What Lies Beneath?

The query came as I was still getting my morning bearings, without the benefit of coffee, I might add.

“Have you heard about The Girl, Hook? She killed herself. She jumped over the Falls”

(Out of respect for the memory of a fallen colleague, I’ll be using “The Girl” instead of an actual name.)

The words were cutting and brutal. The reality, even moreso. Naturally, I was floored. The Girl wasn’t someone I was close to, but she was ridiculously-friendly, chipper and bright. She always had a kind word or a joke at the ready. She worked tirelessly as a lobby cleaner in the hotel.

She was 23 years old.

She was far too young to end her life in any manner, never mind the one she chose. Then again, every life is precious and should never be forsaken. But I refuse to judge The Girl or any of the souls who plunge into the icy depths of Niagara Falls every week.

After all, I’ve stood at the brink of the Falls, gripping the handrail until my knuckles turned white, contemplating what could have been the final contemplation of my young life. The tears rolled down my eyes. My heart beat so hard against my chest there was a bruise.

All I wanted from life that night was to be free of the burden of it.

Don’t ask me why I didn’t do it; to this day, I don’t have an answer. My life certainly didn’t turn around after that night. It would be months before I began to move past those suicidal thoughts.

Years later, I met a young lady named Jackie and the boy who desperately wanted to die did just that. I became someone new, someone who had something to live for.

Decades later, I’m a happy man but my demons are have never left. To be alive is to be plagued by self-doubt and despair; this is the truth of our existence.

I’ve become, in my admittedly biased opinion, a good and loving spouse. I’ve failed as a writer. My daughter appears to be pleased with my parenting performance so far (most of the time). I’ve never been able to break through with the blog. I have a rewarding career that is never boring and manages to pay the bills.  It seems like every a schmuck with a concept is on some form of television platform these days but I remain untouchable to the CBC and every network in existence.

There are days I hate myself.

But I’ll never hate myself enough to stop being myself.

I don’t know what happened to The Girl that made her end her young life. I didn’t know her well enough to be able to offer a glimpse into her tortured psyche. I do know this: The Girl is not alone. As I’ve said already, every week some poor soul jumps over the rail separating the Falls from the earth. In fact, this summer a man parked his car in the parking lot across from the Table Rock complex at the base of the Canadian falls and sat there all night. At some point the man pulled out a gun, put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

The postmortem examination revealed the bullet did not kill him. Instead it rattled around in his head. And so he slit his throat, covering the interior of his car with his own blood.

Again, this is a brutal fact, one I refuse to shy away from. I live in a city where this truth is hidden. I’ve mentioned this before but now it’s hit home. Jumpers are Niagara’s dirty little secret. You won’t see them discussed in the local papers or online. However, I was recently informed that the only place with more jumpers is San Francisco.

The truth is, while I know there are some city officials who fear publicizing these acts would inspire copycats, a great truth always wins out.

Death is bad for business.

And so life goes on in Niagara.

And so do the poor souls who wait for cover of night to end their suffering.

And that’s it. I don’t have any clever words or a snappy send-off for you today. I’m sad, frustrated and angry, among other emotions raging in my soul. But at the same time, I’m happy and content – to a point.

I can only imagine the maelstrom must have been unfolding in The Girl’s mind.

Wherever she is, I hope she is at peace at last.

niagara-falls-2013-july-ytgifs-8lo8-o

About The Hook

Husband. Father. Bellman. Author of The Bellman Chronicles. Reader of comic books and observer and chronicler of the human condition. And to my wife's eternal dismay, a mere mortal and non-vampire. I'm often told I look like your uncle, cousin, etc. If I wore a hat, I'd hang it on a hat rack in my home in Niagara Falls, Canada. You can call me The Hook, everyone else does.
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42 Responses to What Lies Beneath?

  1. Kay says:

    That’s incredibly sad. I’m so sorry for her and her loved ones. Thank goodness you didn’t go through with it. You make life richer for more than you know.

  2. Josh Wrenn says:

    Thanks for this.

  3. oceanswater says:

    It is truly sad when someone feels there is no reason to keep on living. Sometimes I may hate my life, but very much love living. Thanks for this post Hook!

  4. Doug in Oakland says:

    Beautiful, sad post. And you’re right- they don’t talk much about Golden Gate Bridge suicides here either. I want to have something more to say about this, but I just don’t.

  5. There aren’t any words for this today outside of understanding the depths of the kind of despair that leads to those ends. I don’t know why some of us manage to carry on, but I do know, I am so glad you did, Robert. You may think yourself a failed writer, but it was your writing that met my heart. If was your words that inspired a fearlessness in me to write more and more in my own voice. It was your words of encouragement that I could do this to whatever degree and make a difference to someone else regardless of reward. We write because we need to write. We write because we are writers. Whatever is to come of it, does. We just don’t always get to know what that was – but I do know, absolutely – that it matters.

  6. 1jaded1 says:

    I’m so sad she took her life. I’m so happy you didn’t take yours. ❤ you.

  7. kunstkitchen says:

    You know, let me say this about your blog. It makes me laugh because you can describe people and their foibles so well. You have a wry truth telling hell bent for leather (as the cowboys say) style that sometimes shocks, shakes up the status quo of my life and makes me think about the large world. I like that very much; especially in the dead of winter when its twenty below zero out, your writing lets me indulge in laughing at life. Humor and art saves lives. Keep scribbling, Pleez?
    It is so sad to read about the young woman taking her life. Always very difficult to process such a loss. Thank you for writing about the serious side of life too.

  8. Nadia says:

    My heart goes out to the girl – how she must have felt – and her loved ones. Suicide is the number one cause of death among teenagers and young people in Australia. It breaks my heart. Thank you for writing this. X

  9. Paul says:

    So Sad.

