Building Bridges

By Lizzie Arroyo, TIWP Student

            I live on a lonely shore. The sand is white and the water is gray and stretches on forever. The only sound is the whisper of the water on the sand. This soft little island has strong bridges to other islands, where my family lives. These bridges are so strong it seems like they’ll never break. But they don’t count, because I made them so long ago that I can’t remember how I did it. And I’ll never be able to build a bridge that strong with anyone, ever again.

            But I do try, sometimes. Another little island will drift close to me, and I’ll watch the stranger across the water. The stranger will call to me first, and I’ll shout something back, and it’s amazing how our voices cut through the whisper of the gray ocean. And after a few days of this, we both think, “I’d like to get a little closer to this person.” So we get to work building a bridge to connect our two islands. I think to myself that this time will be different. I’ve built bridges before that lasted, and I have my toolbox and my manual and, most importantly, I like this person. I want to see what it’s like on their island.

            We start by making thin ropes with harpoons on the ends of them, and throw them into each other’s shores to make sure we don’t drift away. The ropes are flimsy, easy to cut if either of us changes our minds. Nothing permanent, and the harpoons don’t go very deep. When the ropes hold strong, we start laying down the scaffolding, laughing together all the while. I start pushing wood poles into the sand, making sure each one follows the exact measurements in the manual. We spend more and more of our free time building a bridge. We never say that we’re building it, of course, which has always bothered me. How am I supposed to know this person actually wants me around?

            And that’s what sinks it in the end. Me. The first few weeks are always perfect, but then, when her side of the bridge is hanging over the water and my side is close to touching hers, something will happen. She’s made bridges to other islands, and she’ll go to the middle of another bridge with that nice person to eat lunch. And I’ll stand at the very edge of the half-bridge I’ve built, close enough that we three can see each other, and all I can do is watch silently as they talk about things I can’t hear over the whisper of the ocean.

            After this I get scared that she thinks I’m getting too close, too fast. And the fact that I want this so badly is the only proof I need that my bridge is reaching too far for her, and she’ll never want me any closer than I am now. So I grab my toolbox and my manual and I sprint back to the safety of my lonely shore, leaving the bridge unfinished.

            Then I sit on the sand, ignoring her questions and the ropes that she throws to me, until eventually she gives up and believes what I’m saying with my silence- that I’m not going to finish this bridge. She stops working on her half.

            Months pass. The half-finished bridge rots away, falling into the ocean, until only dents in the sand are left, as a reminder of what could have been if I were someone else.

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