the bridge

The woman I was going to marry was standing
on a bridge, on one of three bridges,
I can't remember which, but she had a red dress on
that cost a whole week's pay. I knew because
I'd bought it for her and she'd worn it, which meant
we were in love. I gave her the flowers -- they were
carnations -- so I could take her hand and kiss it,
while the sky grumbled above us like her drunk
grouch of a father, who was out of the way, dead,
a victim of cheap gin at forty-five. It was the year
of the Bus Riots, the same day a detective's car
was set on fire, but he was beyond help long before
she had finished adjusting her lipstick, two and half
junctions across town. By morning, a million
man-days' work would be lost, along with Father's salary
and what pride he'd scrapped together after the war
buried the family fortune. A plump young mother struggled
with an umbrella over her shopping and twin babies. I knew
it was time. We stepped into shelter, I ordered coffee
 and toast over the rising din and shutters slamming,
and without stirring it, downed a gulp for luck. Sweat
got as far as the wrapping but not inside, for which I prayed
in thanks to all the ancestors I could name. She couldn't hear
me the first time, nor the second, so I gave her the little
band of metal, twenty months of savings and a tooth-mark
in a corner to prove it was pure. I see now, students bleeding
and bones being broken mere streets across the city
could not have been more real, not with her face a sweet
breath away from me and flushed, and clouding. Something
shifted in her eye. The world was suddenly another climate,
the news spilling everywhere. I never found the ring, nor even
the mud-smacked box, not with her back arching away
into downpour like it'd always belonged. If there was any way
the rain could have made her more beautiful, I don't know it.

[nb: revisions - Oct 2011] 

Alvin Pang

© 30 January 2004   16:32 hours