A sequel to Burning Bridges: http://tomakeabetterworld.tumblr.com/post/16880885385/burning-bridges
Hundreds of blades of grass press against my face and hands. I feel a warm heat on my back. I slowly open my eyes and the greenest of grass comes into focus. I stand up to take in the sun above me in a sparsely clouded but brilliant blue sky, the trees all around. I recognize the place, and turn around to take it in.
There it is - the river, all the bridges. Exactly as it was the first time I was here. I laugh as I stride towards it all. Starting from the top, I examine every bridge one by one, perfectly seeing my life as it was two years before in the form of my relationships with other people. I run my hands over the structures and walk part of the way across every single one of them, considering what would soon befall them. Some I smile at and spend some time enjoying, as I know they will only grow over the next couple of years of my life. Others I nearly skip, the future of one bridge bringing me a touch of pain, another sorrow, another a shadow of regret for the demolition process that would follow.
Nevertheless I continue, surveying the various sturdy bridges, rickety spans, and occasionally, piles of rubble in the river. My journey ends at the bottom of the river with two bridges: the largest and most beautiful of all the bridges made of solid stone and covered with precious gems; and a small wooden structure being consumed in motionless flames captured by frozen time. A knife pierces my heart at the sight of the beautiful bridge, and I laugh long and hard at the irony that is to soon come. In a moment of retrospect I walk to the bridge, initially admiring its beauty - the ornate railing, the precious stones encrusting all parts of it. I start across it, running my hand over every single facet, but my appreciation turns into scruple as my fingertips detect cracks: First tiny inconsistencies that I could just barely feel, then small gaps, which grew into visible cracks as I move along. I look up, and see a gaping hole at the very center of the bridge. I sigh and shake my head, looking closely at it - though the bridge looks beautiful and sturdy on the outside, it is rotten in the middle and completely structureless.
I resign and walk off the bridge in haste, completely assured of its fate. “Sad, isn’t it?” A voice comes from behind me. I turn, see the old man at the foot of the bridge, and greet him with a long and hearty hug. When I step back again I ask, “what do you have for me today?”
He motions back toward the river and the bridges. “Look again.”
Intrigued, I obey. As if a painted backdrop was suddenly lifted, I see the most important thing I missed before.
At the other end of each bridge is a person. None are moving, as if time stands still. Some stand idly next to their bridge, and others are frozen in the process of either building up or tearing down a part of the bridge. I now see that the bridges I build only go halfway across the river. The other half is spanned by what the other person builds. Some bridges are nearly continuous all the way across, but most are larger or of a different material on one side.
I turn back to my mentor. “Of course. How did I miss this before?”
He chuckled. “You thought you knew everything last time. You think you know everything now. But for now, two things: look closer. What you see is all in the past.” He waves his hand, and it begins again - not another replay of my whole life, but from the last time I was here.
This time I’m ready, with an excellent idea of what would to happen to each bridge while I stay. My attention is still held, primarily by those on the other side of the river. The frozen flames spring into animation, and my younger self continues building, mostly on the largest bridge, little time on any others. I walk over to the burning bridge as the flames slowly die down, leaving a charred little span. “I” come back and add a little material to it on rare occasions, slowly covering up the blackened wood with fresh materials. But most was still going into the one bridge, the person on the other side also feverishly working at it.
I look over in time to see my younger self run up triumphantly, a beautiful bejeweled beam in his hands, and lovingly fit it onto the bridge. In a rush of emotion I run to him, to grab him and shake him and say “Stop this foolishness! Your work is in vain!" But my hands meet empty air as I pass through him. I reel against the thick stone railing as the words I shouted echo around the forest. Nobody looks at me, except for the old man. "He can’t hear you. He can’t see you. This already happened. There’s nothing you can do to prevent it."
My knees buckle and I find myself sitting, leaning against the railing in pure despair. I watch the bridge be built wider, higher, better…until it happens. All at once a fog drops across the other side of the bridge, and it begins to crumble from the other side. My strength returns with a clench of my fists as I stand and seethe off the bridge, watching as “I” frantically run back and forth, trying to repair the collapsing structure. Occasionally in despair he drops his head and walks elsewhere, to try another bridge.
I let out a sigh of relief as he finally leaves the horribly decayed bridge and spends time on other bridges - parents, siblings, two particular bridges spanning an inordinately wide stretch of river, and other friends - only returning occasionally to the decrepit ruin to look and sigh, sometimes even salvaging material for other bridges. I return my attention to those across the river, building on the other sides of the bridges. With a pang of regret I see others building more than my former self, reaching out and trying to make more of a connection, but “I” wasn’t much interested.
