The Man on the Bridge

bridge-2

There were about seven of us that night. Chanel, Katty, Walleye, Jammy, Ty, and Harvard had brought me to the bridge, to let the night envelop us and to get away. Back then we just parked on the bridge itself, blocking traffic and not caring a bit about it. The door to Harvard’s car was propped open and Nirvana was playing. We filed out of the car and I climbed the bridge. When I got to the top, I stood and howled. The cry went out over the water, suffused with the surrounding trees, and was swallowed up by the bridge itself. I heard a splash and I knew she was listening.

I sat at the top of the truss and looked down at the gathering of people. Katty stood behind the car. She seemed to be looking at the trunk as if there was something fascinating going on there, but she was really just hiding. Jammy walked in close to Harvard. They were not dating yet, but they would be soon. I did not know what that would look like, but I was happy for them. They were going to be beautiful. Ty was standing, looking out over the water. I think he was looking for the source of the splash. I don’t think anyone else had heard it, but he had. He was like that back then.

Walleye was climbing the other side of the bridge. He came up slowly, fighting against his fear until he got to the top of the far side, then he headed in to the middle. There was no good place to sit there, but he kind of crouched and clung for dear life. He only stayed for a moment or two before descending and falling silent.

“Penny for your thoughts, Ty. Dollar for your dreams,” I said.

He laughed. “I think you still owe me from last time, Jesse.”

I think he was right.

“Katty?” I said. She shook her head.

“Jammy?”

“I had a dream that I opened a book store the other day, a used store that had a section for rare books and a room to read them. In the dream, you were a constant customer. Harvard was a part owner.”

“That would be cool,” he said.

Jammy seemed egged on by this and she got excited. “In the dream, Harvard had a section devoted to occult books and a collection of old Lovecraft that he always said he would sell, but he never did. There was a chess set made of ivory and ebony, and me and Jesse were always playing each other.”

“Sounds like a dream. Were we still writing?” I said.

“We were. We were all published. I was doing nonfiction about old religious practices. Harvard had evolved into poetry.”

“Devolved,” I said. Back then, I didn’t like poetry much.

“I write poetry now, Jams,” Harvard said.

She was pulling back. She lowered her head and nodded. She even stepped back, but I pulled her out again.

“What about me? What was I writing?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she muttered.

“No, Jammy, please. Your dream is awesome. I hope it comes true. What else? Was I still writing?”

“You were,” she said shyly. “Fantasy. Really dark stuff. Like your games.”

“Really dark then,” Chanel said. “Mind-shattering, soul-wrenching.” We were all laughing now. “Damaging dark. You were giving people nightmares, then.”

We all laughed.

“I don’t know why we play those games of yours, Jesse,” Walleye laughed. Few others did.

“We play because they are awesome,” Ty said. He didn’t care if anyone else heard, as long as I did. “We play because he needs to tell those stories.”

I didn’t know what Ty meant by that, but I would not tarry in that comment too long.

“Jammy,” I said. “I owe you a dollar.”

“He’s not good for it,” Katty said. Everyone laughed. She was so much funnier than she thought she was.

“Anyone else? Penny for your thoughts. Dollar for your dreams.”

“Let’s get on with it,” Ty said. He laughed almost apologetically. “I can’t stay out too late tonight. I have a thing with my dad tomorrow. Can you get to it, then?” he asked.

“Get to what?” I said, but I knew the answer. They all wanted a story. They all wanted to hear about the last time I had been here.

Ty looked up at me and just stared. “Come on, Storyteller. Tell a story,” he said.

I laughed.

“He shouldn’t have to if he doesn’t want to,” Walleye said. He said things like that sometimes. It only made me want to tell them more.

“How about the last time you were here?” Ty said. “When was that?”

“Few nights ago,” I said, but they all knew that was not right. They had been hanging out with me almost entirely for a month. Walleye scoffed, but Ty kind of hissed at him.

I started to talk, but Walleye cut me off. “How is that possible when you have been with us all this month except for when you are working?”

“Tree took me here when she gave me a ride from work the other day.” That shut Walleye up. Tree was his ex, and he was not sure he wanted me hanging out with her at all. He fell silent and I began.

“Dark,” I said. “There was no moon in the sky. There had been one, until I got here. It was as if the moon had brought him and left without him. It would come back to get him, but not until after I left.

