“I’ll be forty-two tomorrow” she told herself out loud and sighed, “again”. It felt daunting, like walking through a dark forest all alone at night without a flashlight or the moon to guide her. She took a sip of her tea, it was bitter and she didn’t like it, but it was one of her new habits, a thing she’d taken up during one of her health initiatives. That too felt daunting, and the initiatives rarely stuck, but the tea had. She had a small, rose patterned cup and a small silver spoon she’d inherited from her grandmother and although she didn’t like the tea she liked what it reminded her of.
Old times and things past, things future, the bridge and the eventual changes she’d manage to conjure up.
She sighed again and stirred, then she lay the silver spoon on the saucer, took another sip and then gave up on it. The memories haunted her, childhood laughters, her grandmother’s warning words and the loving gaze of someone long lost. The memories were so far away now that it felt almost like they didn’t belong to her at all anymore, were just lurking in her brain like that scene from a movie she saw long time ago and liked.
She put the cup, half full, in the sink, put on her shoes and a jacket, then she headed out the door with her phone in one pocket and the keys in the other and said goodbye to no one in particular. Hoping today would be the day.
She headed into the park, walking slow steps towards the duckpond which was surrounded by a cluster of big pines, the cones were hanging high above, big and spectacular and she found herself wondering what it would be like to get one of those cones in the head as it fell towards the ground. They were as big as her fist.
When she came to the clearing she noticed. The duckpond was small, as always, but now there was a bridge crossing over to the shadier side, where there had been none before. It looked old, made of stacked stones and dirt. Something was different. She couldn’t quite place what it was, but there was a feeling of quiet calm surrounding the place. The last time it had bridged a small creek a long way from where she was now. There was no doubt in her mind that it was the same bridge though, she recognised the stones and the bowline structure. She recognised the sizzling sound surrounding it, and the ancient quality.
She walked up to the bridge, but hesitated. Did she dare to cross it one more time? Was the risk worth the eventual payoff? She might be lonely now, but there were worse things.
She touched the rough stone of the heavy rock railing and felt a surge of strangeness go through her, as if she was standing in a timeless void and was suddenly more than she had been before, more than the sum of all her previous choices. She felt she had become the potential of everything she could ever have been. She threw her head backwards and laughed, the joy enveloped her completely and overshadowed the anxious whispers deep inside her.
She started walking over the bridge, ever so slowly she put one foot in front of the other and when she was halfway over she stopped and watched the ducks for a while. She came to think of Robert and how he had asked her to go with him. His kind smile and the roughness of his hands. She hadn’t thought of him much in over fifteen years, it was as if the memory of him had faded, only to come back with the heaviness of something you once lost. How would her life have turned out if she had said yes, married him and moved away with him? What would she be like? Would she like herself more?
When she got over to the other side she looked back. Something was lying on the ground beside the stones. At first it looked like a skull, the skull of the woman she had been a moment ago, she thought, but it was just a tree stump and an overgrown stone.
She felt lighter on her feet as she headed home. Something was different although she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was. Perhaps it was the weather, the clouds were traveling the sky, making it dark and bright in turn and the memory of the bridge faded quickly, but didn’t quite vanish.
He woke her up with scones, a single red rose in a small vase, a small present wrapped in pretty blue paper and a card. She smiled at him, kissed him lightly on the mouth, the smell of him felt a bit strange today, as if it was unfamiliar and yet she’d been smelling this man every single day for over fifteen years, hadn’t she? A memory came over her, a feeling of solidarity that she had longed for once upon a time, but that had turned into a dark, anxious pit in her mind.
“We’re going to the park.” he said, “You can paint something, if you feel like it,” he told her. “Open the present.”
Inside was a small silver necklace, a simple infinity symbol. He helped her put it on and she knew he recognised the joy in her smile. They drank tea in her rose cups as they ate the scones and she stirred with her silver spoon and thought of how she used to walk alone through the forest to her grandmother and how her grandmother always told her not to cross the old stone bridge. She had always been fond of that bridge. And she didn’t regret crossing it that time.
They walked to the park, so she could paint and he could read underneath a tree. The perfect Sunday outing, she thought.
“Did you really like your present, no faking?” he asked her. She nodded her head, put the brush down and lay down beside him.
“I loved it, no faking,” she said, and it was the truth.
She painted the bridge that day and found herself wondering if she would ever walk it again. Doubtful, she thought. It was time to settle, and she was terrified that next time the bridge would reject her somehow, she wasn’t afraid the stones were going to crumble underneath her feet, but worried that everything else around her might. She also feared that the old feeling would return, the feeling of restlessness, discontent. She would have to fight it with everything she had.
“Is the book any good?” she asked and picked the brush up again.
“It’s not bad” he said, “not life-changing though”.
“Those come by so rarely,” she whispered.
“What did you say?” he asked, turning a page.
“Nothing.” she smiled. “Let’s have salmon for dinner, shall we?”
He didn’t answer, was deep in his book and she didn’t mind, she needed to capture the bridge perfectly. She didn’t know quite why, but she felt it was essential, like painting the picture would freeze the moment and let her be happy forever.
But of course forever is a very long time and the magic of her brush was small in comparison with the eternity she faced, and all the versions of the bridge she would have to walk in the future. Hopefully the magic of her brush would prolong the moment somewhat, let her linger where she wasn’t lonely.
Eygló was born and bred in Kópavogur, Iceland. She studied literary theory at the University of Iceland before moving to the south of Sweden where she is playing house, taking pictures, writing, reading, running and living, when there is time. She never grew up enough to start drinking coffee, but she does know how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull and how to do a fishtail braid. Instagram and Site.
THE BRIDGE is copyright © Eygló 2015