I’ll never know why it happened. That’s something I have to accept.
The falls have a pull, according to the locals. Something dark and unearthly like a siren’s song, sweet and somehow terrible. It draws folks “of a certain intent”. That’s the polite way to say a lot of people end up crushed on the rocks below, their limbs torn apart by the unending rush of water, the brains that made them who they were nothing more than bits of foam and meat floating to the surface. 20-40 a year, in fact, depending on who you ask.
We were happy. Weren’t we? I thought we were. I thought maybe we were different from everyone else, that we’d actually make it. We wouldn’t end up in that 50% statistic. We’d grow old together, laughing at the same stupid jokes, knowing what was going to come out of the other’s mouth before they even had a chance to say it.
Was it the pressure of the wedding? The fact that I’m still “between jobs”? Young 20-somethings in one of America’s bleakest economies, doing what we could to get by. Scrambling for every scrap as the magazine covers reminded us how worthless our generation is, the snide remarks about our smartphones and Facebook and selfies. Maybe getting married wasn’t a good idea.
But we were in love! We were in love and we knew deep down in that secret place in our stomachs that she was the one for me and I for her.
So then why did it happen?
No. I’m not supposed to ask that anymore. That’s what my therapist says. I’m supposed to accept that she’s gone. I’m supposed to accept the fact that she’s her own statistic now, one of 20-40 people a year. Another tumble of bones on the body count that’s reached over 5000 since the falls became an attraction both for tourists and people with death on their mind.
But it’s hard to accept when I can still see her face so clearly, that sweet face with the little crescent-moon scar on her left nostril, the way her big blue eyes lit up when she showed me the fantastic deal she scored on Groupon, a Niagara Falls getaway for our honeymoon.
If only I could go back. Tell her that the price was nice but I’d rather go to a beach, or Ireland, it doesn’t matter, anywhere but those cursed falls.
It’s impossible to describe how it feels to stand at the crest of Niagara, the mist peppering your face like cold little kisses, drinking in the smells and the sound and the remarkable way the water rushes down, down, ever down. Your existence seems like a cosmic joke in comparison to this almost hauntingly beautiful feat of nature. For a moment, it is.
The locals say you can tell who has a death wish by how close they’ll get to the edge. Those who shy away, who shake their heads and insist nervously that they can see just fine from where they are, thank you very much, those are the ones who can’t trust themselves to get too close. If they get too close to the edge, some little part of them knows they’ll jump.
She didn’t shy away. She went right up to the railing. She was smiling.
That’s the worst part. She was smiling.
It was early in the morning, one of those damp gray dawns only possible in the new spring of upstate New York. We had the sight to ourselves. It was a little spooky, being out there alone, the kind of spooky you get from being in an empty shopping mall after hours, all those metal gates pulled down and the lights turned off.
She was standing there, a little too high on the guardrail, leaning just a little too far over, smiling as the mist touched her lips and made her hair curl in damp tendrils on her cheeks. She was beautiful.
I’ll never know why I pushed her.
That’s something I have to accept.