Two ghosts haunt a bridge.

This bridge is very old. It should have crumbled into the river generations ago. It creaks and moans, but it never gives.

Some characters (usually tourists) have claimed they can feel the gentle thumps of invisible footsteps trying to cross the bridge. The footsteps start to cross from one end, then they pause, they turn around and return to where they started. The footsteps are never felt or heard crossing the bridge.

(By the way, there are a lot of bars near this bridge, and they are open very late.)

These same tourists are often inspired to attach padlocks to the rails of the bridge. It is said that lovers who attach a lock to the bridge and throw away the key into the murky water below will stay in love forever.

This makes the bridge very heavy, as you can imagine. And it is likely the real reason for all the creaking and moaning.

But that doesn’t stop anyone.

They bring the locks anyway — fueled by the spirit of romance and the gift shops that specialize in pretty heart-shaped locks and bridge-related paraphernalia.

And, of course, the story behind the bridge.

This epic, tragic tale is even taught in schools!

Popular legend had two star-crossed lovers held at either end of the bridge, each unable to cross, their undefeated love suspending the rickety bridge between them, a bizarre feat of architecture that could never break, under any weight, over any period of time.

This was all bullshit, of course. But it had mass appeal and it sold a lot of souvenirs.

Unlike what actually happened.

The real story was pure crap.

The worst.

No one likes it.

So, here it is.

The ghosts — that is, the two infatuated lovers held in eternal damnation holding up a creaky old bridge — weren’t always dead. They used to be alive (obviously).

When they were alive (and very much not dead), they met for the first time, one fateful evening under a lamp post, when it had just started raining.

(Why there are no haunted lampposts in this city is a mystery not worth solving.)

He was instructed to meet a young lady, new to town, and she’d be wearing a yellow dress. She was told to trust a gentleman who would approach her carrying an umbrella.

As chance would have it, that same exact day, she decided to wear a yellow dress, because she thought the colour looked nice with her dark hair, and he carried an umbrella because it was going to rain that day.

And that’s how they met.

They would laugh about this serendipitous encounter many times in the years that followed. 

The coincidence and the confusion. The simultaneous blurting of the words, “My mistake. 

You are not who I thought”, accompanied by hesitation, delight, and a general feeling that the planets were creaking and moaning out of their orbits into realignment only for their benefit.

They weren’t supposed to meet. Or were they?

In life, she was truly, madly in love with him, and he with her, but there was always something lingering between them – mostly, his incessant lies about his wife, his babies, his drinking, and so on.

So, to override his lies, rather than confront him to tell the truth, she – the Mistress by default – loved him harder and stronger than any grounded woman could.

She did this for a long time, until she no longer loved him at all. Rather, she loved a completely different version of him, one that she had completely invented in her own mind.

And so, she became mercilessly in love with this complete apparition – a living ghost.

Before you judge… the truth is, people fall madly in love with phantoms every day.

And when he did die, one particularly drunken night, on his way home to his apathetic wife, when he slipped and fell off a bridge – yes THAT bridge – into the river, into the murk, never to be seen again, the Mistress didn’t miss the drunk, but she did mourn the apparition.

She suffered so deeply, she succeeded in mourning him back from the dead, legend says.

He came back to her, a spectre drawn to his reflection mirrored in her eyes.

On some level, he must have known he wasn’t beholding his true reflection. The reflection was himself, but idealized, with parts missing and parts added for effect and story.

It was the version of himself that she missed.

He loved it, better than he loved his trues self.

So, he stayed with her.

He lingered.

He stayed near her to catch that reflection in her eyes, in her tears, that honoured him in a way he never could live up to, had he been living.

Taking no notice of how much this constant haunting of her spirit affected her.

It was more than she could take.

She fell victim to his incessant, narcissistic gaze, mistakenly thinking his look of longing was meant for her.

Driven by grief, she took her own life by jumping off a bridge (yes, THAT bridge).

All in the name of love. At least, that’s what the locals would say, in their version of this sophomoric tragedy. There was even a play written about it!

So, truth be told, their love did sustain the bridge.

She held one end of the bridge, and he held the other. They could never cross the bridge and meet. Just gaze at each other and agree that this was where they wanted to be.

Both forever in love with their own lies, one lie fulfilling the other. 

And the bridge never collapsed.

But don’t feel bad for them. 

Because the truth is, they love haunting one another.

As true as the river flowed and the souvenirs sold. 

Otherwise, she could have broken the spell at any time.

All she had to do was repeat that fateful incantation that had padlocked their affair in eternity in the first place…

“My mistake. You are not who I thought.”

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Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay