In Minneapolis they jump; the Franklin Avenue Bridge seems to be favored.
One imagines a walk through the bleak, unending night. Some untold moments staring at the murk below; the allure of the black, mesmerizing water. They come alone to the bridge, work their way to the edge, and they let go, whether in a leap or a fall. Either way they plunge into the Mississippi. If the impact doesn’t kill them, the water surely will.
Their bodies wash up on shore and are fished out by the sheriff, often weeks after they make their plunge.
Sometimes rowers are there to witness the fall. Once, I was told, a man hung onto the stern of a passing shell as the rower rowed them both back to the dock.
Here in Berlin, it’s the tracks that beckon. So many to choose from; so many trains hurtling through black tunnels or through no man’s land between neighborhoods. They say the glass on the trains is extra thick to protect the drivers. There is likely little that remains of the body, animated flesh and blood only a moment before.
Such deaths are not reported in the news here, for fear of planting the seed of an idea into receptive minds.
Perhaps it was the breakup, for good this time, that made something in him crumble. Perhaps it was the specter of the new job starting Monday, the sense of dread that life is just that, a string of meaningless jobs as far as the eye can see, no spark of hope for something more that would make it all worthwhile.
A text to his parents, it’s not your fault, you were the best parents anyone could ask for. By the time they wake and read it, he is gone. Laid himself down on the tracks before a roaring S-Bahn. Nineteen years old. An only child.
His father a prominent member of the rowing club. His mother a stay-at-home mom, having raised him from a small wriggling thing to a young man out in the world.
A friend of the family, a rower and fellow board member, told the news to the stunned rowers, assembled in a school gym for circuit training. Approach the father, he said. Ask him about it. He would like to talk about it. Expect to see his wife at the club a lot too. She may not be a rower, may have had little to do with the club before, but she needs the community now.
You are the community. Even you, the one who only that day received her official membership letter in the mail addressing her as liebe ruderkameradin. You are now a member of this community. It’s a privilege you bought into with your membership fee, thinking at the time only of access to boats and oars. But it’s a community you have chosen, a place that at times will ask more of you than you intended to give.
And should you ever suffer such a loss, be drained of life and hope, left only with aching, unending emptiness, perhaps they will be there for you too.