By Todd Skaggs
“There is a wall between worlds seen and unseen. On Samhain, the wall becomes a veil. A thin gossamer that does little to deter the spirits from visiting…“
She closed the book she had been reading from.
“That’s pretty deep.” I took the stub of a joint and put it to my lips. My legs were dangling over the side of the Walcutt Bridge. The walkway, if you could call it that, hadn’t seen foot traffic in who knows how long? Probably the last time I came here to clear my head.
The last time, though, I was alone. I took a deep hit from the joint, thankful I didn’t have to light it. I cocked my head and let the smoke out slowly before turning back to the girl sitting next to me.
Clara, she said her name was. I offered her the joint. She waved it off and looked out ahead of her.
“Jackson, what is your greatest fear?” she asked, her fingers slowly moving across the cover of the closed book in her lap.
I coughed a little as the smoke fought its way out. “My name is Tony. Don’t know any Jackson.” I told her.
She looked back over as though seeing me for the first time, though she’d been there most of the night.
“OK then, Tony. What are you afraid of?”
I took a deep hit, letting the smoke warm my throat as the thc nestled its way in.
“Falling in love.” It was my turn to look ahead. I could almost make out the lights of the town in the distance. It was a 15 minute walk to anywhere with people. And very few of them ever walked across this old rail bridge.
“And what scares you about falling in love?” She said. I could feel her stare, but I wasn’t ready to make eye contact. I needed the buzz to catch hold. I needed it tonight.
“Did you know,” I said, more to distract myself than to actually answer her question, “that the great measure of love throughout our history has been whether or not you would die for someone that you loved? Whether your love for another person was so great that you would give your life for that person. How fucked up is that?”
I let that hang in the air, like living smoke that didn’t know where to go.
“I think it’s more romantic to live for someone.” Clara was quieter now, but I could still feel her gaze on the side of my face. “I had a boyfriend once who said he’d die for me.”
“Jackson.” I looked over in time to see her nod as she turned her head and looked off into the distance once more.
“It’s bullshit, you know? Dying for someone? It’s a load of crap. It’s no great sacrifice to die for someone. You die and it’s over. It’s no great declaration. It’s turning your back on the one thing you claim to have-love.”
I threw the rest of the spent spliff over the side of the bridge and leaned over to see how far it would fall before I lost sight of it.
I lost sight of it pretty quickly, and felt a hand grab my shirt.
“Careful, you don’t want to fall over the side, Tony. People will think you leapt over to prove your love, or worse, that I pushed you.”
“Can’t have that, can we Clara?” I liked Clara. I can’t remember when we first met. I don’t even remember making plans to meet her on the bridge after the Halloween Dance. I just showed up, and here she was, like it was someplace she had to be. Like neither one of us had any other plans besides meeting here on this deserted bridge at midnight.
“No, Tony, we can’t have that. People already gossip enough as it is.”
Maybe it was the sativa kicking in, but it seemed there was something more in her voice. A wistfulness. Or a sadness. I couldn’t tell which as I looked down at her, still sitting on the edge of the bridge, her legs dangling lazily. When had I stood?
Something flickered just beyond Clara. Flashlights? Weird. I don’t remember telling anyone else I was coming here tonight. I heard voices, but it wasn’t until they got closer that I could make out they weren’t calling for me.
“Clara?!” ?“Clara? Are you out here? C’mon Clara! We need to get your home. Your parents are worried sick.”
“I need to leave soon, Tony. But you never answered the question.” Clara didn’t look up. Her head was turned in the direction of the approaching lights and voices getting louder. “Why does falling in love scare you?”
“I’m afraid that if I fall in love, if I give myself over to someone completely, that she won’t love me back with her whole heart. That I would be willing to do anything for her love, give anything, and she wouldn’t give it back.”
I could barely hear my own voice over the noise Clara’s friends made as they came into view.
Standing, Clara looked over the edge of the bridge, and then gave a quick glance to the direction of her friends.
She put the book back in her jacket pocket. I could see it was a faded journal, AMJ stamped on the cover.
“She would have.” Clara’s voice is barely louder than a whisper. “She would have given you her whole heart, Antonio Matias Jackson. If you would have asked.”
“There is a wall between worlds seen and unseen. On Samhain, the wall becomes a veil. A thin gossamer that does little to deter the spirits from visiting the source of their greatest regrets.“