The Bridge

June 20, 2011
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I’m standing in the snow that is falling lightly, but in droves, in the middle of the night. You’re probably wondering why, and I could tell you that I just can’t sleep, but you probably won’t buy that, as it’s not the whole story. I’m checking my watch, and starting to walk slowly, aimlessly through the layers of snow that are falling along the dark road. Walking in light, then in shadow, then in light, then in shadow. The road is cold, and wet, and makes muted splashing sounds as I walk down it. I’ve been walking for a long time, it seems, but I have no idea since I have a quite woefully inaccurate sense of time.

I’m coming, after quite a bit of walking, to one of those trendy shopping centers, with it’s own movie theater, and upscale restaurants, and a fountain with a sculpture built out of a pile of large rocks, and some abstract, modern art that means nothing and probably took five minutes to throw together. All that sort of thing that makes people feel brilliant and cultured, like they’re smarter than everyone else, I suppose. I’m still walking down the sidewalk, or up it, with my hands in the pockets of my down jacket because that seems like the only reasonable place to put them. And now I see a moderately attractive, blonde girl walking the other direction and irresistibly I’m wishing that my hands were around her waist, or in her hair. I’m breaking with the thought of it now, as I find no use in dwelling on impossibilities, but I seem to have an irresistible urge to do so. I’m checking my watch instead. Anyway, she probably has a boyfriend. He probably plays football, and is lazy, but can benchpress more than I can, so she likes him anyways. Now I find myself fantasizing about beating him in a fight, but just as I’m knocking him out, I’m deciding to drop the whole matter with the thought of him wasting his life away playing football and not getting into college, any college. I’m trying to catch her eyes as she’s striding past, and to figure out what color they are, but I’m receiving only an ephemeral glance. I’m starting to look around for other items of note but not finding any. Note, or notes; I didn’t take any notes in physics class. I shouldn’t try anyway, that does no good; it just crowds my head with crazy formulas and Greek letters better left to nerds. People say nerds will rule the world. Well then I’d rather not rule the world, or else I don’t listen to what people say. Who needs Greek letters anyway, except maybe in college? It looks like there are college students in a coffee shop that is appearing on my right along with its overstated neon sign. It seems like a fine place to go, good as any at any rate, so I’m walking in the door. I’m striding casually up to the counter. Checking my watch, I’m waiting for the barista. He’s coming, with a hurried expression on his face and sweat on his forehead, speaking confidently with experience tempered with exhaustion.
He looks dazed and confused now, but too exhausted to care, and he’s reverting to taking my order.

