Wednesday, October 31, 2012

l'appel du vide

The fog rolled in slowly, and the pavement was damp from the moist air. He had come here to bring an end to his pain, but he knew it was impossible. He had realized that even though he could no longer stand to live, he was afraid of death, and what it brought. He took a few more steps and looked at the water, far below. It was inky black in the night, reflecting nothing of the city lights behind him. He knew that that if he fell, he would die. Either the fall itself, more than seven hundred to the surface, or the freezing temperature of the water would do him in. The thought was a welcome one, to end everything in one single step, but he simply could not bring himself to do it.

With a sigh, he stepped back from the edge of the bridge. His senses were almost overwhelmed in this place. The smells of ocean air competed with the fishy smell of the nearby docks. The slick asphalt was cold against his bare feet. His ears heard the waves lapping on the pylons beneath the bridge, the cry of a nightbird, even the distant clanging of some bell. Occasionally, a sound from the city would drift down, but he ignored them. No one would come looking for him, and most avoided the docks at this time of the night, anyway. The thought had not escaped him that chances were good he would meet his death at the hands of another, if he were unable to follow through.

Once again, his gaze drifted back to the water. It called to him, pulled him to its cold embrace. The French called it l'appel du vide, the call of the void. There was little in the city to keep him there, and those that wanted him, only wanted what he owed them, which was considerable. But there was her. Even now, she lay in his room, sleeping in his bed. She had no idea of his troubles, and he wanted to keep it that way. Should she discover his secret, she would leave him for sure. His only choice was to leave her first. That might hurt her more now, but in the long run, she would be better for it.

He found himself standing on the edge of the bridge, once again. One step to the left, and oblivion would be his, one step to the right, and he would return to his life. It was said that all journeys begin with a single step, and never had this been truer for him than this moment. Looking at the city, he thought of its treasures. It was a beautiful city, but cold, and nearly dead to him. Dead, except for her. He thought about her lying next to him, sleeping a good portion of the morning away. He loved her, he knew. But he also knew she could not love him. He could not let her love him, as it would only hurt her more.

Away from the city lay only darkness, and cold, damp death. But death would not hurt anyone but himself, and maybe her, for a while. But she would move on, he was sure. She was a strong girl.

A glance at the ocean, followed by a glance at the city. L'appel du vide. Only a step between the present and the future. His old life was over, no matter which step he took. His only choices were to embrace a new life, or to embrace death. Was she worth it? Was he? Could he do it? He wasn’t sure. But the time had come for his decision. He looked one last time at the darkness of the ocean, and once at the soft glow of the city. With a sigh, he closed his eyes, turned, and took his step.