Short Story: The Watcher On The Bridge

I was always warned against looking too closely or asking questions about the man on the bridge. He always seemed to be there whenever we drove over it, and I got used to looking out for his silhouette on those occasions when we took a route on the motorway that passes beneath it.

My parents would pale and try to change the subject, which worked when I was younger, or resorted to angry exhortation when I was older and more prone to worry at the question like the scrappy terrier at our local pub. I was told in no uncertain terms that I shouldn’t concern myself with him. Sometimes I was told that no good would come of asking questions, or that it was none of my business.

I do wonder, even now, why my parents just never came up with a boring convenient lie that my scrappy little brain would just mull over and then discard when I went in search of something new and shiny. I can say instead that the very vehemence with which my inquisitive mind was opposed just served to confirm that there was something worth digging at in the story behind the lonely figure.

I once asked if he was a ghost, because he never seemed to move from his spot, and even the response to that was confusing. My mother had paled and left the room. My father had replied, eventually, that no he wasn’t a ghost – at least, not yet.

He’d refused to be drawn on the subject, and being by then nearly an adult I’d realised the futility of trying any more when his hand had begun to shake with suppressed rage.

As I grew old enough to visit on my own, I came to memorise his haunted features. The man never spoke, or reacted to his surroundings, though I was sure he knew I was there. If he was an illusion, he was convincing enough to appear to be solid and breathing. His clothing was indeterminately grey and shapeless – a shirt, trousers, shoes and a coat – that could suit any reasonably modern time period.

I never dared touch him. You’d think it was the obvious way to tell if was real, but something seemed to repel my hand on the one attempt I made to touch his coat. He appeared to be not that much older than me at that point.

Life and studies led me away for a time, and a few years later I returned to find him still there, but looking somehow paler and more attenuated, if such a word fits. Intrigued by this, I began to come back more often. Such was my growing obsession that friends began to tease me about my increasingly drab appearance. With my long-established stubbornness I ignored their jibes and continued what became daily pilgrimages to see the man.

Change had come at last, and I was determined to witness and record it. Eventually I detected what felt like a crack in the illusion when I noticed rain falling through him and a look of despair that I had never seen before.

I stepped closer to inspect him, and had a sudden shock of recognition at the realisation that the experience felt like standing in front of a mirror. We wore the same grey and faded clothes, and his face looked just like mine had when I’d shaved this morning. I reached out, heedless of the strangeness, and he was gone.

I stood there, numb with confusion for quite some time. Indeed I quite lost track of it, consumed in my reverie. It’s only been recently that I’ve noticed something very strange in my vigil on the bridge.

The clothing of people and the vehicles passing by all seem to resemble the fashions and shapes of times gone by. Childhood memories of garish clothing now clothe the people who parade past, and I’m beginning to wonder if the small child that I’ve been seeing in the corner of my eye might not prove to be terrifyingly familiar if only he came close enough.

Back To Body Balance

Well of course there was going to be a price to pay for all the recent gallivanting around and claiming to have a life that I’ve been doing recently. Today I paid that price by going back to Body Balance classes for the first time since the horrible winter cold took root at the beginning of December.

It will come as no surprise to hear that I am now lying in bed with every limb aching in protest – which is why I won’t say it, because I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well it went.

The only really noticeable deterioration has come in the balance sections, where my ankles decided they didn’t really want to cooperate. On the plus side my upper body strength seemed to be enough to allow me to get into a Crow Pose for approximately two seconds.

Yeah, I wasn’t expecting that either.

So, that happened. I now don’t feel bad for relaunching back into the general debauchery of #Tuesdays like we did this week. I think it was the first time we’ve had pretty much everyone there for ages.

The usual suspects of the Ladies M, Lady G and myself were joined by Lady P and Sirs D and S in a rowdily good natured assemblage determined as ever to bestow salt-laced wisdom on current events.

Sir S was waylaid by the landlord and his son, and pressed with many fine Irish Whiskeys in return for operatic snippets; presents were distributed to those who had not otherwise received them; stories were discussed; and the band tried to make themselves heard.

Can’t complain…