Crossing the Bridge (Flash Fiction)

Bob took careful steps on the wet cobblestones. He felt the old bridge out, knowing how slippery it was once extended over the river, and placed his cane with methodical precision. In his old age, time was no longer a concern. He had nowhere to be and no one to spend it with when he got there. The river and the sunset and the mist that shifted from orange to pink to purple as another day faded away was all that mattered to him. And so, he made his way.

The bridge was sparse with people here and there, silhouettes that dotted the coming bloom of color. Most were couples, some walking hand in hand, others taking pictures of themselves with cameras Bob failed to comprehend. They were strangers to him, bordering on aliens. Life had changed with such rapidity that he barely understood the world anymore. He came to a section of bridge that he preferred, one that gave a good view of a church built in the early 1600’s, and he waited. Looking on with empty eyes, eyes that only wanted the final day to come and be done with it, he watched as the skies shifted through their limitless colors. The world slowed, as it always does, and the aliens with their phones and youthful bodies took a few moments to acknowledge the true beauty of the world. As the color faded, Bob felt the damp cold settle into his bones, so he turned and began his way home.

As he traveled, still careful with his cane, even more aware of the moisture forming on the cobblestones, Bob happened upon yet another couple who were crossing the bridge. They were late for the sunset, another pair of aliens too busy to see what life what really meant, and they laughed and talked loudly with each other. It was obvious that they were quite smitten with one another, an emotional bond that was probably born from physical attraction. Bob resented them for it, but didn’t hold it against them. They were always like that. He looked them in the eye as they neared. The male, a boy with short hair smothered with too much product, paid no attention. The girl, smiling out of control, gave a quick glance and then looked away. It was not surprising.

But then, just as Bob was placing his cane, her eye came back. She caught the dull glint of gold from his worn wedding band, and she slowed her pace half a step. The man, the boy, broke away to take a picture of himself, and the girl came to a stop in front of Bob. His weary eyes locked onto hers, and in that moment, she crossed his bridge.

She saw life fly. She saw the sunsets come and go, love live and die, and a youthful body eventually break and fail. Bob pegged his wooden cane to the stones and ambled forward, never looking away, and confirmed her fears for her in that instant.

This is all over so fast. Abandon the petty and cling to love, real love, as quickly as you can. Find peace in a strong soul, and take every smile and laugh that you can. Share what you have before it is gone, taken by the greed of the world. Love who you know before they leave you, eaten by the cancer of failing flesh. Take all measures to make your spirit burn bright in this dark place, for soon the sun will set and you’ll be alone and cold and you’ll wonder what all of this was for.

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