By Johannes Adriaan Snyman
“Seriously? How do you figure him to save the day? He is suicidal himself!”
It was Greta speaking in her neat constable outfit sitting in the back of the police vehicle, moving with heartrending speed to the Van Wyk Bridge, which is known for its many suicides every year. Sitting in front were a newly transferred constable who found himself at the steering wheel, and Police Captain Brink, who just, over the phone, asked an old friend of his to help out with the scenario they were called out to.
“Believe you me,” Captain Combrink said, “we take this personally. As police officers we are emotionally involved. Anton doesn’t give a damn. He would be able to establish trust much sooner than you would, my dear.”
“Captain!” Greta retorted. “Don’t you ‘my dear’ me! The information we have is that this guy is an artist who according to the neighbors, happens to be very in touch with his feminine side!”
“And you point is?” Captain Combrink said calmly without showing any emotion.
“He will take one look at Anton and decide to jump of that bridge!”
“And you know that how, Greta?”
“Because I myself take one look at Anton and I want to put a bullet through my skull!”
Captain Combrink suppressed a smile when he said: “Yes, have we not heard that one before. You say that about half the men in our department!”
“It’s not funny Captain, I don’t think Anton should be allowed on the scene.”
Captain Combrink kept silent for a moment.
“Greta,” he said keeping his eyes in front of him. “Just trust me on this one. Anton will do a fine job. He may not be in the force, but he knows how to go about people, and above all, he has got nothing to lose. Remember, we have consequences if this thing goes South on us.”
“I hope for your sake so Captain, I hope for your sake so,” Greta said shaking her head.
It is standard practice not to use the noisy and alarming police sirens in such cases, as it might provoke further tension concerning the particular matter at hand, and thus the vehicle, with one other police car came to a halt not far from where a man was standing on the bridge, on the other side of the railing, holding on to a metal frame, with a three storey drop to the river embankment below him.
Apart from Captain Combrink who tried to establish a connection with the poor man, all people and police personnel kept a decent distance, obeying his every demand but kept their gaze steadfastly on him. Some members of the public had their cameras video recording the man, yet as a fortunate matter, he was in such a state that he didn’t notice the attention of the crowd, which rapidly grew during the half hour prior to his ill-fated position.
In less than ten minutes after Captain Combrink’s arrival with his team, Anton, with his old 1978 Yellow Datsun, came to a halt only a couple of paces behind the two police vehicles.
In the most casual manner ever, he threw his half eaten sandwich on the passenger seat, hopped out of the car and without saying a word, whooshed past the Police officers, straight to the man clinging to the edge of the bridge.
“Keep your distance!” the man shouted at Anton, but Anton kept walking right at him.
“I’ll let go! I swear I’ll jump!!” The man shouted all the more panic stricken.
Anton resolutely kept closing in, and when he was about five meters away from the man, he could hear the man crying, saying with a broken voice, “Don’t please, don’t… just leave me alone…”
Anton came to a standstill slightly to right of the man, then climbed with his feet over the barrier, resulting him to sit on top, with his feet hanging down on the other side. He had an overwhelming calm and quietness about him and to the surprise of both the public and the police, neither the man, nor Anton said a word. Anton seemed quite at his leisure sitting on the ledge, and the man just stood there, still having a firm grip which was the only vice keeping him from a fatal connection with the ground below.
“I’m finished…” the man said after a while in a course voice while he looked down.
“I know,” Anton said very softly, with so much empathy in his voice that the man didn’t feel like arguing.
Tears started running down the man’s face, and his upper body started to shake as he was crying, where upon Anton placed his left hand on the man’s right shoulder.
“Come over, climb over… let me help you,” Anton said calmly, very respectfully, while the man submitted and let Anton help him over the barrier, back to safety.
The moment his feet touched the concrete, his knees started shaking as his legs gave in under him, and he collapsed right there on the cement sidewalk. Anton sat down with him, and held him in his arms, softly and with much calm, repeating over and over again, “It’s all right, and it’s all right.”
The police came running closer as to officially secure the situation, but Anton viciously waved his left hand to them, showing them to not come close and to rather let them be. After looking back to Captain Combrink for confirmation, they reluctantly obeyed him, and Anton and the man sat on the cold cement of the bridge there, for a good twenty minutes or so, not speaking a word.
“Why is life like this?” The man asked Anton after a while.
“I don’t know man, I don’t know…”
“Why did you come? Who are you? Why weren’t you afraid?” The man asked with the marks of dry tears on his face.
“This was me a week ago,” Anton said. “Only I didn’t think of using a bridge, I had the privilege of a loaded pistol, two bullets and the privacy of my own apartment.”
“And?” the man asked raising his eyebrows.
“I don’t know,” Anton continued. “I guess God still wants me alive. Someone came and, without words, convinced me to give it another go… to get up and give life one more try.”
Anton shrugged his shoulders, narrowed his eyes and gave a faint smile when he said; “And here I met you today!”