A girl on Edge
...A series of bad choices has led Trisha to the FDR Bridge. She is out of options . No other choice, but to jump. Until a stranger comes along. What should she do next? Your votes will help her decide.
A girl on Edge
...A series of bad choices has led Trisha to the FDR Bridge. She is out of options . No other choice, but to jump. Until a stranger comes along. What should she do next? Your votes will help her decide.
“You can come and have dinner with me.”
“Dinner. Seriously!” Trisha was so stunned that all she could do was laugh. “Are you seriously asking me out? In the middle of my suicide attempt?”
After thinking about it, Jared realized it did sound a little creepy. He quickly clarified. “Not on a date. Just dinner. I’m new to this town so I don’t know the hot spots. And you could probably stand a good meal. A nice steak, some lobster, some good wine. A nice big hunk of cheese cake?”
“I hate cheesecake.”
“Chocolate cake then. Whatever. It’s on me. We eat, we drink. You don’t even have to talk to me. And if after all that you still feel the same way, well at least you can leave this earth on a full stomach.” He flashed a smile that Trisha could tell had probably opened a lot of doors for him—and a lot of hearts. She did not want to be charmed though. And she certainly didn’t want any chocolate cake.
“Jared. Listen. I appreciate you being so nice to me. But honestly, the last thing I need is someone to be nice to me. All I want is for you is to leave me alone. If your conscience won’t let you do that, then fine, I’ll leave. I can always—“
A pair of headlights seemed to appear out of nowhere. They were heading right for them. Maybe they’ll just keep on going, Trisha hoped. In this cold, self-absorbed society, that’s what people did nowadays anyway. No such luck. The car slowed down and Trisha could see the words written on the door: Carlton Police Department.
“This is not happening,” she mumbled. “This is really not happening.”
The squad car came to a complete stop. Trisha could imagine how this scene must have looked to anyone passing by. Jared and her, sprawled out on the bridge, in the middle of the night, panting hard, their clothes tousled from the struggle. How could she explain this one? She could tell the officer that Jared had attacked her. The Carlton strangler had struck again. That wouldn’t work. It would be a big news story and press from all around world would want to interview her about how she escaped the clutches of death. It was the last thing she needed--to have her face plastered on Dateline as a heroine…or worse, a stone cold liar. But she had to get her story out before Jared. If he told the police the truth, she would end up in a psych ward. Or even worse, she could end up on Dr. Phil, totally humiliated as he tried to help her figure how she became such screw up.
The window glided down and a baby faced officer peered down on them. “You folks all right?”
“Uh…Hi officer…um…”Trisha tried her best to sound breezy, like it was the most normal thing in the world to form a human pretzel with a strange man on a bridge in the middle of the night. She still hadn’t figured out what she could say that wouldn’t land her in a straitjacket. Luckily, Jared did.
“It’s my fault officer…” Jared’s eyes took a quick glance at the officer’s badge and read his name. “Pinsky! Officer Pinsky....My lady and I were sitting here enjoying the stars and…well I got caught in the moment. I mean, look at her. Can you blame me?” He reached over grabbed Trisha’s hand, holding it to his mouth and kissing it. Her hand tingled a little and she was too much in shock to protest. Her eyes remained on the boy officer wondering if he was buying any of this.
“Anyway,” Jared continued. "I started kissing her and I guess we sort of lost our balance and... here we are…” He gestured at their bodies stretched out on the bridge as if it were the natural conclusion to a passionate kiss.
There was no expression in the officer’s face. He shifted his eyes to Trisha. “Is this true ma’am?”
“Huh? Yes, we just can’t get enough of each other—“ Before she could finish getting the words out of her mouth, Jared’s lips were planted on her mouth. Reflexively she pushed him away—hard. “Jared! I’m sure the nice officer doesn’t want to watch us groping all over each other,” she said, coyly.
“You’re right, Sugar Lips. Uh…We haven’t broken any laws have we, officer?”
Officer Pinsky studied the scene a moment longer before responding. On one level, something about it didn’t seem right. But at the same time, his girlfriend sometimes reacted the same way when he kissed her, so he couldn’t say it was out of the ordinary. “Uh…No, but it’s probably not a good idea to lay out on the bridge like that any longer. It could be dangerous.”
“You’re absolutely right.” Jared said then sprang to his feet and gallantly helped Trisha to hers. “By the way, would you happen to know where we could get a good steak dinner?”
“I offer you steak and all you want is a burger? I think I should be offended by that.”
