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Hennepin Avenue Bridge
Image Source: Notsuoh Photography

Rick Nillsen walked half-way across the Hennepin Avenue Bridge clutching a business-size envelope against the chill October breeze. He walked the bridge all the time, often stopping in the middle to take in the sweep of the Mississippi toward St. Anthony Falls. Even with the traffic hurtling by it was a peaceful spot, a place to gather his thoughts and find his balance. But today it was all different. Rick’s entire life was different thanks to the arrival of the envelope.

The hand-writing on the envelope was achingly familiar

Nillsen
2541 Nicollet Ave
MPLS
55404

Nothing more than that. Nothing more was needed. Rick opened the envelope and pulled out five Polaroids and a piece of lined notebook paper. In the same script was written

funny how every photograph is a LIE
Goodbye

Nothing more than that. Nothing more was needed. Rick looked at the photos: he and Dana leaning against the hood of the Dodge, he and Dana by the Spoonbridge and Cherry statue in the Sculpture Garden, he and Dana in front of the Christmas tree, Dana smiling on the stoop, Dana as Mary Tyler Moore tossing her beret on the Nicollet Avenue mall. He fingered the pictures, and read the note again. And again. And again.

And it was all so true.

They were so damn happy in those pictures. And it was a lie, like all photographs. Nothing but a snippet of life, with no context at all. Not that we intentionally lie when posing for the snap of the shutter, but the moment captured is nothing more than the surface view. There’s always much more going on below the surface.

He thought of his favorite picture of himself with his dad, taken just after tossing a football around in the snow, both of them beaming smiles and happiness. But dad probably already had the Hodgkin’s that would take his life when that photo was taken. And maybe he knew it as they were tossing the ball around.

He thought of the one with dad and mom, taken on New Year’s Eve, mom rosy and glowing and tipping her Martini glass. There was one drink in the picture, but Christ only knows how many she had that night.

He thought of those moments captured in the Polaroids in his hand. Dana was apparently never happy with him, so it was all a lie.

Nothing more than that.

And nothing left…

When a relationship ends, a life ends. Everything ends. Routine, pattern and repetition, comfort and security. Everything familiar and needed comes to a sudden, sickening end. And nothing will ever bring it back.

Dana is gone. My life is gone.

The wind howled on the bridge as the sun left the sky and the Grain Belt Beer sign lit up for the evening. Another Minneapolis winter was coming, one he could not stand to take alone. Nothing left…

Rick slowly, methodically ripped up the envelope and the note. He then ripped up all the Polaroids and, one by one, dropped the torn-apart pieces over the side, into the river. He leaned over the rail, watching the pieces scatter into oblivion, leaning over a little further, trying to find peace with what was to come…

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Image Source: Neil Perkin

The line went dead, and the wind and soul exploded out of Bill’s stomach. He stood in the booth, listening to the dial tone, not believing. Not accepting. She couldn’t have just done that.

Couldn’t have.

He dropped another coin in the slot and dialed her number again.

daah-daah-daaaaahh – The number you have dialed, five five five one two one two, has been disconnected. No further information is available about five fiv…

SLAM! GodDAMNitall!

She couldn’t mean it, though. She’ll call back and apologize. In a day or two, after she gets her head back. NO she won’t She’ll feel bad…maybe not bad enough to take me back hah!…but bad enough to apologize for her tone…her words… WRONG Maybe after she calls back we can be friends again…NOT going to happen, and after we’re friends again…

Outside the booth, a man in a hat and overcoat darkened by rain tapped his watch. Bill slowly became aware of the lines of people waiting for phones. The foot traffic of the station ebbed and flowed past, smoothing the staccato beep of a phone off the cradle.

He stared at the receiver in his hand, listening to the sound of the disconnect getting louder and louder.
That beep – the sound of heartbreak – would stay with him through the days and weeks of delusions and mental bargaining to come. He slammed the receiver back on the cradle, flung open the doors of the booth and headed toward the tracks, unrequited, lost and alone.

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