It was nearly morning. The sky was still dark, darker than it had been the night before, or the night before that, or any of the nights that he had stood on this bridge. The sky is darkest before the dawn, of course, but Alexander Hart didn’t think his dawn was coming.
Here he was, again, on this bridge, and here he was, again, trying to think of a single reason why he shouldn’t step forward and let himself fall. He felt nothing—and nothing could ever fill that void inside him. Every post he saw said differently, every movie he watched, every book he read, but every person who knew him said that the void was unfillable. He didn’t want to keep pouring water into a pitcher riddled with holes, to keep filling a pit that could never be full. He could never be full.
It was nearly morning, but the stars were still out, taking advantage of their last moments in the sky, painting it in their dim and swirling light. Alexander often wondered how a city this big could have so many stars.
They beckoned to him, telling him to join them, telling him to fly. He could fly, if only he stepped off this roof, couldn’t he? He could be with them. Maybe they’d even welcome him. But the lives he’d taken, the lives he’d taken—they were there too, weren’t they? There would be no welcome for him, but maybe there would be peace.
Asher, Alexander’s ward-of-sorts, was still horrified by Alexander’s attempts on his own life. It was funny, almost, if it didn’t hurt so damn bad. He didn’t want to hurt him, he really didn’t, but he couldn’t take it anymore.
He’d tried, again and again. Drowning, poisoning, a gun to the head. Why didn’t they ever work? Why did this one feel different?
Why did this one feel different?
Alexander heard a voice from behind him, and he started, falling forward. His heart leapt in his throat, and he couldn’t tell if it was from excitement or pure and utter terror. He wasn’t scared of dying; he wasn’t. Why was he scared?
He might have kept falling, if a hand hadn’t caught him just in time. “What the hell, Alex?!” the voice came again.
Youthful, scribbled messily in naiveté, strange white hair almost gray in the starlight. Asher.
Turning to face the boy, Alexander caught his breath and watched Asher adjust to his current situation: that is, process the fact that Alexander stood on the side of a bridge, on top of the barrier, lax and slumping with an ease that spoke of routine.
“What are you doing? Why are you up here?”
Alexander shrugged. “It’s calm. I like the view.”
“Alex.” Asher met his gaze with a dare and a pool of sadness in his eyes.
Alexander merely turned to look to the east, where the sun was still comfortably settled below the horizon. He swung his legs out from under him and sat. Asher climbed the barrier and sat beside him.
“I thought you were joking, you know.”
His shoulders slumped. “Yeah. I thought there was no way how someone who genuinely wanted to die could fail that many times.”
A pause, followed by Alexander’s quiet, “I guess I’m just unlucky.”
Asher took a weighty breath and looked over the horizon and at the stars growing ever dimmer before it. He nudged Alexander's foot lightly with his own, and another silence stretched over them.
Why did he care? Alexander didn’t understand. He brought good into the world, or tried, but it didn’t matter to him. It shouldn’t have mattered to Asher either. “...do you think it will get better?”
Asher looked at him in surprise. “What?”
“Just… everything. Everything is nothing to me.” Alexander took a breath. “I mean, look around us. It’s beautiful, right? Really beautiful. But I can’t appreciate it, because some void inside me decided I can’t feel.”
“I think it will. Get better,” Asher said.
“I mean, nothing is set in stone, right?”
Alexander snorted meanly.
“I mean it! Life is fluid. It changes. Maybe someday you’ll feel, and maybe someday you won’t.”
He knew it was cruel to put all of this on Asher, but he couldn't find it in himself to stop asking. He needed to hear it from the one person he thought might, just might give him a good answer. “What’s the point if I can’t?”
“You’ve got logic. At least you can look at yourself and know, with that impeccable logic, that you have it good. You have people who care about you and a job where you help people. So many people. ”
Alexander hummed a question.
Asher sighed. “Yeah, you hurt people before, but you’re making up for it now. You’re paying back the debt you put into the world, and by now, I think, it’s paid. You put good into the world, and if you can’t feel it yourself, you can at least know that others are better off for you being alive, right?”
Silences kept coming and going, ebbing and flowing. This one was loud, and it crashed and buzzed in Alexander’s ears like the river flowing beneath the bridge and beneath his and Asher’s feet. The same river he’d floated down so many times, hoping beyond hope that his lungs would collapse. Is that truly what he wanted? If he’d wanted to die, fully, completely, one would think he would be dead by now.
As if reading his train of thought, Asher asked, “Is death really what you want?”
“I don’t know.”
The boy hummed. “Do you think you, um…”
“I what?” Alexander turned to look at Asher again, taking in his deathly white hair and gentle eyes. His soul was a tiger, asleep. His soul was a desperate search for peace. His soul was Alexander’s in a sloppily painted frame.
“I mean. I think it’s a need for something else, and death seems like the solution to you.” Asher spoke slowly, hesitantly, intentionally. “I, um… I thought of doing it myself, a while ago. Killing myself. Everything seemed so hopeless, and I wanted things to be different, and death was the easiest and most assured way that they would be. But I kept on, for some reason or another, and you found me, and you saved me.” He paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts. “I think death is appealing if you don’t like the way things are, but—it’s also definite. Once you’re dead, you’re dead. When you’re still alive, there’s possibility.” Here, he turned to gaze into Alexander’s eyes. “I think you want that possibility.”
Alexander looked away first. The stars sizzled out and came together to form the sun’s first rays, peeking over the horizon. Together they sat and watched the sunrise, a strange boy with strange white hair and a broken man who hoped he could feel, and Alexander said, “I think I do.”