The first full day after the end of the world started approximately one second after the stroke of midnight. This was going to be a long day. Justine had fallen asleep after my frantic deposition, patiently fielding all my questions, hearing all my bargains, enduring all the begging, until even I couldn’t come up with anything else. I hit the road in my truck, driving down the highway aimlessly: “aimlessly” would have actually been a big step up. It was a typical foggy night in San Francisco. I was blasting sad acoustic music, hyper-ventilating and bleary-eyed from the tears streaming out of my eyes. The emotional pit in my stomach hadn’t had long enough to mature into grief or heartache yet. This was a more primal, raw emotion that’s harder to label. I’m sure the Germans have a word for it. Some mix of grief-struck, loss, and powerlessness, like the terror you felt as a child when you realized you were going to die, and there’s nothing you could do about it.
Regrettably, on the road I began to remember exactly how incredible a woman Justine is. Somehow in my anger, pain, and bruised trust I had made up a bad version of her. I’m sure my therapist could explain how this served me, letting me justify my shitty behavior and lack of coping skills, and general unworthiness to be with a woman of her caliber. Minute by minute, beautiful happy memories of her began to play on the screen in my head.
Naturally as time passed on the road, things deteriorated. The belief that I was on the right side of this situation went up in smoke. I was Donald Trump, a complete self-righteous asshole. I had been patting myself on the back for doing dishes, making her coffee, and–wait for it-folding my own laundry, while meanwhile always putting her second to my priorities and agenda.
It all came flooding back. How great she was, how much fun we had, and how awful I had been. This is not a story where any reasonable person could see both sides.
My truck seemed to pull itself off the road and into a parking lot, braking for a group of Asian tourists laughing and smiling. I idly thought about running them over while they slowly bounced across the blacktop. I parked under a street light, and sat in the car for about 10 minutes in silence before getting out. I was at the Golden Gate Bridge.
I hadn’t planned on coming here, so I didn’t know what to do next. I certainly hadn’t actually thought about suicide, and don’t believe I came here to kill myself, but I’ve made a deal with my therapist–That I will not think of this moment as totally NOT suicidal thoughts if he does label it as obviously suicidal.
Either way I was here. Dum Dee dum.
I walked around, looking at a bronze sculpture near the pedestrian entrance, staring at the bay from the lookout. I fantasized about being rescued, by Justine, or any friends with whom I share my GPS location. They would wake up in the middle of the night with a strange feeling, compelled to see where I was, only to find that I was at the Golden Gate Bridge at one in the morning. They would know something must be wrong and dash to my side. Therefore I had to kill half an hour or so before they could arrive to save me.
That’s not how life really works. A 22-year-old neighbor of mine jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge a few months ago, devastating his family and confusing all of us who knew him. He was a perfect young man on the outside, happy, gorgeous, athletic, with a beautiful family. It’s hard to imagine how he came to that conclusion, but I know that I’m no safer than he was, that those of us who were born with faulty wiring are all at risk.
I walked up to the the pedestrian entrance. It starts as a slow sloping ramp that curves to the right and takes you up to the same level as the cars. As I turned the corner, several people were gathered at the entrance, reading a sign that was posted on a chain link gate blocking the walk way.
When I got closer, they began heading back to their car. At first I thought it was because I looked psychotic, but I could hear disappointment in their voices as they passed. The sign said something like “The pedestrian walkway is closed from sunset to sunrise,” but there was a glowing button to the right of it that was for commuting bicyclists to push for entrance.
I thought about pushing the button, walking out to the center of the bridge to stare into the bay and pretend this was all a dream. I imagined the bridge police questioning and searching me, possibly taking me to a psychiatric hospital on a 51-50. I just stared at the gate, relieved when I realized I was not here to end my life.
The gate suddenly made an awful creaking sound, like from American Horror Story and began to slowly open.
“Oh, come on!” I thought to myself. I looked around to see if there was any reason it was opening. The last thing I needed was an ominous malfunction. Give me a break. What next? Dead birds falling from the sky?
I turned around and walked back to the truck. Today was not a good day to die. Maybe later.
Unfortunately, as it would turn out, one of my dearest people had not gotten the memo that night.