From The Stories That Are Great Within Us, edited by Barry Callaghan. Joe Fiorito writes for the Toronto Star. He is also the author of five books, most recently Union Station: Love, Madness, Sex and Survival on the Streets of New Toronto.
The Bloor Street Viaduct crosses the Don Valley. There are sidewalks across the bridge. There were some four hundred jumpers since it was built in 1919, or roughly one every three weeks; that’s fewer than the Golden Gate Bridge, but more than the Jacques Cartier, if you’re keeping ghoulish score.
An Armenian teenager jumped; afterward, someone spray-painted his name and his dates on the footings down below, in that lovely cursive Armenian script which seems perfect for recording sadness.
The bridge was a magnet. It attracted, and it repelled.
A rumour: kids in a nearby school used to peer out the windows at the comings, in the hopes of seeing the goings.
A rumour: someone hailed a cab, stopped in the middle of the bridge, paid the driver, got out of the cab and jumped.
We put up a barrier to stop the jumpers. The barrier is made of metal rods which, seen from a distance, look not unlike the guts of a piano. We call it the Luminous Veil. Said the wag, I’d rather have voluminous ale than a luminous veil.
We jump elsewhere now.
The rods—there are some nine thousand of them—whisper in the high winds like an Aeolian harp. They were made, not across the bay in the steel mills of Hamilton, but around the world in Mumbai.
Signs at each end of the bridge advertise the telephone number of the suicide helpline. They take our calls in India when we need help with our computers, our printers, our electronic devices. Perhaps they ought to answer our suicide-prevention lines as well.