Gemma Critchley: A story for #sharethelove

Posted on October 28, 2011 by

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This is a story inspired by #sharethelove, a movement on Twitter that encourages people to show a bit of human kindness and to help those reaching out to them, and that encourages people who feel like they need help to be able to ask for it.

It can be something as serious as feeling depressed and needing someone to talk to or something as simple as wanting to make people smile. I fall into the latter category and so, here’s a story, specifically requested by Ralph Razor, which is designed to make people feel a bit better about the world.

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Ways

Holding tightly onto the rail, I inch a step closer to the edge.

Rather than have my eyes squeezed shut against the ugly, dark wall of fear that rears up, black and brazen, building itself in front of me, I have them snapped wide open. It’s as if they’re held wide with stitches or hooks or some other medieval way of making me act against my instincts.

But this isn’t force. Oh no, this is all self-inflicted.

Well, I say self inflicted. It wasn’t as if I had planned to end up in this position. It had started as a normal day, wake up, hit snooze on the alarm clock, sleep for another twenty minutes, wake up late, dunk self in shower, scramble around the flat for the outfit that at least remotely resembles office attire. Get on bus, snooze on bus, get off bus, sleepwalk to office.

But that’s where the normal day ended.

As I walked from the bus stop to the office, I passed the same closed down cafe, the same run down post office and the same falling down church. I looped around a corner and then towards the path that takes me along the river to my office.

Now, I make this trip five days per week at roughly the same time (give or take five minutes depending on how much I struggled with the whole ‘waking up’ debacle) and never once have I ever noticed the delicate-looking wrought iron foot bridge that gracefully – and curiously – arced across the water. It rose from the footpath at the side of the river and branched out across the water just before I reached work. It is entirely possible that in my headphone-muted bubble of morning haze, I had simply failed to take in my surroundings. Many people do it, very few would be found ‘not guilty’ on a charge of moving too fast to stop and appreciate what’s around them. But something about the bridge told me that this simply wasn’t a case of Commutus Oblivious. For a start, the bridge was humming at me. That’s right. Humming.

I don’t mean the bridge was happily going about its business, humming a merry little tune. The bridge itself seemed to be vibrating so quickly that it was filling the air about it with the gentle buzz of its movement. The longer I looked at the bridge (and I’m fairly sure I had been standing and staring open-mouthed at it for a good five minutes by this point), the louder the hum got, until it was almost making a high pitched ringing noise, like the sound you get when you run your finger around the edge of a crystal wine glass.

As the sound swelled, the bridge itself seemed to glow – a warm, golden pulse that could easily have been a reflection of sunlight on water – only it wasn’t sunny in the slightest. It was grey and damp and cold all around me, not a chink of ethereal light coming from anywhere else. In front of me the bridge glowed, beckoning me onto it, giving it the old mermaid siren song and I, of course, was a sailor in my answer to its call. Like a pin to a magnet, I couldn’t help myself. Casting a short, sidelong glance toward the dull tower of concrete I had been sentenced to spend the next eight hours in, I felt a pull inside my stomach, tugging me towards the golden light and warm hum of the alternative route that had somehow presented itself to me. The other aspect of this bridge that grabbed me was that it didn’t reach the other side, or at least I couldn’t see it. Despite it only being a few feet away, the end of the bridge seemed to tail off into the unknown.

It feels ludicrous to think of what I must have looked like as my colleagues and fellow commuters pushed past me. Their collars high against the wind, their eyes fixed on the ground, not one person seemed to be seeing what I was seeing. I got the odd dirty look and one person even tutted as he pushed past but I hardly noticed. It must have looked like I was staring out into the churning steel of the river below, when in fact the bridge in front of me was not only tangible, but it was also inviting me to take its path.

Despite the dubious (and possibly imaginary) grounds for my decision, I stepped off the bank of the river with a conviction that I have never felt before in anything I’ve ever done. I don’t think I could have stopped myself, even if I wanted to. There was a moment when my head pulsed and I felt sick with the adrenaline that surged through me. My body screamed that I was possibly doing something incredibly stupid, but that was simply the physical reflex reaction to an completely emotional action. I had to walk along the bridge. I was born to do it. I had half expected to be tossed down the 20 foot drop onto the rocks and swirling grey water below, but the bridge held me. I kept on walking, half terrified, half serene, walking further and further towards the place where bridge became air and solid ground became certain death.

And here I am. The warm iron of the railing against my palms. The low hum of vibrating metal all around. The choice, to walk or to stop, all mine to make.

My eyes are still wide open, and excitement is hammering out an elaborate drum solo in my heart. My feet failing to fail me. I move forwards, onwards and upwards. My head is high, my fear is as real as the bridge I’m walking on.

I keep walking.

I keep walking.

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