The Bridge

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

It starts with a boy on a bridge.

The flick of his lighter broke the night’s silence. He brought the flame to the tip of the cigarette he had squeezed between his trembling lips and inhaled deeply. His lungs greeted the smoke like an old friend, with an open door and no complaints.

He sighed, releasing equal amounts of smoke and disappointment from his body. The only reason he had started smoking was because of the burn, that sweet burst of unpleasantness he used to have to struggle through after every hit. He knew bad things were destined to come to him anyway, so it felt good to be able to conquer one of them, no matter how small.

But now here he was, the burn simply another entry on the long list of things that the world had decided to take away from him. It was never ending, and Fate didn’t seem to ever forget that fact. He couldn’t go twenty minutes without something going wrong, and it wasn’t just little stuff either; for every time he stubbed his toe or got stuck at a red light there were two cases of an unfair assignment from a professor or girls rejecting him.

Cigarette now down to the filter, he took one last hit and let the charred remains fall from his fingers into darkness. His eyes tracked the progress the entire way down, not once losing sight of the bright red cherry until it was extinguished by the lake sitting below him.

The thought of the water brought him back to the real reason he was here tonight. Why he had picked three A.M. on a Tuesday to come to the bridge, why that note that said what it did was waiting on his roommate’s desk to be discovered in the morning.

It was only one word. Four measly letters arranged in a way that didn’t have a bit of significance to them until this plan had popped into his head. He hadn’t even uttered the word since; he wanted the occasion to be special. It had bored its way down through his brain into his mouth, and now sat on the tip of his tongue just waiting to be spoken.

“Jump.”

There. Now the world knew. He was sick of the lies, the stress, the tests, the debt, all of that and more. Finally, he was taking action against these injustices. He was going to end them all at once.

He withdrew his dangling feet and carefully stood up. A gentle wind hit against his back, whispering for him to get closer to the ledge. He took a deep breath and shoved another cigarette into his mouth.

Doubt surged through him. What if it didn’t work? He had picked the spot specifically for its foolproofness, but he had never tried to do this before so what if he was wrong? It would be a fate worse than death if he somehow managed to survive this ordeal. The thought of what his peers would say made him shudder.

A quick look down at the water put his fears to rest. If the eighty foot drop didn’t do him in then the fact that he couldn’t swim surely would. No chance of failure.

Now he was coughing. The cacophony of his hacks and wheezes ran away from him into the night. Another hit. No difficulty this time. Of course.

That familiar feeling was back. Eighty percent frustration and twenty percent sick of this shit.

He turned his head to the sky. It had been completely dark when he had first arrived, but now the stars were out in full force. He didn’t know any constellations but that didn’t stop him from tracing his own with the cherry of his cigarette.  A smile flitted across his face as he played connect the dots; this cluster was the rejection letter from his dream school, that one the shithole he was forced into, so on and so forth.

The game eventually brought his eyes to the moon. It was completely full, nothing less than a rounded diamond in the sky. Light bled from the gem in every direction, but only one moonbeam managed to find its way to the lake.

It illuminated the water it laid on, showcasing the calmer side of one of nature’s most destructive forces. Liquid stilled to the point of solidity, the phosphorescent trail stretched across the entire lake, looking almost as sturdy as the bridge he was standing on.

Everything in the scene practically screamed ‘beauty’.  He marveled at what was before him, and wondered how such an anomaly was possible. How the same force which had drove him to the ledge could also take his breath away, how the same world which had been so cruel to him could dare to be so picturesque.

Maybe it was trying to tell him something? Maybe he was supposed to see tonight and let it change his mind.

A large cloud passed overhead, throwing the world back into darkness. No. If anything this only strengthened his case. The world he lived in was a rich dick of a stepdad, capable of so much yet had seen it fit to give him so little.

With steel beams now backing his resolve he slid confidently towards the edge. This was the time.

A breath.

He inched closer.

Another.

Everything was right.

In.

Now or never.

Out.

He jumped.

The first part was kind of fun. His initial burst off of the bridge had been strong enough to propel him a few feet upwards and that was a distance he travelled gladly. A straight smile found its way to his face as his body twisted through the air.

Unfortunately the descent was a different story. Whenever he had acted out the idea in his head, his final moments were always filled with absolute serenity. A very brief period of peace where he would have an epiphany then accept his fate like the man he was. This might have been achievable, too, had he not jumped in such a harsh manner. If he would have simply stepped from the ledge, his fall would have been respectfully predictable and he could have collected his thoughts as he wished.

Of course, this was not the case, and he now found himself flipping head over heels to his death, his mind producing only the words “fuck” and “shit” instead of the pre-mortem catharsis he so desperately craved.

Face to the sky and back to the water, a sixth sense told him that his journey was almost over. Though he had meant to keep them shut the entire time his eyes flew open just before contact.

Unveiled and once again shining to its fullest extent, the moon filled the world with light the same as before he had jumped. It was all he could see.

That wasn’t too bad, and a feeling that closely resembled that of a revelation began to-

He slammed into something. There was no splash and he was still breathing, which meant it definitely wasn’t water. Still a little groggy from the impact, he flipped over to inspect his saving grace.

