Gary Reddin

How to Fall in Love with a Bridge

I’ve lost sight of the sky on a gravel road in the Oklahoma backcountry. The wilderness here, so often reined in by barbed wire, grows unchecked by any manmade notions of boundaries. Trees and brush from both sides of this narrow path reach over my head and twist themselves into each other, losing the individual in the tangle of the whole.

I am in a state of superposition today. The windows down despite the chill still lingering in the early March air, lost and found on a directionless afternoon drive.  

I don’t usually stop on roads like this. But today I do. I stop to watch the gravel-dust ghosts that have haunted me since I pulled onto this road drift away into the woods. I stop for a moment of rest, to pull the air into my lungs unburden by the heaviness of thought.

There are no other cars. Not even a farm truck rattles by. I sit on the hood of my car and stare into the tangle of woods that have overtaken the sky. I’d like to say my thoughts are poetic. I’d like to say they are as unburdened as the air. To say they are anything other than unrepentant longing and stream of conscience daydreaming. I’d like to say these things.

A mile down the road, near the end of this canopy of trees where the blue light of the scattered sky returns, is a steel trestle bridge. I know this is a trestle bridge because a writer friend of mine once described her love affair with a boy under such a bridge. How she fell in love, not with the boy, but the bridge. Wanting to better understand how someone can love such a thing I get back in the car and drive to it, parking in its center without regard for any future traffic.

There is no creek here. Not after this drought. Just a dry bed of dust, empty beer cans, and an old mattress. Hardly romantic despite the orchestration of birdsong. Something about the letdown pulls a little too hard on a string in my chest and I sit myself down on the bridge, legs dangling over the edge, and let a wave of sadness crash against me. When it finally rolls away, like the gravel-dust ghosts, I find myself missing it.

Springsteen drifts from the car. I’ve left it running with the windows down, and the song is a quiet hymn in this sanctuary between the wild and the willing.

When the song ends and the next one starts up the ache rushes back into my chest like a tide returning under the pull of my gravity. Somewhere in the space between the birdsong I realize this is how you fall in love with a bridge. With a wanting washing against your shores in waves. In the understanding that this creek is not empty, but full of the waters of potential futures. All it needs is a good rain.

The creek always rises with a good rain.

Come the first spring storm all the dust will drown, and the water will come rushing back, nestling into every corner, against every trestle, until the creek and the bridge are like the trees of the woods, tangled in a whole, separate but singular. You fall in love with a bridge the same way you fall in love with anything — slowly, quietly, and then with all the rage of a flood.

Gary Reddin grew up in Southwest Oklahoma among the cicada songs and tornado sirens. His writing was born in this dissonance. He holds an MFA from Lindenwood University. His work has most recently appeared in Cathexis Northwest Press, Oklahoma Today, and Bright Flash Literary Magazine. His chapbook “An Abridged history of American Violence” was published in 2019 through Rose Rock Press. He can be found online @andrewreddin on Twitter.