The Bridge

The Bridge

A Story by Annette Jay Sweeney
"

This is an older story. It's strange to see how much I have changed. I will have to post more to show the difference.

"

            It started out like any other day. I was trying to pay attention to the teacher while she droned on about the five “w’s” of journalism (Who, What, When, Where, Why). It felt like my high school journalism class. In high school, they taught you as if you were still in elementary. I thought, “Isn’t college supposed to be harder?" I hadn't slept more than four hours a night in months, so my concentration was already minimal. I pulled my hood up and slipped my headphones in, letting Pink Floyd carry me through this wretched hour.

Once the clangs and rings of the song “Money” filled my ears I chanced a glance around me. Some of the students were listening to the teacher, some were hanging on her every word, and some looked about as awake as me. Then, I noticed a guy I had not seen before. He was in the opposite corner of the room.

            He wore jeans with various tears and patches and a plain black sweater. He had his hood up, too. There was no paper or pencil in front of him. He looked out of place, like a Jackson Pollack painting in a scenery gallery. He didn’t even look around at anyone or at the teacher. I couldn’t see his face due to the way his body hunched down. He seemed like a stranger who had walked into the class room and just decided to sit down and stay. The girl in the seat next to him pushed her chair as far away as possible with soft, subtle thrusts. I couldn’t blame her, he seemed kind of strange. There was something familiar about this guy. I found my inner curiosity coming to life and wondered, “Do I know this guy from somewhere?” I wanted to know where he came from and why he ended up in this classroom. This is why I was a journalism major; it did not take much to spark my interest and make me delve deep for a story.

            Before I knew it the students around me were rising and exiting the classroom. I grabbed my notebook and tried to follow the stranger in the hood. He darted out the door and I burst forward with speed of my own. When I reached the hallway he was nowhere in sight. With a sigh I turned and walked out of the building.  Crossing the street and walking down a dark alleyway, I pulled my favorite glass pipe out. A scrawny looking cat chewing on a mouse drew my attention. The cat looked gray but was so dirty it could have been white. Its eyes were mustard yellow. Upon my approach the cat glared up at me and gave a ferocious (for a cat) growl, claiming the kill his own. I laughed and said, “Don’t worry p***y cat, that thing is all yours”. As I lit up I continued to watch the cat. It must have grown nervous, felt threatened, or just not liked the strange smell of my smoke, because it picked up the mouse and retreated behind a fence with one last reflection of his eyes.

            A noise from the end of the alley drew my attention. I saw him standing there at the end of the alley. His eyes seemed to glow in the shadows cast by his hood as he watched me. It reminded me of the cat's eyes that had just disappeared. What did he want? I wondered for a moment if he was an undercover cop coming to bust me, but the moment he saw me look up the guy in the hoodie turned and started walking swiftly away.  Dismissing my paranoid thought about being busted, my legs carried me after him. I wanted to interview this stranger. While I may not have been able to use it for the school paper or an assignment, I could write my own little story about this guy. When I reached the end he was gone, again! My voice was harsh as I said, “S**t! That guy is fast!”

 

            Later that night, I found myself walking old town as usual. Of all of the forms of entertainment, nothing is quite as good as watching people in everyday life. Sometimes you saw a girl trying to inconspicuously pick her wedgie, sometimes you caught two people in the heat of a fight, and every once in a great while you could witness something as wild as a crime in action. The thought of being the one at home during these moments horrified me. I dreamed of finding a bank robber exiting the building and running into me. What a story that would make!

            On this particular September day I was sitting outside of my favorite bakery with a slice of wheat bread. A blonde girl that smiled at me as she walked past and turned up my ipod. Considering the stranger in the hoodie again, I couldn’t think of where I knew him from. Did he go to my high school? Was he involved in the school paper, too? Were we related? For some reason I thought we must be related. I don’t know why, but I just felt that was the answer. It made the curiosity I felt even more unbearable. I was used to being able to talk to anyone I wanted to. Well equipped with this natural charm-especially with the women-I could get people to talk to me and spill great stories. I was also good at finding interesting subjects to write about. One time I found this old broad that had twenty cats living in her small apartment! The article ended up not being able to be put in our paper, but I wrote a nice blog about lonely old women and their cats. My favorite part was wondering if there were crazy cat men out there like her.