In this lull I pan my gaze up and down the whole river, and see important detail: patterns, similarities in bridges. After a moment of contemplation I decide there are a few different, but distinct types of bridges. The bridges with my family tended to be strong and large, but rough, rugged, and practically built. Most of the other bridges were ordinary, each with its own nuances – an even synthesis of prettiness and practicality. Only a choice few bridges were particularly attractive, and most of those were “had beens” which now were but tiny beams laid across the flow or even, in a few cases, completely nonexistent – the only sign of their existence being the pile of rubble strewn underwater.
I return my attention to my former self in time to see him working near three nondescript bridges, when one of the people meets him at the center and points to the next bridge over, which was more beautiful on the other side of the river. “I” didn’t see it for some time, but already knowing part of the story I smile at the one across the river, painstakingly laying one piece at a time on the pretty bridge. I watch as “I” continue also slowly adding pieces one at a time – mostly practical girders with an occasional flair.
I smile at my other self as he starts to see the pretty other side and start to add ornamentation to his own side. He pulls a glass piece out of the air, and then I see something move away from him. I look again, closer, and I see it. The materials don’t merely appear out of mid-air, as I thought before. Instead, they are brought nearly instantly, on command, by winged messengers. My eye follows another one as it leaves after bringing a steel girder - to a storehouse of materials far away.
I watch as “I” spread myself better, working on various bridges. I smile at the now-normal bridge which had been in flames when I first arrived. But gradually, my former self returns more to one bridge - always kept prettier on the far side by the one building there, but he tried to catch up, keep up, even match it, but never quite succeeded. The two bridges on either side of it grew as well, but more practical in design with their own little flairs. Even several more little bridges were spawned from this one. I smile more and more as the bridge grows in size, strength, and beauty little by painstaking little. And then my former self stopped building. He straightens, looks straight at me and walks to me - into me, and is no more.
I looked around - at the bridges, at the old man now in front of me, at all the people next to each bridge on the other bank of the river. My mentor’s beard flowed up and down as he spoke: “You know what’s coming.”
I nodded. A great flood is coming in a few months, a massive upset of the whole system. It will bring many new bridges, but will also inevitably disturb every single existing one. I look nervously at the one bridge.
“It is a choice – but not yours alone. A bridge has two sides – to be strong, both builders must be committed to it completely. The whole thing must be sound through and through lest any weaknesses threaten the structural integrity.” He spoke with finality.
I soak in the words, and turn my focus to the other side of the bridge. A smile meets my gaze. I tentatively take a few steps toward our bridge – the movements are mirrored on the other side, and I quicken my gait with confidence. Within moments we meet at the center of the structure.
“Hi.” I grin.
“Hello.” A shy smile in return.
I draw a deep breath of resolve. “This isn’t 50-50, it can’t be.”
“All or nothing?”
A pause, a moment of silence.
“You know this’ll be tested soon, I hope?” Her voice of reason inquired.
“Through and through; every little part of it.”
I ‘call for’ a slab of marble. She reaches over and grabs one end. Our gazes meet across it.
Together we gently set it in its place, smiling at how perfectly it fits.
I laughed along with the rest of them, but a voice cajoled in my head: “well yeah, it’s called love.” It was probably our longest stretch together so far despite the two and a half hour interruption in the middle, the runner-up being that spontaneous all-nighter two and a half months ago the night of Valentine’s day…goodness, it’s already that long ago?
It’d been a long day, full of joy, craziness, laughs, beauty, incredible moments, conversations that couldn’t happen anywhere else or with anybody else, and well, lots and lots of hand-holding. But it was the best day, it was a day.
When I pulled up to my second home a little before 7:20 in the morning (also the earliest I’ve ever gone by), I was expecting it to be an incredible day. But it always blows me away how it turns out. A series of little decisions, especially towards the ends, that made it what it was. It was perfect. In retrospect, I was close to letting the whole end be cut off, but that was the best part. But it turned out perfectly. So perfectly, as such days have been turning out over the past few weeks. Almost too perfectly. Often how we want it to be, but always far above and beyond our expectations and even dreams. It’s too perfect, almost unreal - like we’re living in a Fairy Tale…and maybe we are? I hope and pray that there’s not a catch, that there’s not some crucial piece we’re missing that will bring the whole house of cards down around us.
Of course there’s not, I’m just worrying too much again.
