The moment the cop places his gun on the asphalt and holds out his hands, I know how this will end.
It’s eight thirty: rush hour. His squad car is parked behind my pickup on the other side of the bridge, both engines ping-pinging as they cool in the morning air. He takes a couple of steps towards me—slow, bent-legged, and I have to stop myself from laughing. Poor guy, he looks so silly creeping across the road like a cartoon villain. You’re okay, fella, he tells me. Everything’s all right. Soothes me as if I were a skittish horse. There’s really no need; I’m calm now.
On either side of us, the traffic on the bridge has stopped at a respectable distance, close enough for people to watch, but not so close that they’re part of the action. They climb out of their cars, rest flabby arms on opened doors, and glance at their wrists. I guess they’ve seen it all before: the desperate man perched on the railing like a modern-day gargoyle; the rookie cop edging towards him, talking, talking. I lift my baby daughter from the folds of my coat and am rewarded with a scream from one of the watchers. Now, it’s real.
The cop freezes, mid-creep, and reaches for the radio on his duty-belt.
“Take it easy,” he says.
I nestle my wife’s killer into the crook of my arm and take it easy. Behind me, vacuum tugs at my clothes, begging for matter, and I shift my position on the railing to another cry from the crowd.
Everything was planned so carefully—from the toys in the nursery to her place of education—we painted her future with the greatest care. And as the fierce brush strokes of our youth succumbed to an older, wiser hand, she was to become our masterpiece. But then, as my wife would say, art isn’t made for the artist.
I hold my baby out at arm’s length and the cop snatches her from me. “She has to paint,” I say, and flip over the rail like a scuba diver. I see sun and water, sun and water.