Under the Bridge / Insects and Priorities.

Under the Bridge / Insects and Priorities.

A Story by Voxharmony

A piece I wrote over the summer, whilst traveling through Eastern Europe. Full of metaphor, but more so the product of a mental imagery. please comment with opinions!


Boys and girls live in a strange world, one filled with an impressive melding of absolute truth and inquisition. They wonder about the mechanics of the things around them, and are often never truly satisfied with common short answers. Yet children often have such immense trust in the things said and done by those stand taller than us. So much power is given to these figures; but I often wondered if we should be looking up at all.

I stood under the bridge for a long time, wondering about countless things like this. I remember even then, in that unenlightened moment, I couldn’t trust like others my age could.

Cars whiz above my head, some with angrier engines than others. I wondered if there was supposed to be water under the bridge, and if our industrial presence had scared it away.

I kicked off my shoes. The dust readily accepted my callused skin. I imagine the worn ground preferred it to the stomp of whatever else walked this trail, abandoned by its gentle blue creator. I thought of the water as a parent, and tried to picture it passing off its wisdom to its bed and smoothed pebbles. I walked out from under the bridge despite the heat of mid-afternoon sun. It’s not uncommon for a thirteen year old to grow tired of shelter.

Instantly the bottoms of my feet are burning, and I remember how our adults and parents talk about hell, eternal heat with no sun. I walk a little further before bending down to give my hands the same treatment.

I’m not sure if this place is peace, or if the heat had already deemed it hell, but I remember being comfortable amongst the sweat and dust on my skin. I press my hands down into the hell and spread my fingers. The sound of the cars above me becomes the roar of the river as it flows around my form, cooling my hands and chasing the dirt from under my fingernails.

I notice a scorpion scuttle out from hiding in the brittle shrubs rooted in what should have been a muddy riverbank. I think of how they talk in church, and the scorpion is a demon, a threat. I look down at him. The beast approaches my outstretched fingers and raises its claws in offensive greeting, not in praise. That is for the devil, what must be a gigantic animal, equally faceless with larger claws and poison in its whip. I keep my fingers still.

The scorpion turns and rushes behind me, its claws still raised in order to keep hold of my attention. Perhaps like the demons, I don’t want him to leave. I don’t have to look up to him.

He scuttles under the bridge as I turn my still crouched body on my heels. My eyes are drawn to where I stood before, in the shade. I see a different figure settled in the dust now, leaning against the cobwebs and graffiti that adorn the cement walls. Wrinkled eyelids cover his eyes and his dark brown hands rest palms up on thin knees. I stand up slowly and his eyes remain closed. I wonder for a moment if he is the scorpion.

I remember debating whether to take a step forward or a step backwards as I notice the filth accumulated in the man’s clothes and beard. He is thinner than me; he is thinner than the scorpion. His peace however, strikes me with its simplicity.

As my surprise and balance produces confused patterns in the dirt I notice voices approaching me from behind. They are younger sounding than that of the man under the bridge, supposing he had a sound at all. As I turn around to face the voices, two figures pass me, one on either side, all within a split second. They walk with great strides, and the force of their motion and passion within their conversation sends my feet into greater disarray until I am facing the man under the bridge again.

These new figures are tall and dressed exceptionally well. Their shined black hair glistens against the sun and their pale skin. I remember the contrast between the light and the dark stunned me. They are a bizarre sight on this desert ground. I remember wondering why their shoes were not covered in the dust that painted my hands, feet and hair. I am wondering why they didn’t notice me.

They are old enough to be my parents, and the meditating man they approach is old enough to be theirs. Their voices are loud enough to cut through the roar of engines in the river above. Their tone is heavy and forceful, as if perpetually dissatisfied with their surroundings as well as their topic of conversation.

I find myself following them over to the bridge while continuing my apparent invisibility. My small legs juggle the dirt under my feet and I am walking sideways at their pace as my body watches theirs, trying to decipher between reality and hallucination.

I do not speak much English at thirteen years old, but their thoughts echo clearly in my head even now. As I scramble alongside them, my feet forming a stabilizing pattern of movement, understanding hits me like water rushing through a funnel, collected and concentrated.

They speak fervently about the progression of their people, of efficiency, productivity. They discuss what stood in the way of such things, of what walls must be crumbled for purity, of the comfort of their kind, and of the beauty of their ideas.

My feet cool as my eyes relax and I realize we are under the bridge. The two figures slow their pace to a stop and four beings now consume the width of the tunnel. There is a silence louder than the flow of traffic above us.

The old man faces me but has opened his eyes to peer only at the two strangers that stand between him and I. The eyes are foggy and I wonder if both are glass. I think about glass, about its presence within a wooden window frame or the skull of a man. It is in both ways a lens, a portal to the most intimate of vessels. The two strangers stare into two portals, the latter complimented by two palms the man brings together above two crossed legs.

In a movement smoother than rain sliding down a window, one of the strangers reaches into a shined black suit jacket, retrieves a slim metal object and closed the dusty glass eyes with a muffled bang.

I watch as the old man’s frame, made delicate with time and hunger, slumped against the cool graffiti and cobwebs. It is interesting how I must look up to them as they look down upon him, the distance between them seeming too large to fit within the physical space that separated them at that moment of stillness. I think of how the notches of the man’s spine are pressing through such thin skin onto cement, as the figures resume their discussion, subtly shaking their heads as conversation begins to canter as smoothly as a hand moving into a jacket pocket. 

They discuss their burdens as shined shoes disappear into the distance, and I am left pondering the identity of demons and crushed insects under a sea of traffic. 

© 2014 Voxharmony

Author's Note

The tense in this tends to switch around a fair amount, in order to convey to the reader the memory the narrator is experiencing but also to differentiate between their memories/what they know and what they continue to wonder about.

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Added on January 20, 2014
Last Updated on January 20, 2014
Tags: philosophy, capitalism, desert, perspective, anthropology, travel, random tags, metaphor




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