“We never stop to consider that our beliefs are only a relative truth that ‘s always going to be distorted by all the knowledge we have stored in our memory.”-Miguel Angel Ruiz
The man was already there when I arrived. There was a gap among the railings where the man was standing. It seemed as if something had crashed through the railing carrying away a part of it. I passed by him unnoticed and moved on to the other end of the bridge feeling secure under the cloak of solitude.
He stood there for a long time. He looked like a statue frozen in time. He didn’t move a muscle, didn’t even move his neck. He simply gazed into the distance to whatever was waiting for him. Then he took a small step forward and plummeted into the darkness or maybe light. I felt a cool breeze brush against my skin and then I was falling. The still sheet of water parted like shards of glass as my body hit the water. I was drowning. The murky waters of the river were surrounding me, trying to blanket me in their embrace. How did I get here? It was the man who was had jumped not me. I tried to fight against the pull of the water but I was no longer in control of my body. My limbs no longer obeyed my brain.
I woke up, gasping for air. I was drenched in sweat. The fear of not being in control smothered me. After sometime my breathing returned to normal. I took a sleeping pill along with the glass of water kept beside my bed. Sometime later i fell into an uneasy slumber.
I woke up feeling light-headed, the fears of last night forgotten in anticipation of a new day. I called out to my wife but there was no answer. She must have already set out to drop over daughter off to school. I prepared breakfast for myself and then set off to work. I was the professor of history at the local college whereas my wife taught in school. She usually took the car to go to school and come back with our daughter while i took a cab as our destinations were in the opposite directions.
While sitting in the back my thoughts again wandered off to my wife and only child. She was a lively twelve year old. She was an excellent musician and could already play the piano quite well. Her music teacher called her a prodigy and said by the time she was old enough, She would be able to get into top institutions for music.
I ran into the Dean while walking towards my class. He looked sad and surprised at the same time on seeing me. He gently put his hand on my shoulder. “How are you”, he asked me. I told him I was fine and touched by his concern for me. He looked sad but for some reason he always looked sad. He simply patted my shoulder and moved on.
For some reason I did not have a single class that day. I decided to speak to the Dean over this matter the following day but was content for the time being grading essays based on the French revolution. All of my colleagues were in a sombre mood and more than one of them enquired after my welfare.
I returned home that evening only to find that my wife and daughter had not yet come home. At first I was worried but then remembered that it was a Tuesday and she had music lessons.
But as it grew late I began to worry. I tried to call my wife but she didn’t pick up. I decided to take a walk in the direction of their school.
I recognised the bridge from my dream as it was very similar. I walked towards the railing like a man in a trance. My thoughts returned to my family once more. What did my daughter look like? Why couldn’t I remember what she looked like? I had reached the railing by this time and was climbing over it when someone caught hold of my collar and pulled me back. I turned around to look into my father s face.
“The dean said that you visited the college today” he said,” I was worried”.
I tell him that I was worried because my wife and daughter were late from school. He looks bewildered and says” There was an accident two weeks ago, your wife is dead”. I feel sick as if I am about to vomit.
” But what about her, where is she?
“ Yes my daughter, where is she?”
He looks at me with pity and confusion.“ you do not have a daughter”, he says. The ground shifts beneath my feet as I collapse .
Twelve years ago my wife gave birth to a daughter who was still born. We were unable to have any more kids. It was traumatic for both of us but we moved on, our love only grew. My wife died in a car accident which took place on the very bridge where I collapsed a week ago. The accident took place two months ago. Her car steered off the bridge carrying away a part of the railing while trying to avoid a collision with another car which had stopped in the middle of the road.
My psychiatrist tells me that it was the death of my wife which finally tipped me over. Reality was too harsh so I created a distorted version of it in which I had a daughter and my wife was still alive.
My father has moved in with me after the incident on the bridge. He looks after me. Most days I bear the crushing weight of my loss and come to terms with reality. But some days the weight is too much to bear. I call out to my wife and think of the daughter who is a figment of my imagination.