“When I come here, I am shy.”

“Bullshit,” Walleye said.

Ty hissed at him.

“I walked onto the bridge alone, and I saw him standing where Ty stands now.”

“Where was Tree?” Walleye asked.

“I swear, if you interrupt him again,” Ty said. “You will answer to Thane.” He stabbed a moonlit finger at Walleye and that shut him up. Ty used an old axe handle he had named Thane when we stick fought. It was harder than stone and bruised what it touched. Walleye shut up, and I continued…

I get shy. when there is someone here that I didn’t bring, I get to where I don’t want to talk; I want to go home. When I pulled up beside him on the bridge, I was not afraid of him, and I was talkative.

I climbed this support just like I do every time, and the guy did not try to stop me. He did not try to say a thing. He just let me scale this bridge, and when I got up here, he laughed.

“Hate to think what would happen if you fell off of that thing,” he said. “There would be no saving you. You can’t swim, can’t dive. You’re helpless in the water. But that is the point, now isn’t it?”

“What do you think?” I said. “How do you know I am not a very strong swimmer?”

“Legend tells different.”

“Legend?”

“No other word for it really. Legend is as good a word as any.”

“Who are you?” I asked.

He took his wide-brimmed leather hat off and smiled. I knew that smile.

“A friend and admirer. A traveler. A lover. A man with a family and a man with a pen. No one really, and a possible great one. Not much and nothing. Call me Simon.”

“I will. Call me Jesse.”

“Really?” he laughed. “Huh, I thought you had a different name than that.”

“Want to hear a story?” I said.

“No, I want to tell one,” he said.

“I tell the stories here. This is my place.” I was getting mad now, getting possessive. Maybe he knew this place as well or better than me. Maybe he knew my Leviathan.

“There are more storytellers than you. If you don’t want to hear my story, then I will leave you to it and move on. But if I tell you mine, you may have another to tell when I’m gone.” He replaced his hat on his bald head and laughed softly to himself.

He had me. Another story to tell when I got here.

I looked out over the ones I had brought with me that night and I smiled. “I crave the stories of this place, so I let him talk. I wanted to bring them to you. Wanted to tell of whatever he would say. What follows is his story, not mine.”

Ty was turned looking up at me now. Harvard slipped into the car and played PJ Harvey. I let the sound reach out over the water before I spun on the truss and grabbed the edges. I slipped down and threw my leg over the rail. I patted Ty on the back and walked to the edge and looked out. I leaned against the edge and Harvard nodded to me.

“He said there was a love of his life. A girl that he said he had known for a long time. That he had just met. She was adorable and smart. She was sharp witted and funny. And she loved him intensely. He said that she gave him two boys that grew to be mighty men. And that he had left her lonely after the boys had grown…”

He was not long for the world. He had told her when they first met. He had no staying power. He would never leave her, but before she was ready, he would die.

“You’re dead?” I asked him.

He shook his head. “Dying. I’m curled up on a bed right now. I’m waiting for the reaper to grab me. Came here to give you some advice.”

“Why me?”

“No reason.”

“What’s this advice?” I asked.

“When you get the chance to dance with your love, do it. She will love it more than you think. When you get the chance to make her laugh, do it. Her laugh will warm your heart. And when you are looking at the knife. When you have it in your hand and you think you’re ready to do it, call Amy.”

The group of them did not know what to think of my story. They listened and Ty nodded.

“Badass, Jesse,” he said. “That was badass. What do you think it was? A ghost?”

“Well, it was going to be.”

“Sounds like he was from the future. Seems like he knew you,” Chanel said.

“Sure,” Walleye said. “If it is a true story, but you all know it can’t be. He has been hanging out with us. And Tree didn’t bring him here, or she would have told us. And there is no way she would have let him come out here alone if she did. She would have been right next to him.”

“Thanks for the story, Jesse,” Ty said. He hugged me. “Thanks a lot. I gotta get home.” Ty left us then. He had brought his own car and parked it in a lot nearby. He was not stupid enough to park on the bridge.

I looked at the place where the man had stood, but there was nothing.

I can’t remember why I told that story. I hope one of the people that was there that night remember it. I later learned who the guy was in the hat. I learned to respect him, even if he lost all of his hair.

 

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