“Hi honey! Where are you headed today?”
“Take me to the Jefferson bridge.”
“Oh! Okay. Hop in.”
A 33-year-old Joy hopped into a yellow cab at Delaney street.
“Are you going for a jog?” questioned Beatrice.
“No-no!” said Joy, in a tired & despondent tone. “I just… I want to see the sunset.”
“Okay. We should get there in time, barring any traffic.”
Ever since Joy moved to Lawrenceville with her husband Matthew, she had fallen in love with the town. It was a quick drive to the nearby city, with enough of its own charm to happily spend weekends walking through the parks and museums.
Spring had brought with it beautiful flowers to the previously sombre town. It was Joy’s most favorite season. A season of hope and of new beginnings. A season to leave the cold behind and to look forward to what is to come. A season to finally have enough daylight.
Joy was a sunset enthusiast. She loved the beautiful colors in the sky as if it were a painting. As if someone were to use the sky as a canvas and throw in pink and crimson, scarlet and mauve, amber, and sometimes even lilac shades together to create a masterpiece. Each evening would bring a new treat for the eyes. The setting of the sun always brought delight to Joy’s heart.
But something was different lately. The sundown felt like a representation of Joy’s own life. Her relationship with Matthew had seen the beautiful mornings, the sunrise, the dewfall and the sweet chirping of birds. But this was a particularly bad dusk in her life. The spring and all its beauty didn’t seem to stir Joy’s innermost joy.
Matthew Stevenson was a successful stockbroker. He was proficient at his job. Joy remembered their first date like it was yesterday. Matthew had shown up in a white button-up shirt and a khaki vest paired with blue jeans and a brown leather belt. Joy had looked at him and had been immediately struck by his charm. He was a confident young man, borderline arrogant. Joy loved that about him. She thought to herself that he ought to be smart to have that attitude. They had dated for two years and had been subsequently married for four years now.
Joy herself had a good career going for her. She was an English honors student with a master’s degree in education. She loved her job. She loved the idea of being like a potter and crafting beautiful forms out of her students, shaping them to be better individuals as they step out in the bad world.
Joy was an introvert. She had very few friends. She did not enjoy the idea of sharing every minute detail of her life with anyone, not even Matt. At some level, she thought that it gave her a sense of control over her own life.
Joy had fallen in love with Matt. Matt was someone who knew to say the right things at the right time. He reassured Joy all the time. She felt safe with him.
But things had changed recently. Matt’s excessive stress at work and subsequent lack of time spent with Joy, was drifting them apart. It started with healthy squabbles that turned into brawls. Joy debated strongly with Matt whenever they disagreed. And Matt’s ego couldn’t handle that. To regain control of the situation Matt started to hurt Joy mentally as well as physically.
Joy thought of a particular Monday when the first graders of Riverdale High school had gathered in their homeroom. Joy was standing by the door, greeting all the little angels that walked in. Everyday, little Dorothy looked forward to going to school because she adored Miss Stevenson or Miss Joy as she had requested to be called. Dorothy was always excited to meet Miss Joy and tell her about all her toys. That was Dorothy’s favorite pass time. Joy too loved Dorothy. She loved all her students.
Dorothy looked up to Joy that morning and asked, “What’s that on your hand?”
“Oh! I got a boo boo.”
“How it happens Miss Joy?”, Dorothy had asked with her first grade grammar.
“I had a fall,” Joy said, ashamed that she had just lied to a 6 year old. How could she tell her the truth. How could she tell anyone the truth. She had chosen Matt. She had loved him. And he was now beating her. It seemed as if someone had spilled a bottle of black paint over a beautifully painted canvas.
“Get out of my way, you fool!” yelled Beatrice, “Car drivers these days! I wonder who gives them a driving license.”
Joy shook out of her thoughts and looked at the street. It had gotten very crowded. ‘Can I just get to the bridge somehow?’, she thought.
“Honey, I’m not sure you’re gonna make it to the sunset in time,” said Beatrice. “Do you want me to turn back over?” she suggested.
“No. Keep going. I don’t care about the sunset. I need to get to the bridge. I have to …“, said Joy in an irritated tone.
This morning Matt had broken Joy’s heart. Joy was watching the daily news when Matt had snatched the remote controller away from her to switch to Bloomberg TV. He liked to watch the financial news every morning and she hated it.