I want this forever. All the time, for the rest of our lives. I think it all the time, but I haven’t quite said it out loud or straight-up to you yet. We’re so young, we have to much time and life and experience ahead of us to get. I don’t know how or why anything in the future could or would change anything or ruin it, but I have a bug of apprehension constantly gnawing at the back of my mind. But it’s all about the choice(s) we make, so why can’t it happen? The only thing in our way is ourselves. I’m starting to see how this might be what the past has been preparing me for. I hope this is something I can learn from the success of, not another failure to reap knowledge and wisdom from.
We’ll see what happens
The images, worlds, stories my brain creates while I sleep are usually random and disjointed, very rarely relevant to my waking life. Occasionally, before a big test or finals, I tend to have dreams about being late to or missing the test somehow or other, but it always works out. People I know in real life don’t show up very much, and when they do, their appearances are few and far between.
But for the past few weeks your presence has graced the visions my brain has conjured up during the night. I’ve been noticing it, but didn’t think too much of it - until last night. Last night you weren’t merely there at some points, you were the subject - you were almost always there. With three distinct dreams…or was it just parts of one big dream? I can’t recall having anything like that happen before, at least not recently. That was different. It was something pretty big.
They say that dreams are a product of the subconscious mind - I wonder if last night was the manifestation of something deep inside my being that is pushing to come out, trying to tell me something important, trying to push me forward? Yesterday I started getting the feeling the Friday is too far away, that I can’t wait that long. Even now, I’m filled with a sense of urgency. 100 hours…so much, but so little. Don’t push it. Don’t rush it. Calm yourself and be patient. Be patient. It’ll work out how it’s supposed to.
It’s a normal day at school, I walk into Physics class at 11:20 and sit down waiting for my teacher. The thing about Physics though, is that two days a week (on Wednesday and Friday) it starts an hour earlier for two hours of class. Having a schedule that isn’t the same hour every day can be confusing and tends to throw people off (it even threw me off last quarter, and I never get mixed up with consistent things, especially in the middle of the quarter.)
I sit down in my chair and start chatting with my friends at my table - they look over the lab I brought to be turned in, we talk a little bit about our project, and then the two geeks at the table start going off about computer games and Game of Thrones stuff.
It’s 11:30. Class is supposed to start, but our professor isn’t there. Sara is a smart cookie, punctual, and funny. But never late to walk in the door. Never. Of the 60-some-odd classes I’ve had with her since the beginning of the year, she’s never been late.
11:35 rolls around, and we start getting worried - we start talking about it at our table. Her unexplained absence has us mystified. “Maybe she’s answering somebody’s question in her office.” Leyia suggests to me across the table, but I don’t think that’s so - she would still keep aware of the time and be here when she needs to be.
11:40, and I’m certain she forgot it’s Friday, that class is an hour earlier. I start getting a bad feeling inside my chest - somebody should go get her. Now her lateness is the only thing all the 28 people in the room are thinking and talking about. Most of us know her quite well, all of us know what’s happening. As the seconds tick by on the clock, I start feeling worse and worse. I want to go, but I haven’t been to her office before, I don’t go to my Professor’s offices unless it’s absolutely necessary, which it almost never is. I ask multiple times if somebody will go with me, but the answer is always “no, you go!”
11:45, and all the people at one of the tables leaves. Connor, a guy who sat at my table last quarter, gets up and starts writing times on the board: predictions of when she would arrive. There’s 11:50, 12:05, 12:20, 12:25, 12:15, 12:00…I shake my head. It’s not right, I need to go get her. “What’s your prediction?” He asks.
"I don’t have a prediction." I reply curtly.
"No, really! What do you think? When do you think she’s gonna show up?" Connor persists.
Now the attention of the room is on me. I know what I need to do - everybody in the room knows what somebody should do, but nobody else seems to be willing to do it. I’ve been fighting myself whether or not to for the last fifteen minutes, but at that moment I find resolve.
"I’m gonna go get her." I state. The reactions around me are varied: a few protest outright, a couple spur me on, most just sit and watch amused.
"No, don’t do that!" Alex, the guy at my table who knows way to much about computer games and Games of Thrones protests. I look at him. I look around the room. Everybody watching me, waiting to see if I would do what we all knew was the right thing to do.
