“I WILL MISS YOU,” the graffiti read. It was in angry black and red spray paint on a white background, composed in cursive shot at a concrete slab halfway across the bridge. It was sprayed in a way that seemed simultaneously reckless and artistic.
This was one week to the day after we’d broken up, and two days after I’d moved in to a place in Brooklyn with strangers, a place close to the train tracks, which made it difficult for everyone in the apartment to fall and stay asleep. Except for me. I wasn’t sleeping much at all, and the trains passing close to my window in the middle of the night – and my new compulsion to listen for the next one’s arrival – were kind of comforting.
I was in a bad way.
And I was still very much in a bad way on this day when I decided that I would take my first stroll ever across the bridge. As a reaction to your leaving I decided I should make some positive life changes. One of them was that I would start working out again on a daily basis. At the time, it was surprising to me that I was even able to mobilize a campaign to and from my job, so I sure as fuck wasn’t going to wake up two hours earlier than necessary so I could ride on an elliptical while watching an Ann Curry-less Today Show.
But I also couldn’t bring myself to indulge in my other (primary) option: to eat food in my bed and weep intermittently while I watched YouTube compilations of romantic movie monologues.
So I thought walking would be an adequate compromise.
When I saw the street art I began crying harder than a self-respecting man should cry unless he’s dealing with death or divorce. I had to crumple down to the ground. A man came up to me, crouched down and offered a bottle of water he was selling for a buck at the halfway point of the bridge. Said it was free of charge, “‘cause I looked like I was hurtin’.”
I thanked him in between heaving sobs, dumped some of my bottle on my head so as to create the illusion that I was in the midst of an intense workout (while inexplicably wearing business casual attire), and not a grown man who had just been openly weeping as he sat against the supports of a bridge while dozens of people strolled by.
I muttered “I. Will. Get. My. Shit. Together.” to myself the whole way home, walking in step with my incantations.
So many times that spring and summer and fall I walked across the bridge and saw the “I WILL MISS YOU” art. Each time I thought of you. Eventually I decided not to walk across the bridge anymore, because I no longer wanted to think of you if I could help it. And because it was freezing outside.
But then one day it was warm again, and I didn’t have anything pressing to do that night, so I walked myself home, across the bridge.
The painting was no longer there. In its place were two new ones, splitting the concrete down the middle. The first read “NOT EVEN COLD CAN STAY,” and the other read “IF YOU MUST DIE, DIE LAUGHING.”
I cannot say the painting I first saw was gone, per se, because it wasn’t – it was merely covered up by something newer. Sometimes things stay, but they fade away. They get covered up by other things, for better or worse.
I saw the same man who’d given me a bottle of water the year before. He was back on the bridge pushing the same product. I bought one from him, gave him an extra dollar, thanked him, and kept walking.
It was a quick exchange.
This time, I don’t think I even stopped moving at all.