I should resist, but she has the confident glow of a seasoned drunk, smelling of cheap vodka and cherry gum. She does handstands and I watch those filthy, unwashed baseball sneakers form an arc; just missing a string to be a devastating bow. She hovers upside down for a moment and her arms burst with blood and sinew. She walks on her hands, legs now bent like a scorpion, as I walk slowly and solemnly behind her like an undertaker walking to a funeral.
My friends tell me she is bad news but I like bad news. I read about murder every day, I slow down for car wrecks, and I love how the spot on her forehead is infected and seething from being picked by grubby fingernails. I love how she pushes rusty nails under her skin. I love how she took up my dare to stand under the wasp’s nest in her underwear as I threw rocks at it. Stung thirty eight times and going into shock, she still demanded I kiss her through the froth.
Maybe we are the people society forgot, or maybe we were a mistake from God – tossed over his shoulder towards the waste basket but bouncing off the rim and crawling, evolving on the floor in our own way; born out of lost bacteria in the gutter, staring up. For my birthday last year she gave me a dead squirrel, pancaked flat from the road, and shaved my name into its decaying fur.
She finally overbalances and snaps to the ground like a sprung mousetrap. Nearby is the old bridge, crossing a narrow but steep cut through the land. The drop is horrible – in that middle distance between survival and death where leg and pelvic injuries are almost guaranteed. The planks of the bridge have gaps and my challenge is to make my way under the bridge from one side to the other using just my hands and my grip. She insists she won’t tread on my fingers through the gaps, but she’s a terrible liar. And I know her well. My body is raked with red scars from home-made surgeries, so much glue and stitches without anesthetic using her mother’s sewing yarn, all from her challenges.
I make my way underneath the bridge just before it falls away. It stinks of piss and an old mattress where tramps go to convince themselves it isn’t worth trying anymore. I put my fingers between the hold ahead of me and allow my feet to dangle beyond the drop. I see her above, as a break in the sunlight. And isn’t that an apt simile? I shouldn’t be doing this. I’m shit scared. I should resist. And as I am thinking these things, I go for the second hold.
Jimmi Campkin is a “Writer, photographer, creator of SANCTUARY. 16bit child, INFP with clinical nostalgia and red wine for blood.” You can enjoy more of his work at jimmi campkin.com.