May 1, 2021
~ The Bridge ~
There is a point, in the distance, that your character very badly wants to reach. What is it?
What is the point from which they've started out, what are they willing to do to get to that point in the distance? What will they sacrifice?
The bridge is the point between those two places. The bridge is where what they must do to get there, what they're willing to sacrifice, and the consequences of those decisions coexist.
Write their story, on the bridge.
Carlota hesitated, like many times before, but she knew she couldn't look back. Right there, in the middle of that bridge, she stood between what had been and what could be. If she turned around, like he expected her to, there was no way she would ever get to where she was again. He was waiting for her, though, with his candid smile and his big, brown eyes. With his strong arms that protected her just as much as they could harm her. She needed to let go, but every time she tried to, the good times they had together would creep in and hold her back. If only she could get to the other side, know what was there, get a sense of what her future would look like far away from everything she knew. The last time she thought she was ready to cross that bridge, she had panicked and turned around a couple of steps in, and back into his arms, and their safety. Arms... arms... arms... harms.
This time, she had run with all her forces, at least at first, trying to use her momentum to get as far on the bridge as she possibly could, thinking that a careful sprint would help her make it to the other side quickly. But she hadn't gotten there yet, and she had grown tired, so now it was more like little steps, the ones that require you to stop and take a deep breath, and bend, and hold your knees in your hands while you pant. And then, she did what she didn't want to do, what she shouldn't do. She turned around, just for a second. But she couldn't see where she had come from either, so she just stood there, somewhere in the middle. There was no way to tell how far she was if she was closer to him than she was to the other side—but there was no way she could find out.
Maybe she was meant to die on that bridge, unsure of which way to go, regretting leaving but knowing full well that staying would kill her just as much.
It hadn't always been like that, though, she thought which each little step into the unknown. It was hard to tell when love and lust had turned into survival. She couldn't pinpoint the exact moment it had all changed, maybe because it hadn't been a particular instance but many little episodes. And when those episodes made their way back to her, it didn't matter if there was something waiting for her on the other end—she knew trying was better than staying. Once the unknown started becoming less dangerous and worrisome than the thought of a new morning, she understood that she had to leave.
Beware of your heroes, mamá always used to say, they will seep into your life little by little until they become your saviors, and then they'll own you forever. And come to think about it, that's all it really was. Mutual admiration gone wrong, nothing more, nothing less. And the charming lover that once praised her for her free spirit, that once wanted to be his companion, his partner of achievements, had turned into her verdugo, the pain-inflicting one, the one who decided how she would feel on a given day. The puppet-master, mamá had said, leaning over a hot cup of café con leche, the warm humo staining her glasses. That day was the last day Carlota had seen mamá, meeting her for breakfast instead of rescheduling for the third time. She thought she had done a good job with the foundation, pero a una madre no la engaña nadie. Mamá's eyes filled with tears as her fingertips contoured the end of Carlota's eye. He did this? Mamá asked. But Carlota didn't reply, and a quiet tear rushed down her cheek and onto the untouched arepita, her favorite. What was the point of coming clean? How exactly would that make things better? There wasn't a lot of time left for mamá; she may have won many battles, but cancer had already won the war. The best thing she could do was to tell mamá that everything was fine and let her die in peace. So she lied, like many times before, this time telling her she had read something silly on the internet and had moved her furniture exactly one inch to see if it was true. And it was because she kept hitting the sofas and chairs until she fell face-first into the corner of a coffee table. Of course, mamá didn't buy it, but it was easier for both of them to pretend that she had.
He was happy, the day mamá died. Finally, Carlota was alone in the world, at his mercy. But he did still attend the funeral, all in black, crying fake tears. He spared her that night, too, to show how much he cared—and for the first time in years she got to cry herself to sleep for a whole different reason. But then, every time after that, whenever things happened—and happen they did—he would remind her how alone she was, how there was no one left in her world, and that she should be thankful that he had been the only person who hadn't yet left her. Because he hadn't. And that was what kept her next to him, that one truth among all his lies. He hadn't left, not when times were hard, much less when they were easy, he had always been there. Her hero, her savior. She could see him, waiting by her side at the doctor's office, in the room when she'd first opened her eyes after surgery, offering his arm for support when she struggled to walk...
And when those memories hit her, she'd look back at what she'd already walked on that bridge, and wonder how long it would take to go back, to run to safety and never leave again. Because ahead of her was an unknown road, but also a lonely one, and she didn't know who to turn to—he'd always been the constant. At the same time, she wanted to believe that if she kept walking, she might find someone. Or, at the very least, find herself.