“There’s stories and then there’s stories. The ones with any worth change your life forever, perhaps only in a small way, but once you’ve heard them, they are forever a part of you. You nurture them and pass them on, and the giving only makes you feel better. The others are just words on a page.”
― Charles de Lint
What story has changed your life? What tale has crawled inside your psyche and set a permanent groove so that you would never look at anything quite the same way again?
I met her on the bridge that night. To tell the truth, I had gone there to consider jumping. My life was rather a mess at the time. I was seventeen taking summer classes at the University next door to my High School to make up for the ones that I had missed during the year. I had taken off from school for five months and joined a religious cult. For that five months, I tried to alter my being, change it into the perfect church member only to find it impossible. Too many things made no sense and contradicted their own sources. One of the final straws was when I saw beer in the refrigerator of the church head in California and realize that he didn’t live up to his own philosophy. I left only to find that I could not go back to looking at life the same way I had before. I was badly in need of a new paradigm tho I couldn’t put that into words at the time. My family didn’t understand. They thought I should feel guilty for leaving home and joining the cult. I felt cheated and alone and had no idea what to believe. The universe made less sense than ever.
We agreed that my staying in the University dorms for the summer rather than accompanying my family to their beach house was a good idea for all. I would have time to think and pray and try to put the pieces together (and make up for lost school time). They would have peace. I went more than a little crazy and self-destructive. Thus I ended up at the bridge staring into the water wondering if I had the courage.
“I love to see the moon reflecting on the water.” I turned and looked and there was a girl there. A few years older than me.
“Yes, it’s nice.” I muttered.
“The water’s cold tho, even tho it’s summer.”
“I wasn’t going to… I mean I’m not going to…”
“Maybe not, but you can’t convince me you haven’t been considering it.”
“What would you know about it?”
“I’ve been there. I’ve worn that look you have on your face. Oh I didn’t jump either”
“Why would you want to do that? “
“The same reason as you. Too many thoughts and questions crowding my mind and more pain than I wanted to deal with. I was dating this guy and he was great, handsome and smart and controlling as hell. I let him tell me what music to like, how to dress and even what classes to take. We were together for four years and when i became the embodiment of everything he wanted me to be, he got arrested. After a month without him I realized that he didn’t want to be with me but with an ideal and the ideal was someone else. Someone on reflection whom I had no interest in being”
“It’s not the same!”
“No it never is. Yet it brought me here just as whatever you’re going through brought you. “
I told her the details. She just listened and then smiled.
“You know what stopped me from jumping and removed the temptation?”
“What?” I might have said the word louder than I intended.
“Well, my life has always been so strange and so difficult to predict and so wonderful and horrible that I realized at heart I am too curious to see what comes next to ever end it willingly”
“You know this already but you’ve forgotten it.”
“Maybe I have.”.
We continued to talk about books, movies, music, philosophy and everything under the moon to find we had a great deal in common. We watched the sunrise hand in hand like children. I asked her if I could see her again. She looked a little sad.
“Actually, I came down to the bridge tonight to say goodbye to the view. Tonight I’m heading to England to study for a year. Tonight has always been fantastic tho. Thank you.” She kissed me and left not dramatically but wonderfully.
I sat there for a few more minutes wondering if I had been talking to some kind of angel. I never saw her again but I never forgot her magick or her story.
Click on image to see full-sized