Burning the Bridge by Julia Knox

Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash

Your dad tied you behind his pickup with the strong quality rope we used to tie up the horses. He dragged you the length of the driveway and everyone knew. How could something be so loud yet still remain hidden? You were getting straight As in all your classes, your clothes were always dirty, they said you smelled and so did I but the truth is, I never smelled you. Smelling isn’t the worst thing, and we really shouldn’t make such a big deal about it. Especially because you got fucking dragged behind a pickup, for Christ’s sake. And not even a little one, an F-150 with those jacked-up mudding wheels. Jesus. My town was full of men that grew up like you, and I didn’t know one of them that didn’t hit the mother of his kids so much that the cops finally came around. That includes me, yeah, my family, two of my mom’s men, two of three. And we’re only a few months into the third and the cards aren’t dealt in our favor.  

I was named Misty, like the cigarette. I used to hate my name, and then I started spelling it “M-I-S-T-I” and then I stopped and now I feel indifferent about it. It’s like a fog. How can you feel something about that? It’s a middle place, the place that’s on the way to somewhere else, or in the way of something you want to see. The point is, it’s not as real as most things because it’s never a destination anyone’s trying to get to, like a shore, or a lover, or work, or the gas station, or fucking whatever. You get the idea, don’t you? My mom had a black eye when I came home and I told myself this wasn’t real life, you’ve just gotta get through this, this isn’t your destination, it’s on the way to something, and then number three out of three pulled out a gun and I swiped at him with the blade I kept on my keyring and he screamed, “BITCH!” while I skidded out the back door and heard the “THWACK!” of the screen door behind me. 

Did you know I was watching you, the day the sun set fire to the bridge? You skipped rocks and, I was watching you through the dense pine. Wet grass stuck to the backs of my thighs, dirt in the crevices of my summer knees. They smelled of horse manure and freshly cut grass. It had never occurred to me to look pretty. I hunted for crayfish down at the creek, I never wore sunscreen, I never burned. Did you know I was watching you, the day I set out for Mecca? Knee deep in the creek, I watched the crayfish swim through the clear, freezing water. I felt my feet on the always rocky bottom. I watched you burn. 

About The Author

Julia Knox is a professional data scientist and candidate in Narrative Medicine in the Columbia Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics.

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