The Ballad of Bridge 34

He’d seen it all from his booth on the toll bridge.
From his crude wooden shack that held off the rain.
Beneath him ran the creek, a meandering blue streak.
Above, the rusted struts of a cantilevered frame.

From his worn leather chair he’d seen countless acts of romance.
The valley a stage for declarations of love.
Each illicit kiss, each secretive tryst.
Recalled to him his sweetheart, his Mary, his dove.

Through the sliding glass window he’d seen love turn to hatred.
A thousand wedding rings cast into the abyss.
Vicious verbal combat, tears and bitter words spat.
Were a mirror for his own loss of marital bliss.

Beyond love and hate, the bridge had seen tragedy.
He had 911 on speed dial on his old service phone.
Car smashes and suicides, jumpers and drowners.
He felt them more deeply now that he was alone.

He’d though he’d seen it all from his booth on the toll bridge.
But he didn’t see it coming when his dove flew away.
Whilst performing his duties, his Mary had been fruity.
With the jerk of a toll clerk from Bridge 38.

It’s hard to be normal when you live in a toll booth.
The bridge was his real love, and that’s the sad truth.

Casseopeia

The boy with the low voice sits hunched by the window, gazing up at the night sky. The girl who spreads happiness is out there somewhere, separated by time and distance, but beneath the same cloudless vista. Their minds are filled with the pain of another recent parting, the tedium of reality putting an ocean between them yet again. Each time the wound is more ragged, and every time they wonder whether the pain of separating is too much to bear, but the pull of love always wins out. The raw grief of parting is ever present, and each time the ache lingers yet more.

They could stop the pain easily if either was brave enough to punch through the inertia, but for now fear holds them rigid. Neither of them know yet, but two short years later she will make the bravest decision of her life. For now though, they exist in a sickening limbo of mutual adoration and suffering. If he wasn’t such a coward he would fly out there permanently and build a life for himself, but fear of change paralyses him. He’s a boy pretending to be a man and failing, or at least that’s how it feels. He’s never believed in himself enough to achieve anything, and perhaps he never will.

The nights are when it hurts him the most, and he knows that she’s suffering too. She’s a time traveller, living two hours in the future, but although kept apart by time and space they take comfort in sharing the same sky. They’ve taught each other the names of the familiar constellations that stretch out over the northern hemisphere, forming a celestial bridge between them. Her favourite is Cassiopeia. He likes Orion. The seven sisters look down on them both kindly, two lost souls both seeking the answer to an impossible question.

The clouds roll in, leaving the sky starless and obsidian. Their connection gone, for now.

“Until tomorrow, my love”.

Sand and Stars

The late evening sun is almost touching the horizon as they walk together on the beach. Fingertips entwined, leaving two fleeting lines of footprints in the soft caramel sand, the sinuous, lazy amble of two souls with infinite time and no destination. The act of sharing time and space is the only thing that matters.

They pick their way along the strand line, negotiating the thin band of natural jetsam carried to land by the encroaching tide. He watches her skip nimbly over a warped piece of sun-bleached driftwood, and thinks that he could exist for millennia and not find anyone more perfect. The sunlight makes her rich auburn hair gleam like burnished gold, a stark contrast to near-translucent porcelain skin. Her face is a poet’s dream, deep green eyes and a crooked, knowing smile framing a flawless button nose, faint freckles her reward for a day spent under the sun. She thinks her freckles are ugly, but they make his heart sing.

The sun dips below the horizon as a distant lighthouse oscillates slowly, warning ships of the perilous rocky outcrops obscured by the waves at high tide. The brilliant white beam appears to glimmer as the flow of photons refracts through droplets of spray, creating ephemeral rainbows that they alone can see. They stop and sit together on the sand, watching the amaranth sky fade to black as the fleet of distant fishing boats become scattered points of light.

His dopamine flooded mind is acutely aware of his surroundings, and he pays abnormal attention to the sand beneath his hands and feet. He scoops up a fistful and lets the grains slowly fall through his fingers, tiny fragments of ancient life. He tries and fails to imagine how many grains of sand there are in the world, but he knows that the number is unimaginably huge. A fitting metaphor for the way he feels about her.

She pays no attention to the sand, instead gazing up into the darkening sky. She has been fascinated by the night sky since she was young, and as the stars slowly reveal themselves she is able to identify familiar constellations. She speaks the names of the galaxies, stars and planets out loud, her imagination travelling uncountable light years deep into endless space. She struggles to comprehend the vastness of the universe, but she thinks that her love for him might be comparatively vast.

They lay together on the warm sand, not touching but close enough to be aware of each other’s every subtle movement. Caught between the sand and the stars they marvel at the unlikeliness of their two souls sharing the same microscopic fragment of spacetime, and at the near impossibility of finding each other in the unending eons that stretch eternally before and after that moment. Like Andromeda and the Milky Way, destined to collide since the dawn of time.

The sudden realisation of the impossibility of it all. That might just be what love is.