By A.G.Billig
Nov 30th, 2018

The first bridge I recall arches across a shallow greenish stretch of water sheltered between high-rises in the East-European neighborhood where I spent my childhood. According to my parents’ stories, the local council had decided to turn the bad-smelling dump into a park that still includes a miniature Hollywood Bowl. A restaurant with an open terrace, chess tables area, and a playground. Funny how men rob the land of its life and luster only to come back to their senses later and restore it.

As a little girl, no other activity gave me the same delight as crossing that bridge with iron rails matching the color of the water. Although a far cry from monumental constructions I had no idea of back then such as the Golden Bridge in San Francisco or London Bridge in the UK or other blue-blood relatives in Prague, Paris or Budapest, this one had its own unique charm.

I loved it because it reminded me of the arched back of a gymnast performing a complicated routine on the floor. Each time I stepped on that bridge, classical music, especially Chaikovsky, played in my head and roaring clapping of hands and cheering.

I also loved the tiny cracks in the light-gray concrete, the lamps at its two ends that glowed surreally orange during the long winter nights.

Each step  I took, from the bottom to the middle and highest section of the bridge, made my heart beat a little faster and painted delicate pink roses on my cheeks. It wasn’t just the short but steep incline but also the view I experienced every time my father lifted me up on his shoulders so I can see the whole picture. Somehow, I knew that what I saw from behind the railings allowed me to perceive only a fraction of the mysterious big world which surrounded me. In fact, I loved combining both vantage points.

Being a child has advantages, you know. Grown-ups had to bend to spot those tiny creatures in the water I could easily see, if ever. The changing hues and texture at the lake surface.

From my father’s arms, the park unfolded at my feet with his trees and grass and water and mounds and wooden benches and grandparents protected by the blue vastness of the clear blue sky – oddly, I can’t remember any cloudy days.

There is something more. On top of that bridge, my parents and I always became one being with six legs and six arms, three noses and three pairs of eyes. They held me so tight as if their life depended on mine. In those moments, they seemed to forget about the spilled milk on the carpet or the pencil drawing on the newly painted wall in my room or the tear in my new dress I had considered an appropriate outfit for climbing trees. In those moments, I mattered more than anything else in the world.

Maybe every human creation has a tiny crack into it or a slight imperfection, but those don’t rob it of beauty.

There was also something else about that bridge that excited me. The idea of reaching a realm otherwise unreachable. The concept of crossing what appeared to be an unbridgeable gap. The elation of setting foot on the other side.

Later in life, my fascination with bridges stayed strong. In all cities I traveled to, I had to see and cross bridges. The aesthetic joy provoked by the sight of a stunning piece of architecture came with a feeling of oneness, of brotherhood with the other pedestrians on those bridges. Bonded together by casual smiles and glances:  hearts eager to be of service when somebody asked, “would you, please, take our/my picture?”;  the enchantment of making happy memories and planting seeds for lifetime friendships.

After crossing many bridges, I finally came to realize that what I love the most about them is their resemblance to love. So many bridges were actually built for love. In ancient times, some guy was in love with a woman. So he made a bridge to get to see her every day. Some isolated people hit by a natural disaster needed food and other supplies, so some good-hearted people built a bridge to be able to ease their fate.

Love bridges the most impossible gaps. Love helps us grasp the whole picture and the tiny details that make all the difference. Love turns strangers into family. Love is the bridge that unites hearts and reminds us we are one. And so do all the bridges of the world.

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