It’s 6:00, time to go. Every day he walks, he walks along the edge of town, during a time when most are inside with their families getting ready for supper. He walks and walks until he comes to the old bridge where it feels like the whole world is at his fingertips. It really is truly beautiful at this time of day, stretched out before him is a sight seen by many but understood by few. Trees line the bank of the river creating a mysterious illusion; if not privy to their secrets you’d think them as nothing more than simple entities but if you take time to appreciate, you would realise, just as Dan does that these are more than that. They are full of life; a multitude of beings live within their branches, not only live, but thrive. They flourish in a way that Daniel can only imagine and hope to one day experience.
He walks to the bridge as he does every day, routine by now, no need for coherent thought. As he approaches the bridge he comes to the realisation that something is different, something is not right, he is not alone. A young man, not much older than himself is standing on the precise spot where Dan has spent countless hours alone.
Approaching cautiously, he looks at the man on the bridge; he is too far away to make out many features but does notice the unusually pale skin and straight black hair the boy has and wonders what to do. It doesn’t seem that he has noticed Dan yet, so he simply decides to just go home, give up this night’s session and try again tomorrow, when this stranger is no longer there.
He turns to leave when he suddenly hears a quiet voice come from behind him, “where are you going Daniel?” Shocked, he spins around quickly, “w-what?” he sputters out. The young man on the bridge is facing him now, a slight smile on his face, “I asked you where you were going.”
“How do you know my name?” Dan asks, still confused. The man shakes his head, “I asked you first.”
Dan bit his lip, “I was just going to go home.”
“Why?” the man asked, now looking very serious. Dan simply shrugged; he didn’t really have an answer to that question besides his own awkwardness and desire to be alone.
They stay like that for a few moments before the black haired man finally turns away and leans over the side of the bridge, staring into the distance.
Dan considers leaving, going back home to where he knows he is safe but instead his curiosity gets the better of him and he slowly approaches the man.
He mimics the man’s actions and leans over the side, taking in the beauty laid out before him, “how do you know my name?” he asks again.
The man says nothing, only smirks slightly and continues gazing out into the distance.
Again, Dan considers leaving but again, curiosity gets the better of him. “Who are you?” he asks. “My name is Phil,” the man replies simply, ignoring Dan’s gaze. “What are you doing here?” Dan asks.
Phil says nothing once again, but instead he spins around with a wild grin plastered on his face and jumps onto the railing of the bridge in one slick motion. “What the hell are you doing?” Dan asks horrified.” “It’s beautiful isn’t it?” Phil asks excitedly. “Get down from there; you’re going to get yourself killed!” Dan hollers.
The grin disappears from Phil’s face, “that’s what’s so electrifying about it though Dan… the idea that I could die any second, just the smallest burst of wind and my life is over, but… if it makes you happy.” He says as he jumps down.
“You’re crazy!” Dan exclaims angrily and begins storming away. “Hey, wait! Where are you going?” Phil calls out, watching Dan walk away. “I’m going home, away from you before you get us both in trouble!”
“Wait!” Phil calls, “I know why you come here!”
Dan spins around angrily, “What. The. Hell. Are. You. Talking. About?” he shouts.
“You come here to be free, don’t you? I’ve seen you, every day you do the same thing; you walk here, stand in that exact same spot for an hour and then turn around and leave, every single day.” Phil states simply.
Dan can feel himself getting angry now, “so what you’ve been stalking me? I don’t even know who you are!”
Dan frowns, “I know that, but who is Phil?” he asks softly, beginning to calm down.
Phil looks down, and for the first time they’ve met he looks truly upset. Finally he shrugs, “I don’t know. They say I’m a gypsy, I sing and I steal… but stealing ain't funny and singings for real.” “A gypsy?” Dan asks dubiously. “I’m whoever you want me to be is what I’m saying.” Phil mutters, before turning around and walking back to the middle of the bridge.
Dan glances behind him before making up his mind and running back to Phil. “What do you mean by that?” Phil glances up at him, a sad smile on his face, “does it really matter?” Dan shrugs, unsure of what to say. Phil glances up to look at the trees and changes the subject, “I can see why you come here; it really is beautiful.” Dan nods in agreement, “coming here helps me forget my problems, I don’t know how I’d survive if this place didn’t exist.”
“Come with me…” Phil whispers almost inaudibly. Dan glances at him, “what do you mean?”
“I mean, let’s go. We can travel, we can go wherever you want to, we can fly… we can be free.” He says a little bit louder this time.
Dan stares at him shocked, “what are you talking about? I don’t even know you.” “What does that matter?” Phil states. “Are you happy with your life right now?” Dan looks at his feet, “what does that matter?”
“I mean… are you happy? Because I doubt it, you wouldn’t come here to escape if you were.”
Dan glares at him, “you don’t know anything about my life.” He mutters angrily. Phil rolls his eyes, “No? I bet your just like everyone else in this stupid little town, I bet you work at a dead end job, go to school for a degree you’re not really passionate about. I bet you love your family but don’t really like being around them for long periods of time because it only results in a fight, I bet you have dreams being free, of living the life you’ve always wanted but are too scared to try. You’re too damn scared to take a chance because you’re scared of failure; you’re scared of getting hurt. I may have nothing in this world but the clothes on my back but at least I’m not scared, I’m free.”
Dan stares at him, completely and utterly shocked, he opens his mouth to say something but nothing comes out. Phil rolls his eyes, “yeah that’s what I thought. I’m going to go now, if you want to come you’re welcome to, otherwise I won’t be seeing you Dan.” He says as he walks off slowly.
Dan looks around dazed, what the hell just happened? He watches as Phil walks off into the sunset before glancing back across the bridge, taking in the sight he’s seen so many times before.
Just as he looks up a bird flies out of one of the many trees and he watches it as it flies freely through the sky.
“Shit…” he mutters to himself, before turning on his heels and running as fast as he can manage, “Phil… wait, I get it now!”