Ghosts and Bridges.

Ghosts and Bridges
(Originally printed in “Too Much Not Enough and in the Wrong Place”)

Every town has a ghost story. I guess mine is no different. The story has been here so long I’m sure no one remembers when it started. You know how it goes… your brother heard about it from one of his friends. His friend’s uncle used to date a grocery check out girl who had a cousin… and they saw the whole thing. Now, it belongs to the town.

I’m kind gullible I guess. I’ve been coming out here for years. I don’t know when it started, but it seems like almost every night I can see in the full moon. I am here. Walking the bridge.

I walk the bridge slowly. I start from one end to the other. I always pause at some point in the middle. I never see anything. But I feel it. You’re not going to believe me, but it feels like… sadness. It’s probably just my mind playing tricks on me. I want to believe it so bad. But I swear… I feel it.

When I walk the bridge a few times, I get the courage to walk under it. That’s where people claim they see it. It, him, whatever… an urban legend that in all my time coming out here, I have never encountered. Why under the bridge? I don’t know, I always think about the story of the “Billy Goats Gruff” and the troll living under the bridge. Maybe the place under the bridge is associated with ghosts like the old house in your neighborhood. It’s dark and sinister. But it’s quiet, and when the moonlight shines high, you can see almost as easy as day.

This place has always been my refuge. I still come out here to look for ghosts, or hope I’ll see something, but in truth, I gave that up long ago. It still gives me the creeps, but I like it. I came here the night Kim broke up with me. Every word I said to her was like driving a nail deeper into my coffin. I swear, she almost started feeling sorry for me. You can’t say I didn’t try though, I just couldn’t talk good enough I guess. It was a terrible argument, but being out here made me feel better. Things just made sense, and I would rather feel creepy and scared than heartbroken.

So I came out tonight. The moon is bright again, the time I feel most at home. I walk the bridge slowly like I always do. Five complete trips back and forth. I always pause at the point in the middle where I feel the sadness. I listen to the creaks and moans of the wood. I can see the moon’s reflection in the shallow water underneath me.

I’m there for awhile before I get the urge to go under the bridge. I always feel that surge of adrenaline. After years of visiting in this sacred place, I always hope tonight will be the night I see something to make me think all my trips here were not a waste of time. I don’t see anything though. I never do. I stand by the edge of the water underneath, looking at the reflection of the moon.

That’s when I hear it. A car is approaching fast, kicking up dust on the lonely country road. Loud music is blaring as the car screeches to a halt just a few feet from the bridge. Someone kills the engine and the music stops. Four kids pile out. They are dressed weird, and I forgot to check my calendar to see if it’s Halloween. The two girls in the group are giggling loudly, and their male escorts are not any quieter. Maybe their bravado covers up the fact they are really scared to death, after years of visiting, I still am. They walk along the bridge… slowly. They pause at roughly the spot where I usually pause, they all seem to have the feeling that something is not right. Then one of the girls looks down. She points in my direction and shrieks. All of the kids see me and panic, they run back to the car at the beginning of the bridge. I do not take a step or move while I watch them dive into the loud car and drive off. You’d think…. They had seen… a ghost.

I pause and look at my feet. There is a license plate sticking out of the dirt. It used to belong to me. I forgot about the night I came here after the breakup. I forgot about being able to talk to a bottle and not to Kim. How long has that been? I don’t find any spirits but I always seem to find a piece of that car I sent flying off this bridge. Maybe it’s a ghost of my past. I look back up at the lonely bridge, the kids are long gone now. What is it about ghosts and bridges?

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