Childhood Memories, Family, Personal, Switzerland

The River

I walk along the Reine River to and from work daily. Sometimes more than once, depending on my schedule. The river is wide, rushing with the current down stream. When the sun is shining more than the clouds float in the sky, the river is filled with teenage boys swimming near the shore and girls walking upstream to float on their backs down to where they began. There are families paddling in their boats and couples running side by side around the loop, over a bridge at each end which makes a nice circle, concrete and town on one side, trees and ground on the other. I walk beneath the street, the path under the road connecting me from one side to the other. Colorful graffiti splashed against each wall. I search for a message in the pictures, for I am still trying to recall the language I once studied years ago [German]. At night, spiders, thorax the size of my thumb, line the tops of these underground areas, glowing against the fluorescent lights which illuminate their webs.

The water. I’m thankful to live so near the water, a place I always find solace, peace of mind, a place to meditate. It flows crisp, clear, and clean. In some areas I can see through to the bottom and the rocks beneath the surface. In other areas, the sun shines like diamonds on the top, mixed with the thick turquoise circles of the current.

I was walking home Thursday afternoon, and I spotted three boys on the first bridge I pass, near to where the skateboarders slide from one object to another on four wheels. The boys, wearing only swimming trunks, were climbing over the edge, getting ready to jump into the refreshing water. I quickly averted my eyes. I saw my brother on the bridge that took his life nine summers ago. I hoped with all my might that I wouldn’t see the kids jump and have to worry about seeing their head bob up in the water and become in control as they would float down the stream.

Bridge jumping. Jumping from heights and landing in the water. As kids we all do it. It’s thrilling. The adrenaline pumps. It becomes a culture in small towns with bridges, the local watering hole. Everyone gathers on hot summer days. I’ve slid down massive rocks into murky watering holes in Thailand. I’ve jumped from cliffs into clear, cool waters below. But somehow, in this moment, I was taken back to a place where I was not present. I wanted to hide. I recalled the time after Josh died, when Bill would talk to kids who had come to the river to jump. Trying to convince them that it wasn’t safe. I recalled the mural we painted under the bridge just a few days after he died, in remembrance of him.

Since then, we haven’t been to that bridge near Kensington Park in Michigan. We have driven over it. There has been a path put beneath it, making it no longer accessible to teenagers wishing to cool off on a hot summer day. We’ve talked about walking that path. And perhaps some day, when we are all together — my mom, my two brothers and I — will walk the path and see the place where the mural once covered concrete.

I walked home yesterday. The sun bright on my face. Past the skateboarders. There were no teenagers on the bridge. The air was cool. Everyone was somewhere with their family, as they seem to do here on the weekends, after the shops have closed. I love the river. I love water. For all the life that it takes, it gives that much more.

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