            Bread crumbs fell from my hands as I rose to head home. The delightful high I had from the alley had begun to wear off. Deciding to go for a walk past the old bridge over the river on my way home, my mind wandered to a biology lab report to write. You know, one of those painful ones you really want to just skip, but you figure you had better get to it.

It was quite dark by now. I pulled my pipe back out and loaded it. Before I could get my lighter out I noticed someone walking up ahead. The light hid their shape the way a dim lamp hides what's in shadows. Their outline revealed a rope hanging from their hands. I mumbled to myself, “Creepy…”. The sight of this figure sent a cold chill down my spine. Maybe it was the weird way his back hunched as he made his way along the path.  In order to avoid him, I stopped and forgot about my pipe. Instead I went down to the water and lay down on the bank of the river, staring up at the stars. I always loved the stars, but these town lights blocked most of them out. I could only see the really bright ones. My eyes squinted around for a time for the bid dipper, the only constellation I knew. 

            My limbs stirred me awake sometime later. I had fallen asleep- How did this happen? I seemed to have misplaced my notebook. Did I even have it earlier? I couldn’t remember the earlier part of the day. Maybe I’d gotten some bad weed? It happened sometimes. As long as I didn't have a bad trip off from it I didn't care. My watch wasn't on, but at that moment I didn’t care about the time. I can be really bipolar sometimes. For instance, where I had cared about my report a couple of hours before, now all I could think about was dipping my feet into the water.

            Shoes and socks slipped off like fish sliding into water, while my jeans rolled up in tatters. When my feet slipped into the water I found myself sighing in relief. It was then I took a chance to glance down at the bridge. It was an old wooden bridge that seemed highly dangerous for trains, but was still used often. I was surprised to see a figure standing on one of the lower parts. It was the hoodie guy! I could tell even from far away, but I don’t know how. His hood was down but I still couldn't see his face, he was looking down at the churning water. I could see a piece of rope connected to the bridge trailing down and around his neck. So that was the guy with the rope!

I could only guess what he was thinking. Perhaps his wife had left him? Maybe he gambled all of his money away? I couldn't decide his story as I sat next to the river, even with my creative mind flowing. My very white feet dangled in the water, shining in the light of the moon. Should I try to stop the guy from killing himself, or just wait and see what happened? If it had been anyone else I think I would have tried to stop them, but the strangeness of this guy kept me at bay. For all I knew he would attack me for trying to save him.

I remembered that I had a pipe prepared in my pocket. I checked quickly to make sure I had not lost any of the weed before pulling out my lighter. The glass pipe met my lips with that familiar longing for some kind of peace. I lit up right there while I watched him staring down at the water. The taste of weed might disgust some, but to me it was like taking the smells of the wild and putting them in my lungs. As my mind began to come unlatched I wondered how long it would take him. Would he ever jump?

            As if on cue, the man finally jumped. Instead of succeeding in hanging himself, the man gave a cry as the rope broke and he plummeted into the water. I stood quickly, burning bits of weed falling from the pipe barely dangling in my mouth. I could almost feel the crushing water take him. It was not exactly white water. A swimmer could normally survive it easily, but his hands were tied. I imagined it would feel like falling into a pool that was draining very quickly, sucking me in ways I could not control. He hit his head on something and in the darkness of the night found himself impaired by vertigo-where was up and where was down? I could feel the burning in his lungs- S**T! I forgot to breathe and the smoke had burned my lungs.

            As I hacked out a light gray cloud of smoke I looked for him. Eyes streaming, I spotted his body convulsing underwater nearby in search for air. He never wanted to die this way. He wanted it to be quick, a snap of his neck. I began to fight my way towards him. Somehow, I reached him and pulled his head above the water. When he came up I heard him pull in a great breath of air, but I was confused because my head was forced under the water. Sense of what was happening became impossible. His lungs were now my lungs. I cried out under the water, losing most of my precious air. I punched him in the gut. How dare he attack me? I was trying to help him! Pain shot through my stomach- Oh my God, he hit me back!

