Day 370ish, The Bridge Incident
No more than a block from my house is a place we call “the woods”. This is quite an accurate description of the field where trees and bushes grow at will, right where God put them, and the only reason that “the woods” are in our subdivision is because suburbia was forced upon them.
A creek runs through the woods, sometimes rushing and sometimes moseying as it nurtures a host of cottonwood trees, which Ryan hates because of allergies, but which I love because they send little puffs of fairy dust floating around on the wind.
The woods are shared by reverent animal wildlife and irreverent young human wildlife, but there is room for the deer tracks and the bike trails. One hundred steps in and you forget that you’re just a jog away from a paved road and reality. The woods are home to countless fond memories, millions of portals into the imagination, thousands of hiding places and hundreds of boyhood constructions projects. One such project is about to become quite significant to me.
It’s a warm, sunny afternoon and my step is light. This idea of giving up steady boyfriends has freed my spirit and given me a sense of independence, has freed my time and allowed Ryan and I to talk and laugh and be. I impulsively recommended that we take a walk to the woods on our way home from the bus stop and we do, stopping for Ryan to point out the locations of and describe in double-over-laughing detail, his personal antics in the woods.
I am never a risk taker, I don’t have that sense of indestruction that others my age have, so it shocks and amuses me to hear him tell of the time he started a fire in these dry weeds and found himself desperately clawing at the hardened clay of summer for dirt to put out the flames. I feel a side of me like a heroine from a Jane Austen book brimming to the surface, finding joy in good company and an entertaining tale, while tingling with a sense of adventure and my own potential.
“Snow Hut (this is a knick-name for our friend, Jeremy, as nobody goes by their given name in Ryan’s vocabulary) has been putting in hours on a bridge he says he’s building out here,” Ryan tells me.
“Yeah. He says he’s building it from bailing twine.”
“That orange rope stuff?”
“Well… we simply must find it!” I say with a giggle.
We do find it as we journey along, searching the tree branches for glimpses of bright orange. We discover the bridge to be a well thought out labor of love, beginning at the top of an old rotted fence post, and leading high up into a tall tree. There is one strand of bailing twine for walking on, should you manage the balancing act, and smaller pieces attaching it to two other long strands, hung at waist height, for holding onto.
“I’m going to walk on it!” This I declare in my voice, but I hear it in the accent and cadence of that inner Jane Austen heroine.
“Absolutely not! It isn’t safe,” Ryan says.
This from the boy who has nearly burned these woods to the ground.
“I can do it!” I say, placing great faith in this twisted twine, no thicker around than my pinkie finger.
The first order of business is to hoist myself onto the weathered fence post, which is wide enough to provide solid footing for at least one of my feet. Ryan’s demands that I forget this crazy notion continue, while I wobble atop the rounded wood like a drunken flamingo.
I take my first step onto the precarious twine. It creeks and lowers under my weight. My next foot follows the first. The bridge is holding me!
The tone of Ryan’s protests turns from demanding to cajoling, “Amie, really. You’ve got to come down. You could fall and get hurt.”
Doesn’t he realize his loving concern for me is only giving me wings? How can I fall when I’m light as air? I continue to place one foot in front of another… very carefully. My hands grip the twine railings. My tongue peeks out and rests on my upper lip in concentration.
Ryan stands below me, arms poised at the ready, cautious eyes not resting to blink.
I’m three quarters of the way up the bridge before long, and I’ve yet to give thought to my destination.
Ryan says, “What will you do when you get to the top? I don’t think you can climb down that tree.”
I waver a little as I take my eyes off of my next step. I survey the tree. I’m no tree climber, and therefore, certainly no tree descender. That is not my way down.
“You’re right” I say, looking down directly into Ryan’s upturned face and watching its tension give way to momentary relief. “I’m going to have to walk backwards down the bridge.”
My left foot returns to its previous placement, then my right. “You see,” I say, still considering this a grand victory, “I told you I could-“
My triumphant statement dies with a sudden jolt! The twine at my feet has snapped and I drop through the air like a plastic toy paratrooper whose strings have gotten tangled.
I feel Ryan’s capable arms, heroic and sure, wrap around my waist and help my feet touch the ground. Then immediately I feel them retreat and I hear his voice rush out from a swiftly closing throat, “Oh my gosh. Take care of yourself.”
It is only after hearing and feeling with such clarity that I realize I can’t see. When the twine at my feet broke, the two handrails pulled taut against my sides, grabbing my shirt and pulling it straight up as I fell through! The twine, my hands, and my lifted shirt, are all twisted about my head in a humiliating knot, my bare stomach and innocent white bra are experiencing the cool breeze of the outdoors and the hot sting of embarrassment as they never have.
I yank and twist with desperation, pull my hands free and shirt down in one speedy motion. My eyes, at last unveiled fly to Ryan, eager to see a reaction they also dread!
His back is turned to me. His hands are held open above his shoulders in the act of having dropped a weapon and declared surrender. He directs his next words to me over his shoulder. “Are you alright?” he asks.
Well, let’s see. The courageous, Jane Austen heroine has fallen to the ground, frayed and frazzled like the ends of the broken twine, her cheeks a brighter shade of red than the twine is orange. However, her spirit is not quite broken. A touched smile creeps between her warm cheeks at the sight of her gentlemen friend, decently turning his back to her indiscretions.
“I’m okay,” I say. “You can turn around now. If..if you… want to.”
“You’re okay?” he asks, turning and taking a step toward me.
I bring my cool hands up to my cheeks, then look down and tug at the bottom of my shirt for good measure. “I’m sorry,” I say, “That was… embarrassing.”
With no other excuse to look elsewhere, my eyes finally meet his. We break into laughter.
“I can’t believe that happened!” I say, my fight or flight instinct urges my feet to walk back toward civilization and my feet obey.
“There’s the next entry for that journal you keep,” Ry says, following me.
“This is not an incident I care to commemorate!”
“Uh… do you really think I’m ever going to let you forget it?”
We laugh again, a bit nervously. We can’t think of much to say. What can you say when you’ve shown and he’s seen things never shown and seen before?
We’re almost back to the road that leads home when the heroine creeps back in with a sly smile and I say, “I know one thing, I’m not getting back on that bridge until Jeremy makes it sturdier!”
Ryan’s eyes fly to my face in bewildered horror to see my goading smile.
“You are never walking on that bridge again!” He says, laughing at my quip. “I don’t care if he makes it out of concrete and steel!”