The Bridge

We had bed bugs in Bushwick. Itchy, beat, and somewhat broke, we threw our mattresses in the dumpster and moved to the Bronx. 

            Alice got to know all the spots quick. She had a thing for being a local.

            In the summer, we hopped fences down to C Rock. She said jumping was a rite of passage and recited the names of each ledge: “This is Wheel. This is Capone’s chair.” When a train whirred behind our backs, Alice sprung into the Hudson, but the water looked like it was falling, and I couldn’t do it. Under her wet rope of hair, she was pissed and pressed her lips tight, though, by that point, there’d been a whole documentary on the place, so we looked like tourists, anyway.

            I’m on the phone with her after the bridge collapses.

            “Which one?”

            “A pedestrian bridge in Queens,” I say.

            “I didn’t hear about it,” Alice says.

            We’re quiet. I stand and chew on my finger, trying to think.

            After C Rock, the men assembled. She’d drink and dance and twirl in their arms. She’d have one wrapped between her thighs on the kitchen counter. On the floor, she’d spread out, waiting to be kissed. Philip, Chase, Levi, Max. Each time, I’d shrink back into my room like a nervous fish.

            “Where’d they all come from?”

            “Oh, you know,” she laughed.

            I didn’t know. I didn’t know and I didn’t know and I do not know.

            “I was there,” I say, finally.

            “On the bridge?” Alice asks.

            “Four people died.”

            “And you were there?”

            She doesn’t believe me. She doesn’t know why I called. She does know that I don’t know why I called, and it’s not about the bridge.

            I was fine with the men. But then the men came less, and so did she. I paced through our hollow apartment and wondered how someone could pay so much for a place they never came to.   Occasionally, she’d appear for her wallet or clothes and give me an empty look that went past my face, like I was a desk lamp, or she’d forgotten I lived there.

            “There’s an art show tonight,” she said.

            It didn’t feel like an invitation, but I went anyway.

            The venue was old and small, and the artist gave a long speech, like he was the first person to paint nude women. Every ten minutes, Alice went outside to light cigarettes and stare at her phone. I followed her because I wanted to talk, but she kept turning away and craning her neck like she expected someone.

            “My head hurts.”

            “I’m sorry,” I said.

            “I forgot my keys, so leave the door unlocked,” she said and turned back into the venue.

            When the bridge collapses, I’m not in Queens. I’m on a date with some man putting too much salt on his Eggs Benedict. I’m thinking of Alice and how she always ate eggs, and how earlier, when we were friends and first living together, she’d make me eggs, too. 

            The collapse is all over the news, and government officials make a big deal about the decline of infrastructure. I mute the TV and watch their lips move.

            Alice had been the scared one. She hated the smell and the rats. She was slow at the subway system and didn’t touch cigarettes. 

            We people-watched in Central Park, eating street-cart pizza and drinking cheap wine from a water bottle. We hit all the tourist spots. We tried to go to the Statue of Liberty, but we took the wrong ferry and rode past it. It grew on her, but not me.

            The last party we went to happened four months before the bridge. It was so cramped and hot that a steamy film coated all the windows. A loud, bad punk band had fit a whole drum kit in the kitchen, and several unwashed men were on too much acid.

            Alice went directly to the couch. Someone had taken a Dead Kennedys poster off the wall and started to cut lines on the glass cover. I sat down too, but the poster kept passing over me until it was all gone.

The band stopped playing music, but they hovered near their instruments like someone was going to ask for an autograph. People were leaving, and I wanted to leave, but Alice made no move. She was standing in a circle with brightly dressed women, looking comfortable and liked. I was still on the couch next to a man wearing a purple squid hat, and I was trying to shrink. The mouth of the squid was on his forehead and it looked like it was swallowing his face.

            “You ever think about science? Science is getting things wrong.”

            The squid seemed to be eating him, inhaling his eyes. I left the couch to find Alice.   

            “How’s squid man?” she asked. She was still standing with the women, but a long-haired man had joined too, giving me up and down scans like I wasn’t supposed to be there. 

            They all laughed about the squid man. It was one of those laughs that was directed at him on the surface, but underneath was a laugh at me. A big, stupid, mocking laugh right at me for being the type of person he wanted to talk to.

            The band left and the women with Alice were leaving too.

            “Do you have a cigarette?” she asked. The long-haired man nodded.

            “We’re gonna smoke,” he said.

            When I got home, I threw Alice’s comforter and clothes out the window. A thin t-shirt caught in the breeze and floated away into the dark. In bed, I hid under the sheets, feeling skittish and awful and all wrong.

            Her boxes were stacked by the door in the morning.

            “I’m sick of you and the apartment and this whole thing,” she said.

            On the phone, I ask her about it.

“I was busy. You never have anything going on,” she says.

            But I did have something. I had pneumonia and a broken sink and the dishes were piling. I had gone back to C Rock with a bottle of Merlot and stood on the tracks until horns tore at my ears and the light came in like a giant, pointed finger. 

            I stepped off. I walked through the trail. I scraped my shaking legs on thorny shrubs and my mind toyed with a one-word circuit: idiot, idiot, idiot, over and over like it was stuck in my teeth. I felt entirely alone.

            “I really was on that bridge,” I say.

Rebecca Cyr is from Seattle, WA and currently attends Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR. Her work has appeared in Prism and The International Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities.