It certainly was early enough to get scolded by still slumbering parents, but we wanted to be well enmeshed among the steel girders which would nest us preposterously, dangerously close to the first passing train of the day. This meant we had to be there beforesix a.m.and so Tommy and I were always first to arrive.
I loved that bridge. I loved the beauty of its’ derelict state. I fantasized I had built it. It appeared a lost sculpture, overgrown, discarded; pieced together with scraps and slime. Graceful and colloquial it stood decades forlorn, becoming at times vestigial, and a neglected ghost. It had been unsafe for years and would shake violently, thudding loudly as cars passed overhead. Vehicles approached blindly from opposing directions. Both halted at the base of its’ steep and graceful arch. The fluid line of this tiny overpass in my eye, made our bridge beautiful and unique. The sharp incline it created and the fact that two cars could not pass at the same time made it dangerously irksome.
Approaching cars would begin blowing their horns violently and inch carefully up and forward. He who crested first would pass, the other backed down and out of the way. It could take a while for this ritual to conclude. This melee’ drove us nuts! We laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of it all. We would crow at the top our lungs at this and with the passing of the trains. Our childish obscenities could be heard for quite some distance around. “Shhhhhhit”, we would bellow! A childish “Holy Shhhhhhit” or “fuck”, told the world we were delirious in our delight, fear and sense of accomplishment. One would think we had climbed theHimalayas! I wonder now, how many people knew it was us there below?
Scurrying up, we entwined ourselves among pilings and girders. They had been larded copiously with a tar like substance called creosote. It reeked to the point of headache, left us covered from legs to cranium with clots of unpleasant, sticky resin ultimately finding a nesting place in my luxurious golden curls. Black smears would be savagely scrubbed from me by my Grandmother brandishing a course rag and a jar of kerosene taken from the two giant drums out back of the house. Well scolded and schooled about toxic creosote and the dangers at the bridge, she trusted we would have enough sense to stay away. The bridge drew us as though possessed. The community could witness neighborhood kids swinging there, goofing around and chattering like so many animated monkeys in a distant jungle. Dozens of fantastical adventures hatched there over the next several years.
The train was passing and due to the narrow width of the bridge we were within a few feet of the raging, steel engine. Initially Tommy tried to pee on it then, panicked at the sight of horrified passengers zipping by in a comic silent film. Wetting his front he shouted, “Fuck this” while bumbling with his crotch. I was afraid any movement would cause this monstrous, metal beast to tear a limb or drag us under. Adrenaline rushes hit in waves. Rancid air assaulted as it passed. It reached out to ensnare us. The wake hit us with velocity and ferocity forcing our eyes closed. It tugged viciously on our clothes and hair. Scathing cinders burned our skin and nose, sucking breath from our lungs. These old diesel trains billowed massive plumes of acrid, gray smoke from their outdated, cartoon like stacks. Anxious laughs drew poison and led to ferocious coughing fits. The train passed. It was quite some time before we climbing down, while cursing a “blue streak”. Deeply shaken, yet “Roosters of the Walk”, we would tell proudly of this adventure to incredulous lads and lasses who would then clamor to become “Intrepid Adventurers” like us!
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