The Bridge

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The Bridge by Julia Slavin - Photo by Hannah Rubenstein

Here is where it started
On the bridge

I run my hands along the dusty iron bar. It has the same metallic smell that permeates the entire city. My fingers form the chord progressions for the song that slowly unfolds.

The moon is big and yellow
And the stars are all a’ glow

As the first verse begins, I try to take a look at my reflection in the water. Not that I can see anything. I finally get a good look. I don’t recognize it.

You kissed me for the first time here
An’ held me awfully tight
And the bridge became our favorite place
We came here often in the night

I wouldn’t call the bridge our favorite place. To be honest, it was a little far for us. That’s what made this spot so perfect. We preferred Brooklyn, because you could bike. Technically, it led to another borough (another country, really). The untested way seems scary, but maybe I was thinking that you would be the only one who knew where to look. You would look, wouldn’t you?

Okay, it wasn’t completely untested. We technically did go here first. But it was different. We didn’t discover each other like they do in the movies; it was just another landmark on that long first night: that Italian place, that tiny park downtown, the ice cream shop, the bridge.

But it doesn’t matter where or when. Back then, we were in love, and I wouldn’t have doubted something as silly.

And one night while standing on the bridge
Desire swept through us both
Passion took us by the hand
And showed us where to go

What I loved about you was that you didn’t take me by the hand or lead me. You held it tight, but we walked together. Sometimes I would lay my head on your shoulder, and the strong scent of that cologne I got you for your birthday would overwhelm me. I still don’t know why you ever wore it, because that meant you would always love me, and we both know that’s impossible.

There was a time when I thought it was possible. You know, I trusted you. I had never truly trusted anyone before, and now I know why I still don’t. Trusting people requires them to be honest, and being honest requires people to say what they feel. I can count on two hands the times this principle has been followed.

From the bridge we saw a meadow
So we ran together there
Where we found love together
Our emotions filled the air

I remember a meadow once because that’s the only time I’ve seen one. You took me to the one near your house upstate, and I’d never seen anything so green. I was scared too, mostly because of the bugs. The ones up here were huge and you see their beady eyes staring you down as they sucked the life out of you. But you swatted them away for me, even though I felt like I was made of tougher stuff. I wasn’t afraid of anything as small after that. I was scared of the big things that came in life: love, death, taxes; but I didn’t realize that then.

You were certainly not the first person I had been with. I was an “old hand” at this; in fact, I was surprised you were so new. This infatuation seemed new to me too, especially since you were always there to tell me how exciting it was. I had forgotten in all those years.

One day we were so entangled that I didn’t even try to pry myself loose. I knew you would stay there.

Where once we stood together
Tonight I stand alone

I wish we had untangled. I wish we hadn’t gotten so swept up in this idea that everything that was perfect would last. When we found out, it all came tumbling down.

You see, you made it all worse. I wanted to keep calm. I wasn’t prepared, but I thought I could salvage a bit of my dignity by pretending that I was ready to make the difficult decisions. Every piece of media I consumed told me I could handle it. You seemed ready to handle it too.

What I didn’t know was that you would stifle me.

You tried convincing me that it was for the best. I believed it too, especially when the hormones started to kick in, and I felt my self-confidence evaporating. Then I would swing again and rail at you for truly stifling me.

I tried to escape it all by ending it. Not me, because that would be terrifying. The thing I had started calling “it” so that I could remove myself from the situation I had clearly caused. That’s what everyone said anyway, but they referred to my terrible situation as “baby.”

You started calling it by that strange name too. You wouldn’t let me, but somehow “it” was precious. You thought a ring would make it all better, or a white dress that of course fit loosely so that I didn’t get strangled. But I was already tied up by the rope.

My heart is beating wild
To think that you could leave me here
With our unborn child

So maybe I’m leaving you. I feel more abandoned than you could ever know, if that makes you feel any better. My heart beats, but it’s because I’m carrying a lot of luggage; some of it yours, some of it mine. I feel a little kick, which makes me sad. It’s too late now to go back, especially to a time when I didn’t know you.

Maybe if I did know you I would have gone back. Time is linear, but life isn’t. I could go back to a time when I sat for hours by the phone, but it’s too hard to sit for long periods of time. You wanted me to sit and wait, so maybe I’m hurting you more by walking. So what?

My tapping on the bar becomes quicker. The fingers shaping my chord progressions feel swollen, and they’re covered in dust. It’s calming to have something be out of place. Even though I’ve wanted to fit into my place for a long time, this doesn’t seem like the right moment.

I’m just waiting for this song to be over, and my timer to go off. Then I can finally leave.

My feet are moving slowly
Closer to the edge

My own feet are moving closer, in time with the song. For this next task I need the utmost concentration. For some reason, taking the plunge doesn’t come naturally to me.

Here is where it started
And here is where I’ll end it

I walk into New Jersey.

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