reading time: 4 minutes
Written By: Travis Knight
Look on down from the bridge,
I’m still waiting for you.
I guess it all started when I met the father of a man who would soon, himself, be a father. It was a scorching day in San Jose, and I was piss-drunk; still trying to crawl out from my own abyss.
“Man, it is HOT out here,” the man said as he wiped the sweat from his head. His car was broken down behind a local Safeway, and he was attempting to change a tire. Old school Bay Area rap was bumping on his stereo, and his distressed accent clearly hailed from these parts. I handed him my stale 40 oz. of PBR; dwindling in both temperature and contents.
As I had initially walked up, a younger couple was walking away from the scene. With the proud look of any father, the man with car troubles looked at the departing couple.
“That’s my son,” said he, “they about to have a baby.” A proud tear rolled down his cheek and meshed with the pouring sweat that drenched his face. I said something or the other, and then told the man that I was going to grab another beer. “Don’t do it,” he said, “it’s not worth the risk.” Trapped in a mental breakdown, I had been reaching out to people for the past five days, and a recurrent theme reigned down from their advice. Nonetheless, I continued to ignore my fellow brothers and sisters; strangers with love who had no reason to care about a troglodytic wanderer such as myself.
After grabbing another beer, I walked back to the car. The man’s son and daughter-in-law had returned. As I walked up, the younger man’s eyes grew blatant with flame. I felt as if a raging pit bull was about to attack; to sink his teeth into this oncoming intruder. I put my arms and out and said,
The shifty stare melted away into one of love, and the man’s son and daughter-in-law embraced me in a hug. I wished them the best and flopped over a nearby fence; down into a creek that holds my childhood tight within its concrete walls.
Flashbacks sputtered in and out of past and present. I trekked through tadpole-infested waters, under freeways and tunnels, never meeting a single soul along the way. About a mile down the creek, I noticed an old familiar turn-off to the left. I remembered this path well.
Through a long corridor weaving in between houses and schools, my journey came to an end. A large, looming tunnel burst into view, with trickling water crawling out from its dark bowels. As kids, we trekked all the way down this tunnel, and on this day I’d be damned if my older age was going to trump a similar adventure.
About halfway to the end, where a small shimmering light flickered in anticipation of my arrival—a manhole somewhere off of Blossom Hill Road—surrealism swirled around me in the darkness. All my pain began pushing me ever closer to the end of this tunnel, and a conversation began to unfold with this distant, minute flicker.
Come to me, the voice said I. Come to me and all this ends. Shivering cowardice hid behind the boisterous tone; a lonely child who had no one to play with. Tears soaked my face, and the clinking of my tumbling beer distantly echoed down the tunnel. I stopped in my tracks and said aloud:
“I love you, I don’t care who you are. Everyone needs love; even you.”
The being’s voice glitched and twitched in my mind; as if it had been simultaneously touched and perturbed.
Then, child, come down here and hug me. In all of my despair, I continued to walk. Then I stopped. It had been days since I started walking, and I knew the gig was up; it was time to finally go home.
Horrid shrieks of pain, madness, and anger bombarded my quaking head as I turned my back. Come back! Please! I need you! Come back! As I neared the entrance of this tunnel, I paused and looked up at the sky, and then back down the tunnel to the tiny light.
“I love both of you,” I said as I wiped the coldness from my heart and departed that lonely place.
Spiders dangled in their webby abodes underneath each oncoming underpass; the fading voice still pleading for my return. When the voice finally stopped, I found myself back at the creek of my childhood. I looked into the tadpole-infested water and smiled at my reflection. Looking back into my eyes was the child I once was, but it was quickly interrupted by a droplet of blood that dribbled down from my left arm. All things around me stopped, and everything familiar froze. There I was again, lost in time with the mark of the beast carved in my left arm, and the brilliant blue rays above shining down on my right.