In less than two weeks, I will run across a 5 mile bridge normally closed to pedestrians. The bridge hovers above the sea, which I have loved since I was a child. As proof, I submit a handwritten short story from the summer of 1985, when I was 11 and had not yet worked through how long it would take to walk 5 miles against the wind versus how quickly a cop car could swing by and whisk me off to jail. I guess I could have told the cop I was going to fix a so and so wire, which is bulletproof as far as excuses go.
I had been counting the money ever since Friday when I started my shift. Each day I took a small amount. About $100 every two days. Crumpled, torn bills. Straight, crisp bills. The thing that really mattered was that it was money. I stared out the smeared glass window into the clear dark night.
What my mind was focusing on wasn’t the beauty of the cool clear autumn night but it was on the calm shiny water which I could view quite clearly myself from my booth. I loved the sea. Ever since I was a kid. My dream was to live at sea forever. That is till I died. I wanted actually to die at sea. True that isn’t the nicest thought but perhaps it will help you to understand my craving for sea. As far as I could see there was only the cold, metallic shadows and shapes of the bridge. It’s a wonder anyone would have the stupidity to build such an ugly thing (even a bridge) over an amazingly beautiful thing as water. I knew tonight I must escape. By then I would have enough money and no one would be able to catch me. It was all planned out.
First I would take about $600 out of the cash register. I would wait until 5 minutes before my suspected shift was over and I would leave my toll booth and cross the bridge by foot to my dream come true. A boat shop. I would have enough money. I don’t have a car only because I couldn’t afford to be saving up for a yacht. A beauty too. There I would spend my time every day traveling sea after sea. Come winter time I would be so far away it wouldn’t matter if I docked in for the season. Oh, I’d fish for a living. It would be wonderful. Amazing something could be that good.
I glance at my watch. 11:45 PM. Almost time. I was nervous. Why be? My money (well not exactly) was ready. Neatly packed away in my jacket. Looking around I checked the coast to make sure no one saw me leave. As I stepped out of the door a cool wind made me ask myself whether I wanted to go through with it. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a cop! He wouldn’t notice me. But then again it was permitted that no one be able to walk across the bridge. It was 5 miles. I could’ve taken a boat. But that would take money and time. No, I needed to go now. The guard was staring at me. Without a moment’s thought I just walked past the sign that said “No walking or biking past this point”. The wind whipped through my thin hair and summertime jacket. I could have been more prepared but I had no idea it was going to be this cold.
Really it was no big deal. I had been walking like anybody else would. Occasionally a car would come by and the driver would give me a weird look but I could have been a guard going to fix a so and so wire. I could plainly see lights ahead. It would take awhile to get there. The strong wind was slowing down and yet I had 5 miles to walk.
Suddenly I lost balance and fell as my jacket blew open and back in place. Frantically I dug my numb hand into my pocket to see if my treasure had still remained safe inside. That was a big mistake. Because as it was safe, only on the edge of falling out, now that I opened my jacket it blew out. With a miracle happening (indeed it was too) it caught itself between two wires near the railguard. And it wasn’t harmed. Without hesitation I stepped over the rail. Then, while gripping the bar with one hand, bent down and grabbed. I had it safe in my hands before I realized that I was on the ledge of the 50 story bridge. I knew that falling meant worse than falling onto concrete. My friend had once knew a person who jumped off a bridge to commit suicide. With that thought came a loud shrill sound from behind me. A huge rig went shrieking to a hault as with a scare so sudden my nerves and feelings lost control as I went plunging 50 feet to my death, rather my dream.
I had a few thoughts after reading this story and sharing it with my 13 year-old daughter, who asked to read it because she was supposed to be studying for a history test and would have gladly swept the entire house instead.
1) Don’t bring a huge wad of cash to a 10K on a windy bridge. I’m assuming a secondhand yacht would have run around $10K in 1985 and the toll was about $2 then, meaning the thieving toll collector had roughly 10,000 singles. The cash really isn’t an issue, but I’ll secure my phone and car keys in a running belt.
2) Never give up your dreams. Whether it’s to live and die at sea or write short stories or be able to run 6 miles continuously, if very slowly, keep at it. Revisit dreams you had when you were very young if you can remember back that far or maybe you too had the foresight to write them down in a swanky cloth covered journal with built-in bookmark.
3) Share your passion with others. My daughter read a few stories and told me she was sure we would have been friends. She said “if we had a sleepover we’d probably stay up late talking and you’d say ‘oh honey, one day I’m gonna be your mama‘ ” and we both laughed and laughed because we share the same sense of humor and rudimentary grasp of time travel. I feel 10,000 times prouder of creating her, although I had a little help so cannot take all the credit.