It is 6:08 AM. A fifteen-year old girl walks the promenade towards the Brooklyn bridge, wearing wrinkled jeans and a hoodie, an achromatic apparition drifting through the waking park. The grey hood drapes over her platinum hair, shading her face. She is not wearing makeup, but there are black smudges on her eyelids and on her left cheek. There are circles underneath her eyes the color of her dirt-caked converse shoes. Her breath smells like coffee. Everything around her smells like trees.
It is 6:14 AM. The sun is only threatening to come up, turning the sky into a shaky blue-bell flower- a gradient from a perfect navy to a bitter yellow. She arrives at the Brooklyn Bridge and walks a little further than the middle of the pedestrian bridge.
It is 6:16 AM. Her toes touch the edge of the bridge. The East River is green like a forest and blue like a dead soldier’s uniform and black like the pupils of a girl staring into the future.
The girl gets a text message. It is a young man half way across Brooklyn; he says “I didn’t sleep at all last night” she replies “me neither.”
There are five minutes when neither of them say anything.
It is 6:21 AM. A forty-five year old woman wakes up to the sound of her radio-alarm clock tuned to classical music and goes down to the kitchen in her fuzzy bathrobe. Her husband is away on business, but her daughter should be down in the kitchen with her in about fifteen minutes.
It is 6:21 AM. In a crumbling house in the Southeast of Windsor Terrace, a sixteen-year-old boy receives a text. He is putting on his backpack when he gets it. As soon as he reads the message, he skirts out the door and gets on a train. He will not get off at his usual stop.
It is 6:21 AM. Ten minutes away from the crumbling house, there is another young man smell-testing his jeans amongst the chaos of his bedroom. The rest of the house is orderly. His sister is in the bathroom, picking at her skin in the mirror and dotting glitter under her eyes. He receives a text-message similar to the one the boy in the crumbling house received. Upon reading it, he slips out the door front door, almost abandoning a whole-wheat bagel with salmon and cream cheese set out for him on the kitchen table. He ends up running back in to grab it anyway, cursing at his own gluttony in a moment like this. He imagines the grey girl would have done the same. His mother will understand later. He will get off at the same stop the other boy will.
It is 6:21 AM. A sixteen-year-old girl one subway stop away is in the bathroom when her phone buzzes. She does not notice because she is putting on lipgloss that the fifteen-year-old bought for her more than a year ago. She thinks of the girl as she does it. She won’t read the text message until 6:30 exactly, when she sits down for a bowl of cereal. “Why?” she replies. “Just come,” the other insists, and so the girl puts down her spoon and rushes out the door, shouting a quick “I love you” and putting in her headphones.
Sometime between one and two that morning a twenty-five-year-old hipster left a Yuengling bottle on the bridge while contemplating the beauty of the skyline being torn apart in the river’s reflection. The young, blonde woman who was with him looked down at the river and did not look up again for fourteen seconds.
It is 6:37 AM. The fifteen-year-old sits with her back to the East River, her knees up in front of her and her hood slipping off of her head. There is an empty Yuengling bottle between her feet. She rolls it from one foot to another, counting the breaths in and out against the weight of her ribcage. Her torso is cold despite her sweater. There is little to no expression on her face. She scratches her left arm.
It is 6:38 AM. The young man from the crumbling house runs down the Brooklyn bridge. It is becoming difficult to breathe. He has never been athletic. He sees the grey girl on the side of the bridge and keeps running. She looks up when he is about 100 yards away because, of all the runners on the bridge this morning, he is the only one flailing in a denim jacket and a hat. He is also the only one with a backpack. When he gets to her, he sits down next to her, tossing down his backpack and sliding down the fence. He puts up one thumb. She sucks in her lips and falls over onto his shoulder.
It is 6:40 AM. The fuzzy-bathrobe-in-a-nice-house mother starts shouting up the stairs for her daughter to come down. She rolls her eyes, and goes to put the sugar in her daughter's tea. "She always lets the tea get cold," she mutters.
It is 6:42 AM. The other boy, more athletic but seeing no reason to run, speed-walks down the pedestrian bridge. He looks out, into the grey fog over a blue-green river. He and the girl have plans to swim in there in their underwear next month. It may or may not have started as a joke, but both of them are the type to take a joke too far, still laughing. He sees the other boy first, a navy hat and sharp features cutting out of the green fence of the bridge. Then he sees the huddled, grey mass. Somehow, he knows to run.
It is 6:42 AM. The sixteen-year old girl ducks out of a subway station, scratching at her pixie cut and straightening out her Hamilton t-shirt. She doesn’t know which way to go, so she picks one at random. Somehow, she gets to the promenade a minute later. She keeps walking, Dr. Who headphones drowning out the early-morning car horns and bird song with Panic! At the Disco.
It is 6:43 AM. The other boy reaches them and drops into a hug. She takes in a breath so big it shifts both of their holds on her. Her feet start to tap in short little couplets. She has one hand on her chest.
It is 6:48 AM. The sixteen-year-old girl find a puddle of her friends diverting traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway. She sees the grey girl and pulls out her headphones. She winds them up around her fingers and puts them in her pocket, still staring. She stares at her until her eyes start to run all at once, and she pushes tears away with her forearm like she’s rubbing out bloodstains. The grey girl starts moving and the boys shift to let her. She stands up and swallows the older girl, both holding her up by the torso and hanging on by two grey straps around her shoulders. She kisses her and whispers “Don’t cry, Lina,” and then buries her head in her neck. She still isn’t crying.
It is 6:55 AM. All four of them walk down the Pedestrian bridge into Manhattan, hands grasped tight together. It doesn’t matter what order. The two girls faces are wet and smiling. The air smells like roasted nuts and cheap coffee and burnt plastic. The skyline is waking up, tiny sparkle lights groaning up glass towers against the pink and blue sky.
Someone started a list. Maybe it had a theme at the beginning but now it’s just random lovely things with a few strings between them.
“Real dancing or at parties?”
“Both. Only good parties though.”
“My mom’s baked mac and cheese.”
It is 5:28 PM. They’ve been walking and riding the subway all day, taking turns between telling stories and jokes and continuing the list from that morning. No one has asked the grey girl any questions. Someone has washed her face.