I look around the room, mortified. My brain screams, Aren’t we all adults here? Aren’t you all paying alot of money to be here? Without hesitation, I would bet all the money I have that I am the youngest person in the class, by a couple of years. I’m a Running Start student so I don’t have to pay for classes, but nobody else is, they’re all paying $12.57 or $32.80 per class session (depending on their residency), some pretty solid money. Besides, I don’t want to waste an hour that could be spent learning - besides, if we throw it away we’ll have to catch up with it later, or skip some possibly very important things at a later point. I’m sure everybody knows it. They all have been through at least Calculus III and the prior two Physics classes to be sitting there. Everybody’s smart, everybody knows what to do. But they don’t.
"Will anyone come with me?" I plead on more time, my juvenile insecurities showing themselves one last time.
"No! Go get her!" Leyia scoffs. I look around the room for help, but there is none to be had.With final resolve, I get off my chair and start toward the door. "Fine. I’m going to get her." It’s about 11:47 by this point.
"No, don’t! You’ll invalidate all the predictions if you do that!" Alex cries after me, the gaze of the whole class following me.
I turn as I walk out the door, my hand stretching to point an accusing finger at him. “Screw you.” And all the rest of you too, I think.
I walk the couple of hundred yards up to the offices. I’d never been to Sara’s office, but I find the door open - she’s sitting in front of her computer chatting with people on Facebook or something.
I poke my head in the door. “It’s Friday.”
She hardly looks up.
"It’s Friday.” I repeat, with a little more emphasis.
"Yes, it’s Friday. Be happy!" She says.
I want to do a “*Facepalm*” at this point, but I’m too focused to do so. “It’s Friday.”
She looks at me, confused. She’s not getting it. I thought she would! Enough games, time to be straight-forward.
"It’s Friday. Come to class?"
I love seeing ‘lightbulb moments’ on people’s faces, and the transition from confusion to denial to realization spreading across her face was priceless. She quickly moved her head to look at the time on the corner of her computer screen as it sinks in. In her peculiar Iranian accent she says two phrases I’ve heard many times before, but not together. “Oh my God, thank you!” She stands up, grabs her bag and we start back to the classroom.
"I never do that, and I just got back from my last class about 10 minutes ago because they were asking me a bunch of questions and I totally forgot! Thank you for getting me!”
We chat for the two minutes it takes to get to the classroom. I open the door for her and walk in behind her - partially smug, partially relieved and happy. The smugness completely uncalled for, but it was a good feeling to stand up for the right thing.
It was funny and kind of cool, to have to go get her, one of my favorite and most admired professors, for a silly thing like forgetting, it’s something I shan’t forget.
But at the same time I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth, per se. That nobody else in the room did it before me. Maybe I’m still young and idealistic? An overachiever? Whatever the case, I don’t think it’s something to just be excused and blown off. Maybe I’m weird, but I want to learn, and spend time in class. If it was my Public Speaking or English 101 classes that I didn’t get anything out of I wouldn’t care or get the professor if they were late. But this is Physics. Important, real-life stuff that’s relevant to every single person taking it. Nobody is there that doesn’t want to be. So why and how could they just let an important hour slip idly by?
Oops…okay then. I didn’t see that coming, but it was wonderful. I expected – no – anticipated, more like hoped for it, but I didn’t think it would happen quite…so soon. It was the most natural thing, and I loved it. But at the same time there’s a question lurking in the back of my mind, an uncertainty, a little voice of doubt screaming at me in protest. Most of me is walking on clouds, laughing at the midget trying to pull everything back down to earth – or into the abyss? Before, I wasn’t sure if I really felt quite that way, until it happened. It was then that my heart physically, literally told me everything. It’s not often that I feel it throbbing in my chest, beating in my fingers – or was it yours I felt?
Like a time bomb the days tick by: 4 months till I go oh so far away. It’s crossed my mind to change that, to get out, but no, I can’t. I can’t. You think about the inevitable fact far too much, but I try not to think about it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always there, lurking in the depths of my mind, but I’m focused on the interim months, all the time we have, all the things we can do. …and the times between, when I’ll be back: Christmas break for sure, summer…what am I doing?
I’m sorry, dear – that it happened now, that I’m going away soon. Were it my choice, I wouldn’t have it quite this way. But it’s not completely my choice, and I’m sure whatever happens will be the best – that it will turn out perfectly, whatever that looks like, as it always does.
I don’t mind in the least, but…why did you choose me?
It is a serious thing to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
There are no ordinary people.
You have never talked to a mere mortal.
Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.
