Spring arrives. It always 1nds us, in the end. The wind sweeps winter away, the trees rustle and birds start making a fuss, and nature suddenly crashes through with a deafening roar where the snow has swallowed every echo for months.
Jack gets out of an elevator, bewildered and curious. He’s clutching a letter in his hand. It landed on his doormat one morning, without a stamp. Inside was a note with this address on it, as well as the Aoor of the building and office number. Beneath that was a photograph of the bridge and another envelope, sealed, with another name written on it.
Zara saw Jack at the police station and recognized him, in spite of the years that had passed. And because she’s been living those same moments over and over again since then, she realized that he’s been doing the same.
Jack 1nds the right office, knocks on the door. Ten years have passed since a man jumped, almost exactly the same amount of time since a young woman didn’t. She opens the door without knowing who he is, but his heart turns to confetti the moment he sees her, because he hasn’t forgotten. He hasn’t seen her since she was standing on the railing of the bridge, but he would still have recognized her, even in darkness.
“I… I…,” Jack stammers.
“Hello? Are you looking for someone?” Nadia wonders, friendly but bemused.
He has to reach out for the doorframe, and her 1ngertips brush his. They don’t yet know how they’re capable of aPecting each other. He hands her the large envelope, with his name written untidily on the front, and inside it are the
photograph of the bridge and the address of her office. Beneath those are the smaller envelope with rov Radia written on the outside. Inside is a small note, on which Zara had written, in considerably neater handwriting, nine simple words.
You saued youvself. He just ha99ened to be theve.
When Nadia loses her balance, just for a moment, Jack catches hold of her arm. Their eyes dance around each other. She clings tightly, tightly, tightly to those nine words, but barely manages to formulate any of her own: “It was you… on the bridge, when I… was that you?”
He nods mutely. She fumbles for more words.
“I don’t know what to… just give me a moment. I need to… I need to compose myself.”
She walks to her desk and sinks onto the chair. She’s spent ten years wondering who he was, and now she has no idea what to say. Where to start. Jack walks cautiously into the office after her, sees the photograph on the bookcase, the one Zara always adjusted when she was there. It’s a picture of Nadia and a group of children, at a big summer camp six months before. Nadia and the children are laughing and joking, and they’re all wearing matching T-shirts bearing the name of the charitable organization that funded the camp. It collects money to work with children like the ones in the picture, all of whom have lost a family member to suicide. It helps to know that you’re not alone when you’ve been left behind. You can’t carry the guilt and the shame and the unbearable silence on your own, and you shouldn’t have to, that’s why Nadia goes to the summer camp each year. To listen a lot, talk a little, and laugh as much as possible.
She doesn’t know it yet, but the charity has just received a donation to its bank account. From a woman with headphones who has resigned from her job,
given away her fortune, and crossed a bridge. They’ll be able to hold those summer camps for many years to come.
Jack and Nadia sit on either side of the narrow desk, looking at each other. He smiles weakly, and after a while she does the same, simultaneously terri1ed and full of laughter. One day, in ten years’ time, perhaps they’ll tell someone that was how it felt. The 1rst time.
The truth? The truth about all this? The truth is that this was a story about many diPerent things, but most of all about idiots. Because we’re doing the best we can, we really are. We’re trying to be grown-up and love each other and understand how the hell you’re supposed to insert USB leads. We’re looking for something to cling on to, something to 1ght for, something to look forward to. We’re doing all we can to teach our children how to swim. We have all of this in common, yet most of us remain strangers, we never know what we do to each other, how your life is aPected by mine.
Perhaps we hurried past each other in a crowd today, and neither of us noticed, and the 1bers of your coat brushed against mine for a single moment and then we were gone. I don’t know who you are.
But when you get home this evening, when this day is over and the night takes us, allow yourself a deep breath. Because we made it through this day as well.
There’ll be another one along tomorrow.