The Ben and Me

The Benjamin Franklin Bridge, Philadelphia, PA. March 15, 2020. For a very brief moment, we were alone together.

(5-minute read or listen to me read it HERE)

A FEW YEARS AGO, I had a bit of a stay in the hospital. The doctor who did my intake interview was very kind and patient with me. He asked me a series of questions. They started off deceptively easy.

“What’s your full name?”

“Robert Scott Langdon.”

“Your date of birth?”

“February 4, 1969.”

“What do you do for a living?”

“I’m an actor and a writer.”

“Really?”

That’s the reaction I usually get. My interpretation of that response used to always be, “Well, that’s awfully irresponsible of you. Do you do anything for actual money? How do you live?”

I don’t think that very often anymore, but that’s what I thought then.

“Yes,” was all I said at the time.

He wrote some things down on what I assume was the beginning of my chart. Then, he just casually threw out the question, as if it were simply the next logical one to ask.

“Do you ever think about suicide?”

“Sure.”

“Really?”

There it was again. I looked around to see if anyone else was offering strange answers in addition to mine that were confusing him somehow.

“How often do you think about it?”

It felt like a loaded question to me because I thought I had the universal answer.

“Every day,” I answered. “Doesn’t everybody?”

“Uh, no.”

“I don’t mean I have a plan for it every day or anything,” I justified. “I just think about it. Like, how someone might do it.”

“What do you think about, specifically?”

I pondered some of the thoughts that had gone through my mind. One idea was a recurring thought.

“Well,” I started, rather matter-of-factly. “Take the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, for example. People can walk across that bridge almost any day. Whenever I drive over it, I think about how easy it would be to just pull the car over, get out, and jump off. I mean, the barriers are virtually non-existent. Anyone could just jump right off. I don’t have a plan to do that. I’m just saying, anyone could do it.”

Evidently, there’s this scale, and I was closer to the one end than I ever thought I could be.

The Ben looking out toward Camden, NJ. March 15, 2020

On Sunday afternoon, I walked across that bridge, taking pictures of what I could see. One thing I saw but didn’t take a picture of was a sign that read, “Suicide Prevention Hotline” and it gave a number to call. I saw that sign on the way up and another one just like it at the apex.

Going up, when I saw the first sign, it barely registered. But when I got to the top and saw a second sign, it hit me. I thought two things:

One—That sign is not meant for me, Mr. Benjamin Franklin Bridge. I haven’t thought about you that way in years.

Two—There are many out there for whom it is meant. I pray they can somehow know, there is so much to live for.

I’ve always been interested in photography. I could literally spend hours with photo books from the great photographers when I was a kid. They were basically all I took out of the library during grade school. I’m fascinated with what it means to capture a moment in time.

Recently—since June 2019—I’ve been taking my photography more seriously. I wanted to make a habit of seeking out and capturing interesting and beautiful things. I wanted to make a habit of seeing moments, of seeing differently in the world, of seeing the world differently. I wanted to notice intentionally.

The Ben looking south down the Delaware toward his younger brother-in-suspension, the Walt Whitman Bridge. March 15, 2020

On Sunday, I stood at the top of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in these crazy, uncertain times and looked outward. I could see as far as my lens could see and it was beautiful. I didn’t look down. The sky was endless.

I was hopeful.

Yesterday, I lost my job. “The Bodyguard: the Musical” was cancelled. Many of my friends have lost their jobs, as well. Not just this show, but shows-even seasons-at theaters everywhere around the world. There are so many affected by our current times, some in ways the rest of us might never imagine.

I’m still hopeful.

I’m hopeful that this experience of *Social Distancing* will—in a strange kind of way—show us how we are all without a doubt fantastically, inextricably connected to one another.

I wish I could tell you Depression will never try to smash your face in if only you would believe a certain way. I can’t. Honestly, I don’t want to tell you that because it’s not true.

Depression is a bastard and cheat and a thief who always lies. That’s the truth.

This is also true: You are never alone, you are loved beyond your understanding, and you matter.

Today, I love. It’s what I’ve chosen for today.

Tomorrow has enough trouble of its own.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s