their drinks over themselves, and slurping their drinks like thirsty dogs lapping at their bowl.

  The same couldn’t be said about his boss, Larry. He was usually a fun guy to work for, always sharing his latest jokes with the office. He once told me that he was an aspiring comedian, having studied for a few years in art school, only to realize nobody really appreciated his talent. His parents were funding him throughout his experience in college, having spent all of their educational savings on a hopeless dream. They had such high hopes for him, as they were trying to live their dream through the life of their child, but after being countlessly rejected while he spent a year in Hollywood following his studies, his parents finally had enough, funding him was over. So he transferred to business school to earn a degree in economics and was a wild success. Which was parallel to Robert's story, only that he wanted to become a novelist instead. Larry disliked Robert’s habit of being drunk throughout the day, he used to see a bright future in the man. This was back in the late nineties, when Robert first got his job as accountant at the multi-billion dollar company IRIS, a company that is also dying along with Robert’s future. The CEO was a brilliant entrepreneur that was the first to patent and design a new type of smart-wear, know simply as The Lense. It was a new type of optical lenses that completely cover the eye without irritating or obstructing it in any way, capable of assuming the role of previous smart optical devices such as the now extinct “Google Glass”. In Larry’s eyes, Robert was a dedicated and hard worker, in addition to having all the qualities of the perfect family man. He was always talking about his bright future and how he would one day be a head manager in the company, his ambition was palpable.

  T
hat was in the distant past, now, Larry was pushed to his limits when Robert finally took the situation one step too far. He was sipping on his whiskey while in the middle of a meeting with the financial board of the firm, discussing a new and efficient method to cut the company’s loses and save it from potential bankruptcy. The head director of finances was sitting at the head of the table, in his prestigious black suit, bringing forward his idea on the company’s future, when he spotted Robert out of the corner of his eye, taking a sip out of a flask. He didn’t give it a second thought until, not a couple minutes later, Robert took out his flask a second time. This repeated itself a couple more times, while the electrifying tension in the room grew. The director’s face started turning a bright shade of red, and contorted into pure fury as he understood what was happening. He crumpled the paper he was holding in his hands and stood up swiftly, the chair screeching against the ceramic floor. A deep silence swept across the room. “Mr. Johnson, would you be so kind as to tell me what is in the flask you have been sipping at throughout this meeting?” he said as his piercing eyes scrutinized the poor individual “It’s only a flask of water... sir” almost forgetting to add a respectful sir. And that was the beginning of the end: after a thorough investigation into Robert, based off of his peer’s interrogations and video feed, it was discovered that he was an alcoholic. He was given the ultimatum of remaining at the company, while attending AA meetings and staying sober, or being fired on spot. What he choose was obvious.

  And so here he was, slowly drifting pass the countless glass showcases of stuff he could never afford. But he didn’t have a sense of envy towards those more fortunate than him, because unlike them, he had his eyes open. He understood the real problems of the worlds, but in the end, who would take the word of a failure? He lost the game of life and now it was time for him to end it with dignity. He was too much of a burden to the people surrounding him. Picking up his pace, he looked past all the fake displays of happiness, seeing what many people overlook and noticing what they choose to ignore: he saw the rats scurrying in and out of alleys, bits of unidentifiable food in their mouth, he saw the homeless people, with the hollow look in their eyes, gazing emptily towards the sky, wearing nothing but shredded rags and torn boots. He saw the pigeons flocking the sky, barely visible behind the smoke from the buildings, as the smell of sewage raised from underneath his very feet. Then he heard a sudden horn behind him followed by the air being beat out of his lungs. He was propelled half a dozen feet forward, landing roughly on the ground. Bright specks of light obscured his vision, and a big yellow blob was at the dead center of his view. He could hear a man screaming in some foreign language, maybe indian, but who knows, while the metallic taste of blood filled his mouth.

  It took him a couple minutes to gain back his senses, and he saw a large indian man take up his field of view. The man was holding his head in his arms, a concerned and nervous look on his face. Was it the drivers fault or was it him who was not paying attention to the road? It seemed like the driver’s fault by the way he acted. Robert sat up, and spat the blood on the concrete while trying to stand up. The indian man seemed shocked, “Please sir, sit down. I will call an ambulance, sir... Sir please stay calm...” he was deeply concerned with Robert’s sake. Robert starting pushing the man aside and managed to get up on one leg, only to have wave after wave of nausea hit his stomach. He pushed up on his leg and stood up woozily, thanking the man for his concern, “Don’t sweat it, its fine, I’m alright but in a hurry, so please leave me be.” The man wouldn't hear it, he dragged Robert along into the back of his cab and closed the door behind him, then climbed into the drivers seat, while asking Robert where he would like to be driven, “I will take you anywhere you want, sir, just give me an address”. He asked to be taken to Brooklyn bridge, he was lucky, as he didn’t have enough for the cab fare, and the bridge was still half an hour away.

 
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