The sound drove into Tracy’s skull. Each thud connecting with her mind, one blunt vibration at a time. Chip, chip, chipping away at the marrow. Burrowing into the inner sanctum of her brain, dispersing grey billowing fragments of fog. They always did. Every single time. Every single time she heard the robust, thudding of a helicopter’s rotor blades she would allow herself to regress to that place. To that time. To that feeling.
At first the sound had, if anything, brought her hope. A slight promise, the merest hint, of possible salvation. When all hope had seemed lost the sound had reverberated in the air, carrying with it a confidence and an assuredness. One that told her that a conclusion would be found. One that spoke to her in clear and simple terms, cutting through the tentative whispers of maybes and if onlys. Weeding out the hints, clues and doublespeak of the previous search.
But even then that hope had started to fade. Almost as swiftly as it had been rekindled in the first place. At that point those familiar sounds had lost their own sense of hope, their own beacon of confidence, fading and mixing with every other sound, with every other sight, into the murky gloom of despondency.
But she remembered that hope. Even in the end, even after the inevitable conclusion, that feeling of hope had stuck with her.
Maybe that’s why she had moved there. To the coast. By the river. By that bridge. Something in her mind had chosen to, if not forget then, pull a veil over the obvious connotations inspired by that area. By the bridge. It seemed to choose to fixate on that sense of hope instead. It chose to harken back to that brief moment of promise when all around seemed futile. And so it is entirely possible that that is why Tracy elected to move there. With that unforgiving view. Of the bridge. Of the river.
Her friends, her parents, had pleaded with her not to. They feared the move would place her within the epicentre of her pain. It would thrust her deep into a spiral of depression that she wouldn’t be able to wrestle herself from. But she had insisted. This was her decision. This was the right decision. She had wanted always wanted one of the flats down by the coast. It would bring her closer to it. To him. To his last moments.
And, once she moved in, it had felt like the right decision. It had. Until…
Until the first time she’d heard that thudding, hammering sound of the helicopter rotor blades, carving their path through the night sky. She was unprepared for it. It was unexpected. But even that couldn’t account for the sagging feeling she felt in her chest, the destitution burning through her soul as each thud dug into her skull.
It brought it all rushing back. His disappearance. The strew of unanswered texts. The cavalcade of missed calls. The frantic calls to the police, to family members, to friends, to work colleagues, to shopkeepers, to landlords, to barmen, to hotel receptionists, to…everyone. Everyone. The desperation for information, any information. And then when information did start to filter through, of last sightings, of locations, of probabilities, the desperation for none of it to be true. The hopelessness. The pain. The anger. The waiting. Most of all the waiting. And then the knowing. And finally the emptiness. The feeling of having your bones, your intestines, your body literally stripped bare and left exposed for the world to see. A shell, nothing more. Devoid of reason, devoid of clarity, devoid of future.
It had never gone away. It never does, completely. But that sound. That one helicopter sound had brought it all rushing back.
And then the next night it returned. That sound. Above her building. Heading out to the bridge, circling the river. Searching. Part of her wanted to render the sound as nothing more than an army drill, perhaps. Or a wealthy magnate or celebrity of some sort choosing to be transported in style across the river, without the need to mingle with the riff-raff of the common folk. But she knew that wasn’t the case.
It was the circling. That’s what told her it was different. She would hear the helicopter clumping overhead and disappearing into the distance, its sounds slightly muffled the further away it got. But then it would return. Again and again. Circling the bridge, scouring the river. Searching. Hoping for a rescue but knowing, in all likelihood, it was a salvage operation. And she would know. Know there was another lost soul out there. Know that another had taken the same step her husband had taken. The same leap. The same path.
And it would happen again and again. The sound. Sometimes weeks would go by without it. A month, even. She would allow herself to be lulled into a false sense of comfort, one of almost serenity. And then it would return. The thud, thud, thudding. Occasionally the sound would thrust out of the silence, digging into her brain, every second night or so. Sometimes on consecutive nights. Another ultimately-fruitless search for another lost soul.
The sound tortured her. Tormented her. She would hear it in her sleep. She would wake up in the dead of night, convinced she could hear it. Unable to fall back asleep, paralysed by the grief and paucity of hope.
At times she believed it to be calling her. Each thud bringing her closer to her own fate. Thud. Thud. Thud. It was calling out to her. Showing her the way. One afternoon she had even started the walk. The walk to where she believed her fate lay. One that would be ultimately peppered by that thudding, digging, battering sound. The same path he had taken all that time ago.
But something had stopped her.
Something had pulled her back from the edge. Turned her around. Sent her back home.
The same thing, she believed, the very same thing had brought her here. All these months later.
Staring at the bridge. Only this time, a different bridge. A new bridge. A bridge a whole Atlantic Ocean away from home. The Brooklyn Bridge. Waiting to climb on board the helicopter. The one that would let her see New York from the air. Something her and Paul had always wanted to do. Something they had long planned to do. But had never gotten round to. Restrained by work. Restrained by everyday life. Restrained by his depression.
Something in her had told her that no, the sound didn’t have to scare her. Not anymore. The sound was hope. It was. Or, at least, it could be. Anything could be. Nothing had to be defined by an event. No sound, no sight, no feeling could dictate how you could or should live your life.
She would have the adventures they planned to have together. The ones he couldn’t quite make it to. He had tried, oh god she knows that he had tried. But he couldn’t quite get there with her. But he was really. Wasn’t he. He was still with her. He always would be. He was the one making her take this trip. He was the one making her brush out that painful sound with a new one. With a new meaning.
This time she would shape the meaning.
This time she would dictate things on her own terms.
That sound no longer had to signify grief.
This time there would be hope.
There would be happiness.
Tracy sniffed and stepped towards the helicopter, casting her eye over the rooftops of Downtown Manhattan as she did so. The sound of the helicopter rotor blades thudding into her skull once more. Only this time, she could feel a rush of exhilaration threading through her veins.