Bixby Canyon Bridge
Author: K. LiCausi

Chapter 1
Bixby Canyon Bridge

 The parched dirt rose in clouds of dust as he descended the gravel ridge; his worn-out sneakers failing to gain any kind of traction on the loose rock. Dusk hung far heavier than he had ever remembered over the canopied creek. The grey, overcast skies seemed to want to punish all that lay beneath them; they held the much needed rain above the browning town, refusing to let it cascade from the heavens and breathe life back into the quickly dying foliage. It was torture, in Ezra’s opinion, but for a different reason.

               

Bits and pieces of weathered police tape clung to here-and-there trees, their edges frayed. The breeze gave them life; each one fluttered out towards him as his feet found solid ground. From the bed of the quaint river, the sky seemed even more ominous than it had from the ridge. It amazed him how little had changed when everything had. That place would never be the same, no matter how hard the light current pulsed against the eroded rocks or the wind blew around the structure of the bridge or the residents of the small town tried to pretend what happened never did.

               

Though the stubborn chill continued to bite at every inch of his exposed skin, he kicked off his shoes and pulled off the mismatched socks he had haphazardly grabbed off his bedroom floor without a thought. The sharp edges of the stones pointed in just the right direction stabbed at the soles of his feet as he waded into the shallow cheek, allowing the hem of his cuffed jeans to graze the surface of the water. His body fiercely rejected the instant change in temperature; the frigid liquid stung his toes, sending its wrath up through his legs, turning the blood in his lower appendages to ice.  He ignored it. He needed to feel something, something to let him know he hadn’t died too.

               

Mindlessly, Ezra walked out further until he found asylum beneath the Bixby Canyon Bridge. His fingers wrapped themselves around a few small rocks, turning them over and over again in the palm of his hand. He could recall hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of afternoons spent skipping rocks across the slow-moving stream with Rhys. Just the thought of old memories shared between he and his best friend forced him into a state of confusion, confusion tainted with anger and sorrow and that gut-wrenching feeling that had made home in the pit of his stomach the day it happened.

               

 He didn’t know what had brought him there; he hadn’t even been able to bring himself to drive past there for months. But for some peculiar reason, he felt he needed to be there. He had this other-worldly idea of what would to happen if he went down there. He’d spent many weeks analyzing reality documentaries on ghosts and spirits and had come to the conclusion that maybe—just maybe—he’d hear from Rhys. Maybe—just maybe—he’d get some answers.

               

 His eyelids heavy from the many sleepless nights, he glanced upwards, searching the foreboding sky for some great recognition or revelation. His eyes traced the blots of shades, desperately seeking an encoded message of sorts or an opening in the sea of clouds where a beam of light could break through and Rhys’s voice could travel down from the heavens, telling Ezra all he wanted to know. But he didn’t know what he wanted to know. Perhaps deep down he didn’t want to know anything, perhaps he did.

               

There was only one way to find out, he decided. “Rhys,” he began, his voice sounded strangely hoarse when coupled with the babbling water. “are you—er—can you—uh—look, I don’t really know what I’m doing.” His eyebrows knitted together as he shoved his hands into his pockets. “I just, I don’t know, I just need to know if you’re still out there… I need to know you haven’t completely left or if you’ve finally gotten away from whatever you were running from. I-I just want you to talk to me… one last time.”

               

He bit into his fist in an attempt to halt the tears that had inadvertently sprung up behind his eyes. For what felt like an eternity, his words drifted off into silence, leaving nothing but the empty void that had been vacated inside of him months before. He cursed himself for being surprised that it didn’t play like it did in his mind. How could he be so naïve to think that Rhys would still be hanging around? That he’d be able to carry out a conversation with him? Ashamed of his stupidity, his far-suppressed anger began to bubble to the surface.

               

Ezra had spent all of the months since Rhys’s passing trying to piece together the events that had led to his decision. He had chased the end of his rope all the way to those very rocks, and still the answers had not made themselves evident. He had dug deeper and deeper and traced his best friends steps and scrambled to uncover anything he hadn’t told him and forced himself to peel back layer after layer of Rhys’s very complex self. Nothing. This closure that everyone and then some seemed to talk about was no nearer than the answers themselves.

               

Furious thoughts began to creep through his head. What was to happen to him if he continued this way? He was exhausted, frankly. He was tired of remembering and knowing and pursuing. He was tired of being the only one who seemed to care that Rhys MacAdorey was no longer alive, that he ever lived, that he ever had a purpose, that he ever smiled, that he ever laughed, that he ever hurt, cried, hid things, that he ever made the irreversible decision to throw himself off the edge of the Bixby Canyon Bridge where he knew Ezra would find him because they hung out there every weekend. He was tired of being the only one who had to shoulder the responsibility.

               

And then he thought how easy it would be to forget too. He may have had the chance to go out and be happy, live his life. He may have been able to go experience the dream everyone else seemed to be living in. It had to be better than where he was. And he could picture it too; the clouds would part and his chest would become light again and his will to do something, anything would be restored and he could be the Ezra he was before. But the more he thought about it, the worse he felt.

               

And finally, he cracked. “I hope you’re happy!” He screamed, praying Rhys could hear him wherever he had ended up. Though his words were hardly kind, he needed to get them out. “I hope you know what you’ve done to me and how much I’ve beat myself up over this—over you! But why should you care? You’re obviously at peace, right? That’s why you couldn’t be bothered to answer me! Why should I bother you, you obviously couldn’t be bothered to talk to me before you took flight over this stupid creek, could you?” His vocal cords growing sore, he finally stopped raving, neither satisfied nor relieved in the slightest. He hadn’t a clue what he was trying to accomplish, and judging by the way he felt now, he had gained absolutely nothing.

               

The invisible sun sank back into the horizon, taking with it the light of day. Hollow and shivering, Ezra slid his feet back into his ratty sneakers and began to trudge back up the ridge, using his hands to catch his balance every now and again. His mother’s minivan sat parked off to the side of the road among the weeds and remaining green. As he pulled away from the Bixby Canyon Bridge, minute droplets of much-needed rain slowly trickled down from the sky. The irony was overwhelming.

               

In his rearview mirror, he watched the familiar creek disappear. The weight crushing his shoulders no lighter than it had been when he had arrived, his world no brighter than it had been the day before. He was no closer to any sort of truth, and as he drove further and further from the place of his best friend’s final resting ground, he began to allow himself to accept that perhaps that was Rhys’s problem too.

 

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