Friday, October 11, 2013
Bridging the Gap
“So there’s this baby,” Aaron starts. He’s already laughing at his own joke. He can barely keep still on the log he’s sitting on.
Samantha shakes her head, irritated. They’ve been arguing the whole way up to the lodge. And unfortunately me and Jake had to sit near them while they went through their weekly hate-love fest. She’s upset because its senior year and the destiny she planned for them may be coming to an end. Aaron refuses to take things as seriously.
“I tell her I love her. What more does she want?” he asked us. That was Jake’s and my cue to agree with “You’re right, man.”
Truth is Aaron’s looking forward to their split. Her to state. Him to another state and a whole range of possibilities. Not girl-wise either. “I mean, I get out of the city and just see nature. You know? That’s pretty damn cool. Not waking up to drills. Worrying about SATs or my parents. Damn,” he huffed.
I’m also looking forward to college. Not taking a subway to school and back home. Not worrying about a coach yelling in one ear and a teacher yelling in another. We’ll get to walk around campus. Live away from the steady gaze of parents expecting us to be better. Jake, Aaron, and I are all going away on scholarship.
The chill from Samantha’s face and the air up here make me shake through my shorts and sweatshirt. The temperature change was sharper than I expected. I can’t help hunching my body. Jake gives me a look and I see we’re in close proximity. Me involuntarily seeking out body heat.
I mouth “cold” to him but his stare goes away all together.
“So the baby—” and before Aaron even gets to the punch line Samantha stands up and hits him in the shoulder.
“Shut up about the baby! Just shut up. Shut up. Shut up!” She’s shaking. Her arms are stretched out on either side of her and, yup, those are tears coming down her cheeks.
Aaron’s mouth practically scrapes ground. I think mine and Jake’s are too. One of us, I don’t know who, asks, “What is up, Sam?”
Her face is in her hands. She goes into full blown tremble mode. She mumbles something. I think I hear the word “ig’nant.”
Aaron rises. He pulls her hands from her face. “What?”
“Pregnant,” is what she said, says. Aaron’s jaw really drops. He takes a step back but still holds her hands.
There’s a poke in my ribs, then a constant jab before I notice Jake. His face is near mine. It’s a bit disorienting at first but I focus on what he’s saying. “Let’s go” he urges. I don’t hesitate. We leave Aaron and Samantha. She’s slapping him away again and he’s stock still.
Jake stuffs his hands into his hoodie and I follow suit. We walk a foot apart. There’s the sound of our feet shuffling against the ground, dirt rolling under us. We go up. And up until the fog gets thick and the air gets colder prickling the exposed skin on my legs.
“I should’ve worn track pants,” I say.
“You should have but you like showing off your legs.”
I laugh. “No one’s looking at my legs.”
Jake doesn’t respond. He picks up speed and starts climbing the path. He almost slips on something and I’m there, just like on the field, right at his back ready to catch him if need be.
“Watch yourself,” I whisper. He nods but jerks away from me.
I’m about to ask him what the deal is when we hit a bridge. One of those lame swinging ones with wood and rope that doesn’t seem like it’ll hold a squirrel let alone a person. The other side is nonexistent. The fog this high up covers anything more than a few inches from your face.
“The bridge to nowhere,” I quip but Jake doesn’t laugh. He doesn’t look back at me or say anything.
He’s at the foot of the bridge his hands on either side of the rope railing. I rush to stand beside him. “What’s up with you today?”
The bridge sways under him when he steps on it. Jake takes another step sending the whole thing shaking like Samantha. My throat tightens up and I’m nervous about it holding his weight.
He moves forward practically forcing me to follow. “I swear you’re being such a douche nozzle right now.”
I catch up to him. My body swerves with the bridge no matter how slow I go. My palms dig into the rope and splinters catch into my skin. They sting but not enough for me to let go.
“Jake!” I yell until he’s almost engulfed in the fog. He stops. He turns around his body moving with the bridge. He looks at me. His eyes are as gray as the air surrounding us.
His eyes hold mine when he says, “We’re tight?”
I sputter. I glance over the side and see a bit of ground, way, way down. I swallow hard, feel the spit settle deep in my stomach.
He moves closer. “No matter what?”
“Yeah, we’re tight. You, me, Aaron.”
“I don’t mean Aaron. I mean me. When we go away… Room together, I don’t want things to get weird.”
“Weird? Why?” I falter a bit taking my right hand off the bridge but I hold up my fist waiting for him to pound it back and assure me he’s okay so we can get off of this shifting death trap.
He approaches. A rumble goes through my stomach as a gust of wind shifts the bridge. I grab at the rope but miss and am about to fall when I feel Jake’s arms clutching my body to his.
He whispers something in my ear. I don’t hear it all but I catch the key words. I hear things he may have wanted to say outloud for awhile. The glances and looks away make sense, so does his fear. I don’t respond. I let him hold me, not so much to keep me steady but to steady himself.
Story by: Jenn Baker
Photo by: Jim Crossley