To Be or Not
It’s midnight on the Grand Central Parkway in New York City. A 60 year old man, obese, six feet tall, dressed in a Brooks Brothers overcoat and vested suit is standing on the ledge of the bridge crossing the highway. There is very little traffic because it is Thanksgiving. He stares down at the cars passing under the bridge. His life flashes before him. He’s a partner in a prestigious brokerage firm on Wall Street and lives in a three bedroom condo overlooking Central Park. He’s a graduate of Harvard, from which he received his BS degree in economics with a Masters and PHD from Columbia. He reflects on his present wealth. His annual salary from the firm is $750,000 per year, plus other perks. Five years ago he lived in a five bedroom gated community in Bronxville with a three car garage. The cars, of course, were Mercedes. He had lived there with his wife Beverly, his daughter, Ruth, a Princeton graduate, and son Thomas, a Yalie. He was proud of them both. Both of them were now lawyers, practicing with nationally renowned law firms in Boston. He reflected on the luxury of the Bronxville home. His favorite room, of course was the climate controlled wine cellar on the lower level, harboring 1,000 vintage wine bottles. The lower level extended the full length of the house. It was professionally decorated with leather furniture predominating. Alongside of the wine cellar was a smaller temperature controlled cigar closet, stocked with all of his favorite Cubanas.
But his arrogance over the years has led him to believe that he was invincible. He has had to account to no one for any of his actions. He has had many affairs with other women, just because he could. Five years ago, after too many years of infidelity, his wife sued him for divorce, alleging his frequent acts of infidelity as the basis for her action. The judge decreed that he was to deed the Bronxville home to her, as well as one half of all his assets. After the divorce proceedings, learning of their father’s hurtful actions toward their mother, his children refused to have any further contact with him. He has tried many times since then to make amends to his children, but to no avail.
Yet he was able to salvage 100 or so wine bottles from his wine cellar as well as several dozen Cubanas from his cigar closet. His wife had been somewhat generous in that regard. He still has his Mercedes, his Central Park condo, and substantial assets that would assure him of a comfortable life. Yes, they are his “things,” he reflects as his gaze sweeps the highway beneath him. Darkness seems to envelope him since there are no lights on the bridge and only a few scattered ones along the highway.
The wind begins to intensity. He tightly grasps the metal railing of the bridge. His thinning white hair is blowing from his head into his face. As the wind intensifies, his overcoat becomes unbuttoned. To an observer looking up onto the bridge, it appears that there is a winged beast of some kind, flapping its wings to oncoming traffic.
“Hey, you there. What the hell are you trying to do?” The figure speaking to him is about six feet five inches tall. He’s wearing an overcoat, worn out on the sleeves and collar. He has a long, bearded face and is wearing a New York Mets cap. His voice is low and gruff.
“None of your damn business. Leave me alone! Do you hear me?”
The stranger looks at him. The man is still holding on to the railing, trying to turn to see the stranger without losing his footing.
The stranger approaches closer to him and almost in a whisper says, “Are you going to jump or not? Either way, I want all of your money NOW. Give me your wallet!”
The man is afraid to turn around to face this stranger. He might fall. “Look,” the stranger says to him. “You’re gonna jump anyway, right. Gimme your money and I’ll help ya do it.”
The man can’t believe that this is happening to him. He climbs over the railing onto the bridge and looks at the stranger face to face. He throws his wallet at him, yelling “Now get the hell out of here. I don’t need any of your damn help.” With that the stranger picks up the wallet and runs down the bridge away from the man. The man leans against the bridge railing, breathless, wondering what just happened. He could have been killed, pushed to his death by a total stranger. After a brief moment, he buttons up his overcoat and walks across the bridge to his parked car. He stops himself before getting behind the driver’s side.
He sits behind the steering wheel, looking at himself in the rearview mirror, the light from the open driver’s side door casting a glare on his face. He stares at it a moment then talks to himself. “Are you out of your mind trying to do what you just did? You’re alive. Let’s keep it that way until that grim reaper comes. Who knows what lies ahead.” With that he slams the door shut, steps on the accelerator and speeds off. The music from the PHANTOM, spilling out from the radio station.
Marilyn K. Holt
You reached me in the edges, where the sea is.
Open, a gulf,
a warm turquoise water.
Walk slowly on the beach and let me feel you with my lacy foam.
Anticipate the tide.
Learn to watch the birds.
Don’t fight the current, sit by the worn stones and watch, they hug the shore.