Short Story

Inspired by a friend.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255

Image credit: Mohamed Almari,
Image credit: Mohamed Almari,

Three Seconds;

The view from the northernmost edge of the bridge is spectacular. The untamed wildness of the Pacific sweeps in with churned tides and kisses the coast of the city by the bay. From this far away I can still imagine that streets are paved with gold, like the old-timers used to say that inspired western expansion. Looking at it from this distance, the sunlight gleaming off the windows of that famous skyline, I almost still believe that this was where dreams come true.

From here, I can’t smell the shit that stinks up every city block. I can’t hear the homeless scream profanities or junkies beg me for spare change as I try to walk down the street. There is no way of knowing the stress that individuals and families making $150k a year are under not being able to afford groceries or are one unplanned illness away from bankruptcy.

I creep forward beyond the shelter of the Marin Headlands and the calmness is replaced by an angry, resentful wind. I instinctively zip my jacket up tighter to shield my neck from the frigid gusts, though I'm not sure why it matters.

A fleet of tourists rushes by on their rented bicycles. More than ten million people every year pass under these golden towers woven tightly together with coiled cables. What draws them to this particular bridge, I wonder? Is it the fact that they originally said it couldn't be built? That these waters were too dangerous for any architectural feet such as this to be attempted? Was it the fact that this golden-orange primer, declared offensive and ugly by so many, was never planned to be its actual ending hue? I marvel at the fact that during its four-year construction, only eleven men lost their lives. This timeless landmark, the epitome of strength amongst turbulence; this bridge that joins worlds, this testament to human fortitude, is about to become the host to my self-annihilation.

I walk. I touch the cold, orange guardrails and hope to somehow absorb the stories of others who have taken this same walk. The unseen who have been in this same headspace. The silent sufferers. The hopeless. The broken. The folks who were once filled with hope and promise but luck and circumstance had not been on their side. The unfortunate souls who were on the receiving end of the universe when it either was feeling spiteful or just plain didn’t give a fuck.

These rails hold memories. They remember the thousands of sad people who have paced this span, looking for the perfect spot to end it all. The over fourteen hundred who succeeded, and countless others who walked away. As I approach the midpoint of the structure, both towers reach above me with their Art Deco arms and reassure me with their grandeur.

“This is a safe place,” they tell me. “Soon, you’ll disappear.”

Three seconds. Three seconds. I keep playing this over in my head. I don’t remember where I had heard it, but somewhere they said you have just three seconds to jump. If you don’t do it within that time, either you’ll chicken out or someone will see you and grab you. I don’t think anything can change that much in three seconds. I’m entirely unconvinced that any of those things would happen. I couldn’t possibly pull out at this point. I had come this far, after all. And I am entirely too cynical at this point to believe that anyone would even notice me, let alone care enough to try to save my life.

Regardless, I decide I will jump on the count of three. It seems poetic, anyway. A solid plan.

I walk a little ways further and find what looks to be the perfect spot. A place where I can easily climb over without any effective barrier in my way and plunge effortlessly into the concrete sea. I take a peek over the edge so as not to raise suspicion, and I feel a wave of fear thunder through my veins and ricochet off my skeleton. Okay, I admit it. It’s a lot scarier now that I’m actually here.

My back pocket buzzes, and I don’t even need to look at it to be instantly reminded why I’m here. I take it out and wind up to throw it off the edge, but my curiosity gets the better of me and I unlock it. It’s her.

At my mom’s. Kids are fine. Don’t follow me. 

“Oh, but I will be following you,” I say as I chuck the device into the waters below. “Be right there, darling.”

A middle-aged couple walking toward me arm-in-arm sees me and stops. The husband looks like he’s about to say something, but pulls his wife’s arm in closer and they continue on, making a wide pass around me.

I hover at my spot, giving it a minute before they are gone. I grip the square railing and squeeze. I feel the golden paint is peeling under my fingertips. “Not as perfect up close, are you, old girl?” I whisper.

Cars rumble by at seemingly impossible speeds and shake the bridge with a palpable cadence. They all have places to be, but not me. I’m done. The world around me becomes a blur and focus back on the infinite expanse beyond the steel.

Fuck. Here we go.


I put my left foot on the bottom of the railing and swing my right leg up and around.

My wife left me, and probably for good reason. My mother is the only one who loves me, and she’s terminal. Two weeks to live.

I don’t love myself. I hate myself. I’m an awful husband and a terrible father. I am not enough. I’ll never be enough. I’m a fuckup. I’m cursed. Everyone who gets close to me suffers.


I bring my left leg up and hoist my body so I’m sitting on the railing.

My future is below me now. I’m scared, and so alone. I have nothing. No money, no career, no partner, no home. I wanted to be a pilot. To soar above the clouds and be free. To walk through the terminal, head held high, demanding the respect of everyone who saw me. But that’s not how life turned out, did it? Instead, I get fired from a job where I clean up shit and piss for a living. I’m a complete and utter failure. What the fuck happened? Where did everything go so wrong?


I look left and right. I feel the anguish in my heart rise up and I’m surprised to find myself desperate for someone to notice me. Please, goddamnit. Someone, anyone, look up from your phone and see my face. Can’t you tell I’m in pain? Can’t you tell that all I need is for someone to care, for one second? I’ll tell you everything. I’ll unload an emotional dump truck on you. The pain needs a conduit, a place to go. But there’s nothing. No connection. No pathway. It’s an open circuit.

I lean my body forward and let go.


The wind is so powerful I feel as if I might take flight. But this is not freedom. No! This is not salvation. This is unjustifiable extinction. I take it back. I changed my mind. I want to hug my mom. I love my kids. They need their father. I want to live!

I turn my body so my feet will hit first.

Please God, let me live;