This looks like it might be an all right place to get a job. I had a job once, but then I didn’t show up for five days so I got canned. It was a nice job, at one of those fancy restaurants, with waiters who memorize your order. It was nice for the few days I had it at least. Maybe I could get a job here, but it doesn’t look too promising, so I won’t bother. It seems too late for people to be in here, but after looking around, there’s a few seated at small round tables. One has a man sitting by it, with a chess set; it looks as if he’s playing himself. What a pathetically lonely thing to be doing, but then again, my own condition isn’t much better. I’m getting my coffee, and walking towards the window, casting a glance in the man’s direction, the one who has the chess set. He has a beard, a long grey one, and he looks at me inquisitively.
“Care for a game. It doesn’t look like your doing much?”
“Sure. I guess.”
The large grey beard dominates the man’s face as I’m sitting opposite him and opening the game. The silence is excellent. At least this man isn’t one of those neurotic, extraverted idiots who fill every opportunity for intelligent thought with their blunt, superficial remarks. There are too many people like that; society ought to realize it can do without their insecure dispositions. I’m startled to realize it’s my turn. Things are going too fast, or maybe a little slower than normal, or somehow both. We’re playing for what seems like a very long time anyways, and I’m mostly just mirroring his moves, as I don’t really care. I can’t get anywhere, and he wins, and I thank him, and he thanks me, and I revert to staring aimlessly out the window again, looking for something that I know won’t be there. I don’t have the slightest idea what I’m looking for, really. A disruption I guess, something dramatic, something to break the monotony, and the rules and conventions that people who think themselves superior impose on my life – something that won’t happen. And there’s nothing to be gained in waiting, I guess, so I might as well change things myself and walk out the door, which happens to be exactly what I’m doing now. Ha, change things yourself, that’s just what the arrogant people who think they’re successful try to get everybody to believe in their quaint, fantasizing books and seminars where they try to get an ignorantly exuberant community to be like them and forget about believing in real life. What is real life? It’s not dreams; it’s not lofty aspirations that unrealistic people have that involve them having more money. It’s certainly not everyone who wants to be the next great American writer, or businessman, or astrophysicist who wins five Nobel prizes. Reality is the present, which is always changing, so that’s not really much of anything either, except that no one can predict it or tell other people what to do about it. I’m walking through the air that is colder and sharper now, heading down the street, into the square with the fountain of brown rocks. There are happy people here, in a large group with other happy people laughing at their jokes. People who think they can run the country better than the next man, or are too stupid to care. I guess I might have been happy once, in the past – until I discovered reality. The past is not reality; it’s only memories. Things that I can’t change. The end of fleeting experiences of elation, and the haunting crystallization of my failure. I’ve had a lot of that, failure. It permeates, well, everything really. It’s also inescapable, so I might as well give up on trying to feel better about it, and just languish in it, and not listen to the naïve arguments of the motivational speakers. Happy people, these people, are confident, too confident, and ignorant. Maybe one day they’ll wake up and realize that all their lofty dreams are too much for their potential, or just waste their lives away not doing just that. I’m walking through reality, and feeling more depressed. I’m feeling more depressed because I see a couple, a happy couple. The guy is putting his arm around the girl as they walk, and she’s smiling at him. I wish a girl would smile at me like that, well, not just any girl, just the only one that really matters. This is where I get all teary-eyed and sentimental, standing here, bathed in orange light, looking across the fountain, and thinking about her. Her eyes that were clear, and sharp, and penetrating, and the way they irresistibly bored into my soul, inexplicably, and her hair that flowed in one continuous blonde sheet around her gorgeous, perfect face. Her lips that I wish I could kiss, and how I longed to kiss them, and how she would never let me. She was fluid; her whole being was fluid and beautiful, and flawless, and so perfectly unattainable. Every part of her was beautiful, and the perfect way in which she flowed together was beautiful. I have too much trouble figuring out the color of people’s eyes, but hers were blue, or green, or blue-green, and it felt like you were staring into the sun when you looked at her, or she looked at you, and I must stop thinking about her because I dwell too much on impossibilities. But this is only superficiality. She really is graceful, and confident, and perfect - perfectly successful, intelligent, and athletic. And she cares about people, not just the happy people, but people like me. Her mannerisms excel in reflecting her kindness, and love, and innocence, and the coy demeanor embodied in the voice emerging from her perfect lips, and the beautiful glint of her clear, penetrating eyes.
But now her eyes had dimmed. Her charisma, her joy, it was unattainable. Her voice had grown cold as if to cruelly spite her perfect image indelibly imprinted on my mind. She’s always on my mind, and I can’t get her out. Regret, remorse and regret, of neglecting to tell her I loved her – and that I meant it. The unbearable accusations of incompetence and inferiority, my own accusations, trapped in my tortured, confused mind. The pain, exacerbated by some other guy holding her, satisfying her. The conquering glint in his eyes, his otherwise cold eyes, as he relished her tangible affection. He didn’t care; he couldn’t really care. He’d never care about all her complexity. He could hear her laugh, but never really hear. The pangs of this jealously that must be suppressed remained, as clearly as did the residual passion that in itself was beautiful. Or was it? I don’t know; I know a lot of things, but not this. Unspoken effort, thoughts that no one cares about, and emotions don’t matter because they don’t get me anywhere because no one cares about them. At least, she doesn’t care about them. I’m tearing my eyes away from the happy couple, and moving down the street. I’m nearing a parking garage now, which is not bathed in orange, but in blackness. There is a car, just one car, sitting alone in the blackness, and there are some people driving off towards the bridge with loud music. The bridge is getting closer. It’s imminent, just a few yards from where I’m standing; I guess I’m almost done aimlessly walking around. I never go past the bridge. I’m coming up to it and hearing a voice. The voice is coming from below the bridge, resonating against its walls. I’m walking under the bridge, just because I’m curious. I guess I’m naturally curious, and the girl is on my mind, and I need something to clear my head. There is a man under the bridge, a black man with a gray beard, and a baseball cap. The baseball cap is facing forwards, which makes sense. I never get those people who wear their baseball caps facing backwards; it doesn’t make any sense; it doesn’t keep the sun out. Anyways, I’m approaching the man, and he’s sitting down. I’m speaking a few words to him, and he’s looking up slowly with a pleasant curiosity. I’m checking my watch as he looks up. He’s speaking in a deep voice, the kind that I would want someone to narrate my life with.
“Awfully late to be out walking.”
I guess it was late, tonight, or tomorrow, early tomorrow; it doesn’t seem to make a difference. He’s continuing.
“It looks like you’ve got a lot on your mind.”
“I guess so.”
“Looks like you could use some company.”
“So do you.”
“I’m used to it by now.”
“So am I.”
As if by unspoken agreement, he’s getting up and walking with me to the top of the bridge. There are no cars, because it’s too late, just the orange streetlamps, and the iron railing. I’m telling him a little about me, and he’s telling me a little about him. I’m wondering why he’s under the bridge, and he says he lives there, and that makes sense now, but it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel right that people should have to live under bridges. Now we’re leaning across the railing, staring down into, and across, the water. The water is dark, black really, and sort of choppy with small waves because there’s a little wind. No much wind, but a little. It’s dark, and the darkness feels really cold, expansive and empty. I can’t help myself. I want to jump off the bridge, and I tell the black man with the grey beard,
“I want to jump off the bridge.”
“I feel like that sometimes too.”
Well that really didn’t help. I still want to jump off the bridge, and I’m leaning further over the railing, and trying to stare to the bottom of the water. I need someone to tell me to not jump off the bridge, so I ask,
“Why don’t you?”
“Well, I suppose, what if all the world jumped off the bridge. I mean what if we all, all of us people here on Earth, just decided to end it all and jump off of bridges?”
“That’s ridiculous.”
“Not really. I think It’d be fine to end lots of pain and sufferin’. You know, no more people living under bridges.”
“Yeah. Why don’t we all do just that?”
“Well, I’m still here. You’ve got to find a reason to still be here, and It ought to be a reason that can keep everyone everywhere from killing themselves.”
And now I’m summoning all of my collective brainpower, and nothing is happening.

Understanding is one of the most untouchable goals of human existence. A cataclysmic understanding is hitting me head on, as I’m thinking about that girl. That love might matter, just because it’s there. The capacity to love with so much vehemence that tears are inescapable, and thoughts consumed by visualization, and the body endlessly contorted beneath the potency of the emotion. More than desire, or lust, or affection, it aspires to the collective good. I don’t really know though, maybe that’s it, but that can’t really be all of it, just like it wasn’t all of it when I told you I had to take a walk because I couldn’t sleep. The fact is that I’m still trapped in reality. I’m still the modern art that looks like nothing, the pawn subject to the whims of others, I’m checking my watch; it looks the same. But I’m crossing to the other side of the bridge.





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