Savannah, Georgia, is actually trying to change the name of this bridge as I’m writing this. Apparently the bridge, like many of Georgia’s landmarks, was named after a racist twat, as so much of Georgia is. Signs directing one to it now advertise the ‘Savannah Bridge.’
It’s actually a grand sight. I remember Neb driving its length as she first made the pilgrimage to Savannah in 2012, that rusted antique of a city rising out of the river like a forgotten land. Since then, it’s served as a backdrop for Savannah’s famed River St. Mum once commented on it during a visit, her acrophobic self worrying her teeth on her lip, declaring, “It’s too tall. They should tear it down.”
The night April cracked my ribs and Kaspar discovered my secret, I went home on my moped, finished a bottle of Blufeld Riesling, and slept. I dreamt of this bridge. Vividly. Repeatedly.
I dreamt I was my inworld crow, hopping off of the edge of the bridge, then spreading my wings to ride the air currents alongside the river below. By the time I awoke the next morning for my breakfast shift, the violent events of last night were oddly nebulous, snaking their way through my consciousness like smoke. I was stressed and in pain, my ribcage still sending shocks of pain through me as I walked.
It did vaguely occur to me that I should probably seek out a hospital, get checked out.
But then that would be admitting that it happened, wouldn’t it?
Can’t have that!
I was most of the way through the shift. It was raining, one of those persistent sprinklings that the south-east rarely had, but that marked the north-east. I’d been venting to my fellow breakfast server, let’s call her ‘Molly’, about the night before. I hadn’t told her about the beating. I’d scarcely told myself about the beating. I don’t think I’d ever even told her what the fight was about. Just that April had a habit of wandering into the downtown areas on her own whenever she was pissed at me, phrasing it in a way that seemed like more of a joke.
It was making Molly laugh. I suppose I was laughing too. I might’ve had to.
I looked at my phone. A text. It was April. “Can I have one last kiss?”
I was somewhat under the impression that she and her dad had left already. That, and this was my first contact with April since the night before. I didn’t know what sort of mood she’d be in. Anything from awkward apologies to wanting to string me up on one of the trees in Chatham square, certainly.
“Is that your girlfriend?” Molly called in a southern drawl across the room, smiling. “What, you think she’s going to put herself up somewhere high and see if you come running?”
I thought of my dreams the night before.
“Well, if that’s the case, I have great a recommendation for her.” I asked April when she wanted to meet up. She said that she was already outside.
I stepped out of the inn, blinking in the rain. It was no longer a sprinkle but a full-on shower.
And there she was.
I can still recall almost exactly what she was wearing that day. It was so startling because she was in her pyjamas. No coat, no umbrella. Flannel black and white pyjama bottoms, a hoodie with some sort of band advertised on white and red font on the front, and a bunny-eared beanie with long, black and red ears with safety pins poking out of it. Standing in the rain, auburn hair turned a dull copper just from being soaked through.
Two thoughts went simultaneously through my head. One, that it was an easy twenty minute walk from where her dad always stayed and, two, that this rubbish could be bad for business.
As I approached, I saw that she was sniffling. She looked a pitiful image, perhaps deliberately.
“Hey… You walked all the way here?”
April said nothing. She was pulling stray stands of hair out of her face, pointedly avoiding eye contact. As if she didn’t walk all the way across town just to meet with me.
I stared at her. “So, you texted me that you came for a kiss?”
She nodded, still saying nothing. Which, I mean, was, I suppose, preferable to her yelling at me.
I leaned in for a kiss, grazing her cheek. She shied away, nearly flinching, as if I were the one who had hurt her.
My instincts of ‘You’ve been away from your job too long’ were quickly pulling my inner ‘fuck it’ switch and I went back inside. There was no emotion to feel other than stressed. Was she going to turn all of [University redacted] against me for yelling at her for the first and only time? Sure, I could tell them she hit me, but she was also so much smaller than me.
I worked through the rest of my shift, unable to shake a coil of dread that’d settled at the very core of me.
Well, that same year, a friend from work by the name of Sarah, had recently been promoted from Front Desk to General Manager. Now, Sarah is still, to this day, the most functional alcoholic I’ve ever met. She even figured how to position her body precisely to be able to throw up in the tiny airplane bathroom we had at work. I’ve gone drinking with her before. She always made sure you kept your wallet and that you’d wake up the next day– though, after trying to keep up with her for a night of drinking, you really wish you hadn’t woken up.
Safe to say, Sarah was my first thought when I needed a drink.
I texted her that day, asking if she wanted to go out for a drink. Sarah declined, saying that after her promotion, it may seem unprofessional if she drank with an employee. As dissatisfied as I was, I decided that fair was fair and spent the next few hours cleaning my flat, while knocking out an entire bottle of Blüfeld.
