The area beyond the bridge is said to be haunted: where the fallen red leaves halt at the bank and a short, flat rectangular piece of concrete extends over a rivulet–barely even an arm’s length above water. Teal balustrades cage the bridge in, the posts protruding like spikes. The bridge meets a gravel path on the other side where you can still see the closest bush and tree but the rest hides behind a perpetual fog. And not a single fallen leaf in sight.
It’s hard to coax someone off a bridge, you say as you extend your hand toward me and our feet cripple the dried leaves. The sound of footsteps and crunching fades to only that of rubber sole against concrete. You begin to cross first, the path too narrow for two. I follow behind you, pulling your hand and slowing your pace. You don’t pause with your head down, gaze following the ground, but I see the fog floating up ahead, estranged vapor making it harder and harder to trace the outline of your back until the only sign of your existence is the heat of your hand against mine.
I no longer see my own hands, your feet, whether or not the melancholy of the fog takes your place and creates an imposter of grey particles that I’m sure were once white–maybe I now hold hands with a ghost. Don’t jump. Silly. Jump and return soaking in dirt-water, hair frozen into icicles, fingernails a sunset purple. There will be a home waiting, a heater blasting, a mug of coffee, fuzzy socks to slip on and gather dust from the hardwood floor. There will be a dream catcher hanging outside by the window, its feathers made from parts of an old dress and an art supplies box re-discovered in the basement, struggling with every breath of wind–it might not remember to let only the good dreams through; it might not remember to keep only bad dreams out.
My right foot hits the path at the end of the bridge, my left still on the edge between concrete and gravel, and even though it is too late, I say to this mist of you in my hollowed hand then don’t cross. I turn around but the fog shrouds the bridge and I can’t see where we came from or where we’re going or where you are but I walk on.
When I hear leaves susurrating in the breeze and crackling under my feet again, I find myself at the head of the bridge–the water reflecting my body with a ripple-less clarity and I cannot help but watch myself in the water, as though I live there below the bridge, a phantom bound by two banks and concrete and fog that willingly parts so that its stare can reach. I shift my gaze upward and continue to walk. I know not to wait.
Lucy Zhang is a writer masquerading around as a software engineer. She hails from New Jersey and currently writes from a poorly lit apartment in California. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including MoonPark Review, The Rumpus, and Scoundrel Time. She can be found at https://kowaretasekai.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.