  10. David says:

    It’s a sad fact of life that the younger you are the more you agonise over the dramas life throws at you and if we could only see through our own eyes for just one day at age 40/50 we would see how much worth we should be putting on those dramas. I’m not saying this girl would have taken a step back because none of us know what burdens she was carrying but so young????? I’m glad you took your step back as I wouldn’t be reading your writing and quite often laughing out loud at some of your observations as they mirror mine on occasions. How can you say you are a failed writer if so many of us can empathise with that too???? Understand the anger though, it will pass and we are all here in your hour of darkness. Keep it coming buddy.

  11. A says:

    This one hits very close to home for me, Hook. I can’t imagine how you must feel having known The Girl, even in a small way. I am sorry for your loss, I am sorry for her pain and the loss of her life in general. Life is so hard to navigate, sometimes the demons that plague our hearts and minds win the war and that is never a good day. I’m so glad you got through your worst and have happiness in your life now. I wish you didn’t see yourself as a failed writer, I certainly don’t see you that way. I always look forward to your words and your presence in my life. ❤

  12. Whoa! That’s a really tough one. I’m sorry that this girl’s pain was so unrelenting that this was her only solution. Depression and feeling hopeless can be ruthless. And the truly sad part is that there are so many potential causes, that one discipline or therapy alone isn’t the answer. So much of the pain needs to be addressed at the spiritual/ energy level, and not enough people have training. Also, people in the field of medicine and counseling aren’t aware that body structural issues can really mess up the mind.

    I’m very glad that you were able to turn things around for yourself. The world would be a very different place without you. I wish I could take everyone through a hypnosis session where they could experience their core essence; so they could see how absolutely special and amazing they truly are.

  13. Tara says:

    This post brought tears to my eyes. Not just for the girl, but for the young man you were, and for the man you are today. I can’t imagine standing at those falls – I haven’t been there yet. But it made me wonder how I might have felt had I been standing there at other times in my life where I felt so profoundly heartbroken or lost.

    At the risk of sounding all gushy… one day I decided to click on your name in a comment on another blog, and I haven’t turned back. And I’m so glad I did. I so enjoy your writing and I appreciate the time you take to read my blog from time to time and make thoughtful comments and words of encouragement. You may only be “virtual,” but I count you as “friend” from afar. You are only a failure in your own mind – so tell it to shut the hell up. SO many people love what you do – ALL of what you do. Never, never, never stop writing.

  14. Theresa says:

    I’m so saddened that such a young girl was so distraught that she took her own life. I was there in my late 20’s. Thankfully, I didn’t go through with it. I can image her despair. I’m so sorry for her loss. As far as you’re being a failed writer. Oh, no way man! I look for your blogs every day in my email. I look forward to them! You’ve made me laugh, on more than one occasion and shocked me, intrigued me, on others. I so love hearing about all these different people from all over the world. I so enjoy HOW you write; like I’m sitting next to you while you tell the story. So, please, think more of yourself. You’re too critical. I’d say you’re your own worst critic. STOP IT!!! I need your stories. I need you!

  15. shimoniac says:

    Hook, you’re a loving spouse, a great father, and were a wonderful son-in-law. You even have a career you’ve been able to describe as rewarding without giggling hysterically. You’re there, you made it. That makes you a successful human being. The rest… is noise. Whenever the demons start yelling in your ear, stop and think about what you have vs. everything else. A successful writing career would be nice, but it’s not always about talent, there’s a large dose of luck involved.

  16. Sad ditto, Hook. So young to experience something so dark causing a step into tragedy.A quiet whisper peace

  17. Two Book Minimum says:

    She was strong throughout the end it seems. I’ve also faced that decision over the years, and it’s an incredibly difficult one to make. You haven’t failed at writing. So many people come to you for good stories. That’s exactly what a writer is.

  18. Been to the brink twice, Hook. The first time I was 18.

    It’s still lurking there, waiting.

  19. curvyroads says:

    I hope the girl is at peace. It is sad how many of Earth’s citizens do not feel they are worthy of living, and I feel extremely fortunate to have never experienced such despair. And all of your readers are fortunate that you overcame yours and live to make our lives just a little funnier, more interesting, and make us think. Hugs!

  20. johannebro says:

    Sometimes life becomes to dark for the person to see the speck of light they need to continue. I’m so sorry for The Girl, for her family, friends, and all who knew her. I have been in the dark too, but never in the pitch-black – I suppose my belief in the light was too strong, even when I was at my weakest.
    I work in the train business, selling traintickets in Copenhagen Airport, and we unfortunately come into contact with this darkness on a weekly basis. Sometimes more in a day (we often have them happening in threes, within 48 hours), when people become ‘inspired’ in their darkness. I will admit to feeling both sympathy and anger with the poor souls, because their action so influences one of my colleagues’ life, when he/she becomes the instrument of their demise. I know (hope) they don’t think this way, but I have colleagues who have had more than one jumper under their train over the years, we have witnesses who are traumatized, not to mention disruption in thousands of lives, when the trains aren’t running.
    In my own life, I came into contact with the darkness, when my darling godfather (no, we’re not Italian – he witnessed my christening) couldn’t find his way out of it. A month after we had gathered in his and my godmother’s home for their youngest daughter’s wedding, we were back for his funeral. He had ended his life early one morning, in the garden of their farmhouse, with his shotgun (he had a hunting-license, the only legal way to own a shotgun in Denmark). Five years on I still miss him terribly, and wish I had known how deep down he was, and that I could have done something.
    I am glad you stepped back from the edge, and into the light, because your words (almost) always make me laugh out loud.
    Much luv, and many hugs, dear Hook.

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