I’m sitting on the edge of the bridge looking at the cold, fast-moving water. I used to come here to think because it’s a quiet spot, without much traffic at night.
I didn’t come here to think tonight and it’s not quiet.
There’s the sound of radios crackling, voices breaking the stillness I enjoy so much. Instead of the dark there are harsh lights illuminating the area. Red and blue, and bright white ones, pointed at me.
“I didn’t want this,” I think to myself, “I just wanted some quiet before…” There’s no need for me to complete the thought. I know exactly why I came out here tonight. I know why my Toyota Corolla is parked on the pull off. It wasn’t hesitation that kept me from pulling the trigger on my Glock and letting myself fall forward. It was contemplation; the thought of what would come next. Oblivion? Hell? Rebirth?
The thought of oblivion doesn’t bother me. Let my soul, if such a thing exists, be cast into the void, never to think or feel again.
Hell? I laugh bitterly. I’ve lived in it for 45 years. Send me there and I’ll go, laughing all the while, I scream in my head to a God I stopped believing in years ago. The police officers around me shift at the sound of my laughter and I have to look at them to get them to back off again. It’s getting a little harder to focus my eyes because of all the Klonopin I took as I sat on the edge, washed down with a nice bottle of wine.
I’m a nurse and I know how to die. Overdose, wait for the lethargy to get overwhelming then shoot myself in the chest, tearing the ascending aorta, and then a fall forward and everything ends.
Rebirth? So many people believe in reincarnation. Do I? I don’t know. I hope for it; another life where maybe I can be born in the fucking body I should have been born in and not this one – hairy, ugly, bulky. I thought transition could change that and it did, to an extent, but the money for hormones, for electrolysis, was gone and the chances of me having surgery were so slim as to be non-existent.
I got sick. The fatigue, the pain, were constant and I suddenly had hundreds of dollars a month more in medical bills and transition came to a screeching stop. Too many days missed at work, sick leave and annual leave burned through leaving me taking days off without pay. I suddenly found myself confronted with the thought that the career I had dedicated so long to was no longer possible for me.
So here I was, trapped in this in-between state. Too feminine to be male and too masculine to be female. The looks, the whispers, the sly smiles from people at work, strangers in stores. I saw and heard them all.
I didn’t want to hear them anymore and so I came here, with purpose and intent and then I started thinking, even when it was the last thing I wanted to do this night. Thinking was always my weakness. I would think things over and over, worrying at them until the edges were worn and frayed. How many missed opportunities, how many years wasted because I was thinking? How many years wasted on burning self-hatred and the abyss of unbearable depression?
I could sing, a legacy from my father who had made a living off of his wonderful voice but I had quit voice lessons. I could draw and paint but I quit art classes. So many things I had started and then quit when depression robbed me of one pleasure after another.
Tonight would be the last thing I would be completely successful at.
My therapist is here. She an Episcopalian minister and works for the Anchorage Police as part of their pastoral department which I didn’t know. She’s trying to talk me down.
“Heather, come down so we can talk, please.” She’s been my therapist for over a year. She wrote the letter that allowed me to start hormones. “You know this isn’t the way. You’re stronger than this.”
I’m not and I tell her that.
“No Elaine, I’m not. I’ve played at it for so long but I can’t keep it up.” My strength is gone.
Out of the corner of my eye I see a police officer moving up to try and grab me and pull me off the bridge, I point the Glock at my chest and apply the tiniest bit of pressure to the trigger. He backs off.
I’m feeling the effects of the benzodiazapines I took. The grogginess is getting worse. It’d hard to OD on them unless you mix them with alcohol and the empty bottle next to me speaks to my intent. The time is getting closer. They won’t be able to stop me from pulling the trigger. They may keep me from going over the bridge but the overdose and gunshot will do what I want. I’ll be dead seconds after they pull me down or I fall.
“Think of your mother, Heather. I met her, you remember, don’t you?” I do remember. I remember how much fun we had together, joking back and forth. We’ve always had fun together but she’s so far away. I’m so alone here, dealing with illness and depression and gender issues.
“This will destroy her, Heather. Please don’t do this to her.” My mother, my brother, and to a smaller extent my father and my few close friends were all that kept me alive for so long but it’s not enough now. I don’t want to hurt them but I can’t continue like this.
I nod once but not in agreement. It’s the medication. My eyes aren’t focusing now and I know it’s time.
“Thank you for all you’ve done for me, Elaine.” My words are slurring now. “Sometimes it’s just not enough.”
I’m tightening the pressure on the gun pointed at my chest when a new voice breaks the silence.
“Hi Heather. I’m Sheila. Do you mind if I sit with you?” I look over at the speaker, easing the pressure off the trigger. I estimate I was half a pound away from death.
She’s tall, blonde hair, blue eyes, wearing an Anchorage PD uniform.
“Why?” I ask her, my voice barely audible.
“Because I know what you’re feeling now.” I laugh at that, as best I can through the haze my thoughts have become.
“How can you possibly know how I feel?” I ask her, an edge of anger lending my voice some strength.
She climbs over the bridge railing and sits on the side I’m on but out of arms reach. If she tries to grab she’s too far from me and would likely go over with me. Dimly I notice the other police officers backing off.
She looks at the water going by underneath us. The drop is about 60 feet. Far enough to kill. The water is cold and the current is strong in September in Anchorage. Winter comes early here. It hasn’t snowed yet but the sky is dark and gravid with the promise of snow.
“I know because I’ve been where you are now. Thinking life is hopeless and nothing will change. I looked at my gun and thought it was the way out.”
I laugh again. “You have no idea. You don’t know what it’s like to hate the sound of your own voice, the feel of your own skin, the sight of yourself in the mirror. I’ve been trapped for 45 years for crimes I don’t even know I committed. You can’t possibly understand.”
She looks at me again and I can’t make sense of the look on her face but there is something there, something in the air that cuts through the haze for just a second, just long enough for me to hear her whisper.
“My name was Michael five years ago.”
I take a hard look at her, as hard as the drugs will let me. She is beautiful with her blonde hair and blue eyes.
“It’s true. I had voice surgery with Haben, facial surgery with Cardenas, and GCS with McGinn. You can’t imagine the hoops I had to jump through to keep my job with the PD but I did and now life is worth living. Don’t give up, Heather – you have so much to offer yet, and so much living to do.”
I didn’t notice her sliding closer to me as she talked but suddenly she was next to me. She didn’t make a move for the gun or try to drag me over the bridge. She put her arms around me and pulled me into a hug and I began to cry. She just held me and let me cry. I don’t know who long we stayed like that but she held me until I ran out of tears and was on the verge of passing out.
“You’re not alone, sister. I’ll help you. I’ll be by your side as long as you need me. I won’t leave you.” Her voice is just a whisper but again it cuts through the medication haze.
The gun falls slowly to my lap and I lean against her, on the verge of passing out. She makes no move to take the pistol or move me off the bridge.
“Do you promise?” I ask her, my voice barely audible.”
“Always. I promise, Heather. You won’t be alone.”
I hand her the gun and begin to slip away. Dimly I’m aware of her gently helping me over the railing and on to a stretcher. It’s the last thing I remember for a long time.