Within minutes of arriving in the village of falling foothills, I stumbled across its most impressive infrastructure: a giant footbridge swinging over emerald glacial runoff. The bridge looked like a defiance, as if someone found a loophole in the laws of physics and hung it there, in the sighs of the mountain breeze, as a monument to the impossible dream of connection.
To cross the bridge is to endure a sensory and psychic assault. A crush of people riffles across its asphalt-encased path, low-boil aggression simmering like a fever through their contagious claustrophia. Sometimes, all movement stops. Then, the mob bunches against the blockage – usually moment-stealing photographers – pushing until bodies squirt free like seeds squeezed from a lemon.
Above, on the bridge’s cables, red-faced monkeys scan for snatchable snacks. Bagged, balled dough crosses in bobbing human hands, intended for fish but stolen in whooping raids that leave shocks shivering up metal veins. A half dozen cows sleepwander about, too, part curious, part lost, lolling like medians indifferent to the steady, roaring thrum. Motorcycles plow through the morass unchallenged, their snarling lurches and stacatto horns commanding space as only brute force can.
I hated the bridge, gritting teeth against the shoving honk, shrieking crash of its tortuous crawl. My feet wanted a silky sway like a caress from a cradling palm, and instead met a stiff muscle stretched to the bone, a splint reinforced with metal, plates, and screws.
But then one day, in the middle of a lumber across, I saw a hand reach out to touch a cow, soft, between its eyes. Then another, and another: whispers brushed like white paint over the starburst spectrum of noise. It was reverence, acceptance of the gauntlet, appreciation of the floating, fleeting moment between opposing sides. The bridge was not a worn out muscle, but one in a deep, satisfying stretch. A dream realized, love despite distance, strength out of strain.
Swayed, I remained in the village of falling foothills longer than planned. I crossed every day, touching nerves that splayed like a fan, through the sky, into hardened, anchoring earth. And my feet learned, eventually, to move at its pace, to listen to the music of a heart wrapped in a chain, a pulsing rhythm singing over grinding, metal weight.