The option remained to just sleep. If chosen there would be no bus to catch, nor trains to ride. Just closed eyes, complacent, safe, warm under the cover of blankets, dozing off in a fantasy dream world projected ever so realistically upon the backs of my eyelids by my luminescent pupils. But sleep is for the depressed! I'm beyond despondent, I'm wired, terrified, sick with fervor. I've already pissed three, four times against that stone wall obscured amongst the shadows of the night playing under the fluorescent white light cast by the moon. A urine puddle begins to form on the asphalt between my legs as I unzip to let out another stream of relief. Reflected within the warm puddle I notice the stars, no, The City lights? Still I'm anxious. Jittery. Butterflies within; their wings scorched by my nauseating stomach acid, bubbling up through my throat in fits of obnoxious burps. Flightless, useless creatures these butterflies within now exist. They wiggle around like worms inside my gut, tormenting my decisions, despite numerous attempts to vomit them into freedom. Instead I must digest these insects, grow stronger from their energy.
It's not too late to just sleep. I can turn back, be rational, smart. No. I'm already here. It's why I'm so ill, it is the only place I want to be! I'm petrified because I've made it to the cusp of where dreams merge into reality, an unfamiliar mental territory, a ditch I've pushed myself into. The outcome of my premeditated decisions will soon decided my fate. Certainly I'll most likely live either way. Rather, would I come back down the same person I had heavily summited as, or would I be new, glide back to Earth like a delicate feather coasting through the air, free?
I pace back and forth, jealous as I look over to my friend sitting on the park bench. He's completely calm, collective, has no idea what he has gotten himself into. I mean I've explained to him countless times what we were about to do, but I know he does not fully understand, that's why he's here with me. Always searching for the thrill of it, no fear, just curiosity. He to attains the will not to sleep, a desire to live with his eyes always open. I sensed such adventurous innocence within him the very first time I casually bullshitted this idea around. Like a sunfish bobbing in a stagnant pond overflowing with boring ideas he instantly took my bait for adventure with an enthusiastic tug. And so I ripped the hook free from his lip and said, lets go! Yet I know he still does not understand. It doesn't matter though for I trust he'll follow through. A solid partner, an anchor to keep me from backing out myself. It's why we are here, 2 A.M. in the park, waiting.
Together we discuss life, love, philosophy, work, trivial matters to take our minds off the consequences of a potential forthcoming failure. The weather is cooperative, the sky clear, and the temperature cool, which worked dully to keep my poor brain from overheating all the while sending goosebumps up my neck. The waiting, contemplating, it's a sick feeling really, a bitter taste it leaves in the mind which feels at this point more like a dried-out dehydrated sponge, a raisin in the sun. Feelings of fear, excitement, uncertainly all mix together into a potent brain stew, each mental spoonful keeping me high, wide fucking awake! It was now too late to turn around, I couldn't sleep at this point if you shot me with a tranquilizer dart. Perfect! I could only instead wonder if everyone else would be sleeping? Could eight million other people on this island possibly have their eyes closed? It's an unrealistic chance shot in the dark, but the darkness is our friend now, for her darkened veil would surly obscure us from those not sleeping, those similarly lonely, helpless worry rocks always awake, wandering, searching, looking.
The time is now perfect or at least I convince myself so. In a matter of hours the sun would soon awaken to foil our plan, we had to move, I knew what to do. It's simply just a short walk up the sidewalk suspended over the dark waters below. We'd jump the railing and from there this would either become the crazy adventure or a suspected suicide.
I threw myself over some fencing and past the safety railing to head up first. Pausing in shadows cast between narrow iron beams and diamond shaped ladder rungs I found comfort, temporary protection from the sporadic headlights whizzing past below, each having the potential to expose my presence. Here I sat for a few seconds listening to my brain scream at me to climb back down. "Should've just stayed in bed, gone to sleep", it yelled. But I knew not to listen to myself in this moment, no time to argue with me, no time to ponder consequences, must continue on. My friend followed directly behind, looking melodramatic, spastic, yet ecstatic.
Just ahead a narrow vertical ladder ascended sky high, blending into the darkness, its peak well out of sight. We would need to climb this higher into the night. Crawling on my knees toward it I could see through the metal grating below that traffic was still flowing beneath our bodies. A glorious sight this was, for it symbolized that we had not yet been spotted. The frantic screams from my brain begun to blend in with the medley of sounds emanating from the passing vehicles below. Tractor trailers speeding over expansion gaps within the highway created melodic repetitive thumping sounds; growing duller, expanding into a calming decrescendo as we climb higher. As the subway trains pass through the superstructure we to sway with the infrastructure, clinging on merely out of passion.
