His hands press against the barrier as he leans over the edge, looking down. Isaac Newton’s famous apple would fall a long time, if it fell over the bridge, before it hit the water. He thinks about the structure of an apple, wondering if it would survive the fall or if the surface tension of the water would be strong enough to break it open.
These are things he should know, he feels.
He left his car somewhere back there. The keys are in the ignition. Everything is still in the car, all his books and papers and pictures of his family and everything. He only took the one notebook with him.
Water splashes, down there. The water is glowing in the sunset.
A car comes at him from down the road. The sound of the car warps as the car approaches, and warps again when it passes him by. He’s taught the Doppler effect in more classes than he can count, to more students than he can count.
He takes the notebook out of his coat. He opens it up, flipping through the pages.
In some alternate version of the universe, he’s already done it.
In some other alternate version of the universe, he’s already walked away.
The edges of the notebook are yellowed from his sweat. His palms are always sweating. He flips through. He stops. He feels along the front of his coat. He finds a pencil. The eraser on the pencil is soft and worn down to a neat little dome. He erases a capital G and looks at the equation again. No. It was better the first time. He scratches the G back in.
In some alternate version of the universe, he leaves out the G for good.
In some other alternate version of the universe, he lost the notebook six months ago and none of these goddam equations ever touched paper.
The barrier is low. Concrete. He puts one foot on it and pushes himself upright, puts his other foot down. He wobbles but doesn’t fall. Automatically, his hands go out at his sides, pressing against the air for support. The wind pulls at the notebook in his hand.
A voice from the far end of the bridge. A bystander. A do-gooder.
It’s too late for him now.
He closes his eyes.
In some alternate version of the universe, he finally does what he has to do.