Birds chirp above, but otherwise the din of daily life is muffled. A small stream bubbles below a little bridge whose boards creek disconcertingly when stepped on. Surrounding greenery hums in the wind. Time slows down here, or perhaps doesn’t exist here at all.
Look at her, sitting there in a pew reserved for family members. She murmurs along to the hymns, hardly remembering them from the days Emmy took her to church, and runs her hand nervously along the black dress she stole from her mom’s closet. As her thumb brushes the butterfly print that sweeps up the sides of the dress, she imagines Emmy spreading her wings and flying away. The people around her cry, but her face is waxen, and in her mind, she is hundreds of miles away, sitting on that little bridge. She says goodbye to Winnie, off to live with a family friend in the Midwest, whose canine smell and boundless energy have only faded slightly with age. She remembers the days that Winnie frightened her and runs her hand across the wood of the little closed off reading nook Emmy built for her – a hideaway from scary dogs and talkative people. As she sits outside, noticing the new wrinkles on her dad’s forehead through the twinkling stained glass Emmy made herself, she closes her eyes and returns to the bridge.
Look at her, traveling through Paris, on a trip made possible by Emmy. She stands in a Monoprix with her face in a freezer, rubbing her chest, wishing she could stop feeling her irregularly beating heart. Look at her, getting to college, somehow making it through the summer. She knows that her fear of everyone she loves dying is probably irrational. Her doctor prescribes her “only-if-needed” panic attack pills. Her trips to the bridge become less and less frequent.
Look at her, perusing an Urban Outfitters while she unknowingly says goodbye to Maw Maw. She sits very still on a plane home less than a month into college. Tears stream down her face as she watches her grandfather cry for the first time, as she squeezes him tight and he whispers in her ear, “Your visit sustains me.” She sings the last song Maw Maw ever heard her perform to a crowd of people that she does not recognize and stains her flowery dress with dirt as she shovels it onto the grave. She walks through the halls of that big stone house, so quiet now, and remembers all of the joyful snow days she has spent there – the way that the sound of fire crackling and the sweet smell of hot chocolate would fill its rooms and Maw Maw would smile, recounting stories from her youth. As she brushes her fingers across Maw Maw’s exhaustive Agatha Christie collection, now technically hers, she remembers the days of microwaved-Milky Ways, book discussions, and Jeopardy. She wants to find refuge in the bridge but can only manage it for moments.
Look at her, sitting in her dorm room, eating dark chocolate peanut butter cups and trying to forget how alone she feels. She crams her schedule, attempting to limit moments in which her mind can torture her, reminding her of the things that she will never do again, the hugs that she will never get again, the altered Thanksgivings and Christmases to come, the love that she has lost. These days, she only returns to the bridge in dreams.
Where is the bridge? Why is it not here? Silence is shattered, encroached upon by awkward condolences and mournful cries. The bridge has vanished, forcing hikers to awkwardly wade through creek water that gleams red to cross to the other side. The surrounding greenery is overgrown, so that no light can make its way through the canopy of leaves overhead. There is no peace here. What now? What next?
Writer | Anonymous | firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor | Beckett Quirk ’26 | email@example.com