Near London Bridge

Near London Bridge

Tower Bridge, near London Bridge

He was moping in a pub near the boring, real London Bridge and he finally stumbled out into the slanting daylight late in the afternoon.

His girlfriend, scratch that, ex-girlfriend, had flown back to LA the day before, leaving him with a half deck of traveler’s checks, some of her underwear and nylons (overflow from her own overlarge suitcases that she’d stuffed in his much smaller case) and a digital camera full of pictures of said ex-girlfriend posing in front of a series of British landmarks.

Near London Bridge

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mandolin and guitar

This slip of an improvisation came about as a result of the combination of my recent return to the drone style tuning I was using earlier this year with my continued plinking on my new 50 dollar mandolin.

The title came about when I stumbled onto a bit of the melody from the old London Bridge is falling down nursery rhyme. (Which is the only way I ever play any recognizable melody… heaven knows if I tried I couldn’t do it… my brain simply doesn’t work like that.)

Anyway, I thought this wasn’t entirely without charm…

She managed a jaunty smile in the early snaps, but by the end of the series, any pretense of pleasure or even patience had plainly left her face and in the last few pics, she was giving him that look. He snapped the picture just before she raised her finger at him from in front of the British Museum. After that, he didn’t take any more pictures. After that, it was only a matter of time before one or the both of them left early. Neither of them had enjoyed much since the first few nights — but he was determined that somehow, with her gone, he would. Waiting her out wasn’t that difficult. He kissed her on the cheek at the airport, leaving her in a waiting area long before boarding.

Outside the pub, he decided to walk along toward the Tower Bridge. When he got there, he wandered around the tiny marina off St Katharine’s Way. It was starting to drift into darkness and as he walked across the Tower Bridge, the lights were on and just starting to shimmer in the river.

At first, all he saw of the girl was her eyes — even though she was 15 feet away and gathering dusk should have dimmed the light reflected in them. Maybe they picked up the last light from the sky. They glowed with a deep, green glow. Like he imagined an emerald must look. Her hair was dark and reddish brown, freckles across her cheeks. She was looking past him but as she neared him, in the last few feet before they passed each other, her eyes moved to meet his.

Consciously, he began to look away but just as his eyes began to dart to the side, he looked again — and fell, like a lost boy down a well, into her eyes. For a moment he was in free fall. It wasn’t even a full second but it seemed to go on forever as his heart pounded slowly in his ears. At the last instant, just before she passed him, she smiled, a faint, shy, schoolgirl’s smile.

It was too late for him to smile and, for a moment, he walked, his gaze frozen forward. Then, as casually as he possibly could, in the most offhand manner manageable by a man whose heart was beating like he’d just turned in his best ever 100 meter dash, he looked back over his shoulder.

The sky was darkening and clouds, lit from behind, were stacking up across a deep blue sky, lights coming on, and flooding the century old bridge. On the walkway, the pedestrians quickened their pace a little. But the girl with the green eyes walked, not quite slowly, into the crowd and the darkness on the other side. Maybe she had turned to look back over her own shoulder at him in those first moments after they’d passed — while he had stared mutely forward in disbelief. If she had, he’d never know. But, as he watched her disappear on the other shore, she never looked back.

Near London Bridge
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Near London Bridge
(C)2008, TK Major


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