Offered Hand

By Kathleen Locklear

I sat on the very edge of the bridge; huddled down in a small alcove where hopefully no one would see me.

I’ve been told my whole life suicide was a selfish way to go, that it was selfish to take your life and leave your family behind.

I had no family to leave behind.

There was no way they could miss me when they themselves were already gone. All of them.

I took a breath, closing my eyes and moving closer to the edge when I heard a voice behind me: “What are you doing all the way up here at night? It’s freezing!” I turned, my eyes snapping open in surprise to see an elderly man leaning against the railing above where I was seated, a kind smile on his face.

It confused me. It was very obvious what I was doing.

“You know. I was in your place once, sitting in that exact spot no less” he continued, speaking casually as if we’d known each other for years instead of minutes. “I was going to jump; no one would have ever found me, I would have been at peace. But I met someone, someone who stood exactly where I’m standing now now. They talked to me idly, nothing in particular, but enough to distract me from what I planned to do. It was then that I realized; what was I doing? All of my problems could be fixed with some time, why was I trying to take my life?”

He had a far-away look in his eyes when he paused, and then he held out a hand to me, “And that man offered me a hand up, just as I offer you one now. Will you take it?”

And I did. I took his hand and he helped me up. And many years later, I became the one leaning against the railing, telling the next person my story and the story of the old man, and then I became the one offering them a hand up.


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