You might have noticed I’ve been quiet on here, sorry readers. I’ve been struggling to find words for how I feel. Nothing has felt big enough to write about.
Late in May that changed. I had been at a party after a hand-fasting ceremony, which is a pagan wedding of sorts. We left to drive home as it was over the border in Wales and we needed to be back before midnight as an in law was babysitting at our house. We walked back to our car, tired but happy. It was a clear night, not too hot or cold, I was in high heels so the walk back to the multi storey car park felt much longer than it really was. I’m the passenger, I slump in the car and relax as Husband drives down the zigzag ramps to exit the car park.
Kind of dull for the first couple of minutes, then I notice something out of the corner of my eye, a man on a bridge. The Wrong Side Of The Wall. He’s sat there, on the wall on the top. I almost click out of sleepyhead mode and into autopilot. I need to help him. I ask my Husband to turn the car around and I dial 999 as he goes forward to the roundabout at the edge of the bridge and calmly turns us around. I try to explain to the 999 handler what I am seeing, where I am, the urgency of this situation.
“Stay in your vehicle Julie. Do not touch him.” she says. The man is still sat on the wall, and I’m still in our car, I am truly fighting the urge to jump out and grab him. I am now crying, the calmness goes as I see him twist his body and drop. It goes all slow and surreal. I am screaming and ARGUING with the 999 handler. “If I help him am I committing a crime? I can’t watch him die. I cannot do nothing. I can’t just sit and report what I am seeing!” She can’t give me a straight answer. Right, it won’t be murder I tell myself.
I run at him and grab him by the hand as he’s dangling by just his fingertips. The man is screaming at me “I want to die, let me die?” I am shouting back “you are not doing this. This is not happening today. I am NOT letting you die!” “but I want to die” “No. Nooooooo. You’re going to regret this in the morning, you don’t mean this mate. I’ve been suicidal. I’ve been stood on the edge. I will not watch you die.” These exchanges go on a little while….
“JULIE! JULIE? Are you alright? Tell me what is happening if you can?” it’s the call handler, I somehow still have the phone wedged between my ear and shoulder. I begged her to get help here faster. It had only been 2 minutes, it felt like hours. Things were all a bit slow motion. my husband is still in the car, parked on hazards half blocking the traffic over the bridge. He’s got a sort of quiet shock going on, and I am the opposite – I am here arguing with a stranger – fighting with him to get him back up to safety. One of us fighting to live, one fighting for death. I’m screaming for help, more strangers come and grab the other arm. I’m so glad because I had nearly lost my grip, and the only thing holding me steady is the fact the jabbed one of my heels into the pretty holes in the stone wall like an anchor, but I couldn’t hold him much longer. With the help of some others I manage to get him back. I’m still the only one talking to him, the only one trying to take charge, to negotiate, to get control.
Over the edge wall he comes, protesting the whole time. He threatens to hit me. I hold my own and say “mate you’re having a sh#t day but you don’t look like the sort of #^~! to punch a woman. Come on, hit me!” I’m trying to turn his determination to die into anger at me, give him a focus. Anything to try to make this struggle easier. The lady on the phone advises me against this tactic, but I know if he’s trying to hurt Me, he’s not hurting himself. I’m willing to risk it. He drops to the pavement of the bridge, the other helpers disappear faster than dust in a hurricane. I’m left on the ground wrestling this man. Wrestling this stranger, this man whose name I don’t even know. I reckon he was around 18 stone, and here I am pinning him to the ground to stop him trying again. It’s 4 minutes in. I hear sirens. “They are coming Julie, just hold on!” Lots of sirens. Like something out of a film the police box in our car, a few cars and a van. Two policemen run over and I stand up and try to move out of the way.
He resists them, as he had with me. He gets handled roughly, and it makes me want to cry. He’s clearly in mental distress, having some sort of personal crisis – he’s not a criminal. Yes, okay, he threatened me, but I knew that was fight or flight reflexes. His face is pushed into the concrete floor. I hang up the phone. The tears leak slowly from the corner of my eyes, but no noise. The cuffs go on him and I can relax, my fight is over, now I can panic like normal. The adrenaline causes me to shake so much I feel sick. I don’t know what to do. I stand there and I watch until the van door is closed behind my new pal. I take a photograph to prove to myself this is happened, I didn’t imagine it. Staring in disbelief almost, I feel helpless. If I hadn’t grabbed that hand this man WOULD be dead. If I’d lost my grip fully, He’d be dead. If I hadn’t screamed loud enough to get others to help, he’d be dead. What did I do?
I wait to talk to the police, I’m not sure what I’m obliged to do now. So I tell the police my full name and address and get back into our car. I can barely talk. My husband doesn’t say much, he knows me well enough to leave me be. I’ll talk when I can and he knows that. At the first services he pulls in and says “you need coffee and cake”, who can argue with that. I walk into that service station with makeup blurred down my face, proudly holding my man’s hand. He doesn’t need to say anything, just being there makes me stronger.
In the days that followed I went through so many emotions. I felt guilty, proud, happy, sad, disappointed, impressed……… and everything in between. I didn’t know if I was coming or going. On the advice of friends I called the Samaritans and had a good talk and a cry. I tried to find out from the police if he was okay, but confidentiality rules stopped them being allowed to tell me. The police lady I got through to this time said Thank You. She said I was a brave lady and I’d saved him. That most strangers passing by wouldn’t have done what I did. It helped to hear that.
But I still just want to know his name. I don’t want to pry, or be weird. I just want a name to the tortured face that is in my memory. I don’t think I’ll ever forget him.