The hour was late. (Or early, depending on your philosophical bent.)
It was anything but a dark and stormy night. The stars cast their luminescence upon the populace of Niagara as film of dry, humid air surrounded them.
Some individuals slept, their minds the plaything of Morpheus and his perverse sense of humor. In the waking world, the usual suspects engaged in the usual activities.
- Risked their livelihoods at games of chance designed to benefit the House.
- Drank until their bodies rebelled.
- Paid young ladies for the pleasure of defiling their bodies.
- Lay awake, their minds tormented by thoughts of a future yet to be or a past eternally relived.
- Explored the depths of passion. (Although, truth be told, most were content to engage in the same unimaginative, yet highly-effective, routine.
- Other labored to survive in a society where material wealth is linked to social standing.
Elsewhere, a young man stood on the brink – both metaphorically and literally.
Ironically, he was standing in the one place that was free of nature’s summer onslaught; wave after wave of cool air rose up from the rushing waters below, cooling his trembling form. Mother nature nourished his body, while inner demons tore his psyche to ribbons.
His hands gripped the rod iron railing for a moment and then, in one swift motion he lifted one leg, then the other, until he was standing over the precipice. It was at that moment that Fate intervened and drew another young man away from his midnight labors, crossing his path with that of a soul in torment.
The worker strolled leisurely, his head cocked back to take full advantage of the soothing night air, but once he caught sight of the form on the stone wall, his world ceased to move.
Whatever thoughts filled his consciousness vanished and were replaced by queries: “Is this really happening?”, “Am I seeing this?”, ran through is mind. And of course, “What do I do?” flashed repeatedly.
After an agonizing minute that felt like days, the worker moved forward, determined to talk the young man down.
Sometimes Fate and Mother Nature become lovers, their coupling creating collateral damage that mere mortals wrestle with for the rest of their lives. Such was the case here, my friends, as the worker took a single step and shattered the stillness of the night when his foot broke the surface of a puddle left behind by a colleague’s efforts to wash the day’s leavings away from the cold stone below.
The young man turned his head to investigate the sound that interrupted his contemplation.
The worker froze.
Their eyes met all-too briefly; a moment longer and perhaps the worker could have uttered a silent plea to the stranger standing against the metal and stone wall before him. But the moment was gone. The die was cast.
The young man lurched forward, his form knifing through the night sky for less than sixty-seconds before shattering the watery surface of the raging river below.
And with that, he was gone, swallowed by the inconceivable power of the water that claimed him forever severing any links he had to the world above.
No one can say how long the worker remained there, lost in the horror that was no doubt imprinted upon his mind, but in time he returned to the world to contact the authorities. Perhaps they would recover the young man’s lifeless form, perhaps not; the river does not yield its treasures easily, but one thing was certain, life would go on.
A few short hours later thousands of tourists would stand in the every spot where a lost young man spent the last few minutes of his existence. They would point their cameras and phones and marvel at the majesty of the Falls while enjoying the company of their loved ones, completely oblivious to the drama that unfolded in the hours preceding their visit.
It would be as though the young man never existed at all.
But he did.
The truth is this: Niagara plays host to millions of souls, some are transient – the city serves as a brief interlude from their day-to-day lives – others make this region their home. All are fragile and vulnerable to outside forces that prey on their mind and body, and some of these individuals surrender to these forces.
Many of these souls find themselves irresistibly drawn to the power of the Falls and so they surrender themselves to its watery embrace. When the pressures of life become too much there is something about losing oneself in the swirling forces of the Niagara River that outweighs one’s desire to live with seemingly never-ending pain.
But you won’t read about the souls the river claims in newspapers or online (not very often, at least.). Radio programs bypass their existence. Locals never speak of them.
These events are not isolated in nature, but they are quickly isolated from the public record by the Powers-That-Be.
Is this right? Is this a disservice to the fallen?
Mine is not to judge; I’ll leave that to history.
I am but a humble servant to the millions of travelers who see the Falls for their beauty, not their hidden power that calls out to those for whom the weight of the world has become unbearable.