“I pay for it too, Matt,” Joy had argued.
“Can’t even watch the news in the morning without this drama! You want the remote, here’s the remote,” Matt had wiggled the remote in his hand and then thrown it at Joy. The controller had landed on Joy’s face cutting her lower lip. He hadn’t bothered to worry about the blood gushing out of Joy’s lip. So much had changed. At one point in time, Matt had cared even if Joy twitched an eye.
Beatrice was cautioned by Joy’s disturbed tone. She sensed something wrong about Joy’s intention to go to the bridge. Her sixth sense was telling her not to bring Joy to the bridge. Beatrice was right. Joy had succumbed to the pain in her life and had decided to take the plunge and jump from the Jefferson bridge. It was going to be all over soon.
“Do you have kids honey?”, questioned Beatrice trying to get Joy to talk.
“No, none,” said a dazed Joy.
“Oh they’re a blessing!” said Beatrice, ” I have three children. They were my springs in this parched life. They made every bit of my single motherhood worthwhile,” said Beatrice.
“You’re a single mother?” questioned Joy. She got distracted with Beatrice’s talk for a bit.
My life has been a rollercoaster. I am an orphan. I was raised in foster homes. I had a vagrant childhood.
My husband was a chronic alcoholic. He passed away from a liver failure when my oldest son was 7 years young. And even when he was alive, he wasn’t really there.
So I’ve almost always been alone. But life is full of twists and turns. And after every crossroad, there is always a straight path. And every dark cloud has a silver lining.
I singlehandedly raised my two boys and a girl working double shifts between a bar and a restaurant. And they are all very successful in life today. My oldest son is a renowned lawyer, the second is a surgeon and my daughter is an engineer. Life didn’t go as per my plan, but I sure wouldn’t change a thing about it.
One of my guardians was a retired war veteran. He told me stories about life in the remote areas of Afghanistan. Kids stolen of their innocence and women prohibited from their freedom. How a gun was placed in the hands of every boy child that was born. He taught me to live in the moment and be thankful for everything I had. I have carried those values with me to this day.”
Joy felt a sense of ease. Beatrice’s words opened up a Pandora’s box of possibilities in front of her. Beatrice’s positive energy was almost contagious. Joy started thinking about her own life. She had a good childhood and loving parents. She had a good education. She had married a guy of her choice. She finally felt like she had some perspective about how her life was and how much worse it could have been. She almost felt thankful about meeting Beatrice.
“I can tell that you are disturbed, honey. Something has been on your mind the whole time,” said Beatrice, “but it will pass. The sun will set, only to rise again. You will be happy again.”
“Thank you ma’am. I really feel a lot better than I did when I boarded,” said Joy.
Beatrice wiped away all intentions of suicide that Joy had harbored in her mind. As they were still headed towards the Jefferson bridge, Joy now wondered what she would do when they finally got there. Maybe she’ll think about it when she gets there.
“The traffic is not going to let us get there in time, honey. If you don’t mind, let me bring you to the sea shore. It will be a quick bypass and we can get there just in time for the sunset. I will retire for the day too,” said Beatrice.
Joy nodded and they proceeded to the Lawrenceville shore. Beatrice pulled over near the board walk. And the ladies got out of the yellow cab and walked towards the water. They watched the beautiful orange ball of fire descend on the blue water. It was picturesque. Tears rolled down Joy’s cheeks as she confessed to Beatrice, “You won’t believe it. I was going to jump off the Jefferson today.” Swallowing hard and wiping her tears Joy continued, “and here I am, looking at the most beautiful thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life.
I was really depressed. My husband had made me despise my own life. But you have renewed my faith in it again.”
Beatrice looked at her with a subtle smile, then gave her a motherly hug and said, “Don’t ever give up on life, honey. Every day will bring you another beautiful sunset to look forward to.
Oh and here’s my son’s visiting card, just in case you need a lawyer.”
The next morning, Dorothy greeted Miss Joy again. Then looked at her lip and asked curiously, “What’s that Miss Joy?”
“Oh, it was a friend who hit me,” said Joy.
“What did you do to him, Miss Joy?”
“I told him that I forgive him but we cannot be friends anymore. Hurting someone is a bad bad thing,” said Joy, as she smiled, feeling a sense of relief that she didn’t have to lie to Dorothy anymore. She had made her peace with Matt.
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