The footbridge

At the northwest corner of the big city of Houston, there exists a bridge. A footbridge. Just a narrow, wooden little thing stretching across a bayou, connecting the middle class neighborhood of Greenwood Forest to the middle class neighborhood of Fountainhead.

It might not be inside Houston proper. It might not be at all today.

It existed, I am certain of it, very nearly thirty years ago, when I went there with Shane, but I don’t know anymore.

I try to not think of it. I try to not think of Shane.

Shane is a wife and mother now and a successful historical romance novelist. “Successful” I guess. It looks that way. When I knew her, we were suburban high school kids. Lovers, too. I was just a little boy. Fifteen. Sixteen. Just a little boy.

Thoughts of Shane, they try and come into my head sometimes. When they come, they come in through the right side, above my ear and towards the front. Leaking in all black and sticky. I never look at them. I look away. Down and to the left. I push off.

I’m good at this. Like this: If you start singing “Supper’s Ready,” then thoughts will go away. If singing “Supper’s Ready” fails, you turn on the tv. You call your mom. You say to your mom, “Did you hear what Donald Trump said today?”

If you do this, then the thoughts of Shane and of 1989 and of the footbridge and of all of the rest of it will go away. You don’t have to look at them. You’ll never have to remember.

Because you were awful but you were just a little boy.

I was just a little boy.

I’m different now. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

If Hell exists, then I will spend forever on that footbridge, groveling at the feet of Shane and saying, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

♫  Walking across the sitting room, I turn the television off /
Sitting beside you, I look into your eyes

Hey, did you hear what Donald Trump said today?

Comments

  1. What did you do, Harry? How badly did you fuck up? ):

    (Also, snazzy new layout!)

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    1. That entire 18 months of my life where we were together ranges from "merely embarrassing" to "Oh God, I couldn't have done that."

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    2. Apparently this sort of imagery - Investigative TV - doesn't permeate the fossils in the small patch of this planet situated between Mexico and Canada -
      http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/four-corners/NC1704H021S00

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    3. try harder .. this planet is bigger than the USA

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  2. The things we did when we were young.....we're not the same people today, thank goodness. I like your new comment box...so welcoming lol.

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    1. I'm not sold on the layout yet, and I definitely need to do some tinkering. I don't understand why blogger continues to release new layouts that are less user-friendly than their older ones.

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  3. We do many stupid things when we are young. If we're lucky, we reach a point in our lives where we see and regret all of those stupid things and change our lives for the better. If not, burn baby, burn! Haha

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    1. Hi, Cal! That's probably right. I mean, being a little haunted by something from the past isn't good, but since I never even had remorse for it when I was young, maybe it's an improvement.

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  4. As the sound of motorcars
    Fades in the night time
    I swear I saw your face change
    It didn't seem quite right

    My awful sin to a girl was when I was in grade school. Her name was Laura, she had red hair, I thought she was pretty, and I couldn't seem to get her attention. I was horrible. I was just a little kid. I'm so sorry Laura. Actually, she knows that. We signed each other's yearbooks in ninth grade. I wonder where she is now?

    -Doug in Oakland

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    1. Since "Supper's Ready" is 23 minutes long (or something like that), I used to sing it to myself at the end of the night before closing when I worked in the shoe department of a retail shop. I knew the words by heart, but if I thought about the music while I sang, it pushed everything else out of my head for those 23 minutes.

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    2. I used to do that with big chunks of "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway".

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    3. "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" is another great one. Peter Gabriel #3 (the meltng face album) and Pink Floyd's "The Final Cut" always worked for me as well.

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  5. By middle age, we all accumulate regrets over stupid or shameful actions that hurt others. If only there were a time machine that could take us back, so we would never say or do those things in the first place. I'd pay a lot of money for a trip or two in that time machine, believe me.

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    1. The other alternative would be "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," where that company charges people to delete all memories of a certain person from the mind of customers. I'd pay for that.

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    2. Delete all memories??
      Nah, that encourages a fascist future.

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    3. Haha... Yes, Davoh, it really seems like if the government were to get their hands on that, it could turn into the ultimate Orwellian scenario pretty quickly!