“Why? It all comes from the same cow.” Actually it was the best burger Trisha had ever tasted. Thick and juicy, smothered in onions and gooey cheddar cheese. It could have also been the fact that she had basically only eaten Ramen Noodles for the past thirty days. She could’ve eaten a shoe and it would’ve tasted like filet mignon. Thankfully, she wasn’t eating a shoe. She was eating real Angus beef. And to top it all off, she wasn’t even paying for it. So even though she arrived at the restaurant with no intentions of eating, her stomach had forced her to.
Jared did go for the fancy porterhouse steak, but he didn’t seem to be enjoying his nearly as much as Trisha enjoyed her burger. In fact he had only taken a couple of bites, while Trisha had nearly demolished hers.
“Something wrong with the steak?” she asked while shoveling fries into her face.
“Nope! Just too busy watching you destroy that burger. It’s quite a show.”
With no shame in her game, Trisha, sucked ketchup from her fingers. “Well, I’m glad I’m here to entertain you,” she said, then scooped more french fries into her mouth.
Jared couldn’t help but laugh. He had sat across the table from a lot of pretty girls in his life, but never one who had seemed so comfortable in her own skin as to chow down on her meal like a three hundred pound lineman. But was she comfortable in her own skin? Or was she so comfortable with the fact she was going to die that she didn’t give a damn anymore about what people thought of her? That thought made him admire and pity her all at once. The pity side won and his face turned somber.
“I want you to know this is not entertainment for me, Trish,” he said. “I’m here because I’m concerned not because I’m bored.” He could tell by the way she shifted in her seat that his concern was making her uncomfortable. Clearly she was not a person that people showed a lot of concern for.
“That’s nice Jared, but you really don’t have to be concerned about me.” You won’t really know me long enough to be concerned about me, she wanted to say.
“I know. But, I already am. And that might not be a bad thing for you. I mean, you’re right, I don’t know you. After tonight we may never see each other again. You could tell me all your deepest darkest secrets and who could I tell? So really I’m the perfect guy to talk to about what’s going on, because I can’t use it against you. And who knows? You might actually feel better.”
“I don’t want to feel better.” As if on cue, the waitress set down the banana daiquiri that Trisha ordered. It was her third. She knew the drink wouldn’t make her feel better, but it might make her feel numb.
“Okay, that’s a good place to start,” Jared said. “Why don’t you want to feel better? It’s un-American! We spend billions of dollars each year trying to feel better.”
“Well, I don’t have billions of dollars to spend. I don’t even have one dollar to spend.”
“So it’s about money.”
Trisha shook her head, “Trust me, it would be impossible to some up all of my problems with something as simple as money.”
“But money is part of it.”
She shrugged. “Money is part of it.”
“And if you had all of the money in the world, you would still want to jump off of that bridge?”
“No, I would probably pick some place more expensive, like the Golden Gate Bridge.”
The thought of the Golden Gate Bridge and a weekend escape to San Francisco, stirred up memories in Jared, painful memories. But this was not about him. “So assuming you had a million dollars and the Golden Gate Bridge was closed, what would you—“
“I don’t want to talk about me anymore.” Trisha said abruptly, too abruptly she realized—especially for the first person who had been kind to her in months. She leaned forward and the candle light made her tired eyes sparkle. She said coyly. “Besides, mama always said it’s rude for a girl to do all the talking on a date. So, tell me about you?”
Jared's eyes lit up in surprise. “Oh, so now it’s a date, huh?”
“It is whatever you want it to be, sugar.” Trisha eased her hand under the table and stroked his knee.
This was an act. Jared didn’t know Trisha very well, but he knew she was playing a role for him. Sex kitten. Not because she wanted to jump into bed with him—though he wouldn’t have objected—but she was trying to distract him. He was getting close to something. A nice hot meal always worked wonders in pulling down walls. He knew it. Trisha knew it, and she was desperately trying to keep her walls up. To save her from having to play this vixen role for him any longer, Jared decided to let Trisha off the hook, for now.
“All right. So what do want to know about me?”
“Uh…” Trisha had to think about it for a second. She was used to men responding to her advances. She must have looked more raggedy than she felt. “…uh…I know. Why were you walking out by the bridge tonight? No one walks around there after dark…unless they have a death wish. Everyone else around here’s too afraid. Too many ghost stories.”
“I don’t believe in ghosts.” Jared said, soberly, then took a sip of his beer. “And I’m not from around here, so…”
“Where are you from?”
