Two trees on a hill. One, a strong oak lifted its limbs to the sky, wings ready to carry the tree to the clouds. Beside the oak, another tree, a willow bent and gnarled, its limbs reaching for the oak. Their shadows fell on a bridge below, a bridge that crossed a wide river.
On the bridge stood a man in his late forties, his hair completely gone. He steadied himself as he stepped over the parapet and onto the ledge. He faced the sky, a sky colored by the coming sunset. He thought about the times he’d dreamed of walking on air. But those were lies. All dreams were lies, he’d surmised some time ago.
Behind him, footsteps. A woman’s shoes.
He half-turns. A woman in a flowered summer dress joined him on the parapet some feet away.
“What are you doing?” he called over.
“Oh. Where did you come from?”
“Didn’t you notice me?”
“Can’t say that I did.”
“Well, this is my bridge. I’m not sharing it.”
She laughed. “I don’t see your name on it.”
“I called ahead to the bridge people and reserved it. I’m going to put it to good use. Now go away.”
“I will not.” She stepped over the parapet and onto the ledge.
“I’ll call a cop.”
She gave him one of those “you’ve got to be kidding” looks.
“Then at least leave me alone,” he said, “so I can finish what I started.”
“Isn’t that a gorgeous sunset? It’s a great way to go out. Makes me think I’m a star.”
For the first time, he took a real look at her. Her face glowed from the light. Her thick black hair rising in the breeze. “You are a star.”
She gave him a stunned look. “You’re not trying to pick me up. If you are, this is not the time. Or the place.”
“I bet you tell all the girls who come here to end their lives that they are a star. You break their heart when they believe you. Then they have good cause to kill themselves. Well, I’m taking the short cut. It’ll save me and you a heap amount of time.”
“In fact, I’ve had my heart broken and I can’t go on.”
“You too, huh?” she said, then added, “You know you’re kind of cute. In a middle-age kind of way.”
“I am not cute. I hate that word.”
“Cute,” she threw at him. “Cute, cute, cute.”
“I know why you’re here. You annoyed the last guy you dated, and he told you he couldn’t stand your cutes anymore.”
She started crying. She looked down at the river. Her left foot stepped out onto the air.
“Now hold on.” He stepped back over the parapet and onto the bridge. He looked across the space that separated the two human souls. “Don’t. Don’t do it.” His don’t-do-it had a bit of hope in it. Not just for her, but for him too.
She set her left foot back on the ledge. “Why not?”
He took a step toward her.
“Look. Why don’t we just not.”
“Yes, not jump.”
The breeze sighed.
He looked up to the top of the hill. The oak and the willow stood before a large full moon. They looked like they were holding hand. He pointed at them.
“Do you see that?”
Her eyes followed his finger.
He approacehed her, and she let him approach her. “Are you the oak or are you the willow?” He took her hand and led her over the parapet and onto the bridge.
She felt the warmth of his hand. “Maybe sometimes I’m the willow; sometimes I’m the oak.”
“And maybe sometimes I’m the oak, and sometimes I’m the willow.”
He looked into her dark, Italian eyes. Stardust floated like snowflakes.