Bridge of sighs

Meet me in the middle, you said, even though it was a road bridge connecting two foreign countries and the logistics would prove tricky, to say the least. Name the day, the time, I said, thinking that we could recreate the scene from the series, only with kissing taking the place of wounding. And then, because I’ve loved bridges from all the way back to a childhood book filled with beam and arch, truss and cantilever, suspension and cable-stayed, I set to imagining all the other spans upon which we might more easily meet, and walk, and kiss. The ones I’ve crossed myself, or gazed upon from left bank or right. The ones I’d still love to see, while making a span with you, a bridge of hands and arms and sighs and heads lent together. And then I hear you say, in the voice which still melts me even after all these years of creating bridges out of nothing – you show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.

Let’s go to France first, and picnic as I once did alone beneath the giant span of the Pont de Brotonne, the bridge suspended so high above that the wind rustling the reeds is louder than the airborne traffic. We might even meet my younger self there, ghosting along on my bike, coming to a halt at a shy distance from these mid-life lovers so simultaneously rapt in themselves and yet alive to the world, to the flow of the river’s muddy waters, to the birds it draws and sustains, drinking in the sight of the village on the far side of the Seine.

Then fly as the heron does, upriver, and make it our task to walk all the bridges within the twenty arrondissements, paying particular attention to the passerelle de Solférino and the Pont Marie. And of course we might do what we have each imagined doing separately as we crossed it in recent visits, and padlock our love to the Pont des Arts, even though it and Paris and Parisians can no longer bear the weight of all that symbolism.

We could do the same for London, the Millennium and all the other bridges through the eyes of which the sweet Thames softly flows and threads itself – Tower, London, Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Hungerford, Westminster, Lambeth, Vauxhall, Chelsea, Albert, Battersea, alternating our crossings from north bank to south, and pausing at the last to think of a chance missed, chances regained, chances which – both in dreams and reality – might still be taken.

Let’s suspend time on the Clifton Suspension Bridge, watch the sun set over the gorge and then the bridge light itself up to become a setting worthy of any first kiss, or for that matter the five thousandth. While we’re there, let’s drop down into the city and make our way between the horns of the Floating Harbour’s bridge.

I’d have a story for each, like sharing whisky on the Hungerford with a friend in the small hours of a November morning, fog murking the view of the river and the buildings fronting it, and time suspended in fiery plumes of eau de vie breath. Or how each of the seventeen arches of Bordeaux’s Pont de pierre stand for a letter of Napoléon Bonaparte’s name. Let’s range far and wide now, and gaze upon the swanlike reflections in the water of the Hatea, a bascule bridge in Whangarei, New Zealand. The old stones and corbels of the Arkadiko Bridge in the Peloponnese, over which we would ride in our ancient Greek chariot. From the old to the new weathered steel of the High Trestle Trail Bridge in Boone County, Iowa; oh, the framed pictures of each other we’d take there, before making for the Golden Gate, in mist and in sun and us soon to be high on the ups and downs of San Francisco life. In Venice, meet me on the Rialto, and then we’ll go see the original Bridge of Sighs, from which it is an easy leap either to all the other bridges of the world which share its name, or (in my head at least) to the Go Between Bridge in Brisbane, by way of A little romance.

I transformed our first meeting and kiss into one which took place on a bridge by a lake under the moon. In my mind it was a simple balustrade but when they make the film of the book, it might easily become a moon bridge, Beijing’s Jade Belt, say, its railings carved with cranes. The camera would linger on that first kiss, and beneath us the moon-shape created by arch and reflection.

Again in imagination, I have fed parts of your dead body to the fishes from the bridges of the Thames, as a more fitting way of saying goodbye to a mermaid than burying or cremating her. Bridges are built to withstand tension, compression, bending, torsion and shear, and I like to think our imaginary ones are just as strong; it’s when we step off those bridges that we each feel less secure.

But remember, we have those real moments in our past, of crossing and recrossing a bridge side by side, the one and only bridge we have stood upon together, when you were brave and bold enough late one summer afternoon to let me walk through your world to a smallholding held by an old man who is dear to you. The weightlessness of that walk, our bodies close but never touching, stays with me still.  It was the bridge I later lifted you from, flying in in the form of a fictional heron.

This is what we do, at distance. We build bridges in the air between us, and walk-run-dance over them, meeting in the middle. And there we hold each other close, and talk and kiss and more, and more again.

So, I’ve shown you my bridges. Now you show me yours.


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