March 15, 2000
Bridges [Burning and Otherwise]


Yeah, here I am ... standing on that stoopid bridge in Pennsylvania again.

As many times as I've yanked this photo off the website, it always seems to resurface again, doesn't it?

Usually right around March 15th or so.

But as long as it's here, and as long as we have nothing better to do while we wait for the zucchini to cook ... let's take a look at it for a moment.

* Do I look cold?

I was.

I was freezing my butt off, as a matter of fact. It was a frigid March morning in the middle of Nowhere, PA. I remember standing on a brown wooden bridge under a brown sky, watching chunks of brown snow floating in the brown river below me. Everything in Pennsylvania was brown, brown, brown.  An icy wind was blowing my hair into my face, where it kept getting tangled up in snot and tears and Maybelline. (Why do you think I have my back to the camera, anyway?)  My boyfriend loaned me his long wool jacket, just before he posed me for this photo. I loved how Dr. Zhivagoesque  --  how Tragic Heroine  --  it made me look. But I still felt frozen.

Inside and out.

* Do I look forlorn?

I was.

In a few hours I was due to hop on a plane and fly home to TicTac again, as the two of us returned to our respective lives/spouses/Time Zones/AOL accounts. As usual, at the conclusion of one of these stolen weekends together, the boyfriend and I were disconsolant. We sat around in his little sports car all morning, listening to Marc Cohn's "True Companion" and weepily planning our next rendezvous. ("How about Chicago?")  What we didn't know, of course, is that by the end of this day he would be sitting in front of the family computer with a gun to his head, composing that "Dear Secra" letter ... and I would be 3,000 miles away, hurtling an empty wine bottle across the dining room.

It's probably just as well that I didn't know. I might have thrown myself -- or better yet, thrown him -- into that icy brown water, swirling below me.

* Do I look pregnant?

I was.

I was three days gone at that point. But I wouldn't know it for another two weeks.

* Do I look like a woman hell-bent on her own destruction, and on the destruction of her family, and on the destruction of a perfectly nice family in PA?

I wasn't.

I was a decent person most of the time. I was a good mom. I was a PTA member. I was nice to my neighbors. I kept my store coupons filed alphabetically. I collected ceramic owls. 

I made one hell of a chicken-fried steak.

But I was also a woman who based her decisions on the emotion du moment ... and those emotions were dangerously clouded, a good chunk of the time during that period, by cheap chablis. So when my clouded heart told me that this person was my destiny  --  and when, I might point out, HE told me the same thing  --  I figured that any decisions made in the name of this particular romance were justified, and karmically sound, and that eventually everybody concerned would realize that. Who knows? They might even thank us for it. (His Wife: "Thanks for your help, Secra! I never would have been able to ruin my marriage without you!")

Three years later, of course, those "decisions" just seem stupid. And selfish.

And sad.

And maybe that's why this photo keeps resurfacing: because it's necessary to remind myself, from time to time, just how far I've come ... in order to remember how much farther I've still got to go.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   

And now here I am, three years later, posing in the general vicinity of yet another bridge. Different state, different Zip Code, different climate, different photographer.

Different Secra.

* Do I look warm?

I am.

The sun is shining,look!! it's the infamous beige blouse! and it's another ridiculously perfect Bay Area afternoon. (Just look at that sky!! Look at that water!! Everything is so blue, it could have been drawn with Crayolas.)

Even though I've shed my jacket and I'm down to shirtsleeves ... even though we're standing at the top of the Marin Headlands, with a nice cool breeze blowing my hair into my face ... I am still dripping with sweat. If you look closely you can see my hair going flat and my forehead getting shiny. (Time to drag out the Max Factor Extra-Sludge-Eliminating Formula.)

I've lived in California for eight months or so at the time this photo was taken, but I still haven't fully acclimated yet.

(I was still wearing my sunglasses in the Posey Tube, if that tells you anything.)

* Do I look happy?

I am.

At the time this picture was taken, I am deliriously, deliciously, loooodicrously happy. I've been sober for almost a year. I'm waking up in the morning feeling good, and then falling asleep at night feeling more of the same. I'm in love with a man who sits outside the bathroom and serenades me while I'm exfoliating. I've just gotten a huge promotion at work. My children are thriving. (Daughter #1, in fact, is standing next to "the photographer" as this picture is snapped, exhorting me to "Smile!")   I'm writing again, and the worst of the website hate mail has begun to trickle off.

I've discovered It's-It Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Life, as they say, does not completely suck.

* Do I look pregnant?

I'm not. It's just those extra twenty-five *relationship pounds.* (See: It's-It Ice Cream Sandwiches.)

* Do I look like a woman who has finally figured out who she is, and what she wants out of life, and how best to go about achieving her goals  without doing any further damage to the people around her ... especially the people she loves?

I'm not.

Not by a loooooong shot. I wasn't when this photo was taken last summer, and I'm still not.

Most days I'm happy if my shoes match, the monthly child support check clears and I remember to blow the ants off the toilet paper before I wipe.

But I'd say I'm making progress.

And next March 15th  --  when "Bridge Day" rolls around again  --  maybe I'll have another new bridge photo to post. (Maybe I could post a new "bridge picture" every year! And eventually phase out the Nowhere, PA photo altogether!)

Check back in 365 days.