Then Sarah texted me back. She’d changed her mind and decided she would love to go out for drinks, because she’d had a stressful week as well.
I looked at the empty blue bottle of wine and texted her back, “You’ll have to pick me up.”
She did, and we went to Distillery, where we ordered drinks, apps, and chatted. I think we went to one other place, but damned if I can remember where exactly. (I’m sipping wine now to jog my memory, a sacrifice for my beloved audience, of course.) Then, we went to Lulu’s Chocolate Bar.
Lulu’s, for those who had never lived in Savannah, was a dangerous dessert/cocktail bar. Their drinks all tasted like lemondrops, strawberry shortcakes, devil’s food– etc. And could get you wasted. And you couldn’t even taste the alcohol, not until you decided to stand up and realise how potent each were.
The Blüfeld was five glasses of wine. I had two more drinks at Distillery. One at a place unremembered. And two cocktail glasses full of Mint Chocolate Martini at Lulu’s. I was venting to Sarah, about my girlfriend, about customers at the job– I think. It’s purely speculation at this point, for I was freshly 21 and wasted. But at least my ribs had stopped hurting.
Sarah dropped me off at my flat (Wait, was she driving???? Fuck, I think she was.) And it took probably… ah, 15 minutes for my body to eject everything I had panic-consumed over the past six hours or so. I’d had too much– clearly in the danger zone. My last detail was throwing up over the side of my balcony and texting Cotton, “I’m really drunk and throwing up a lot.”
Cotton, my dear friend of many years, replied with this sage advice; “Breath in, puke out.”
I woke up– I don’t know how much later. It was still dark out. Yvonne, a local friend of both April’s and myself, at the time, had somehow gotten into my house and was shaking me awake. I remember a period of gentle admonitions and curling up, leaning on the edge of the wall. I’d tried to clean up vomit on the floor with a wolf blankets (Yes, one of those blankets), and could only sip water and watch as Yvonne took the un-enviable task of cleaning it up properly.
As the only uni student in my vicinity who stayed during break, I’d wondered how she miraculously heard about my predicament.
The answer is less phenomenal than I’d first supposed. Or perhaps moreso.
In that mysterious blackout period, I’d apparently called April. When she didn’t pick up, I left probably the best voicemail I’d ever left in my life.
“Hey, Love. I’m… really drunk. And I’m throwing up a lot. And I called to tell you… It’s really fucked up how you treated me the other night. And I’ve been really fucked up from dealing with it. Because what you did to me… It’s fucked up. You can’t treat me that way. And I’ve had… five glasses of wine and… five cocktails so… Seven drinks. I was just calling to let you know that… what you did to me last night, it was fucked up. And if I die tonight, it’s out of spite.”
April had heard this voicemail and immediately called Yvonne, who she knew was still in the area. Yvonne drove to my flat to revive me. I only knew that this was the voicemail I’d left April because she played it for me a month and a half later, staring me down as I tried not to laugh.
But, I get ahead of myself. I was mostly in and out of the inworld for the next week; Aberle having begged me to stay with him just to stay safe. I was in his apartment, shaken, but surrounded by books. He played video games and I wrote my fiction on the couch next to him– this was somehow therapeutic.
The next time I spoke to April, we spoke not of the voicemail, the cracked ribs, her bizarre episode in the rain– somehow, the subject had ended up on my hair, of all things. My hair, you see, had been a pet project of hers for… gods, two or three years at that point. I was hardly even allowed upkeep, much less dramatic changes to cut or colour.
I remember that this night, she had been responding coldly since I recovered from my frenzied fall from sobriety. I think I was just making conversation. Far be it for me to bring up my stinging ribcage or the drunken depths it’d driven me to. We just talked about my hair.
That’s when she said it. “Well, unfortunately, I’m not going to get to cut your hair anymore.”
This caused confusion on my end. Had I done something to offend her during the last haircut? True, I can be tender-headed, and fretful about results. I inquired to her, urgently, just why exactly she was making this announcement. I think I was honestly figuring she’d gotten news she’d gotten kicked out of uni, and would thus conduct a murder-suicide scheme on her whole household.
But then, after some lengthy interrogation, she admitted it to me, “I don’t think I’ll be able to cut your hair anymore because I’ll be dead before I come back from break.”
She said that it’d be better off if she were dead. That was her conclusion from the other night. She was going to die in thirty days, unless I was able to talk her out of it. Tell her that life was worth living for, tell her that I didn’t blame her for what happened, etc.
Somehow, she managed to play “Beat the Clock” against me in two different ways.
(You’re allowed to laugh. It’s fine, really.)
I, that night, would write in my journal– “Somehow, after being both abused and threatened, I find myself the villain in her dramatic little floor show.”
And seeing the wall I was up against, I decided that I would take a walk to the top of my favourite bridge.