Tuesday, February 17, 2015

February 17, 2015 - The Bridge


A young man walked up to a bridge on a cold winter’s day.  He made sure there was no one around to see what he was going to do.  No one at home knew where he was.  No one would miss him.  He had no commitments.  No one was paying attention to an old swing bridge over icy waters.  He was all alone.  It was perfect.  He walked out toward the middle of the bridge with one thought in mind:  This is the end.

It was very cold out, and the snow was packed deeply on the foot bridge.  Ice hung everywhere.  Somehow it seemed fitting to him that the end should be this way.  It should be cold and lifeless and quiet.  He should be surrounded by ice when he died.  After all, he had been surrounded by the coldness and ice from other people his entire life, so it only seemed right that the coldness should follow him to his icy grave.  As if in response to these thoughts, the wind began to whip up in a ghostly frenzy, and it hollered and moaned past his ears.  He drew his collar up around his neck for warmth.

That's it, then, he thought as he reached the very center of the bridge.  Enough.  But as he was about to jump, he thought he heard a voice just behind him.

The bridge to there and back.

“Where are you going?”
He snapped his head around quickly, but there was no one there.  He felt very uneasy, thinking he must surely be going mad.  But that's what must happen, he thought, when you're heading toward death.  He turned back to his task.

“I said, where are you going??”  This time he knew for sure he had heard a voice, but when he turned around, no one was there.  One last conversation, he thought.

“It’s lucky for you that you chose the exact center of my bridge to stop,” said the voice.  “Otherwise we wouldn’t be having this chat.  But when you’re in the very center, you see, you are neither here nor there.  You’re not on one side and you’re not on the other.  You aren’t anywhere, really, but in the middle.”

“It’s alright with me if you don’t want to show yourself,” the young man said.
“I am what you see,” said the voice.  “I am the bridge.”
“Whatever.”
“So, where are you going?”
“I’m not going anywhere,” said the young man through tears.  “I’m here to end my life.  I can’t take anymore.  I just can’t take one more minute.”
“But you’re on a bridge, and bridges take people places.  They get people from one side to the other side, a side they might not have been able to get to had it not been for a bridge.”
“I’m going straight down,” the young man sighed.
“So it would seem,” said the bridge.

The man stood in silence for a minute or so, the wind howling around him.
“So how many people have you brought to where I’m going?” the man asked.
“Ah!  You mean not one side of the bridge or the other side of the bridge, but the third unseen destination, the one on every bridge?”
“Yes.  That’s what I mean.”
“Well, I was built in 1892,” said the bridge, “So I have seen many people come and go over these past 120 years or so.”
“I’ll bet.”
“Most of them just go from one side of the river to the other.  But there are plenty who have gone where you’re going.”
“So you’re used to it, then,” said the man.
“It doesn’t happen every day, but I am familiar with it.  Well, as far as I can be, which isn’t very far.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.  The wind seemed to whip around from every direction, and the young man shivered.

“Well, bridges bring people from one place to another,” said the bridge.  “Bridges connect things.  Bridges make paths where there weren’t paths.  Bridges bring things closer.  And if things operate the way they’re supposed to, it’s a two-way path:  People come and they go, back and forth, back and forth.  But where you’re going, no one ever comes back.”
“Maybe they don’t want to come back,” said the man.
“No one ever?  Not even once?”
“Why should they?” the man retorted.  “Life is hell!  I wouldn’t come back either!”
“No, you definitely won’t come back, but I don’t think it has anything to do with wanting to come back or not.  See, with the regular parts of the bridge, I have very strong feet on both sides.  I’m firmly planted.  I can see on both sides.  I can see where I begin and I can see where I end.  But with the destination you're interested in, I have no feet over there.  I can’t see into it.  I can’t feel the other side.  I can’t tell where it begins or where it ends.  It’s like I go just up to this gray wall or cloud, and what’s behind it, I haven’t a clue.”

The young man's hands were shaking in frustration and fear.  “Well, part of you must be on the other side, too,” he said, “if you’re leading there.  You can’t just connect to nowhere.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” said the bridge.  “If I had a foothold over there, even a tiny one, surely someone over there would have found it, even just once, and come back across.  But no one ever has.  Ever.  It’s a one-way path.”
“Death is pretty final,” the young man murmured.
“Maybe.  Maybe not.  But one thing’s for certain:  When you take the bridge that way, you don’t come back.  Ever.  Where you go when you get there, whatever “there” is, is beyond me.”

The young man stood in silence for a few minutes.  It was getting colder and darker out, and the wind was even fiercer.

“Ready, then?” asked the bridge.
“For what?”
“You’re final destination, of course!  I’m a bridge.  That’s what I do.  I bring people places.  There’s no sense just hanging out in the center.”
“True,” said the young man.

He looked from one side of the bridge to the other.  The side he came from instantly called to mind anger and fighting and rage with his family.  That side brought sorrow and hopelessness and tears.  That side is what brought him to the middle of the bridge today.  The other side of the bridge had a lot of unknown things on it.  He’d been there but not often and never long enough to feel comfortable.  He didn’t have anyplace to stay there and no friends.  He didn’t have a job and didn’t know where he’d get any food.  Those things were all over there, of course, but he didn’t know how he’d go about finding them.

Dusk was upon him and the wind was terribly cold.  The young man looked back and forth from the side he came from to the other unknown side.  The bridge could take him from one side to the other, and back and forth again if he changed his mind.  The bridge offered him choices and gave him connections.  He stepped back from the center edge of the bridge and touched the frozen rail.  Then he walked off silently to where the bridge ended on the other side without saying a word and disappeared into the growing darkness.

The bridge hung in the icy cold wind over the frozen river as night approached.  In the very center just off the bridge, there was a gray cloud.  In the center of that there was a large black hole that turned around and around in a counterclockwise direction.  A chilling voice came out of the center and said, “Mine!”

“Not this time,” said the bridge.

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