Monday, July 15, 2013

Bridges and Borderlines

I was running past Brush Creek this morning when I came to a bridge. I smiled, as much as one can when they're running in the middle of the day in the middle of June. I love bridges. I love walking over them, passing under them, standing on top of them, photographing them. I've recently visited Paris, Dublin, London, and Prague - cities that grew up around rivers and rely on their bridges.

Crossing over the water in the cool of the evening or the early light of dawn just seems terribly romantic to me. There is a bridge in Paris, Pont des Arts, that has been nicknamed "lover's bridge." I call it the "lock bridge." For the past 10-15 years lovers of all shapes and sizes have purchased padlocks, attached them to the bridge and thrown the key into the River Seine as a sign of their unending love for one another. The occasional combination lock gives you pause, but the sheer number of locks is a testament to the swarms of romantics out there.

As I near the bridge that crosses Brush Creek I think of lovers stealing kisses in the darkness of its shadow. I pass under and my musings are interrupted by broken bottles on the footpath and a strong stench of urine. In a matter of seconds my lovely fantasy dissolves. The bridge becomes foul, and I rush to pass under.

The line between beautiful and disgusting is surprisingly narrow. Sort of like the line between romantic and obsessive, which is something I've given quite a bit of thought to recently. Six months ago my boyfriend and I broke up. Three weeks later I left the country (not on account of the fact that we broke up, that just happened to be the way things panned out). Within a month's time I was longing to be with him again.

I sent a series of e-mails detailing what went wrong and how sorry I was. I wrote letters and kept a journal in which I recorded all of the times that I thought about him, as well as the things I was learning during our separation. I couldn't call him or contact him through Facebook. But I did send lengthy e-mails in which I described the way my heart had changed. Then I waited. And waited. And every 2 or 3 weeks he would send me a response and my heart would sing, not because the response said what I wanted it to (in fact it never did), but simply because I had heard from him.

For six months I petered between bliss and despair. And then I kept it up even after I returned to the States and he made it clear that my hopes and desires were not mutual. It didn't make sense, but it seemed so second-nature. Love can be like that. Can't it? Or is checking your e-mail three times a day in the hopes that you'll hear from someone who doesn't bother responding for three weeks at a time less like love and more like obsession? I'm afraid that it is.

I didn't want it to be. Not again. Not after the way I handled my last break up. But obsession seems to be my natural default when I've been abandoned. As if my knowledge about the other person's whereabouts and activities is somehow going to make them care about me and come back. It never does. And telling yourself that all of your actions and emotions and obsession is merely the result of the fact that you've finally learned to love someone can only last for so long before your fantasy dissolves. You start recognizing your actions for what they are, seeing the trash under the bridge and smelling the stench of bird shit.

If you're lucky, you who have friends who give you space to make this realization on your own. And when you do, they help you walk out of the mess that you've gotten yourself into, taking you to a place where you can hope you'll find a garden. Where you hope that the next time you won't be so taken in by the allure of something beautiful.

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