SUMMER BRIDGE

It was summer in the Sierra Nevada. There was a couple by the brook. He lay on his back, staring at her as she sat smoking. They were laughing together, both a little high already, lost in the moment. Her eyes were dark and clear, like the night sky on a crisp winter night. His were warm and pale, like a sunrise in spring. They were in love, though they did not yet know it, for they were both too afraid to look at the other too close, afraid of what they might find, so they loved each other from a distance, introduced each other as ‘a friend’, and the silence between their words felt like home.
The girl stood and stooped to drink from the water, it was cold and tasted a little like copper: snowmelt from higher in the mountains. They bundled their picnic blanket into a tote bag, and began up the narrow path. As they walked they passed signs plastered across the rock face which read:
¡ATENCIÓN!
Por motivos de mantenimiento
EL PUENTE COLGANTE DE LOS CAHORROS
permanecerá cortado hasta finalización de obras
PROHIBIDO EL PASO
They laughed at this. The bridge they had come to was well built; the iron railings, though a little rusted, were strong. So they walked on, and the bridge held their weight. It led them to a small meadow, bustling with butterflies and bees. A hut stood at the far side of the field, it was little more than a lean-to, and they joked about how one day they could move there together, sell honey to hikers and live off the land. They laughed, but wished that one day it would be true.
They walked, and each time their hands touched they would linger, cherishing those seconds of quiet affection, wanting so badly to reach out and hold each other. They passed a solitary tree carved with lovers’ initials, and privately wondered if they would ever carve theirs. The path ran past sheer rock faces, places where it was so narrow they had to cling to the side of the cliff. Not once did they pass another hiker, and the solitude of the mountains made them feel grounded, but somehow distant.
The next bridge was different. It was old, older than the last: the wood was rotten and missing in places, the metal was rusted thin, the wire mesh that served as its walls was torn and barely attached. Ivy growing through the structure made it seem like this was part of the mountains, almost as if the bridge had not been built, but had grown of its own accord, for no one but itself. The sight of it made her throat close shut, she did not want to cross it. She pulled at his sleeve, asked to turn back homewards. He laughed at her for this, she was being childish, he thought, or boring, or maybe even too sensible.
“Mira, está bien.”
He took her hand and stepped forward.

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