My tongue stuck to the roof of my arid mouth, my eyes just two tumbleweeds rolling inside a parched skull. Adrenaline had dehydrated me quickly. This is something I could not have predicted. In a panicked moment I wished to let go, plummet into the water below, but at this height the river would not hydrate me, it would smash me. In passing moments I look down, the highway below so distant now I can only make out red and white trails of light; still a positive indication of automobile traffic continuing to zip by.
Soon the ladder system became more confusing, deviating from its prior strictly vertical path. Climbing up awkward angles we zig-zagged left and right still gaining height. A static silence filled my ears. There was nothing to be heard, the City muted, no sirens nor horns, no rattling of trains or landing of planes. Out of respect neither of us spoke a damn word, well we couldn't, for our mouths were sealed by what little saliva managed to leak out, drying quickly into a glue like paste between our lips. Encased in complete darkness, navigating merely by feel for the jagged ladder rungs, I bash my head against a closed hatch. With a might expelled from pure adrenaline I flung the burdensome heavy solid metal door open, it slammed level against a hollow steel beam sending reverberations down through the structure that must've registered on the Richter scale!
Crisp air immediately funneled down in through the open hatchway. I breath deep, it feels refreshing, stings. Poking my head out, instantly my fears become quelled, traffic was still moving, I notice just a few police lights flashing in the distance, a common pull over I presume, any officers oblivious to our stunt, I hoped. Just a few seconds later my friend barged up through the open hatch, horrified as to what the crashing sound he just heard was. I point toward the open door, he understands. Climbing out placed us upon a narrow metal beam no more than four feet wide, nestled between two ornamental globes adoring the very top of the Manhattan Bridge. No railing, no safety wire, just us and space.
The City from this vantage, she is paused, neither sound nor motion exists, the only movement is from my legs dangling over the edge, kicking high above traffic, the ever flowing life blood of the metropolis. New York City, the loneliest place in the world and I lucky enough to be looking down on her. Doing so I can't help but feel like some peep-show pervert peering in through a crack in a changing room wall. I know I should't be here, but it feels so right, I'm so excited I could barf. Perched high above the concrete jungle, the City seems new, raw, magnificent. Up here I feel close, connected, loved, protected, for I'm encapsulated by everything that's always interested me; trains, cranes, skyscrapers, bridges, tunnels, a vast playground of off-limits infrastructure, all fascinating to death. Up above it all I'm safe, the flowing suspension cables like giant lanky hands seem to reach out and hug me, secure me in place, I'm distant yet attached, safe and sound. There is no desire to think nor contemplate anything, my mind is blank, it's weightless again! I stare out at the outline of the Manhattan Skyline ahead, it is glowing proudly, close enough to touch and nearly erotic in nature, taunting me with promise for future adventure and self discovery.
Like the City I am glad I did not choose sleep. I chose adventure, risk, life, because by doing so I knew I'd descend back down that ladder with a clear mind, the fog lifted, no longer prisoner of my heavy thoughts. I can think straight now because I learned how to conquer my brain, control my thinking, face my fears. Standing high above the City balancing upon a bridge I understood what it felt like to be me, to be free. Above the City, life is in your hands, you can waste yourself, jump. Or you can make yourself, fall in love with the twinkling lights, the endless maze of side streets flowing with golden-yellow streams of light, a constant never ending movement which seems so representative of life itself. I look over at my friend Keith, he's sitting down, back pressed up against one of the globes. He's fine, perhaps scared to death, for he understood now what he had gotten himself into.
Ahead the horizon has begun to turn dull pink as if blushing from embarrassment, the hue growing increasingly brighter, spreading like water color paint bleeding through the black night sky abound. A pertinent reminder that time has not paused. Dawn will soon arrive and with it the sun will have fully risen, the warm light will no doubt awaken all those who chose sleep that night, they will open their eyes, but they will not understand. For them daylight marks just another typical day of boring life lived comfortably and always on the ground. For us however, the wide smirks we wear across our faces as we strut the sidewalks leading back toward the underground trains, hint to nosey passersby of deviance, personal success. It is now time, time to sleep.