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  6. Excellent and sensitive post. We learn by doing, darn it. Then we spend a lot of energy being kind to everyone but ourselves. I find equal measures of self-compassion and amnesia most efficacious. It comes with age.

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    1. Thanks, Geo. This one apparently doesn't across as dark as I thought it did, but it was tough for me to write (even though I didn't get into the bad stuff here).

      "Self-compassion and amnesia" is what I'm going to have to continue to work towards.

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  7. Insert an earworm through the right side, above the ear lobe and towards the front. Leaking in all black and sticky.

    And I'm a bad boy, 'cause I don't even miss her
    I'm a bad boy for breakin' her heart

    And I'm free, free fallin'
    Yeah I'm free, free fallin'

    Sunday Morning Coffee with Tom Petty

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    1. I'm not a huge Tom Petty fan (back when I wrote songs, his style was the easiest for me to write - I could knock one out in less time than it took me to write it). But after another big breakup later on, his album "Wildflowers" became a sort of soundtrack for the breakup.

      His music, in the hindsight of 25 years, all seems so much greater than it did at the time.

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  8. I find your new layout difficult to use on the mobile phone.

    I don't know what you did but sixteen is an age when you have half a brain and raging hormones, you don't know what you'll be doing in ten minutes from now, and whatever it is you did is more than forgivable.

    At sixteen I was seriously and methodically planning to commit suicide. I carried out the attempt, three of them, at the age of 17.

    You have friends. You have people who deeply care about you.

    We.

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    1. What I am most dumfounded by is how much of a sense of entitlement I had at 16. As though everyone owed me something just for my being me. Who the hell did I think I was? I'm not sure I have gotten past that "I am so special that everyone ought to put up with my shit" mentality until the past 5 years or so.

      I hope I have, anyway. That will be a topic for some future blog, long from now.

      I am happy you got past adolescence. The world is better off for it.

      Oh, and I am going to have a go at making the new layout a little more user-friendly. I do hope blogger hasn't released MORE layouts with as many bugs in them as the "Dynamic Views" themes they were so excited about 4 years ago.

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  9. love the new layout Harry...did you break her heart?...

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    1. Thanks, Bella! She ended up breaking up with me, but I really, really deserved it.

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  10. I had a dream. A nice one. I was smiling in my dream, I think. Can't be sure about that. Smiles and frowns sometimes switch in dreams. I dreamed I was with that girl again, you know, before she ran off with a bad boy and got pregnant and now has three kids by four different baby daddies......

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    1. All of my ex-girldfriends ended up being way more successful than me and with (apparently) perfect lives. It doesn't help. But you get dumped enough times and it's not even surprising anymore. And I rarely dream, so I've got that over you... ;)

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  11. I'm not sure how I feel about this layout. It's not bad, but it almost feels like it's missing something. Not sure what, though. I know, I know, good blogger templates are so hard to find. It's either too simple or looks like a bad 1990s Powerpoint slideshow.

    So, I'm still trying to picture what you did to this poor girl. Or how you were such a lady's man at that young, awkward age. No one wanted to touch me at 15. I was all legs, 0% body fat, 0% muscle mass. Like Olive Oyl, but with greasy Alfalfa hair.

    The only footbridge experience I had at that age with women was throwing stones at the villagers who dared traverse my underpass.

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    1. I'm hoping I can add more glitter to it so that it looksl like a Myspace page circa 2001.

      I think my friends and I might have awful kids when I was growing up. I talk to people younger than me, and most of them seem to be in less of a hurry than we were in the late 80s. Or maybe people just grew up fast during the era of mullets and parachute pants.

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  12. So the sayings of Donald Trump are an anaethetic for your own painful thoughts? Yes, I can see that. A bit like acupuncture.

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    1. It's a great distraction from what ails you. Sort of like striking your left hand against the wall to take your mind off the fact that the fingers of your right hand are stuck in a door.

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  13. Things like this happen during our lives to haunt us forever. It's what my mother calls "Payback". At times like this I like to quote the rapper NAS, "Life's a bitch, and then you die".

