I was standing on a bridge in the middle of the night. It was a trestle, actually. I always go there to think. It’s suspended over a small river. I can stand there, look out over the town, and see the water beneath. The glassy surface reflects the street lights. Sometimes I pretend that the water isn’t reflecting the light but that the lights are beneath the surface. Like there’s another universe beneath. With hundreds of suns and stars.
I wonder what they do down there, and if they can see me watching.
It’s scary, too. A fifty foot fall beneath my feet. The only things that keep me from the water are a few worn railroad ties, flaking from use and weather. Death seems so near. Maybe that’s what brought me there.
I stood, letting my thoughts drift with the current. Clouds blotted the moon and stars, but I could make out slivers of white against the flat black sky. The tiny planets pricked holes in the darkness, and thin beams of light stretched to the ground.
I wasn’t upset. Nothing was wrong. I came here simply to think. To clear my brain and to breathe clean air. My legs felt strong as I stood over the river. I inhaled through my nose, and the air was cold and thin. Refreshing.
A stiff breeze passed, and I steadied myself. The clouds blown away, the night was revealed. Dim circles became brilliant orbs. I could see everything clearly. I could touch the stars with the tips of my fingers. The air was even more fulfilling as I drew it in. I felt alive. I felt invincible.
Standing there, feeling invincible, I got an urge.
I bent my knees to lower myself, and I sat on the railroad ties. I closed my eyes, and extended my legs. And I laid back.
I opened my eyes. I was floating, my eyes ignorant of the support beneath me. I was suspended in air, laying above a steadily sweeping river, gazing at the opacity. I pushed my arms to the side, making a star with my body. And I laid there. Between universes.
I stared, through the rusty beams above me, at the pale white shapes overhead.
Minutes passed. And the world went with them.
I closed my eyes again. To imagine myself falling to the water or floating to the sky. And to imagine what each would be like and which I might like more.
But as I opened my eyes, I felt a presence beside me. Right beside my head, I could feel something, standing dead still, looking at me.
My heart pounded. It beat so rapidly that I instantly breathed with labor. I wanted to turn my head and look but I couldn’t. I was paralyzed. I was petrified. I was scared.
Finally, I shook my nerves and twisted the muscles in my neck to turn my head. I turned slowly, fearfully. I looked, unveiling this thing that sat beside me.
It wasn’t a person, or a spirit, or my imagination.
It was a possum
A plump, pale possum, with fur like long needles, sitting a foot from my head. Staring at me. It’s pointed nose wiggling slightly, and it’s beady eyes ever focused.
“What the hell are you doing?” I could almost hear the possum say as its stare turned increasingly human and skeptical.
“I have no idea” I thought.
“Well, you look pretty silly you know. Laying here on the railroad tracks. Train could come at any minute. Better be careful” said the animal, never shifting it’s eyes.
“I will be. Thank you” I answered.
It continued to stare, sitting with me in the silent night. “It won’t do you any good. Thinking about where you might be. There’s not a thing you can do about it. Not a damn thing. You’re a human. And I’m a possum. And that’s that.
Like that, so matter-of-factly, the small animal turned its head and sauntered off, its hips bobbling back and forth as it moved forward. It blended with the dark as it continued down the tracks and out of my sight. It moved on, between universes, and on to one of its own.
I laid there, heart calming. I thought about what the possum said and if it was true. Does it do me any good to fantasize? To make-believe? Maybe not. There was nothing I could do, after I all. I was a human, and that was that.
But I tossed away that disheartening thought.
I remembered my life depended on fleeting thoughts, and that make-believe was my religion. I remembered the stories written on lined paper and how they thickened my skin like leather. I remembered the universes above and below and what each held in store for me.
I stood up and brushed bits of dead wood from my legs. I breathed in deeply one last time and looked over the calm water. And I smiled.
I smiled at the stories to come and the thoughts to wander. At the universes to create and the nights to fly through. At the air in my lungs and the breeze on my skin.
At the life I had.
And at the possum I talked to.