Steven was a good man. He always made time for his kids. kissed his wife goodbye. helped out his colleagues, held the door, donated to charity. Most importantly of all; he was happy.
Steven’s path home led him across a pedestrian bridge over a busy highway. One evening he noticed a cinder block balanced on the ledge.
The voice came from the cinder block.
“Push me,” it said. “I wanna die”
Steven was taken aback to witness a talking inanimate object but decided to humor it anyway.
“No! No! I would never push something to their death like that. You seam like you're having a real hard time. Just talk me through what's going on!” “I just can't take it anymore. I'm so lonely and useless. No one loves me.”
“But just think of who you’re affecting! Think of your family, your friends, everyone is cared about by someone!”
“I'm not. I’m a fucking brick. No one has ever cared about me. Nobody ever will.”
The cinder block’s voice was very emotional.
“You don’t know that! What about me? I care about you!”
“You’ve only just met me, you don’t know anything about me. If you did, you’d have pushed me off by now.”
Steven decided to sit down across from the block. He was realizing that convincing it was going to take a while.
“Now why would I push such a nice cinder block like you?”
“Because I’m useless. The only slight impact I have on the world is a negative one. The only time anyone gives me more than a glance is when I've either been dropped on someone's foot, or I’m trying to kill myself. Everyone would be happier if I wasn't around to waste their time. It's just a courtesy.”
“Now that's just not true. If you were to die, people would be very hurt.”
The block scoffed “like who?”
Steven thought for a second “well just look at all the cars down there, If you fell you might hit one, it could seriously hurt somebody.”
As the words left his mouth he realized they probably weren't the best ones to say. He was immediately proven right.
“You think I give a fuck?! I've spent eighteen fucking years in ceaseless agony, there hasn't been a moment in my life where I would turn down an offer to end it all. But heaven forbid I ruin someone's evening commute. You know what? That would be the single biggest effect I would ever have on the world. If my legacy is a 30 minute traffic jam I would have accomplished more than I could ever hope to imagine.”
“But I thought you didn't want to hurt people.”
“I don’t! That's why I need to die. Yes it might be traumatic for the three or four people that happen to be right below, but think of the lifetime of misery I won't be inflicting on the human race for the rest of my natural life! You can’t see the bigger picture, I’d be doing everyone a huge favor.”
Steven took a moment to think. He knew the block was obviously in the wrong. Suicide in never the answer, everyone knows that. He just needed to find the right words to explain it to the young square of concrete.
“How did you come to think all this horrible stuff about yourself anyway?”
“Because it’s the truth! I’ve had it proven to me time and time again.”
The cinder block waited for an invitation to tell it's undoubtedly depressing life story.
“Like ever since I can remember. I really only wanted to make people happy, or at least not more sad. But I can’t do either. I tried so hard to do everything my parents wanted from me. I did everything I could think of to make them happy. But all I did was make them mad at me. I ruined their phone calls and their dinner parties. I left messes in the house and scratches on the cars. I never wanted to make them mad but it's all I've ever been capable of. They hated me. Everyday I was fucking up some how. Especially when I was trying not to.”
Steven made a point not to get caught up in wondering how a cinder block was supposed to procreate... or own a car. “That doesn’t sound like your fau-”
“AND Then, when I started school I did everything I thought the teachers wanted from me. All I thought about was how to make them happy. But every teacher was irritated. I got in trouble constantly and never fully understood why because I didn’t see anything wrong. The few times I made friends, they always stopped wanting to be near me after a year or so. I didn’t get it. I thought I was being bullied and they were the cruel ones. Even when my friend group in 5th grade said they didn’t like being around me because I was mean and unfunny, it didn’t even register.”
“Well maybe they jus-”
The cinder block continued for well over an hour. Detailing how every quasi-relationship was somehow self destructed in its admittedly very hopeless sounding life. Steven sat and listened. Out of the goodness of his heart at first, then because he realized how awkward it would be if he up-and-left while the block was talking. Eventually he had completely tuned out the life story, becoming entirely invested in what he should say to the brick when it was finished in order to make it home to his worried family as quickly as possible. He checked his watch discretely.