But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
Games are cool. They’re nice, and enjoyable, and usually delightful. Unless it’s real, unless the stakes are emotions, feelings, and hearts - well, parts of hearts (since I learned that you never quite give it all away). Inevitably, I find myself in the thick of a real one. I want to have a candid conversation about it, to know what’s really going on and what to expect. But of course, no - it’s too uncomfortable and improper to discuss such things so openly at such an early point. Indeed, if I think about it things have been slow, haven’t gone all that far, but at the same time have escalated quickly - of course paradoxically. Of course I think about it too much, my mind takes it and runs with it multiple times a day. It runs and runs until it’s all tired out. It may not be the right thing. It may be the right thing, but now not the right time. But what if…? I have such a hard time trusting myself, or the decisions I make. I always think something is so right and great for a little while, but after some time I change my mind and think it’s ridiculous and definitely not prudent or right - you inspired me to write a whole sequel to an earlier piece, I was totally gonna post it somewhere like today. And then on Tuesday night I realized it’s rather direct, that things are going slower and aren’t quite where I thought they were. That it’s still in the weird limbo stage, and I just can’t be that clear or direct or candid. Blast it. I never know what to do, or how to do it. I know what’s at stake here, and it’s not myself that I’m worried about. I don’t care about myself. I don’t care if I get hurt, I just don’t wanna hurt you.
I wanna do the right thing, at the right time. I want to be able to do everything that everybody wants. I want life and the world to somehow be perfect, and I want to help it be that way. But I can’t, and it eats at me like an acid, slowly corroding away something inside of me. I just want things to be okay and work out all right somehow…
Every day in life is different.
Many days are ordinary, normal, mundane, average - just whatever.
Some days are miserable, horrible, sad - you just want to crawl into a hole and not exist anymore.
But some days. Some days are glorious, beautiful, so happy it makes your heart want to explode and your body walk on air - those days are what really make life worth living.
Yesterday was some day. And I think the evening will make tomorrow some day.
Often, it’s for the sake of survival - animals adapt to the environment around them in able to continue living in the conditions. People adapt to what’s happening around them to continue living. Not me. I adapt, no question there - but not for the same reason. I adapt to excel: in school, relationships, situations. But only in certain areas (the ones I want), and with my conformation different groups of people see me as a different person in different places and situations.
Certain areas: look at my grades, how so many people see me - whether it be at Youth Symphony, Church, school, extended family, or my acquaintances - I pulled straight A’s for the second quarter in a row God knows how. I feel like I don’t completely deserve them. I didn’t work as hard or study as much as I know I should have, or as much as my parents thought I did. Sure, I might have done more than many of my classmates, but I don’t know exactly how it happened.
So many people think I’m genius, amazing, sweet…I smile and say thanks, but inside I twitch - I grimace. I see all my shortcomings and failures and all the bad things I’ve done and am likely to do, and though their words make me happy, I make myself sad in the next instant from my regrets and problems.
I adapt to excel, to be the best person for the situation, but the best person in one place is the worst person for another - somewhat fitting into one group’s culture and activities can be repulsive and horrifying for the person I am in another place. At times it makes me feel fake, a traitor to the person I should be. The person I am when I am around my best friends is appalled by the person I was the night I DD’d for my cousin’s 21-Run. Or the person who walked into that rave less than two weeks ago.
The question stares me in the face, one of the great moral dilemmas: do I continue what I’ve been doing and adapt to excel, changing who I am, changing who people see me to be, just to be my own judgement of what “the best person for them at the time” is? Or do I find who I really am and hold fast to that? Of course I have my rules and my limits - there are certain lines I won’t cross, certain things I won’t do. And most of the things I’ve done are just to see what things are really like. I DD’d and went to the party and the rave to see what it’s like, to see and feel what it’s truly like - without getting drunk or hooking up or getting stoned or anything like that, those are beyond my lines, and I am NOT crossing them, so help me God. I want to see what people are doing. I want to figure out why they’re doing them. Because it breaks my heart and I want to help them. I can’t be too different, too distant, too perfect, because then they will see me as that, as somebody else, perhaps even as a judge. As Macklemore says so well, “if you’re judging I don’t want it” - I don’t want to judge, I don’t want to accuse. I only want to help and walk alongside. I can’t do that from a pedestal or by being perfect. Funny analogy: Hudson Taylor, one of the most influential missionaries to China, dressed like the natives, spoke like them, and adopted their culture so he could reach and impact them more effectively.
Inevitably, as with most things, I come to the conclusion that neither extreme is best, or even possible. Just some kind of middle ground, a good balance point. Neither is completely helpful or effective - but to adapt to certain situations while maintaining concrete lines and rules…I think something like that. Why don’t I trust myself?