Down There

by teklu

That summer, I spent days on end wandering the town, seeking recluse. I needed a home, and with nowhere in particular to belong, I needed a place that allowed me to become no one. Not too far from food shelves, yet not too far-gone from society. Living in the wild of the city, nature’s threats (and blessings) lessen greatly, but still, you chance yourself before the nature of… others.

Finally, I found a bridge, and it was good. I was concealed from the gaze of any common passer-by, but only a few miles from town square. No one else was there. When called for, I could hide (from the sun, from the others), and when it was necessary, I was no more than thirty or forty minutes from my grocer. As it turned out, the arroyo was not that uncomfortable. I even learned that when you have everything you own in one backpack; it doubles as a decent pillow. And so, I settled underneath that bridge for the season, not unlike a troll, and drank myself to sleep nightly, a mind full of riddles until I felt gone.

The isolation felt appropriate in the new life I had adopted. Having been raised too close to the streets to trust any notion of seeking out the company of those others who kept them as home, I instead kept the company of myself for weeks on end. It wasn’t hopeless—I knew that I only needed to survive for a few months. School would re-open its doors to me and I thought about the food they had there every day. It wasn’t hopeless.

In fact, revelation crept around the bend and pounced one day, as I rummaged through a bin, just behind the rich people’s market; I realized all at once, that I had never felt so free. I was hungry and drunk. Hot and bothered. Dehydrated in the high desert, curing like meat, and ill. But no one knew of me—whether I was coming or going, it didn’t matter where I was (unless I was scaring white people.) And when it doesn’t matter who you are, or what you do – you may do as

you will. At all times. Follow a few general rules so you don’t get arrested, keep an eye out for those that would count you as prey, stay out of the sun, and keep to yourself. It felt like an elaborate treasure hunt that didn’t have a treasure to speak of, nor did it have a point, really. That’s when I started talking to myself.

My gnarled circadian rhythm was one law that I could not break, and though I bent it to extremes, it faithfully led me back to the bridge, time and again. Every trip home, I stumbled through nervous fear that someone may have found my place—and spoiled it—the only place I trusted, the shadow of an overpass, was an emptiness filled by a disquiet fool. I wondered what became of it when I left, I worried that some other would somehow take it from me. That’s when I stole a pencil.

May be that I was tired of my own voice. It can be difficult to surprise yourself in conversation, after a while. May be that I wrote to ease the pain, or to accentuate it. I knew a small part of me was leaving notes behind, in that hole which I slumbered, as a means of claiming the spot as my own. But, most probably, I was leaving words to that bridge because it had taken me. It had taken me in when no one else cared to, and I wanted to give it something back.

That gift was little more than my everything. Not including my backpack. I wrote automatically and in a cipher that only I can read (and, I assumed, the bridge would learn.) I told the bridge how I wound up there in the first place and why I had asked if I could stay a spell. I asked the bridge who else had been there and why that dog slept with me sometimes. I recounted times in my life that I myself could barely connect to the present and combed through them meticulously, clarifying the path that had led me there. Most of these tales revolved around my college, a school about which that bridge now knows many things. I told the bridge about the

future, about where I’d be going one day; I mocked society. I laughed at myself. And the bridge, it stuck around. I still see it sometimes.

The day I did leave, it was simply time to go. Strange as it may seem, I felt a little remorse to leave that place—my most dangerous of safe places that I have ever known. It’s a good bridge, ya know? At least, I know I learned a thing or two down there.

teklu is from Anchorage. They were born for the Crow/Frog clan.