There I was, leisurely strolling across the rain-strewn South bank of London. The streetlights bounced at me as my feet navigated the puddles. Incoherent shouts of traffic tried to penetrate my ears, which were otherwise engaged with the sounds of Prince. He was telling a story about a girl who owned a beret that tasted of raspberries or something. A strange hat to say the least, but a pleasant tune, and one that will make you happily walk in rhythm and sing to passers-by. No one ever seems to understand my joy, but I persist, extracting the occasional smile. If Prince were here he’d join in for sure. He’d probably even like to eat my hat and proceed to write a song about how it tasted of caramel or bananas. That’s why I don’t wear hats too often.
When taking the decision to cross the Thames, I feel it’s probably best to use a bridge. My feet took me upon the Millennium Bridge – a good walkway to groove along. Especially on a night like tonight, as it appeared I was the only person present. Looking up at the dark sky, I smiled in the vague direction of the stars who were eagerly trying to fight through the clouds and light-pollution to greet me. Try as they might, they just couldn’t get through. I gave up looking after water droplets crashed into my eyes, letting me know that tonight was a rainy night and there is to be no stargazing. I accepted the fate of the evening and bounced along merrily.
In the distance, a silhouetted figure caught my attention. Life suddenly got a little cinematic if not a little sinister. The figure was still, looking out across the water.
Upon approaching, it became apparent this person – a man – was the wrong side of the rails. I stopped the music and removed my earphones. Looking around, I confirmed that I was the only other person present. I couldn’t just walk by. I had to intervene.
“Hello there” I said.
The announcement of my arrival had come as a shock to the man. His gaunt, rain-soaked face turned to me. Fear was hiding behind his eyes as his arms kept him as my only companion on the bridge. Turning to face the water, he chose to say nothing.
“Everything allright mate?” I took a step closer.
“Who the fuck are you?”
So many times I beg to be asked this question just so I can use the answer ‘ I’m Batman’ or ‘I’m your worst nightmare’ or even ‘Here’s Johnny!’ Somehow, none of these retorts seemed appropriate.
“ I’m nobody” my hands were open, “just taking a stroll”.
He took time to digest my answer before; “well, just fuck off then”.
The anxiety was eating him like a hungry teenager demolishing a packet of crisps.
“Look man”, I decided not to fuck off, “maybe it’s none of my business, but are you trying to kill yourself?”
His eyes met mine. “What do you think?”
“I think yes”.
My movie database told me that people who are playing me in this situation normally light a cigarette, act cool, and talk the guy down. I didn’t have any cigarettes and I was wearing an anorak.
“Look man,” I kept it familiar, “how bad can it be?”
“You wouldn’t understand”.
“Try me”. I lifted my hand to lips to smoke my phantom cigarette. Still worth a try I thought.
“There’s nothing worth living for” he shouted.
I took a while to digest his statement. “Do you not watch Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares?”
“Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. USA. It’s on Channel4 or something. It’s fucking hilarious.”
The man looked on confused as I laughed to myself. He was becoming more convinced I was a serial killer.
“You should totally watch it,” I professed some more.
“No, no. I have seen it”
“Oh it’s great isn’t it? Did you see the one with the shouty Italian family? The crazy wife who was telling the customers to ‘fuck off’ and all that.” More memories washed through me as the raindrops hit my hooded head. “Or the one with the dad who invested all his son’s inheritance and….”
“Stop! Stop!” He interrupted my flow. “Let me get this right. I’m trying to kill myself and your technique into talking me out of it is to bang on about Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares?!”
I thought about it. “Yeah, I suppose it is”.
“I’m just saying it’s probably the best thing on at the moment and if you haven’t seen it, you should probably give it a crack before you kill yourself.”
Mr Jumpy was looking a lot less jumpy now. “Are you for real?”
I smiled and gave a nod.
“Right that’s it, go away!” His anxiety had been replaced by anger.
“But you need to….”
“Forget it, I’m not being saved by you”. He motioned me away with his hand.
“You could get it on iPlayer.”
“You’re an idiot. Now please leave. I’m sure someone else will come and save me. In the correct way.”
“What if no-one else comes?” I protested.
He pointed to the end of the bridge, “Aha! There’s someone coming now. Go on. Off you trot. I’m going to be saved properly.”
I began to walk away, “Okay then, well good luck”.
“If you do get the chance though…”
“Just fuck off!” He was adamant.
“Okay then, bye.” I waved and turned on my merry way. I felt pleased that I tried my very best, and my smile reflected that. Besides, perhaps it wasn’t my job necessarily to save him. Perhaps after he gets saved by someone else, he’ll watch Ramsey tell someone to ‘Wake up big boy’, and a sense of laughter will rush over him. A sense of gladness that he met me will cement the feeling together. I just hope the next person to come along is as heart-felt and giving as me.
As I approached St Pauls, the showers ceased. I removed my hood, put my earphones in place and set my music to shuffle. ‘You Do Something To Me’ by Paul Weller came on. A great song that no matter how many times I hear it always sounds fresh. Although, I don’t recall a ‘splash’ sound effect being part of the intro.