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THE SUICIDE BRIDGE

TODAY’S WRITING TIP: TRAVEL.

I discovered it in George Melly’s Paris and the Surrealists, a picture book I bought from a street vendor in downtown New York.

For many years, it gave me so much pleasure to dwell upon it, what 1920s French poets André Breton and Louis Aragon considered sacred ground for the Surrealist movement. I’d ask my Parisian friends but no one knew of it, not even of the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, where it was. This was in the mid-‘90s and Friends was all the rage, but it took me a while to realize the painting in Monica’s living room was some kind of a pop art rendition of the park.

Image

PONT DES SUICIDES Many have jumped off this bridge to end life or to begin death. Photo credit: Anthony Atkielski (Click the link for more of his wonderful work).

I resolved to see it and soon planned a trip. The park was in the 19th Arrondissement on the right bank of the Seine. On the Métro, I boarded line 7 to Botzaris, where my train stopped at what seemed to be the bowels of the earth, from which I had to take an elevator with a creepy old man in a dirty coat and a creepier young woman with purple hair. Deep in this pit, in this decrepit station, Paris was filthy, worn, rundown.

So was the public park, where I was surprised no one knew about what I was looking for. At the Belvedere of Sybil, I saw two men kissing. In every corner, some coupling was going on and the occasional loner would have no answer for me.

Français : Belvédère du Parc des Buttes Chaumo...

LOVERS’ CORNER Belvédère du Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And then—whoa!—there it was, the Suicide Bridge, suspended over the lake at a height of 22 meters. I recognized it from the pictures by Michael Woods in Melly’s book. No doubt, it was worthy of its name. The proof, to my consternation, was the barbed wire added to the railings to prevent any more suicide, possibly including mine. Still, it was surreal, as peaceful as death, an invitation into the abyss.

With slow, deliberate steps, I crossed the bridge and lit a cigarette to mark the moment.

——————-

This week’s Trifecta Writing Challenge is on the word ‘Dwell,’ whose third definition in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is “to keep the attention directed–used with on or upon.” Click link to join.

Today’s Daily Prompt is Whoa (What’s the most surreal experience you’ve ever had?). 

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17 thoughts on “THE SUICIDE BRIDGE

    • Maybe I didn’t ask the right people. But you how it is — I mean I’m all the way in Manila, half a world away from New York, but I’ve been to the Statue of Liberty twice, looked at the seascape and skyline through her eyes, but very few, maybe even none, of my cousins or friends who grew up in New York have never been. The park in the late ’90s was also sort of in the peripheries of Paris not exactly geographically but culturally. When I think about it, I shouldn’t have asked my party-loving, club-going friends about it but when I was young I thought I was averse to but really intimidated by the artist types so I pretty much stayed away from them.

      • Small world! I’m from Manila but have lived in Chicago most of my life — and you’re right — there are many places here that tourists visit that I’ve never been to.

      • Nice to know we have something in common. You are Filipino? Do you ever come home to visit? Just read your post “Too Young to Know.” How heartbreaking, even without the standard overemotionality associated with such stories. I am only speaking about your writing style — powerful in leaving so much unspoken. But child abuse, whether in beautiful prose or in a police blotter, is a story that hits us right smack in the face. There are so many predators around, even our priests are suspect. The only way to protect our children, at the risk of compromising their innocence, is teach them to always maintain some sort of barrier against intimate contact, whether with kin or stranger, with friends or neighbor or teacher or — how sad! — uncle, brother, father, mother, sister, priest or nun! I think we all have that sense, even as kids — somehow we can tell we are being touched or kissed in a way we shouldn’t be. This is sad because I have two nieces, 6 and 3, who live with me in the house. I am very close to them but consciously I see to it that when they are in my room the door is open. Ever since these two girls came into my life, I have not been able to read or see anything about abused children without thinking it could happen to them.

    • I’m Filipino, yes. Unfortunately, I don’t get back often because it’s so expensive. All of my family on both sides but one grandmother is here now. I’d love to go back to visit now that I’m an adult.

      Thank you for reading my story. It’s one I haven’t written, but after what I saw on the news last weekend, it was time. I’m glad it wasn’t overemotional — like you said, most of those types of stories have that tendency and I didn’t want mine to be like that.

      I’m sorry that in our current culture you feel that you have to have the door open while your nieces are in the room.

    • I suspect that it has been cleaned up since my visit. I read about a mini film festival being held at the park after dark, which was news because the park would close I think by 6pm, even in summer, when the sun is up til 8ish. I know what I mean. I loved New York better before 9/11, before Guilliani when there was danger and more grit on the streets, there was a sex zone in Broadway with peepholes and live shows, and a ride on the subway late at night felt like a death sentence. I am drawn to the idea of cities straddled between safe and dangerous, old and new, clean and dirty, cheap and classy, like Paris and New York — and Hong Kong — used to be.

  1. Lovely writing and great imagery. I’ve never been to France, but I felt like I was right there with you. The bridge is beautiful and seductive, much like the Golden Gate Bridge in my hometown of San Francisco.

    • Thank you! I love bridges. I love the idea of connection, of bridging gaps without eliminating the gaps, so you know whenever you are on every bridge that you are between worlds.

      • 🙂 About smoking.. once, when I asked a friend to quit the habit, she simply looked at me and say what’s the point. She could very well step out of the bar that night, get hit by a car and die early all the same. So, she said, she’d rather hold on to her cigarette.

    • I know, but I’m not sure anymore — Human impulses are vast and complex though science has broken them down to chemistry, physics… I don’t think I would have jumped off the bridge, but I dare not assume what those who did jump must have been thinking nor would I assume the reason they did, whether to escape or in defiance, whether to end or to begin. I also can’t decide if the whole act was one of horror or peace.

  2. This is really great! I am sorry I missed it when you originally posted it. I love how you made the challenge word fit into an actual experience you had. I want to see the bridge now, too. And smoke a cigarette to mark the moment… except that I am not a smoker. 😛 Maybe just this once.

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