For months, maybe even over a year now, she had come to the bridge everyday. It was a good routine, even though she never accomplished what she ostensibly went there for. It got her out of the house. The walk was very pleasant, good for the mind and the body.
One way or another, today it was over. Tomorrow she was moving to another city. So today she would either cross the bridge, or she wouldn’t.
Since she came to bridge everyday to cross it, one would think the right course of action now was to finally cross the bridge. That was the obvious answer. She stood at the end of the bridge, where the boundary between land and bridge blurred as dirt and moss crept onto the wooden planks.
But not crossing the bridge had almost become a tradition in and of itself. She couldn’t deny that. Still, even though she hadn’t crossed the bridge, she had always intended to do so eventually. Would failing to ultimately cross the bridge render all those other days meaningless?
Surely not. And yet, she couldn’t deny it would necessarily rob them of some meaning, at least.
Slowly, almost unwillingly, she began to walk across the bridge. Butterflies rose in her stomach as she passed the furthest point she’d ever reached, and kept going into the veil of branches and leaves that hid the other side of the bridge from sight.
It was longer than she’d realized. There was a curve in the bridge, as she suspected. As she walked she thought she could feel the bridge start to wobble under her feet. A few yards further, and it started creaking ominously.
Finally, she saw the other side of the bridge, where the wooden planks met land again. Only they didn’t. The bridge was broken, and stopped short about three feet from the land.
Obviously, it would be necessary to turn back at this point. But she had come so far. Now that she was out here, she didn’t want to turn back. Suppose she could jump the gap? She didn’t have a great deal of experience in jumping over things. But surely that distance was doable.
The boards immediately in front of the gap were not very stable, and they creaked and sagged as she edged her way closer to the gap. But finally she got close enough and flung herself onto solid earth. She stumbled but caught herself.
There, she had done it. She looked around. It was, in all honesty, not that much different from the forest on the other side of the bridge, albeit thicker and the undergrowth grew thick and exuberant.
There was something of a path, though the forest had begun to retake it. Obviously since the bridge was broken, it must have been a long time since anyone had traveled this path. She found a strange satisfaction in that. The path belonged to her. And anyone else with the guts to jump the gap, but there couldn’t be many others.
Actually, she was a bit worried about getting back. She knew she could make the jump now, but she would have to land on those creaky planks, instead of the solid hillside. That could wait, now that she was finally here, she had to fully take in the moment.
She walked down the overgrown path, noticing flowers and birdsong and the way the light fell through the leaves. A hummingbird flitted through the woods. These were rare in her region. She’d only seen one once before, and to see one now felt like a reward for finally making the crossing.
As she walked, though, anxiety about getting back pooled in her stomach. Soon, perhaps too soon, she felt she had to return to her side of the bridge just to be sure she could.
The bare planks stretching out towards her felt mocking rather than reassuring. She looked down into the gap uncertainly. The slope of the hillside and thick branches made it difficult to judge how bad a fall might be. It wasn’t a tremendous distance, at least not until past the point where she was likely to fall. But it would almost certainly be more than the maximum jarring hop one might undertake voluntarily.
But jump she must, whether she was bound to fall or not. There might have been some controversy about whether crossing the bridge was strictly necessary, but getting back was certainly mandatory.
She gathered herself, took a running start, and jumped. Her foot struck a plank; it bent but seemed to hold, but her other foot struck an unstable plank that twisted underfoot and she lost her balance. She fell, crashed through branches, hit the ground hard and rolled downhill into the creek.
Wet, muddy and stunned, she sat up. Her jeans were torn and her leg badly scraped, but on the whole, she was unharmed. She sat in the creek for a few moments while her mind caught up with her predicament. The cool water felt good on her bruises, but the water made her clothes heavy and uncomfortable.
She stood up on shaky legs and began to slog through the creek towards her side of the bridge. At this point, she had to concede that she’d never been meant to cross the bridge, though it was conceivable she might think differently later.