Trigger Warning: Suicidal imagery and PTSD themes.
Walking across the Goodwill Bridge, I was tired like always. My heavy bag loved to pull my cardigan off with its straps. Not noticing the red marks across my shoulder, I pulled it back up and rearranged myself over and over again.
I tugged my earlobes. I forgot my earphones before getting on the bus, and every sound made me twitch. My irritation rose with each pop in my stomach.
The dings of bells and crunch of bike chains. Twitch. Conversations between people that didn’t know how volume works. Twitch. Joggers and their damn rhythmic clop. Twitch, twitch, twitch.
My lips tightened and eyes hardened at the person trudging in front of me. They were slow, but they weren’t slow enough to overtake. I fought the toad-shaped groan sitting at the top of my throat and slowed my own pace instead.
I felt my feet sink a little more with each step. I was a small animal walking across swampy lily pads in the bog. I cradled the soles of my feet with the floor, focusing on touching the ground from heel to toe.
The morning sun had invited humidity in early. Sweat was already clogging my pores, but I couldn’t be bothered to take off my cardigan. It was too big for my bag. I had enough to carry.
Just leave him alone, he doesn’t feel well. He’ll feel better soon.
This bridge felt so long when I started uni. Now I’ve created my own sort of pattern, an attempt to make sense of it. It has three sections: the first is straight, the second goes to the left, and the last straightens a bit again. In the first section, panelled windows line the left side, dirtied by past storms. All they do is give a dull view of the river walk down below. I attempted to watch my faint reflection in them, but I was just a girl in a Monet painting. I panned my head towards the sky on the other side. A helicopter, a red angel, attempted to steady itself atop the hospital’s roof.
I need your help. Watch him for me, okay? I need to let the paramedics in.
The sounds rattled between my ears, vibrating my head. I shook away the thought as it shivered from the top to the bottom of my spine.
I started to think of my day instead. I thought of the classes I had and the things I had to do—the too many things I had to do. I started to run my hand through my hair. Then I turned to pulling strands at the nape of my neck, and then to scratching between my shoulder blades with my uncut nails.
Code One. We need backup. Get more help.
Ignoring the shaking in my hands, I shoved them into my cardigan pockets. I switched focus and looked at the bridge instead of my mind. The bridge began to look a little weird. It was all different curves like a woman’s body. At the same time, it was all angles like a man’s body. The architecture kept its secrets well-hidden.
My cardigan fell once again, and I pulled my shoulder back onto my body.
Everyone walked on the left while the cyclists glided through the middle. On rainy days everyone disobeyed the rule and walked together under the overhead covers. They were shaped like long, sharp, and sweeping fish scales, as if they were bidding you swiftness on your journey. They never really did much for the rain.
Hey little girl, it’s okay. Wait here, we’ll let you know what happens. You’re so brave.
As I made my way through the second section, I saw how little sense the bridge made. Its freeform structure didn’t seem purposeful. It was just slightly off from an illusion of symmetry. The angles of the first and last sections weren’t quite the same. The overhead covers didn’t span the entire bridge; they were only present on opposing sides in the first and last sections. The long arches in the middle were askew. Where they joined together, they swung to the side in some distorted waltz.
I did like something about the middle of the bridge, though. It felt so far from everything. I could stretch out my arms and the breath I took would reach the air kilometres down on either side of the river. When I exhaled as I passed the midpoint, the air would disappear. The world grew small, yet it would loom before me.
We’re going to ask you some questions, okay? How old are you? What’s the date? Hey. Hey! What’s the date?
Suddenly my eyes didn’t work like they were supposed to. I blinked but they flickered white, and I saw myself standing on the railing. I glitched. It was night-time and windy. I was holding on to a beam, looking out to the river. It rushed so hard it looked still—it could have been concrete.
I was in two places at once.
We don’t know if he’s going to make it. We’re going to give it 24 hours.
The air became as thick as water and every gasp brought me inches closer to a breathless choke. The edges of my body grew far away, and my skin turned to fuzz. My tears blended with the rain. As I drowned in them, I couldn’t feel where my body ended and where the ground began.
If you can hear me, squeeze my hand.
My eyes flashed again, and I was still walking along the bridge. I never stopped walking. All that was left was my heaving breaths and my wet cheeks. The sun worsened the stinging in my eyes and droplets dotted the neckline of my shirt.
My brain was muddled. All that screamed at the surface was danger, danger, danger.
‘Call the ambulance,’ I suddenly said.
‘You okay there?’
Someone walking past me had heard.
‘Yeah, sorry, just talking to myself.’
Your father. He kept screaming, saying it’s going to kill him. I don’t know what “it” is. What do I do, dear?
I quickened my pace as I went down the slight decline of the last section. I walked through the bikeway signs at the entrance of Gardens Point. When I did, I went through a veil. It passed over my nose and cheeks, pushing tears off my face. It glided past my shoulders and straightened my back, forcing me to look at the towering, prismatic educational buildings. I didn’t flinch at the sun reflecting off the endless grid of windows.
My arms and legs marched robotically in a straight line along the path. It might as well have been a conveyer belt for students. My l.
The students looked like me too. Eventually their bright hues, flowing skirts, and graphic tee shirts morphed and transformed into business suits, pencil skirts, and white collars. Tote bags and patterned backpacks faded into briefcases and laptop satchels. Coloured hair to twisted buns. My cardigan, now a structured blazer, stopped falling from my rigid shoulders.
As much as I hated the asymmetrical bridge, this cubed district was worse. The bridge shaped me into something as confusing and as inconsistent as itself. But now I had to deconstruct myself, take my bloodied pieces, and . I had to seal away the words I heard from those ambulance officers and from my mother.
The bridge is meant to stay in childhood, never to be understood.
. I no longer cried, because the tears would make me rust.
And so, I went on to my classes. Then to graduate. Then to get a job. To work until I die. To live for a few years. Then to die again. Just like everybody else.
Honey, will you live the dream I could never fulfil?
Author: Ricky is a copywriter by day and creative writer by night. Discovering her passion for writing while she was a law student, she switched to a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and is now in her third year. While she likes to dabble in everything, she finds herself writing about the complex, shocking and straight-up wild events and relationships in her life. You can find her work in Issue 16 of QUT Glass. Follow her on Instagram @rickyjadee.
Artist: Laura Bean is a multidisciplinary artist based in Queensland, Australia. She received her Bachelor of Photography from Griffith University (2021) and is now undertaking her Bachelor of Fine Arts at QUT. Her artistic practice spans across both digital and traditional art, often exploring topics around mental health and identity.
Accessibility Reader: Lily Daniel
Editors: Rory Hawkins and Brock Scholte