Henry Adler leaned over the side of the Hanover Street Bridge and gazed into the black waters of the Patapsco River as he mentally prepared himself to end his pathetic existence. He wondered how many others had stood in this exact spot and done the exact same thing. How many had deliberated? How many had second-guessed themselves? There had to be at least one who had hesitated at the last second, hoping that a guardian angel would place a firm, reassuring hand on his shoulder and say, “Wait, it’s not too late, there’s something to live for,” only to realize that he was completely and utterly alone, before letting out one last desperate sob and plunging to his utterly unremarkable death. How many had simply fallen in by accident?
Henry was reasonably confident that he was the only one who had looked up facts about the bridge on the internet before committing suicide. He now knew that the Hanover Street Bridge was 2,290 feet long and that it was designed by John E. Greiner and constructed in 1916. He knew that the bridge was considered a “Beaux Arts-style reinforced cantilever bridge,” whatever that meant, and that it was known for its beautiful arches and a drawbridge in the center surrounded on four corners by classic-style towers. He also knew that on May 30, 1993, Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke had officially renamed the bridge the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge. Kurt Schmoke was Baltimore’s first elected black mayor. How did a man with such a stupid name live such an accomplished life? Henry rather liked his own name, it sounded respectable and distinguished, yet he had accomplished nothing of note and now here he was standing on the side of a bridge at one a.m. with a cinder block chained around his ankle. Kurt Schmoke was probably sound asleep at home, resting for an eagerly anticipated day with his grandchildren tomorrow. Maybe he would take them to the aquarium.
Cynicism aside, Henry really liked the Hanover Street Bridge (although he adamantly refused to refer to it by the name Kurt Schmoke had given it). It was a lovely piece of architecture, really. Henry enjoyed admiring architecture even though he knew not the first thing about it. He was a sucker for colonnades and balustrades, flying buttresses and Gothic gargoyles. That was one of the things he liked about living in Baltimore – there were little architectural gems all over the place if you knew to look for them. Take the Hanover Street Bridge, for example. Hundreds of people drove across it every day and probably never gave it a second glance. Melanie was one of those rare people who stopped to notice beauty when she saw it. She had liked this bridge so much that she painted a picture of it at sunset. The autumn sky had been purple and orange, and the reflections of the streetlights on the water looked like shimmering golden stalactites suspended just beneath the surface of the river. Henry hung the painting on the wall of his office at work, right beside a poster depicting the cover of the Yes album Relayer.
The thought of Melanie jolted Henry back to the present and the business at hand – namely, killing himself.