A Bridge (Not) Too Far for Mischka Blank! Entry #17

"I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend..." from "Jumper" Third Eye Blind

Stone tape theory: the theory that emotional moments can be “recorded” by rocks, stones, and even man-made structures.

Literati

Thorn here before turning this over to Stef to post…

Writers often vacillate when choosing the POV to tell their story.  Mischka’s solution is not only convenient, but it adds tremendously to the mystique of the story. His narrators are seven bridges that span the Vltava River that bisects Prague, my favorite city in the world, where I first met the author about four years ago. The bridges speak with historical clarity, having been ongoing witnesses to the Soviet Occupation and of the personal lives of Prague’s intriguing inhabitants.  I have read Mischka’s entire manuscript “The Seven Bridges of Prague”; it truly is one of the best pieces of literary fiction I have had the pleasure of working with, and will surely find a willing main-stream publisher.  Enjoy.  I did.

 

The Seven Bridges of Prague

by Mischka Blank

 

She sat on me and wanted to jump.

Thirty thousand feet above us an aeroplane drew a lonely white line in the zenith, as if it were a painter sketching the first line of a portrait, while thirty feet below her a swan, swaying gently on the waves of a passing riverboat, unfolded its wings, stretched its neck and paddled over the water like an aeroplane over a runway. The swan guided her eyes over the water as it gained speed, but not height, in a way no flying machine, no matter how well designed, could match in elegance or beauty, and it didn’t give up until she finally raised her head and looked at the world
around her.

She saw an abandoned car on a vacant lot by the river, and a man who seemed to wave at her. The trees by the river and on the hill, faded to a thousand shades of brown and orange and red, seemed to wave at her too. The swan did not wave at her but folded its wings and wiggled its tail, as if it was happy to have diverted her attention.

She saw stately houses, lined up along the river like pearls on a necklace, adorned with statues and flowerboxes and wrought-iron balconies. On the embankment lovers paraded hand in hand, declaring their love to the people who walked, jogged or hurried past them, and stirring distant memories of similar happiness in her.

Ten years of living in Prague had not numbed her awareness of its beauty, and neither had the events of that morning, but the skyline did not console her as it once did.

The castle dominated the horizon like a beacon of hope, as if to say that when a playwright could become a president she too could find a way to overcome her troubles. The trouble was that she didn’t want to overcome anything except her own cowardice, guilt and sadness. It was this trouble that led her here, to me, to this.

It would have been easier to let go of the banister if the sky was grey and gloomy, or if she was cut off from her surroundings by the thick fog that so often envelopes this city in the early morning. Since there was no fog (not yet) and the evening rubbed against the afternoon like one tectonic plate against the other, causing an eruption of colours in the sky above her, Yvonne stayed where she was.

That is to say; she sat and stared, scarred and scared, on my banister, while I scoured the embankments for someone to save her from her malign intentions.

She wasn’t even thirty.

She wasn’t even sure.

Maybe it was the elegance of the swan that planted the seeds of doubt in her mind. Maybe it was the sun disappearing behind the Smichov hills, painting a plume of smoke from the beer-factory orange-red, which gave a little bit of its strength to those doubts. Or the soft autumn breeze that played with her dark brown hair, pulled at the skirt of her dress, and carried the smell of hops and malt across the river in a bid to convince her of the futility of her intentions.

After what she had seen that morning, and a day of pondering the consequences, Yvonne had come to the conclusion that the most tragic thing in life was not its end; it was when the things that make life worth living were lost, along with the desire to replace them with other things. She had thus convinced herself that it was not a tragedy to renounce the remaining years allotted to her; it was the right thing to do.

Or wasn’t it?

Yvonne looked back at her feet and the river below her, wide and deep and ready to swallow her as I have seen it swallow so many others. But she wasn’t quite ready yet.

You know, self-murderers (I always thought suicide is somehow a euphemism for the murder against the self) don’t have it easy. I heard it so often: “Instead of finding a solution for his problem he just killed himself, and now we have to clean up the mess.” But rest assured that cleaning the mess is far less upsetting than witnessing the actual act of self-murder. I have watched many men and women in their last moments, unable to help them stand back from the abyss with a pat on the back or a few encouraging words. All I could do was to watch how they
paced up and down my walkways like some caged animal, seeking a spot to spend their last moments. I’ve seen the misery and the pain in their eyes and their gestures and then… when they act on the decision to embrace death as a final solution to their woes… I’ll never get used to that moment, not in another hundred years will I accept this act of violence against the self and for the self. I provide quite a broad choice for this act of violence, for I am a railway bridge. An
indecisive self-murderer can, as he chooses, jump in front of a train, electrocute himself on the high-voltage catenary system, throw himself into the Vltava, or hang himself. I’ve seen it all, heard it all, since my construction was completed.

Pavel Pondeli set foot in this story at the very moment he set foot on my southern walkway, the very moment Yvonne started counting to 60, and at the very moment a rather long freight train slowly departed from the central station. The percussive clattering of its wheels demonstrated an iron certainty that Pavel had lost with youth. His gait suggested an older man who had learned to walk the world with caution, especially when he sensed danger. Yet the footfall of his boots on the wooden slats of the walkway was far more regular and self-confident than Yvonne’s countdown of the final seconds of her life.

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Mischka Blank is an expat living in Prague. From the first weeks of living in the city he became intrigued with its history and inspired by its beauty, which resulted in a novel: Seven Bridges. Narrated by the ancient steel and stone structures that span the Vltava, the story is an amalgam of fiction and history, a meditation on the intricacies of the human condition that only a disinterested structure like a bridge could bring to full fruition. This submission is an excerpt from the first chapter.

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If you or anyone you love is struggling right now, please reach out for help.

Go to the website here https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/, or call 1-800-273-8255

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What would one word, one smile, one look, one drive, do for someone? Only one way to find out.