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    1. Growing a conscience can be a painful process. I believe I overcompensate now for how I was as a young person. The stuff from that period, as you say, stick with us forever...

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    2. Although I may look like a rebel, I've always been a goodie two shoes, I was too shit scared to do anything wrong. I've never smoked or taken drugs. I was a Bible Bashing Baptist in my early teens. I'm probably more holy than the Pope. Ha, well almost.

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    3. I think I was a pretty good kid except for a period of about 2 years in high school. Certainly never Straight Edge, but not awful. I got everything out of my system early, for the most part.

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  14. We all need one of those songs--not the Trump question, that would be too much for me--but the song to push away a bit of awful (or a lot). Because we've all done it, once... thrice, even more. "Come and dance with me, Mother of the World". That's my push-terrible-things-away-until-later song. In case you were wondering.

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    1. Hi there, Megaly! The Trump topic is sort of like dropping a live hand grenade into any room, so it distracts from everything. As for the music, I've had songs running through my head for decades to distract me. Not just for that, but for that in part.

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  15. The thing about memories that puzzles me now is that sometime, while I know they were actual events, they have a detached quality something like a television show. Not sure if that is a symptom of middle age or just a natural occurrence.

    As for Trump, yeah, his latest tweet about Morning Joe couple was a new low.

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    1. The same thing happens to me. There are stories I've told so many times that I no longer know if I actually remember them or whether I just know how to tell the story I've told. I hope they were originally true, because I I have no way to know.

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  16. Your story had me thinking of the Ode to Billie Joe. We know Billie Joe jumped off the Tallahatchie bridge - BUT what the girl and him drop off the bridge days before he jumped?? https://youtu.be/WoMF_mSeWJo

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    1. This comment sent me into deep google territory. I thought I remembered the story-song being made into a tv movie. And it was, in 1976, which makes it unlikely that I remember it. I was 3.

      It's more likely that I remember another story-song made into a TV movie in that era, like "Harper Valley PTA (movie =1978) or "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" (movie = 1981) and my parents merely mentioned the earlier Bobby Gentry-inspired one.

      The world might never know.

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  17. Was Fountainhead where Ayn Rand lived? I never broke up with anyone. It usually just faded away or she broke up with me. Maybe my nickname should have been Slow Death.

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    1. I've been broken up with more than I've done the breaking up. And my breaking up method consists of the Great Disappearing Boyfriend routine. It's the least respectable way to break up - eventually the other person just realizes you're probably no longer together.

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  18. Experience is a teacher but regret does nothing to change what has gone before. We know that in our intellect, but there are times when I cringe at a moment or event past. We are human.

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    1. Definitely. I am not generally a very "haunted' person - I can get past things. Guilt and regret isn't a helpful trait. But everybody has something they don't want to remember, I suppose.

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  19. Jeez-o-Pete (my mom's exclamation) what did you do to Shane to warrant all this melancholy and exercises in pushing the thought of her out of your head? Push her off the footbridge? The only people I think about that way are family.

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    1. Hi, Pickleope!

      The whole 18 months was pretty cringeworthy, actually. The crazy thing is that, according to interviews and blog posts I've read, Shane's drawn from the horrific experience of life with me for a couple of her books.

      Myself, I'm not sure I'm going to go digging in the dirt of it any deeper than this post.

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  20. Harry, you wouldn't believe the things I have done! Even as close as 4 years ago! But, even though how stupid the things were, I would never regret anything, because it has made me the person I am today! And, hopefully, that's a better person! LOL!
    You have to tell us what you did!!! I'm sure you were just a little boy! LOL!

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    1. That's a good attitude to have. I believe we have to put things behind us and learn from things.

      A couple parts of the past are always going to be a little too tender to touch, though. This new, less fictional blog page is really allowing me to connect with a lot of it, though.

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  21. Were you a jackass? If I'd had the chance, I'm sure I would have been a bitch, but I was too busy with other things to do the boyfriend thing.

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    1. I was pretty awful.

      I have now figured out, of course, that I stay too distracted with other things to ever do the Significant Other thing well, so I don't even bother.

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    2. I think we all age into something a little more reasonable. Well, mostly.

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