He was being pretty vague for someone who wanted to know all of her business, Trisha thought. “Out west as in….California… China…”
“Nice. And what brings you out to our lovely little town?”
“Uh, Iet’s just say I was helping out a friend. On a business matter.”
“Yeah? What kind of business are you in?”
“Me? I guess you could say I’m in the listening business.”
“The listening business. You mean you’re a therapist?”
“Something like that.”
“Something like that,” she echoed. “You are such a hypocrite. How do you expect me to open up to you when you won’t tell me anything about you?”
“How am I a hypocrite?," Jared said through a grin. "I’ve answered all of your questions. Not my fault you ask really bad questions."
“Oh, you want a good question. Okay, okay, I’ll think of a good question.” Trisha took a sip from her syrupy sweet daiquiri and contemplated their brief time together. What had she learned about him? What did she want to know? Then it hit her. “What was her name?”
“The girl. The one who had you wandering through the woods in the middle of the night.”
He cocked his head. “What makes you think it was—“
“It’s obvious. You go for a walk at night. That means you’ve got a lot on your mind. Either it’s a money problem or a woman problem. The way you’ve been throwing around money over dinner, I don’t think you’re having a money problem. Sooo….what’s her name?”
Jared slid back in his seat, debating how much of himself he wanted to reveal. Finally, he tossed out a name, “Janet.”
“A fake name, but I’ll work with it,” Trisha said.
“What makes you think it’s a fake?”
“I don’t know. You just don’t seem like the kind of guy that would be mixed up with a girl name Janet.”
“Why? What’s wrong with Janet?”
“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong with Janet. I’m sure she is a perfectly lovely girl. Just not a girl you would be involved with. And certainly not a girl that would have you so worked up that you’d be out walking in the woods at night.”
Jared shook his head and laughed. “I’m sorry, and just what kind of girl would I be involved with?”
“Vulnerable. In need of saving. Janet is a good girl, straight-laced, too boring to get herself in any real trouble, so she wouldn’t even make it on to your radar.”
“Unlike you,” Jared said, while nodding along.
“Unlike me.” Trisha answered, realizing the truth of what she had just said. “But whatever, we can play it your way. It’s just a name. So, what did Janet do that had you wandering in the woods tonight?”
“She uh…she didn’t do anything.”
“Well, what did you do to her?”
“Me?” Deep in thought now, Jared had been asking himself that question for that past week. He still didn’t have an answer. “I…didn’t do anything either. It was just a series of unfortunate events.”
“Unfortunate events that you couldn’t save her from?”
He didn’t answer her. Trisha waited a little longer, watching him stare into his beer like it held all the answers. “Hey! You okay?” She waived a hand in front of his face and he snapped out of it.
“Huh?” Jared sat straight up in his seat, looking like he just woke up from a nightmare. “Hey do you want dessert?”
“Do I want—no I don’t want dessert! I want to hear about Janet and the series of unfortunate events!”
“What? Oh…It’s nothing. I mean, nothing to bore you with.”
“I’ll be the judge of that, thank you!”
“Trust me. It’s nothing.” He drained the remnants of his beer from the still frosty mug. That was it. The vault was closed. He wasn’t giving up anymore juicy tidbits about himself to this girl.
“Okay, well don’t expect me to be an open book when your library is closed.”
“Oh, no worries. I’ve read your book from cover to cover. I already know what’s been bugging you.” Jared stared at her with a smug smirk on his face.
Trisha stared back. “You think so, huh?”
“I know so. “
She raised an eyebrow. “Well you sound pretty confident.”
“I’m always confident. Besides, you already told me everything I need to know.”
“Sure…” Jared took a second to dab the corner of his mouth with his napkin before proving his case. “On the bridge. You said the things that would make life better were: A million dollars, a brother who doesn’t despise you. And just for fun, to live on an island paradise with the man of your dreams,” He parroted Trisha's statement almost word for word. “That tells me that your family, financial and love life are all in the crapper. Am I right?”
He was. But Trisha was never going to give him that satisfaction. She was actually a little offended that this total stranger thought he could just show up, buy her a burger, and be able to sum up her nightmare life in ten words or less. Your family, financial and love life are all in the crapper. Regardless of the fact that she had just blatantly come on to him and he straight up ignored it, he was going to have to work a lot harder than that to get beyond her emotional walls.
