An Exercise In Irony

It was cold.

There wasn’t much out in the bitterness, with the exception of a single man. He meandered along the sidewalk with an air more bitter than the air around him, and small expulsions of anger came from his mouth and manifested in the night in the form of wisping vapor puffs. It was dark, and the dirty yellow pools of light on the ground that collected under the streetlamps were his guides. Through one circle of light, on through the next, on through the next, after this next one he would do it, he really would, after the next one after that…

He couldn’t do it.

He gave a frustrated cry, looked beside the sidewalk to the railing, and below and past the railing, at the infinite, obscure depths of the water below. He grasped at the railing and leaned over, looking downward at the water that churned and roiled with indifference and glistened with moonlight.

He looked over his shoulder at the road behind him, hoping that some passing car would come along and catch him in its headlights. None came. When the man had resolved that no one was coming along to stop him, he built up his will, took a deep, icy breath that stung his lungs, and leaned forward.

“What are you doing?”

The man had one leg hiked over the railing, and the voice nearly caused him to lose what shaky balance he had. He managed to fall backward instead of forward, and looked around in surprise even as the snow crunched beneath his figure as he made unfriendly contact with the ground.

On a cold metal bench along the sidewalk sat a lone figure. He wore dark pants and a warm black jacket, the hood drawn up against the cold, obscuring the face within entirely in shadow. His hands were in his jacket pockets.

“You nearly killed me!” said the man at the railing. “And what the hell does it look like? What are you even doing here?”

“I’m waiting for someone,” replied the stranger. “It seems I’ve arrived a bit early.”

The stranger observed the man in silence for just a moment.

“You aren’t going to do it. May as well step away from edge,” he said.

“You don’t know that,” said the man, stepping back over to the railing.

“What makes you so determined?”

“Heh,” said the man by way of reply. He noted, with some unease, the large tool leaning against the bench where the stranger sat. “What are you carrying that thing around for? It belongs in a museum.”

“Let me ask you something. Why are you about to jump?” said the stranger suddenly.

The man shoved his hands in his pockets and stared out at the water, watched the light ripple and distort on its surface, breathed in the indifferent night air and cold, twinkling stars.

“Don’t you try to talk me out of it,” he said. “I’m dead-set on it.”

“I only want to know why.”

“I- I can’t do anything right. Look, this is none of your”-

“To make mistakes is human. To be imperfect is the human condition. The worth of people is their ability to keep going. You don’t really believe it’s all over, do you?”

“I…”

“Every day people suffer worse than you do, and something drives them to survive. So what’s making you want to end your life?”

The man blinked.

“I don’t know,” he sighed, lifting his hand to his face. “I just don’t know what I’m doing anymore. I’ve lost… I’ve lost my purpose.”

“Come now, you may as well step away from there. You aren’t really going to jump.”

The man looked wearily at the stranger.

“You’re right,” he said. “I just need- to figure things out. Yeah. You’re right.”

He turned away from the rail and walked forward, stopping to turn to the stranger.

“You know what? Thank you. What’s your name there, friend?”

“Oh, I go by a lot of things. Don’t worry about it.”

The man shrugged.

“Suit yourself,” he said. “Tonight is not going to be the end. Tonight is going to be a new beginning. I’m going to keep going, and start fresh,” he said, beginning to smile.

He stepped forward to cross the street with new optimism.

Unfortunately, he did not observe the street beforehand, and was immediately hit by an oncoming truck, which skidded to a shuddering halt some several feet away.

“Ah, right on time,” said the stranger, rising and taking his possession from beside the bench.

He walked over to the bleeding corpse on the ground, knelt beside it, and lifted from the man on the road a small glowing orb of infinite colors. Carrying it in his arms, he walked away.

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