It was just a shopping trip

It was just a shopping trip

Returning from a normal shopping trip with my daughter; the car radio plays quietly while we are planning the rest of the afternoon and possible evening .  The dual carriageway is reduced to one through a series of cones. Therefore our slow pace gives us time to see the person on the bridge ahead which we are about to pass under. My first thought is to hope they do not throw anything onto the car, it’s that sort of area (self-preservation being my first instinct). The figure on the bridge moves to the metal fencing and she climbs over. A shock fills our car I ask Ruth to stop the car holding up the traffic behind us. We rush out.  Ruth on the phone, me towards what I now know is a teenage girl. I try to engage her in conversation.  I keep telling her my name and asking hers, she does not give it. The desperate dialogue is one way. In the background I can hear Ruth telling the police where we are. Above me the girl is so close to the edge of the bridge her solitary sobbing shape above me induces within me a complete feeling of helplessness. I cannot catch her.  I cannot hold her. I keep telling her my name, asking for her name. She pulls her hood over her head.  I can hear her crying. I have no idea what to do alone; below a bridge talking to a girl I have never met, urging her not to let go. What words can convince her? I don’t know. I pray as she moves closer to the edge. I wonder what I would see if she falls. I hear the sound of a car horn above, somewhere on the bridge. Two men appear behind her and above me, one a middle-aged man the other a young man in a track- suit, possibly just out shopping. The girl on the bridge is unaware they are there. She will not talk to me she just continues to cry, to sob so close to the edge of the bridge.  I try to reassure her someone is coming to help her. She is one step away from what we believe could be her death. I have no Idea what I am supposed to do or say, how can you know?  I am just aware we are so close to something tragic and frightening. The man on the bridge looks to me and I wave him forward. He moves quickly and wraps his arms around her helped by the young man she is pulled from the edge of the bridge. Taken by surprise she screams loudly to let her go, her legs flailing in the air. The girl is held firmly on the floor of the bridge above us until the police arrive. I hear her loud cries from below.  I have no idea what could have happened to take this young girl to such a state of mind that she would contemplate jumping from a bridge. It was just a shopping trip for us.


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