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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bridging the Past

As I quietly glided the Jeep mud tires over the worn grass parking strip, I subconsciously unleashed decades of anxiety into the silence hovering within the cab of the vehicle. Pulling up to the edge of this drive-in theater performance was not something I had ever contemplated occurring in real life. The stage performance was far too perfect, all of the characters were always on-key, always on target, always magical. Could I truly allow this fantasy to breathe in the fragrance of reality? The midnight skies felt suspiciously accurate to the ever-present nature of this conversation and the realization that darkness is where the truth is most revealed. I stopped the truck, removed the keys and leaned over the center console, embraced her hands in silence and murmured, "You ready?" Smiling with a knowing nod of things to come, I opened my door allowing myself passage to the event at hand. Walking in unison, but not adjoined, we made our way across the service road street leading to our destination. Stretching my aged but still adroit limbs with a mixture of anxiousness, stress and just habitual nature, we both prepared briefly for the road ahead. The bridge here joining Bay Saint Louis and Pass Christian, MS was new since Hurricane Katrina, as the prior 3 mile crossing had been completely washed away by the ravishing storm. I pondered the fact silently that some things improve with grave challenges to their structured normalcy. I wondered if after this walk, would we both fair the same outcome? Would our own pathways be destroyed in order to bridge the 19-year gap in our hearts?

The walking lane consisted of a concrete lined path adjacent to the eastbound side of the bridge spanning about 10 feet in width with an multi-tiered aluminum guard rail to the right lining the full length of the road structure. Every tenth of a mile, there were beautifully and masterfully carved bronze plaques showcasing various aquatic and wildlife species germane to the Gulf Coast lifestyle. Pelicans, alligators, and egrets conducted themselves in a peaceful accord of presentation obviously gilded into existence with the Federal relief monies poured into this area following the storm. I had walked this bridge a hundred times alone with her voice vying for equal measure against the prevailing winds and traffic intrusion on the path. I had always been enough, been perfect in those walks. Now, she was here walking astride hands clasped into mine maintain the same fast-paced gait. As we pressed onward up the gentle rise of the bridge platform, we took turns in silence glancing over to each other trying to avoid the ownership of our intentions, passing the views off as innocent and even random scans of our environment. However, we both knew better. We were calculating the weight of the moment. The weight of remembering. Recalling everything we had chosen to forsake 19 years ago, everything we had lost. Could it really be recaptured striding over a mechanized platform of steel and concrete? I knew this bridge was as ever much a transport medium as it was a teleportation platform.

The amber haze of the sodium vapor lighting piers spaced out evenly down the center of the bridge crafted a whirled mixture of illuminated intrigue and darkened shadows along the structure. Headlights offered an occasional spotlight onto our position, revealing our outlines, perking up thoughts of voyeurism from the passing motorists. I stared. For one too many seconds, I stared. She stopped. She read my mind. I stated aloud, "You look 19. You really do look 19. I see you as I have always seen you, Jennifer. You are beautiful and this moment is timeless." I smiled. She really did look 19, at least from what my aging mind could recall. She was breathtaking. She was Jennifer!

Responding in unison, she allowed herself to smile, albeit briefly, while immediately shunning the concept of anyone finding her beautiful. Not this girl, not now, not ever. Well, not for 19 years, I surmised in silence. 
I so missed her smile. Her eyes would light up as her smile shaped her face into a picture perfect form of joy. Her lips playfully retreating back over her teeth, her skin erupting into brilliant shine, her eyes reflecting the purity of her soul. I repositioned our bodies migrating to the rail with her back to the bridge. Reaching in gently, I hugged my best friend. "You are beautiful, Andrew. When you smile, I see you as you were! You look 19 again.", she offered in joy to our enriching embrace.

The culmination of all things loving placed into motion was slowly blossoming to fruition before our eyes. The misdeeds of the past, the sudden departures of our youth, our broken dreams and miscalculated steps were allowed to wash feverishly down the side of our union. Down into the dark watery abyss beneath our feet, the moments that we allowed others to define us were finally abdicating their claim in our lives. Vacillating between moments of gleeful even youthful play, the weight of the tears of regret and recompense were at times hard to balance. The pure disparity between how we would commence this innocent stroll and how it would end could only echo the volumes of solidarity between our souls. Hand in hand, we completed the journey across. As we reached the far side, I didn't turn back when the guard rails ended. Instead, we continued faithfully down the bridge until reaching the monument erected to offer homage to the contributors and words of dedication to the structure. I reached out and touched the cold bronze plaque with my hand fully extended as I have always done in my journeys alone, my steps taken without her at my side. I always needed to follow my compulsory, if not obsessive routine. For the touch of accomplishment of something I had started always needed to be realized tactilely.

Racing up the bridge and its rising elevations, I have never recognized such happiness within my soul.
My friend at my side, my heart full of promise, all order in the universe had been restored. Arriving back at the Jeep, I opened her door. My smile covered all layers of my existence illuminating the nearby shadows attempt to mask the simplistic beauty of this moment. "I love you, Jennifer", I offered to the night air. Reaching in, I kissed her forehead gently and knew in that instance that all was indeed right with this troublesome and cruel world.

Love was restored. Love had conquered all. Love will always find a way to lead you back home.
Even if you need to take a bridge to get there.