One hour and two more sugary, rum filled drinks later, Trisha’s emotional walls had come crumbling down in a wave of slurred speech and sloppy tears. “I don’t know what they expect from me,” she whined. “I mean, is the recession my fault too?”
“Isn’t the recession over?” Jared asked.
“Yeah, that’s why my work dried up.”
“What kind of work?
“Ah!” He nodded.
Trisha rambled on. “Can you believe, Finance Guard, the same people who fired me, are the main ones calling me to pay my bills! I mean, really??”
“Talk about irony.”
“Yeah, ironic, huh?” Trisha, let out a light chuckle that was mixed with a burp. “Excuse me. Anyway, I’ve been trying to pay my bills, but I can’t do that if I don't have a job. I mean, it’s true what they say, you can’t get water from a stone, right?”
Trisha squinted at him, through the haze in her mind. “Huh?”
“Blood. You said water from a stone, but it’s blood,” Jared had no idea why he was being a stickler right now, but he couldn’t just leave it out there. “You can’t get blood from a stone.”
“What the hell difference doesn’t make? It’s the same thing. You can’t get water from a stone either, right?”
“Right…Well, I guess Moses was able to get water from the stone.” He could tell by the blank look on Trisha’s flushed face that the Moses thing went right over her head. He explained, “You know, from the Bible. Moses struck the rock and water poured out for the children of Israel to drink.”
She was still staring blankly at him. Then she said, “So what, you’re a pastor now, on top of being a therapist?”
“Sorry, I was just—“
“Whatever, dude! All I’m saying is. The money’s all gone.” Car’s gone. Cable’s gone. And after tomorrow, my apartment’s gone. I was evicted, so…”
“I know it looks bad right now, Trish, but there’s got to be another option. Can’t you crash on somebody’s couch for a few months until you find work? What about your parents?”
“I was on my way to go see them until you stopped me.”
Jared paused. He had to think that one over. Finally,it hit him. “Oh! You mean they’re…”
“Dead. Yup, it’s just me and my big bro now.” Trisha let out another tiny burp. “Ha! And he wants nothing to do with me. That goes for my friends too. They bailed on me years ago.”
“All of them?”
Trisha nodded. “Don’t ever become an addict, J.”
“Jared.” He hated being call J.
“Sorry. Don’t ever become an addict, Jared. It’s rough on friendships.”
“You’re an addict?” He looked around the table that was littered with empty glasses that had once been filled with booze. "Maybe we shouldn't be..."
“Don’t worry. It was pills. I was a pill head. For about a year. I’ve been clean for five years now.” She said, proudly.
“Thanks. But when I was bad, I was really bad. I burned a lot of bridges.” Her head flopped on to the table and the glasses on the table clanked. The old couple across the aisle looked concerned. From beneath the mop of hair that shrouded Trisha's face, Jared heard a whimpering sound. He thought she was crying, but when Trisha lifted her head, he realized she was snickering.
“What’s so funny?”
“Talk about irony!” Trisha was laughing near hysterically now. “I burned a lot of bridges and now I tried to jump off a bridge…” She let out a long deep sigh. “Man, life sometimes can really be…pathetic.”
To Jared’s relief, the waitress sauntered up to the table. “Can I get you folks another--”
“Water.” Jared said. “We’ll have some water.”
“And chocolate cake,” Trisha added.
“To go.” Jared interjected. “We’ll have the chocolate cake to go, please?”
Trisha looked in his eyes and saw a familiar look. Jared was ready to bail. She couldn’t blame him. Lately, she had that effect on a lot of people. “Oh, I’m sorry. I went too far, didn’t I?”
“No, it’s just—“
“And you were being so nice. I’m sorry, Jared. I swear, I wasn’t always this flakey.”
“Don’t apologize. You’re under a lot of pressure. I get it.”
“But it’s no excuse to act like a total lush.”
“Look, there’s no rule book for how to handle a crisis. Hey, maybe we should write one. Then we’d both be rich, right?”
She smiled at his lame attempt at cheering her up. “Aww! You are so sweet, trying to make me not feel like complete loser. I wish you had known me six years ago. Before the…well, before. I was fun. Had lots of friends. Artsy! I used to be artsy. I would paint, do pottery, make jewelry…”
“You can get it back again, Trish. As long as you’re alive, there’s always a chance things will get better.”
