The Falling Woman
written by: A Stump
I’ll never forget—it was like a dream. Not a bad dream; not a nightmare. It was just surreal, you know? I can’t tell you how many times I had looked up at that bridge and it was just a bridge. But that day, it was something more. It was a stage for a play—or a movie—that I won’t ever forget for as long as I live…. I’m getting ahead of myself, but I don’t even know where to begin.
I guess I should tell you why I even saw that poor woman. If you’ve never been to Turtle Creek, you won’t quite understand, but we were broke. Me and Clyde didn’t have any other place to go with our two little babies. So, we lived on the other side of the tracks. Really. And it wasn’t ‘cause we were black. There were whites there, too. And we were all just as broke.
You had to turn off the main road and drive along that pitiful creek on that nasty old crumbling blacktop beside those train tracks to get to our street. There wasn’t more than six houses down in that bottom below the bridge. You could hear the semis growling across that bridge and the whoosh of cars. Sometimes you’d swear you heard some poor old devil screaming in the sky, but it was just a motorbike way up high on that bridge. All us folk lived in the shadow of that thing. Each day, the sun would rise and you’d be drinking your coffee and look up and see the light shining on the stones up top—those carved stone men with their big old muscles pulling on those levers and cogs. And then, afternoon, the sun would go behind the bridge and it’d be so dark and cold in that bottom down there. It felt just like a cemetery. Gives me the shivers just thinking about it.
Sometimes, though, in the summer, you’d thank the good Lord for the shade of that bridge. Cool afternoons in the shadow of that monster. Other times, like winter, it was downright frigid. You’d have to crank the heat up because of that bridge. No matter whether you loved it or hated it, it was always there. It wasn’t just a bridge, though. It was a part of the neighborhood, like some giant just sitting there, stone silent. You tried to ignore it, but even if you turned your back on it, you could feel it there, looming up above you, staring down at you. Just all quiet and… there. No matter what, it was there.
But that day. That day, that day, that day. Mm! That day, I will never forget. It was so clear, with a blue sky. That bridge was shining gray, almost white, and you could’ve sworn it was sparkling like sand. I was outside sitting on the porch, just looking. I was seeing the birds and the trees and just enjoying the sunlight and a light breeze. I thought I never did see that bridge looking so pretty—so alive. It was like a painting that you’d see in a museum or something, only this beautiful picture was real life. Just then, a big white, puffy cloud passed behind, and it looked like the whole bridge started sliding toward me, and I thought that it would go right over top of me. And I was ok with that because that bridge was so beautiful that it would be alright if it just rolled right over top of me and buried me under its big, beautiful arches.
Then, I saw her. She was so beautiful as she glided across that bridge. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. We were three hundred feet away from each other, but I felt like I could reach up with my hand and touch her porcelain cheek. It looked like she had on a wedding dress—it was so white and the top of it sparkled like diamonds, and I thought that she looked like that bridge on that day—like they were part of each other.
I saw her walk across in that beautiful dress. She passed above my house and I turned to look at her as she kept walking across to the other side. And then she stopped, right there over that middle arch above the railroad tracks way down below. It was like something ordered her to stop, and she turned to the side. She wasn’t looking down; she was looking out. Straight out. She stood, looking out there for what seemed like forever, but it must’ve only been a minute or two. Then, I saw her take hold of that railing and bring one of her legs up, wrapped in that beautiful white dress, and she slid over the railing.
I remember grabbing the arms of my chair so tight, I thought my fingernails would cut right into the wood. I couldn’t even breathe as I saw her slip the other leg over. She was holding onto that railing behind her with both of those beautiful china white hands. She still didn’t look down, just out. I screamed, “NO! You fool! Don’t do it! Climb back over!” And then, she just stepped out into nothing.
I’ll never forget watching her. It was like watching a dancer in a dream. She never looked down, only out—straight ahead. I remember part of her white dress flying up behind her, and you would’ve sworn it was a pair of angel’s wings, because that’s what she looked like, an angel. In that moment, it was like I could see every fold of the cloth like they were beautiful white feathers, and it didn’t look like she was falling. It looked like she was flying. She had her arms stretched straight out to her sides, and it was like she was feeling the little, tiny atoms of the air with those gorgeous, long, white fingers. They danced on the breeze and they weren’t scared. They were happy! I swear, they were happy! Those fingers and those wings, it’s like they were stretching out to stroke me with their soft silk.
And her face—it was the most beautiful bride’s face I ever did see. Every feature was perfect. Her face wasn’t too round, but it wasn’t too harsh, either. It sat on top of the milkiest white neck you could imagine. Perfectly straight and smooth, like cream poured out the jar. Her jaw was set just right, but it wasn’t clenched like she was biting down. It looked like she was waiting for a kiss—a kiss on those perfect pink lips. She had a soft nose—a perfect triangle but without the corners, and it wasn’t there to smell anything. I think God put it there just to make a beautiful face even more beautiful. I don’t even think that she was breathing at all, just looking. And those eyes, Lord above! Those eyes! They were the clearest blue, just like the sky. They were sparkly as glass, and they just stared straight ahead, like she wasn’t really looking at anything that was there. It was like the look a groom has when he sees the bride at the back of the church for the first time. That’s the look she had! Like she was seeing someone way on back in the distance. She was hanging there in the air, not moving, not breathing, just looking—looking at someone far off.
Then, faster than I knew what happened, the trees rushed up and I didn’t see her anymore. “O Lord Jesus,” I said, and just sat there—couldn’t even pray. I didn’t go down there to see her, because I wanted to remember her the way she was—falling and beautiful. The most beautiful bride I ever did see.
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