BY ANNE FOSTER
Kate showed up late to the party. Actually it was more of a gathering than a party. There were about eight people lounging on the couches and chairs in the living room. Kate was hungry and she guessed that it showed on her face because as soon as she stepped over the threshold Mal blurted out: kitchen's closed. Kate laughed at her. She laughed because Kate's mom used to say that to her when Kate was a kid and came wandering into the kitchen after dinner looking for scraps. Kitchen's closed. You had your chance.
But Mal are you mom? Is this a party or is it not a party? Whatever, Kate didn't push it. She was late and she missed her chance. Or maybe this was about last month when she failed to attend Mal's birthday dinner. Whatever, it didn't matter. What mattered was that Kate was hungry. She didn't enter even two steps into the apartment. She just yelled, anybody want anything from the deli? Deli's closed, someone said. What kind of deli closes? That's dumb. But alright fine. I know this great place, Kate said. It's a little bit of a walk but they're open twenty-four-seven and their sandwiches are to die for. I'll be back in thirty, she said. Text me if you want me to pick you something up.
People on the couches scratched behind their ears. Someone swatted at a fly. Someone adjusted his junk.
Kate slammed the door behind her and set off. If she remembered correctly it was a fifteen minute walk and uphill most of the way. But #worthit.
She passed storefront after storefront with their gates down and lights off. They really did a good job planting trees on this block. The trunks sprang up side by side. Branches embraced. Instead of pushing them away, Kate let the soft leaves rub against her cheeks. She was probably five blocks into the walk now and, wow, they really did a good job with the plants on this block. She couldn't even see the storefronts anymore. Green vine-like things devoured the shop signs and wound themselves around door handles. The pavement was neglected up here. It was more like a pile of big rocks then a sidewalk. And then the pavement disappeared altogether. Kate was walking on soil now. It got steep. She had to claw with her hands to advance. She grabbed onto tree trunks to pull herself higher.
Up ahead were the deli lights blinking on the horizon. SNACKS CHIPS COFFEE DRINKS. Each was a different neon color stabbing at the dark. Mmmm, Kate could taste that melted cheese in her mouth already. And the spicy jalapenos. Mmmm. She climbed faster now, scurried really, up this last block and to the barbed wire fence. Oh yeah, she had forgotten this part. Blocked it out of her memory. The rickety pedestrian bridge. The bridge whose condition cannot even be legal. Kate lived in a first world country, did she not? But this was not a first world bridge. How had she forgotten about this bridge?
She grabbed onto the rope railings and took the first step. Right then a gust came up from the cavernous space below. It made the bridge creak. She stepped back and watched it sway, like a pendulum at it's end, slow. But there was no other way. Sandwiches were on the other side. She started again, one foot at a time, the wooden slates clacking underneath her. She looked straight.
And before she knew it she had made it to the halfway point: the house. It was a small and dilapidated house. Windows were punched out. Shingles were missing. It was silly that the house was even here, Kate thought. But most of the time she didn't think about it, because it had always been here, in the middle of this bridge. It was here because it had always been here. No one lived here anymore, who knows if anyone ever did. Maybe it served more as a rest stop, back when crossing this bridge took an entire lifetime. Maybe back in the day there were cured meat snacks and a friendly face to talk to, or if languages were incompatible, a friendly face to look at.
But now the house was no longer a house. There were so many holes in the floorboards that it wasn't safe to step inside. The only way was to go around. So Kate put her whole body against the house, like they were hugging. Then she shimmied along the edge. There was only just enough space on the wood planks for her to place the half of the length of her foot. She held tight onto the gutters until she could feel the rusty metal edge cutting into her hand.
Kate neared the back corner of the house now. She was reaching for that sturdy feel of her hand wrapped around molded wood, when the gutter shook and her heart slipped and she lunged for that crisp edge where her hand could grip and she got it and she held on tight. But dear god how her heart pounded. One misstep and she would certainly die. She would fall into the black cavern where at the bottom her body would run through a sharp rock. What would they tell her parents? The girl who went to get a sandwich; never came back. Body never found. Or body found, unsuitable for visual identification. Kate started shaking. She gripped even tighter with her hands. They were wet, she didn't know if from sweat or from blood. She kept shimmying towards the corner. She held her body to the house like it was her mother on the first day of school, like it was Kevin at the airport when he left for Spain. Kate didn't want to die. She wanted to see Mal again. She wanted to get down on her knees and beg Mal to love Kate like she used to. Kate rounded the corner carefully. She stepped gingerly. She said to herself, the wood slates are clouds and I, the atmosphere that lives above them.
When it was time to pull away from the house she grabbed onto the rope and turned. Look straight. Look straight. But Kate looked down. She couldn't help it. And there it was below her: the most brilliant blue light. The source of this light was right underneath the house, at least two hundred feet down: a giant swimming pool. It was like a blue gem in a bear's mouth. There was no one in it, but it's waters moved, making it look like the fuzzy edges of a dream. Kate looked harder, willing it closer, clearer, that maybe it would just envelope her.
She breathed deep. She laughed. All of this time she was afraid of falling to her death. But there was no such thing. Only a glittering pool of blue.
Anne Foster works at a bike shop and a restaurant in Brooklyn. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Ohio Edit, and The Kansas City Star.