Beneath him was what seemed to be a solidified layer of light. Its glow was harsh, impossible to miss, yet still welcoming, like a neon exit sign would look to people trapped in a burning building. Goosebumps raced across his skin as his body filled with immense amounts of comfort and relief. Suddenly, he had energy, and that made him want to move.

He scrambled to his feet and looked around. The water of the lake sat unnaturally still around the thin sheet of luminescence, but rippled outward with waves everywhere else. He took a hesitant step forward. The light lapped around his foot but still managed to support his weight.

Soft to the step and getting better with each stride, the light was an absolute pleasure to walk on. His head had played no role in what had been his leg’s decision to start, but the mutiny was quickly forgiven due to the influx of good vibes the stroll was producing.

Whispers started to drift from the light. They got louder as he continued on, each step adding another decibel. Once he was able to actually differentiate the voices all the color drained out of his face and he was left as white as what he currently stood on. One belonged to him, and the other to the woman who had been his loving caretaker for his entire life.

His legs made another executive decision and began to run. As he pounded closer and closer the sounds became more and more real. From far away he had identified a disruption in the glow of his path, and he was approaching it rapidly. He stopped just short and looked down to inspect it.

The space between the light and the water served as a screen for a scene ripped directly from his memories. There he was, as his seven year old self had been, curled up in his mother’s lap, whose face was significantly younger than the one that had dropped him off at school a few months ago, in his favorite spot on the living room couch in the house he had grown up in, which hadn’t really changed at all.

She had him wrapped completely in her arms, pressed secure to her chest. Her fingers ran through his hair lovingly as she sung sweet compliments that went gently into his ears. He recognized the smile on his younger self’s face as the same that wiggled its way onto his own whenever he realized he couldn’t be any happier. It had been a while since he had even thought of it.

Moments like these in his childhood weren’t rare by any stretch of the imagination. If there had been one constant in his life besides suffering it was the love of his mother. She had always been there for him, never failing to pick up the pieces no matter how bad he had managed to break things.

He knew his plan hadn’t been fair to her, and that the admittedly small explanation written on the note would never be enough. He sighed. There was no way of going about this without hurting her. It had to be done.

He stepped over the show but before long found himself standing in front of another one. More recent than the last, but still five years removed from the present, the scene caused a wave of delight to rush over him.

This was when he had first kissed a girl. A vague remembrance of the day formed in his head. It had definitely been hot. Maybe a week after his thirteenth birthday. The name of the girl escaped him but that didn’t matter, for the memory of how beautiful she had been was all he needed.

And there the two were, slowly loping up a hill of an alleyway. She looking every bit the goddess and he every bit the nervous wreck that they both had been, respectively. He watched the unintentional actors perform in the theater he used to call his life.

They played their parts well, followed the script to a tee. He rushed them under the overhang of a nearby garage just before the rain began to pour down. She pulled him close when lightning struck, then tried to hide in his arms when thunder began to beat its way across the sky.

He seized the moment and made his move. His aim was dead on, but he hadn’t checked to see if his path was clear, so instead of meeting her’s his lips pressed against a significant amount of hair.

Determined to succeed, he redoubled his efforts against those stray menaces. They sensed his will, parted ways, and now his lips were on her’s. Everything stopped as both parties realized what was going on.

While it had been the least technically skilled kiss of his life, it had also been the one that had made him the happiest. In those static electric moments immediately after when they both had been afraid to move the entire universe had been at his fingertips. He had never felt more powerful, more complete, more hopeful for what was yet to come than he had in those few seconds, and though he had tried to replicate the results he never could get it to happen again.

The memory of his failure made him stick to his stomach so he rushed over the still moving picture with his eyes closed. When the next set of whispers started he attempted to do the same, to ignore it and walk past, but eventually the voices got too familiar.

Sounds not long ago heard coming from people he had seen in the hours before his jump assaulted his ears. His eyes ripped open like a bag of chips in a stoner’s hands, and he drank in the scene as thirstily as the same stoner would to solve his cotton mouth.

He was sitting at a table full of the people he had begun to call his friends over the course of the semester. The date flashed on one of their phones, and he was stunned to see what was being depicted had happened earlier that day.

But it couldn’t be because he had studied his face closely and came to the conclusion that he looked happy. The smile on his face looked impossibly similar to the one from his first memory, and the twinkle in his eyes reminded him of how amazing he had felt after that kiss. Inarguable bliss.

His mind travelled back to the event, and now that he thought about it he didn’t actually recall being unhappy. He didn’t remember it that way, but the proof was in front of him; he had undoubtedly been having a good time. If that was true for this that meant that…

It was then that the realization hit him. That he still wanted, okay, needed the love of his mother, that he still wasn’t ready to give up trying to find that first kiss spark again, that he might have been leading a better life than he had thought.

Filled with a new purpose, he turned around but a cloud passed in front of the moon and when the light returned it was the only thing that did.


Submitted: November 13, 2014

© Copyright 2021 SunToTheE. All rights reserved.

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