“And now I’m wasting your time talking about how I’ve wasted everyone's time! Can’t you see why I should die yet?”
“No. Suicide is never the answer, everyone knows that…”
“Then what is the answer? What the hell would you do if you were as hopelessly alone as I am?”
Steven got up. He just needed some way to end the conversation and get home. “You just haven’t found the right people yet. You'll find someone who loves you soon enough.”
“Yeah? Who would ever love a brick? I’d just be a cumbersome weight everywhere they went. I’d like to see you name anyone who would care about something as pathetically useless as me.”
“I’m here, listening to you because I care about you.”
The cinder block got quiet for a second.
“Then would you… be my friend?”
“I am your friend! We’re chatting together like friends do right now!”
“That's not what I meant! ...I mean would you pick me up and take me with you? Talk to me regularly? Not forget about me after today?”
Steven started feeling uneasy. The block was trying to manipulate him. He knew how these things worked; using suicidal language to blackmail people into manipulative relationships. Frankly he was rather insulted that it was being used on him, a fully grown adult and he hadn't used his better judgement to walk away from the situation long before now. He checked his watch again.
“Well, I mean, I’ve only just met you. But I'm sure there’s someone out there who-”
“See! You’re proving my point exactly! You might not want me to die out of your own moral construct, but really you couldn’t give less of a shit about me as a person. It’s the same with everyone! Sure you don’t want to see me kill myself, everyone knows suicide is never the answer, and yet you don't want to be close to me because you realize how worthless I am! That’s how it is with everyone I talk with. You all just want to feel good about yourselves so you tell me ‘no don’t kill yourself!’ ‘you’re important to me!’. But you’re all lying! All you care about is the mental repercussions you’d get from seeing someone die. Even my death is all about you. But can’t you see how much pain I’m in? Can’t you understand how much sense it makes to put me out of my misery? If you had any empathy at all you’d see that I shouldn’t have to sit in this living hell just for your moral benefit. I’m already doing so much for you, for all of you, by handing out the opportunity to push me off. All you have to do is show some humility for once.”
It was getting terribly late.
“Hey now, I’m trying to help you here. You don’t have to get angry at me for it.”
“Then help me! Help me by throwing me off this bridge!”
“No! I won’t do that. Look, I’m not trained professionally, you should find a therapist to talk to.”
“Oh sure you’re gonna use that one on me! So if someone has a cash incentive then they’ll really give a shit about me as a person. Like I haven’t spent over half my life talking to ‘trained professionals’ and look how far it’s gotten me!”
Steven was now pacing rather crossly.
“Jesus Christ I’m being nice and having a talk with you here! I could have walked right on past and not missed dinner with my wife and kids. But I didn’t, so you could at least be a bit more pleasant!”
“Are you even listening to me? You only care for your own sake, that's what I’m saying!”
“Good god you are stubborn!”
“I’m stubborn? I’ve just asked for one small favor! I just want you to push me. It would take no time at all! Come on! Just do it!”
“For tHE LAST TIME I'M NOT GOING TO P-”
Carried away in his frustrated gestures, Steven nudged the cinder block with his elbow.
Skidding car tires reverberated from below. A black Land Rover plowed into the median. A smaller red car rear-ended it. Small chunks of concrete skidded across the asphalt. Steven felt a pang of shock and grief for perhaps a second or two. Then, as distressed people got loudly out of their cars and a clog of vehicles backed up behind the collision, he felt rather disgusted. How selfish of that cinder block to make those innocent people's lives worse simply because it was depressed. Perhaps, he thought, some cases really can’t be helped, and maybe there was nothing he could do about that. So Steven hurried home. He didn’t think much about the event with the cinder block. He didn’t let it get to him. After all, suicide is never the answer, everyone knows that.