Critical Thought: Bridge

Bridge is an excerpt from a small, unpublished novel called Trawling Oblivion. The novel is a sound I’ve been trying to make for a long time from inside a vacuum. The time it took to make this sound is equal to the distance from me to me. Literature can be so many bridges: Me to me, me to you, you to you, us to everyone, everyone to everything. Every word reaches out to be held like a child who can’t feed itself. We cradle and feed the child and are, in turn, rewarded with a reflection of ourselves—a representation we’ve conjured from everything we are, everything we’ve come to know. We feed the child to feed on the child, to nourish ourselves from its innocence. We are the child. Ouroboros. Or: That’s absolutely ridiculous. Literature is not a bridge. The bridge is only a metaphor made of words. Metaphors are dangerous. Millions of people have died because of metaphor. I’m sorry for having incited a metaphor. There is no bridge. No one reaches anyone else. Even if the air between us is legible no one ever speaks the same language—breathes the same air. We translate one another screaming from across echoing chasms the shapes of our lungs. Each of us: A sound too faint to hear. Every sigh a translation, every translation a lie. It’s maybe good we can’t hear one another. Often, I can barely hear myself.

Eric Beeny (b. 1981) is the author of THE DYING BLOOM (Pangur Ban Party, 2009), SNOWING FIREFLIES (Folded Word Press, 2010), OF CREATURES (Gold Wake Press, 2010), MILK LIKE A MELTED GHOST (Thumbscrews Press, 2011), PSEUDO-MASOCHISM (Medulla Publishing, 2011), and some other things. He blogs at Dead End on Progressive Ave.

Bridge

There is a bridge. The bridge is a bridge. The bridge has a sound—a bridge sound. The sound of the bridge. The sound the bridge makes is distance. One can hear distance within the distance, beyond the bridge that makes a distant sound.

The bridge serves a purpose, and that purpose is sound. One travels across the bridge to hear sound, to make sound somewhere else. The bridge is a sound of its own. The bridge reaches like an arm into distant lands, splits the air open like a beaded curtain to arrive.

To hear. To touch.

The bridge makes a sound like touch. The sound seems far away. So far, you almost can’t feel it.


Merrill is driving. He merges onto the thruway. The license plate on the car in front of him says “Florida.” He pulls around that car and speeds up, passing the car from Florida. The car from Florida is red.

What if there was no such thing as a hypothetical situation?

We would exist solely to prove we’re all that’s left of our own emptinesses, Merrill thinks.

A blue car passes Merrill’s car and pulls in front of it. The license plate on the blue car says “Kansas.” Merrill feels confused, slows down.

No. We would exist solely to prove we’re not all that’s left of our own lives.

Another car passes Merrill’s car, a green car with a license plate that says “Oregon.” “What the hell,” Merrill whispers. The green car gets off at the next exit. A yellow car with a “Texas” license plate merges onto the thruway and passes Merrill’s car.

Eternity has been known to last a lifetime.

Merrill wants to call Rosa. He wants to call William. Merrill’s car—and, by extension, Merrill—is surrounded by cars from all over America. Merrill begins to forget what state he’s really in.


“I’m so alone,” Merrill says.

“You’re not,” William says. “What about Rosa.”

“I don’t know. I think maybe there is no Rosa.”

“But there is the vacuum cleaner salesman. I saw you talking to the vacuum cleaner salesman when he came to your house that one day last year. I watched through your window.”

“He was only in my house two hours and, after telling me how quiet his vacuum cleaner was, we mostly just talked about god.”

“What about him.”

“The vacuum cleaner salesman.”

“No, god.”

“We talked about what it meant to believe in god, and to not believe in god.”

“What did you both decide,” William says.

“I don’t know,” Merrill says. “The vacuum cleaner salesman talked a lot about space, and how the universe worked, how there was no air in space and therefore no sound, but I think he was just trying to sell me the vacuum.”


To build a bridge one must fail to walk across a body of water. One must then fail to levitate above the body of water one has previously failed to walk across.

One must not know how to swim. If one does know how to swim, swimming should never cross one’s mind—one must fail to think of swimming.

If one does not know how to swim, but tries anyway, one must fail to drown. One must somehow make it back to shore to begin designs on something called a bridge.

This bridge, when built, will make the sound of something far away, and will resemble what it sounds like to be touched, what it feels like to be heard.

This bridge will make a sound.

The sound of something far away.

A bridge, perhaps.

by Eric Beeny