“Or worse! I tried to make it better. I paid back the friends that I stole from. None of them will speak to me. I volunteered to teach delinquent girls how to paint at the rec center. One of the girls mugged me! I’ve sent my brother and his kids Christmas and birthday presents every year for the past four years and they come back every time, unopened. When I was using, I had more friends, more attention than I could handle. Since I’ve been walking the straight and narrow, I’m a ghost. Completely invisible. I don’t exist to anyone anymore.” There was a tear in Trisha’s eye but and voice turned bitter. “Not anymore. I won’t be invisible when they fish my bloated corpse out of the river. That’ll get their attention.”
She dug into the front pocked of her jeans and pulled out a Ziploc baggie. “I left them a note, ya know?” She flipped the baggie across the table and it landed in front of Jared. He picked it up. A torn piece of loose leaf paper. She had tucked it in the baggie, apparently to keep it from getting wet when she went in the river. In big beautiful script the message was loud and clear: You did this to me! The simple message ate at him. It was her eulogy, her obituary. He could even see it chiseled on her headstone. The middle finger that Trisha intended to fire in the direction of the cold, cruel world that had turned its back on her.
Trisha knew the note would affect him. If Jared was halfway out the door, this note would chase the rest of him out of there. He thought of himself as superman, but that note would be his kryptonite. It was her truth. The reality that everyone couldn’t be saved. Everyone didn’t have a happy ending waiting for them on the other side of the rainbow. And as nice as it was to play around in his fantasy land for the past couple of hours, it was time for Trisha to get back to reality. There was a bridge out there calling her name. She just needed Jared to plop some money down on the table to cover the check and excuse himself. He had done his good deed for today. More than anyone had done for her in a long time. Not because he fed her, but because, for two hours, he actually cared about her. It was time to let him off the hook. Trisha had shown him that note because she intended it to be his get-away-from-this-lunatic-free pass.
But when the waitress returned, with the two hunks of chocolate cake in plastic containers, Jared smiled and said, “Uh, we changed our minds. We’re gonna have the cake here…and some coffee. Lots of coffee.”
The red Prius pulled up in front of the yellow Victorian with the white trim on Lavender Lane. It was in the middle of a quiet tree-lined street, illuminated by a single street lamp at the end of the block. Quaint. Just like every neighborhood in Carlton. No noise. Just the rustle of the wind and the occasional dog barking.
“This is where you live? Jared asked, looking up at the lofty three-story structure.
“On the third floor. Mr. Banks rents only artist-types. Since we’re the only ones who appreciate beauty of Queen Manor.”
“That’s what he named the house. You know, after Queen Victoria…since it’s a Victorian and all.”
“Gotcha.” Jared tore his eyes away from the house and looked at Trisha. Her eyes were half opened slits, as she leaned her head against the headrest. Maybe it was the liquor, or the fact that her stomach was full, or the cool jazz that was blowing through the stereo, but she seemed at peace. For the first time tonight, Jared had caught a glimpse of what the other Trisha must have been like. The one from six years ago. Calm, quiet, with tiny smile bending her lips. He wanted to kiss those lips. There was a time when he would have already kissed those lips and probably done more. But right now, he was content with watching her be content.
“Thank you,” she said, sleepily.
“I should be thanking you.”
Trisha let out a weary chuckle. “Thanking me for what? Not throwing up in your car.”
“What do I care? It’s a rental. No, I meant, thank you for having dinner with me. It’s been a while since I’ve had dinner with a beautiful woman.”
“You mean a crazy woman.” Trisha opened her eyes wider and studied Jared’s face. His eyes were tired. She could tell he had taken on much more than he had bargained for when he decided to go for that walk tonight. “Why did you stay?”
Jared felt her hand rest on his arm. “Huh?”
“The waitress brought dessert. You were ready to go. I wanted you to go, but you decided to stay. Why?” The sensation of her fingers brushing against his skin made him feel warm.
He thought it over and said. “I guess, because it would have been too easy. I never like things too easy.”
Trisha closed her eyes and nodded. “Yeah, that sounds about right.” Her voice purred, as she laced her fingers between Jared’s fingers. She toyed with the idea of giving him her phone number. Then she remembered her cell phone service had been shut off—which brought back a waive of other bad memories, like the broken air conditioner. It was swelteringly hot on the third floor this time of year. She had also remembered that the cable that had been disconnected, the empty fridge and oh yeah…the fact that she hadn’t shaved her legs or had a pedicure in at least six months, so a one night stand was absolutely out of the question. It figures. She finally meets superman and she was too broke to be a halfway decent Lois Lane. ©2016