Clearly, he and I didn’t work out as a couple. In fact, he left me once for my best friend, and then, years later, left me again for another woman. Turns out he ended up married to my best friend from eighth grade, the one he left me for in 1986.
I was going to be a freshman at . He went to school at Dunedin High. Those two insurmountable (well, in high school, anyway) differences didn’t matter: we were in love. At least, teenager love. Bear in mind this wasn’t like today’s love; it was a lot more innocent. We kissed a little, and that was about it.
But, oh, how we kissed. He was older: 16. And he would drive his big gold American car down from Dunedin, or, if his brother or his mother had it, my mom would go get him, and he and I would walk around my neighborhood.
I grew up in your basic grid neighborhood, with one exception: we had a system of creeks running through our streets. And over one branch of Stevenson’s Creek ran a small footbridge. I don’t honestly know if anyone used it but us kids, both for bike riding and, well, making out with our boyfriends.
It wasn’t all teenage hormones and not-even-that-heavy-petting on the footbridge; me, being me, also did a lot of watching the water and staring in amazement at the creek beneath my feet, mesmerized by how the water whirled and twisted down the concrete riverbank.
I got over him eventually. It wasn’t fun, but, well, I was 13. To think I’d have ended up married to him was naive, even for my romantically immature young heart. He and my friend Dee married many years ago. Today they still exist, a happy family of nine (nine!) in the Carolina Hills. When I re-read that sentence I realize anew that he and I were never meant to be.
Besides, I was always about the water more than anything else, even just a little strip of a stream running underneath a footbridge. It’s not exactly on a road – it’s a few houses off Barry Road – so while I’ve driven by it over the years, I haven’t stopped and walked across the bridge since I thought Eric and I were the perfect couple.
Until today. Today, I stop, curious. I want to see how the skinny footbridge stands up against my memory.
And my bridge is gone. I’m not sure when it happened, and it really doesn’t matter. But there are big fences, and the path is gone. Nothing arches across the skinny stormwater creek. Teenagers compelled by hormones don’t even have the option of scaling the black pipe that traverses most segments of the creek; fences block it from them.
Of course, with texting and cell phones and e-mail and all the other things “these kids today” have at their fingertips, they probably have a virtual creek somewhere, where they meet for assignations. I doubt anyone misses that three-foot-wide footbridge.
Except me. And, even though I talk to his wife much more than I talk to him, I like to think that Eric thinks about it from time to time. Maybe he wonders if one of his daughters has a footbridge of their own.
Because, after all this time, it isn’t about Eric. It’s about the footbridge, and the memory of the girl I used to be.
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