November 6, 2015

His name was Thomas Wallace. Most people called him Tommy, because it added more of a ring to his name.

I was walking down the waterfront in downtown Portland. I presume this loop is about two or three miles, but it never bothered me much to look it up. Walking on the Steel Bridge, cars and buses and trucks and chaos above caused the whole bridge to shake. Tommy balances mere a hundred feet of me. His feet interlocked under the metal bar as he leans dangerously forward over the Willamette River. Before I was able to say a word, or even process what was happening, Tommy untangles his feet, and I take a breath of air. He lifts one, then two, feet into the top of the metal bar, and I’m screaming. There’s nothing to hold onto, he’s rocking with the sway of the bridge. I feel motionless, but my feet run faster than I’ve ever seen before. Maybe if I ran like this every day, I could win one of my track races.

A train a hundred carts long is coming our way, as slow as a snail. This doesn’t bother me, but Tommy has a new look on his face. The bridge isn’t shaking anymore, but trembling. He feet are beginning to shift and slip. Before I can hesitate, I grab his legs and pull him back. Although he’s the captain of the baseball team and can fight me off, he doesn’t struggle and just holds me in a bear hug. “You know,” I begin to choke, not realizing he and I both have tears running down our cheeks. “This bridge is no more than 25 feet off the ground, you couldn’t have killed yourself, just a painful splat.” “I know, I know,” you can tell he’s ashamed through his voice. “Actually, I didn’t know, but I figured it out when I got here.”

It was over as fast as it began, and me and him were walking hand and hand down the streets, restaurants and bars and strip clubs. Months ago, Tommy and I were together for more than a year, we were inseparable. We broke up because it’s the summer after senior year, he’s going to Stanford with a 4.3 GPA and I’m going to New York University, across the nation. It’d be too hard, we agreed, but we were still crazy in love. We met during junior year at Flicks on Bricks, The Breakfast Club was playing in Pioneer Square and we were strangers sitting next to each other, each quoting the movie word for word. We started talking after the movie was over and soon figured out we were going to the same school, in the same grade, the same English class.

With Tommy walking in front of me, hand in mine, he drags me into what looks like a bar. There’s a very romantic lighting, which I find odd, and he’s looking for the roof. “Get out of here! Rotten kids! Out!” what seemed to be the owner with a face as red as a tomato. We scurry outside like our lives depended on it. In less than a block we saunter into a room of men playing cards. A casino? A friendly game of Texas Hold Em’? “I need to do something,” he said rather calmly, and he opens the door to a room he seems to know like the back of his hand. It looks like a little kids room, a bed and pictures on the wall. He’s holding both my hands now, lets go of both and quickly places his warm palms on my blushing cheeks. Before anything happens, we hear a child’s laughter from behind the bed, and a girl, maybe eight, comes out from under the bed. My hand back in his, we’re running out that building faster than on the bridge earlier that day. What felt like years ago.

“What were we doing in there?” Not sure if I want to know the answer or not. “Well, I said I needed to do something, and I needed to go somewhere private to do it. But that little girl scared me, and I didn’t think it’d be right to kiss you in front of a stranger.” “Stranger? You didn’t know her? Why did you take me in that building anyways?” “Yeah, a stranger. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t know what we’d walk into, but no one seemed to notice us, so I thought I might as well gone along with it. When that girl saw us, I ran because I didn’t want you to get caught and in trouble with your parents for trespassing, I know them.”

We get in his car, not a word said about the bridge, about the men playing poker, and not the girl with the laugh like silk. He drives me to my house. Like old times, he unbuckles my seat belt, and then his. He gets out of the car and opens my door, his hand held out to assist me, I let him. He walks me to my front porch, knocks lightly on the window. I give him a kiss on the cheek, as his hand falls out of mine. He’s gone before my mom undoes the door hinge, unlocks it, and opens it. Distracted, I forgot my car is parked on the other side of the river with a parking permit that expired two hours ago.


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