 When I drew my head above the water, our eyes met for a moment before I went back under, and I understood. I saw a familiar face:  Those weird light brown eyes (constantly red), that pale white skin, the family nose, and that stupid hair cut too short by accident. All of the drugs must have really gotten to me, because that was me that jumped off from that bridge, and this was me drowning because I tied my own damn hands and hit my head on a rock coming down. I barely had time to really think about my epiphany, but it felt like forever. I saw that I was really the hoodie guy:  slumped in the classroom, going home and getting the rope earlier, walking down the pathway in that creepy hunch, tying the rope to the bridge without concentration, putting it around my neck in a messy noose, and plummeting down into the water. My thoughts began to fade as I found myself unable to find the surface again. I couldn't take the pain in my lungs any longer, and my body was too weak to fight. I drew the water in, crying out a silent lament of bubbles. It wasn't quick. it was dirty, and felt much worse than smoking ever did. My lungs burned icily, a prickling that was the last thing I ever felt.

© 2010 Annette Jay Sweeney


Author's Note

Annette Jay Sweeney
There is a sense of vagueness in this piece for good reason. The main character is high through most of the story and in such a strange state of mind he hardly recalls anything, especially moments where the hoodie guy is involved, or time periods when he would have actually been doing things as the hoodie guy.
What do you think of: the parts in parenthesis, could you tell that this was a man?, is this the right POV?

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This is one of those stories that totally throws you at the end! One could say it throws you right off the bridge.
Great job with the descriptions and, I agree, there is a sense of vagueness that really contributes to the overall feeling of looking through the eyes of a stoner. The guy is so high he doesn't even realize he's in the process of killing himself. In the same way, the reader is so baffled by the voicing of the tale that he doesn't realize the main character's predicament either.

I really felt a connection with the pot smoking student when, in the beginning of this piece, you talk about him wanting to get the scoop on the mysterious guy sitting opposite him in the corner of the class. He wanted to be a journalist, and knew that was the right career for him because of his constant desire to uncover peoples' stories. I was so upset when it finally dawned on me that he'd jumped and subsequently drowned. So tragic. He knew what he wanted to do with his life. He was in school. Success and fulfilment were right around the corner. And then...nothing. Death. Isn't that how it really is? How many people with talent, passion, and opportunity are taken out of this world before accomplishing the great things they were capable of?
This is a very real and poignant write, Miss Manda. Thanks for sharing it. Please post lots more. Your work is interesting and unique.
Oh yeah...I couldn't tell right away that the main character was a man. You know what could fix that really easily? When he's observing the unfamiliar guy in the classroom, just have the main charater fool around with some stubble on his chin or something.
The point of view is great. The voice is great tool


Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

You are such a great writer, I'm always taking mental notes when I read your material. I can agree with the way you used the POV, and the fact you wrote it from the perspective of someone who was high, it makes sense.

Posted 11 Years Ago


Wow that was great, it had such an enigma about it that really does apply when high lol, the description was good, the ending was quite a sucker punch I didn't see it coming at all, and i loved the fact that you got a Pink Floyd reference in there =] very ethereal and very well written, nice work

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is one of those stories that totally throws you at the end! One could say it throws you right off the bridge.
Great job with the descriptions and, I agree, there is a sense of vagueness that really contributes to the overall feeling of looking through the eyes of a stoner. The guy is so high he doesn't even realize he's in the process of killing himself. In the same way, the reader is so baffled by the voicing of the tale that he doesn't realize the main character's predicament either.

I really felt a connection with the pot smoking student when, in the beginning of this piece, you talk about him wanting to get the scoop on the mysterious guy sitting opposite him in the corner of the class. He wanted to be a journalist, and knew that was the right career for him because of his constant desire to uncover peoples' stories. I was so upset when it finally dawned on me that he'd jumped and subsequently drowned. So tragic. He knew what he wanted to do with his life. He was in school. Success and fulfilment were right around the corner. And then...nothing. Death. Isn't that how it really is? How many people with talent, passion, and opportunity are taken out of this world before accomplishing the great things they were capable of?
This is a very real and poignant write, Miss Manda. Thanks for sharing it. Please post lots more. Your work is interesting and unique.
Oh yeah...I couldn't tell right away that the main character was a man. You know what could fix that really easily? When he's observing the unfamiliar guy in the classroom, just have the main charater fool around with some stubble on his chin or something.
The point of view is great. The voice is great tool


Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on April 24, 2010
Last Updated on July 12, 2010
Tags: bridge, suicide, journalism, journalist, cats, strangers, mysterious, weed, drugs, pshycholgy, split personality

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Annette Jay Sweeney
Annette Jay Sweeney

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Reading and writing have always provided a loving escape for me, but both are now taking on a more serious level. I thrive on reading others' work and helping them to improve, while also depicting my .. more..

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