Monday, October 10, 2005

Something Good - Jumping Off The Train Bridge

By Bob Paul

That is my first thought of each day. And each day something good does happen. Sixteen hours of the day can go poorly and then in one brief moment something good happens. That one good moment makes the whole struggle worth it.

I wrote a short story “Suddenly Quiet” based on best friends of mine that have died. The story is about Brian and Irene. They meet in the middle of a train bridge high above the Ottawa River. I jumped off that bridge many years ago. Brian persuaded me to jump, which I recorded in the book “Sandcastle Memories.” It has been fictionalized but I can’t decipher between fiction and fact anymore. I write in third person and assume the role of David.

Brian had made him laugh and had pushed David to his very limits of perception.
They had walked along the railway bridge that crossed the Ottawa River. David, a stickler for rules, had protested that they were trespassing on railway property. Every time he mentioned it, Brian would roar with laughter.

“David, outside of my job, I just have one rule, and that rule is passion and compassion.”

“Meaning what?”

“Meaning, look out there. See this?” Brian pointed out from the bridge.” This is where we are.”

David looked in the direction Brian was pointing.

“Do you see it?” Brian asked.

“See, what?”

“Christ almighty, David. You are so fucking desperate for solitude. Have you ever in your life ever opened yourself up to anyone or anything?”

David felt his anger rise, but he quickly subdued it, not allowing his friend to get under his skin. Staring blankly out over the river he had no idea what Brian wanted..

“Aw, man! Would you at least do this for me? Close your eyes. What do you feel?” Brian asked.

David closed his eyes. “I feel the breeze on my face and hands.”

“Good, we have established that you do feel. Now open your eyes and describe what you see.”

“The Ottawa River,” David said.

“Is that all?

“Sure.” David shrugged his shoulders.

“You know what I see out there? Images of something real, true, ecstatic, blissful, revealing, wondrous, magical, and divine. Water stretching for miles. Gulls hanging on puffs of air. And do you know what else?”

David shrugged again.

“I see the face of God!” With that statement, Brian walked away.

So Brian yeah, my buddy and my best friend died in a sailing accident near Kingston Ontario in 1991.


Marianne said...

Well, it looks like we still have some bugs to work out... but hey, we'll do it. I filled out a form as a "different user" to get my name to appear as the writer, and to be able to post. Could another "Dove Taler" who reads this try to post and see if it works for them?

As for Brian, I too loved him, and soon I'll write my impressions for Dove Talers and others to read so that they can know him through another's eyes. He has made a huge impression on your writing and your psyche, Bob. Brian appears in various incarnations in your work. But you know, he also appeared in one of my novels, so I guess we keep him alive in some small way...

Leslie said...

I am trying to post a comment too, to see what happens.

Leslie said...

Yesterday I visited my husband's aunt in a nursing home. She has dementia and Parkinson's. Barriers to communication were everywhere. Her hearing aid had a dead battery. Her mental capacity is seriously diminished so she can't think straight. She wanted to talk but then she could not remember what she wanted to say. I found a note pad and we wrote "WE LOVE YOU" on it. She smiled, her face lighting up with that winning smile of hers. Then she struggled with another thought she could not complete, then she cried. We ended up just hugging her and holding her hand and crying together. All except Bob's father who can't cry because it isn't manly. I wonder who was in more pain, her or him?

Life, love, loss, falling yellow and red leaves, cherishing moments of Thanksgiving.

Marianne said...

Brian was cute - he had a cute butt, cute grin. A swimmer's body. He loved all things water, all things sky. He sailed, swam, parachuted, had an adventurer's heart.

We were all swimmers in those days, working as lifeguards, living and breathing our work. It was also our play, and we all hung out together. Brian could be frightening at times, mainly because he didn't think and act like most people. Nothing about him was ordinary. He said what he thought, and his thoughts were so wild and bizarre and (gentle at times) that they could throw you for a "loop". They pushed you.

I remember driving in Brian's van out to Winnipeg for a lifesaving convention - a bunch of us went. Brian introduced us to Harry Chapin and the song "All my life's a circle, sunrise and sundown, the moon rolls through the night time, till the day break comes around..." It became our anthem. That song makes me think of Brian. Somehow, thinking of Brian's life and death as a "circle", seems right too. He was so fluid. No corners, no rough edges.

Long ago, when I published my first short story in a literary magazine, The New Quarterly, part of my "payment" was that I could send out two complimentary copies to whomever I liked. I don't remember who I sent one of those copies too. I do remember that I sent the other to Brian, even though we lived in different cities, and we hadn't seen each other for some years. He was a poet.

When Brian's wife phoned early one Sunday morning to say he had died, I was absolutely devastated. I also mourned deeply for his young wife and her loss. They had been married for only a year or so, and at the time, she was pregnant with his children - twin girls. Brian's death seemed so wrong, the timing so wrong - he would have wanted to know his children, to have been there for them.

My favourite way to think of Brian is "freefalling" - he told me about it with such animation and intensity. Not opening your parachute right away, but body sailing, how you could control your direction and descent by your body position as you fell through the sky. I see him that way now...

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, I really like the look of thisyer blog. It is defnitly scribish.

Marianne said...

Leslie, Happy Birthday to you! May you write much in the upcoming year to great acclaim!

Larry Keiler said...

Larry says hey, you gotta fix that time code.

Anonymous said...

Is that all ya gotta say, Larry Keiler? I've never known you to be so quiet!