Approaching on foot along bloor East, it's as though I've stumbled onto some ancient Roman movie set: arrayed before me on either side of the viaduct, on the left and right, a series of leaning metal crosses held in place by wires, dramatic and chilling.I've come to see, touch and experience the "luminous veil," a term already fraught with religious underpinnings that was coined by its architect, Dereck Revington. But instead of being uplifted, I'm profoundly shaken. It might be the times - war, pestilence, plague, the sound of clattering hoofbeats in the distance - or it may simply be truth asserting itself.
The Christian cross stands for many things, including endurance, grief, the persecution of innocents. On this windswept overpass it's also a timely reminder that we all have our crosses to bear, and bear them we will.
So many stood here with heart-stopping terror and longing, unable to find peace or respite from the demons hounding them, they leapt free, breaking their bodies open on the concrete expressway below and releasing what remained of the spirit within.
Each cross could mark the death of hundreds or stand for the ongoing suffering of every homeless person, every beaten and abused soul, every mind tormented by memory and loss.
It's a trick of perspective, I find. When I stand close enough to touch a crossbar it's uneven, and this destroys the illusion - it's not a cross at all.
Perspective plays a large role in how differing communities view this suicide barrier. To architects it's a prize-winning wonder, to the Schizophrenia Society a desperately needed life-saving device to discourage jumpers.
For members of the psychiatric survivor community, however, it will stand as an enduring embodiment of an appalling waste of money and resources that could have gone a long way toward making life worth living.
Built in our best interests, with the best of intentions, without our presence at the table, without our voice being heard.
What advice could we have offered in our afflicted, mind-sick states that would equal or counter the weight of the opinions of psychiatrists, our family members, city councillors or architects? What could we possibly know that they do not?
The public wants and needs to believe that help is out there at the other end of a phone line or in a hospital ward. If society simply blocks one of dozens of possible exits, it thinks individuals will be persuaded of the sanctity and value of life.
Public officials are accustomed to weave their own obscuring veils of catchphrases and symbols of caring. They relieve themselves of the necessity of seeing too much or too closely. Homelessness is a lifestyle choice, schizophrenics need to be forced to take their medications, runaway children are just delinquents and single mothers welfare queens.
But there are no safe, welcoming places for those driven mad by poverty, isolation and terror. No food for the hungry, no hope for the lost.
Ten thousand steel rods "strung like a Stradivarius" complete the structure. When I grasp one, it is cold and unyielding, like the bar of a cage, and there is only silence. We are barred from life and barred from death.
Ultimately, the veil, which cost over $5 million, and the two inexpensive Distress Centre signs that bracket the overpass, accomplish - and fail to accomplish - the same mission, the saving of lives.